Crafts Tutorials

Tutorial – Making a silk banner

What would a fairytale and medieval loving group of friends be without their own banner? Not much I’d say! So I decided to make one.

Banners and flags through history came in many shapes and sizes. (Read more about Heraldic Flags on Wikipedia). We wanted to be somewhat indpired by history, but had no need to be strictly historical correct. So this tutorial is maybe not for the super accurate history reenacter, but for you fantasy geeks and medieval interested folks out there who want a banner that looks good on the field and feels genuine.

YOU NEED:

  • Silk fabric
  • Scissors
  • Weights, rocks or any other heavy object to keep the fabric in place
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Computer with drawing software and access to printer
    (or a pen and large piece of paper)
  • Wood planks
  • Screwdriver + screws
  • Elastic bands
  • Safety pins (or small paper clamps)
  • Silk paint
  • Silk paint resist, ”Gutta”, to keep the colour fields separated
    (Make sure you buy the right kind of resist/gutta, that actually keeps the silk paint from spreading. I first had a bad kind, and the paint spread. Luckily I had some other resist/gutta that I could use instead.)
  • Paintbrush
  • Permanent marker for outlines, colour of choice (optional)
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Old sheets
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread, that matches the silk colour of your choice
  • Plenty of space
  • Patience (a LOT of patience)

INSTRUCTIONS

THE SILK

Silk flows beautifully in the wind; a perfect material for banners. I ordered white habotai silk from Dharma Trading, a company specialized in fabrics and dyes.

CUT OUT THE BANNER

1. Place the fabric on a large table or on the floor.
2. Make sure the fabric is completely flat on the surface.
3. Put the heavy objects on the fabric so it doesn’t move around (silk has a way of flowing around a lot, like it has its own life).
4. Measure with the measuring tape how big you want your banner to be and make markings with the pencil. I decided to make a swallow tail shaped banner, 150 x 70 cm (approx. 59 x 28 inches).

5. Make sure to leave enough space on one short side for the tunnel where the banner shall be fastened to a spear/flag pole/stick. And add about 2,5cm (1 inch) around the whole banner for the hem.
6. Cut out the banner.

MAKE YOUR DESIGN

1. Decide what symbol (or pattern) you would like on your banner. Perhaps you want a fierce dragon? Or you want to have the initials of your name written in a celtic font? There are no rights or wrongs here, let your imagination be free! Search the web for references and inspiration if you have trouble getting the ideas flowing, but don’t copy anyone else’s design!
2. Make your design in the computer and print it either on a big scale printer (that’s what I did) or several smaller papers taped together. Or draw by hand on paper. Sketch first in a smaller scale if you need to, but for the final design: make it the same scale as you want for your banner, and use thick and distinct lines.

3. Place the cut out banner over the paper design, and put the weights in the corners to keep the fabric from moving. Silk is a fairly transparent and the design will be visible through the fabric.4. Trace the design onto the fabric. Use either a pencil to sketch with, or if you are feeling confident: paint directly with the silk resist/gutta.
5. Let the resist/gutta dry for 24 hours (or as long as it says on the package).
6. Some brands of resist/gutta are required to be ironed to fixate. Make sure if you have to iron it or not.

BUILD A WOODEN FRAME

When painting silk, the silk must be completely stretched out, and cannot touch the surface beneath. Or else the paint can be very uneven with areas of darker colour. (The banner can still be spotty and mottled, since silk painting is very hard, but stretching the fabric is the best way to get an as even result as possible.)

To strech the banner, make a wooden frame out of planks. The frame should be a few centimetres bigger than the banner. About 10cm (4 inches) on each side.

The planks used for the frame should be about 7-10cm wide (2 ¾ – 4 inches)

Use screwdriver and screws, or hammer and nails, to assemble the frame – with the planks ”standing on their sides”. It doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as it holds together reasonably.

STRETCH OUT THE FABRIC

1. Place the frame on a table (or on the floor, but a table is a more preferable height when you paint)
2. Place the banner inside the frame.
3. Cut elastic bands in short pieces. Length should be long enough for the band to be tied around the frame and reach the distance from the frame to the banner edge.
4. Fasten one safety pin on each elastic band.
5. Fasten the safety pins with elastic bands to the fabric.
6. Tie the other end of each elastic bands around the frame.
7. Use as many elastic bands and safety pins as you need. Make sure the fabric is completely stretched out and does not touch the surface beneath.

PAINT!

Paint the different fields of the banner, separated byt the resist. Paint with the lighter colour first. In that case, if you accidentally should paint outside the lines, it can be painted over with darker colour later.
Work quickly when you paint bigger areas, for a more even result.

As you can see on the lynx in the picture above, the yellow leaked out due to bad resist/gutta. I switched to better gutta and managed to save it.

When you are finished, let the paint dry, for as long as it says on the package. Usually a few hours. I let it dry over night.

FIXATE THE PAINT, WASH (AND ADD OUTLINES)


1. Put an old sheet on an ironing board.
2. Place the banner on the sheet.
3. Put another sheet on top.
4. Iron the banner with low to medium heat for about 5 minutes on every area. Move around the banner gradually so you can iron everything.
5. Rinse the banner in water to remove the resist/gutta and any left-over paint.
6. Iron the banner again, as above between sheets, but just for as long to get the banner dry and smooth.
7. If you, like me, used transparent resist/gutta and got white outlines, and doesn’t want that: Use a permanent marker to fill in the outlines. I used a Uni Posca golden marker.

THE HEM, THE SPEAR TUNNEL AND THE TIE

1. Double fold and iron all sides of the banner, about 1cm (0.4 inch) for each fold.
2. Sew the hem on a sewing maching, just as under 1cm (0.4 inch) from the edge, to secure the folded fabric.
3. Measure the circumferance of the spear (or whatever stick you will fasten your banner to).
4. Fold the short side of the banner half the measure of the spear circumferance, plus a couple of centimeters.
5. Sew along the folded fabric, 1cm (0.4 inch) from the edge.
6. Fasten a ribbon at the top of the tunnel with a few stiches. The ribbon will be used to secure the banner on the spear. You can either use whatever ribbon you have at home, or make one from left-over dyed silk fabric.

FINISHED!

1. Thread your banner onto the spear.
2. Secure it with the ribbon.
3. Congratulations, you are now finished! Wave the banner in the air and feel the epicness!

I hope you found this tutorial helpful. It is a lot of work to make a silk banner, but don’t give up! It is worth all the blood and tears 😉 Good luck!

// Lovisa