Hack – Vintage Ship Flag


I get a lot of visual Inspiration when I read blogs and peruse online catalogs, shops and Pinterest. Recently I was reading the blog of my favorite interior designer/stylist, Emily Henderson. Oh, is she ever talented! I came across a vintage ship flag she purchased and then re-dyed and I thought, “Humm, I could hack that – using a painter’s drop cloth.”


Source: Emily HendersonStudio.com


Screenshot from: Source: Emily HendersonStudio.com

Years ago I came across a few vintage shop flags in a little beach antique shop, I purchased them but never used them because they were dirty. I never considered that I could throw them in the washing machine, after all they spent years in all kinds of weather on the high sea (?????) Anyway, Captain, long ago, tossed them out while cleaning the attic. So when I saw Emily’s solution of taking her flag apart and dying the blue a navy blue, I was inspired to dye an old canvas painter’s drop cloth to do a nautical HACK for my wall. It was so fast to do and really looks like authentic minus the musty odor.

Captain wondered, “What is the flag for?” No, Honey, I didn’t buy you a ship… My flag would be “wall art” to replace a subway sign, in the living room, that I wanted to move to another room.

Here’s my Hacked Vintage Ship Flag…


then I was able to move the subway sign to the family room – the area where I always intended it to hang…


Wow, that balanced the room’s high sloped ceiling. Removing the table lamp opens up the area, a floor lamp is now in the future.


I used a sewing machine to sew the flag…but if you don’t sew, no problem…this flag can be easily made using fusible hem tape and an iron.


The Canvas Drop Cloth is a soft canvas and is off white, it is 8-oz thickness, which seems perfect for an authentic flag look. It appears to be 100% Cotton, but is not marked for fabric content. That is important to note when you purchase your drop cloth because fiber content determines which dye will work best (a synthetic or polyester-blend requires a different dye and vinegar to be added.) I used Two 4′ x 5′ drop cloths because I already had one in my garage so that meant I only had to purchase one more woohoo. I chose to use my old (lightly) paint-splattered drop cloth to dye blue, so the paint spots would give a vintage vibe. The paint splatter & marks were both green and white. The dye changed the green tone enough that it looks like wear and the white spots now look like bird poop, living on a lake that looks familiar. My 4′ x 5′ painter’s drop cloth was less than $6. at Lowe’s. There are longer ones so you may want to consider purchasing just one longer drop cloth. If you do, I suggest sewing the cut edge prior to dying it to prevent fraying. convas-materials

Fabric Dye – I used Rit brand in a box. To get the extra deep black blue tone I used 2 Navy Blue and 2 Black boxes. My first try was 2:1 Blue/Black and it was not dark enough, so I re-dyed that blue piece using another (1 box) black. The color is what I consider a true deep navy.

Step 1 – Dye process: Set up all the supplies ahead of time, because dying can get messy. (We have an already messy utility sink in the garage so I used that as my water source)


I used a 1-gallon plastic bucket for the dye bath. For a stirrer I used a wooden paint stick that could be trashed later. Follow the dye package directions. I used the bucket method, and put the bucket inside the utility sink, so sink did not get very much dye on it. First wet the cloth with water, and set aside. I boiled 3 cups of water instead of 4, and added that to the bucket, added 1 cup of table salt, and stirred til diluted (takes a while). Add all dye packets, stir. Add HOT water (from faucet) leaving enough room that it would not overflow when cloth is added. Stir the liquid dye mixture, add the wet drop cloth. Move around to saturate, making sure no fold or twists sit too long. Repeat the movement and turning of fabric every 10 min. I did this for an hour to insure a deep color. Follow the rinse directions. I did that in the bucket/sink too. I realized this is not eco-friendly, is that why sounds like “die”? After it was mostly clear or a much lighter blue drain off, I squeezed out and carried it via the bucket to my washing machine to run through the “drain & spin” cycle. Then I speed-washed it in cold water, no detergent. BTW, I also ran the un-dyed drop cloth in non-detergent cold wash and dry, too. I gave both a quick iron and pulled sides to square up before cutting them to size.


Step 2 – Cut the blue drop cloth in half, and cut a white canvas piece to same depth of one of the blue sections. If using two 4′ x 5′ cloths, like I did, be careful to match widths of your two cloths (in my case I chose the 4′ as my flag width because the drop cloth already had a pre-hemmed edge that I thought would look good on the top and bottom of the finished flag. The selvage edge would run the length of the flag. Looks realistic. I took advantage of that pre-hemmed edge for my narrow top white trim, too. Recap: each section of the flag is pre-sewn 4′ wide x 2.5′ deep. The excess half of the white drop cloth is used to make the top grommet trim. I cut 3.5″ strip from the pre-hemmed edge of the excess drop cloth fabric. Turned under (1-inch) on the non pre-stitched side of the strip and folded the length in half so my trim could accommodate the grommets easily. I sewed the edges as shown in close up the photos below.

Step 3 – Sew the sections together using approx 1/2″ seams. Iron seams flat. Iron rest of flag. Then sew on the top trim prior to doing the grommets. Trim photos below.



A closeup of the top trim stitching…


My stitches are the smaller ones, most left and right, on the strip. The extra long stitches are the original edges of the drop cloth. I set the longest stitch my machine allows and they look short in comparison. Photo shows the flag’s front side on the left and back side of flag is shown on photo’s right.

Grommets – three 1/2″ hole size. I chose brass, but they are also available in stainless steel. To give a “vintage” look, I used a mixture of vinegar & salt, which gives a rusted & green tone. *I suggest doing your “aging” prior to attaching, that way you can just drop the rings into a small bowl of mixture, instead of having to dab on after grommet is attached. I used a glass tiny bowl and added about 2 tsp table salt to 1/4 cup white vinegar. Remove soaked grommets from bowl, but don’t wipe off, let air dry. To Attach Grommets: Follow grommet package directions. The more rounded side of grommet is the side you want showing on the front side of your flag.


I marked the hole position and used the cutter tool (shown) to cut hole in fabric. See my Tip below.


Top photos show the backside of flag’s; its seam and top/bottom pre-stitched edge. Bottom photo: compare 3 “aged” grommets with a shiny original brass.

Grommet Tip: First I used a piece of wood (pine) as the base to pound against, as directed on the grommet packet. But the fabric was not cutting cleanly. So I removed the wood and used the metal table I was working on as the base. What a difference! A metal base gives the best result, but if you have to use wood base, use a hard wood (not pine.)


Your done!  Hang on nails by the grommets. Skill level: beginner   Time: 2+ hours


Thanks for Meeting Me Lakeside!

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