Banners in process

I’m a member of the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn. It’s a druidic society, based on the book by John Michael Greer, The Celtic Golden Dawn. I’ve been gradually working my way through the curriculum, which involves meditation, alchemy or spagyrics using locally-common plants, some ritual, and some divination using Geomancy. There are some side exercises as well, but those are the main components of the work.

One of the elements that makes up a temple of the DOGD are a pair of banners, the banners of the East and of the West, which are black and white, and adorned with a stylized dolmen or three-stone archway and three rays of light emanating from those arches; the white banner of the East additionally has two squares, a yellow and green one, laid at 45°-angles to one another forming an 8-pointed star.  I’ve been using paper printouts of the images of the banners, but I haven’t been entirely happy with them.

Re-sizing the squares

So I made them in fabric, using tutorials on appliqué and sewing, as well as my own basic sewing knowledge.  The result is a pair of very handsome banners.  Each needs a cord to string them from a post or hook on the wall, still; but I need to get the cord since I don’t currently have it; and I’m going to need to install some grommets for the cord (thanks, Matt).  I think I now need to build a couple of stands to support them, as well, so I don’t drive hooks into the wall.

Each banner involved roughly the same process — I made paper templates of each piece, using freezer paper.  Freezer paper is stiff and waxy, which means that it can be used to create a paper template for each piece.  It looks like you can use the waxy side to glue your paper directly to the fabric with an iron.  I was reluctant to do that, though; so I simply used my freezer paper as if it was a paper pattern.

Initially I made the two dolmens the same size. Then I realized, if I do that, then the squares on the white banner have to be larger than the banner. So I had to re-size the squares, and then redesign the dolmen to match, wasting my initial dolmen; I couldn’t figure out how to re-size it to accommodate the overall design.  Nothing for it but to toss it in the scrap heap for another day. Alas.

I first made all my pieces. Then I ironed them, and folded over their tabs and edges as I did so.  And then I sewed them onto the background panel of each banner, pinning each to try to get it flat and unwrinkled.  I failed to get them flat and unwrinkled.  I am not a patient tailor or textile worker or seamster, apparently.  I want to get projects finished and feel like they’re done.  I also like the sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing, and not having yet-another-unfinished project languishing around.  There’s something to be said for just getting it done.

A typical Dolmen assembly

Every piece of appliqué has to have tabs, to fold behind the shape.  You have to design the tabs for each piece so that every edge is folded, and nothing can unravel.  For the triangles that are the rays of light, this mostly means making larger triangles, or something like trapezoidal diamonds.  Even so, they don’t fold well.

Here’s how I made the dolmens.  You can see that the top edge is one long fold, with cut corners so that it doesn’t overlap with too many other things.  The uprights of the dolmens equally have tabs, as do the overhangs of the lintels, including the middle part of the lintel.  There has to be a tab on each side, of course, because fabric has warp and weft.  It will unravel without a fold, even if you sew it down; and then your lovely appliqué will come undone quite rapidly (everything done with green thread on my banner of the east will have to be additionally tacked down again, by hand, because the tensioning on the sewing machine was wrong, and the stitches are coming undone already).

 

The finished banners

Once the imagery of each banner was finished, I flipped the backing material over, so the imagery was on the inside.  I then sewed the backing together, adding in the yellow tassels at the corners of the lower part of the banners. The resulting object is like a rather shapeless bag.  One corner of this inside-out bag is left open, and the bag is then turned — the outside/imagery/appliqué side is pulled through the open hole, and the whole banner is flattened, resulting in a banner shape that has folds all around the edges — remember how important it is to have a fold in a piece of fabric, to prevent it from unraveling? This is as true for background pieces as for appliqué.   The mostly-finished banner then needs to be pressed and maybe top-stitched — run through the sewing machine all around the outside edge to create a neat seam that flattens and stabilizes the banner all around.  It could also be quilted in order to stiffen it, and give it some sturdiness that I didn’t introduce through the use of interfacing — a sort of papery-plastic-like material that comes with glue on it, so you can glue it to a completed appliqué on the back, and stabilize the project.  Interfacing is also used in tailoring to stiffen collars and shirt cuffs, and other parts of clothes, to give them sturdiness and stability.  I’ll see in the morning if it needs that extra step of top-stitching and/or quilting.

However, these banners are essentially done.  They’ve done three jobs for me: spruced up my druidic training regimen by giving me something to look at while I’m working; taught me the basics of appliqué; and used up some of my fabric stash.  The using up of a fabric stash should not be under-estimated.  It’s very easy to build up a supply of fabric, and not so easy to let it go to its finished, intended use.

Although I had the initial plan for these banners dictated for me by the organization to which I belong, I have to admit, these make a very nice school project.  Every object or color on an appliqué has to be thought about separately, and they have to be united through folds in the fabric, and through stitching together.  Both of the squares on the white banner, for example, are about three times as wide as in the final example; they’re folded over themselves in order to make clean corners.  The green square is also cut in four places, so that it can be interleaved with the yellow square (which is actually un-cut at all, and runs under the green square’s pieces.  I’m looking forward to doing this kind of work again.