Monday, March 18, 2013

Girl Scout Banner

After the girls graduated from daisies to brownies they needed a new banner for their troop.  I was happy to help with the process again and took my time sourcing a few special touches for this banner.
First, since I realized that the girls graduate every-other-year to a new level, I knew that I wanted a banner that could be with them for quite a few years.  As lovely as they are to make, they do require planning, time and resources, so if we can squeeze 4-5 years from this one I would be very happy.  The idea with this banner was to make one that wouldn't be dated in a year or two - something that could grow with the troop.
Secondly, I knew that I wanted something meaningful for the girls.  They are getting older now, and coming to appreciate and understand what it means to be part of a larger organization (like the Girl Scouts) and that it has ties to larger ideals and values beyond immediate friendship and play time.  To that end, I reached out to a neighbor that helped me create some custom fabric for our troop.  The words we used for the design came from the Girl Scout Pledge: honest, fair, friendly, helpful, considerate, caring, courageous, strong, responsible, respect, conserve, and sister.
Third, I again wanted to get the girls involved in the making.  The girls' participation (cutting and planting the daisies) in the first banner was a big hit and I'm all for getting crafty with kids.  It took some time to puzzle the best way to do this with the design idea I had (and I still had troubles, mostly owing to my own lack of planning) but everyone was able to participate and make a unique (albeit secret) contribution.
The design idea for the banner came from one of my familes' most cherished items: our birthday banner.  I made it just after my third daughter was born and it comes out for every birthday we celebrate (both young and old).  I really like the look of pennants - they can be festive, orderly, fun and when carried on a banner give a surprising amount of dimension and life to the design.
The background fabric was custom designed by my neighbor Emily of Bluestar Ink.  She has amazing skills.  When we first met I asked her to help me with the technical aspects of this project: finding fonts to create a .jpg file that I could upload, and scaling them to fit.  She took it to a whole other level and hand drew each word with custom fonts - they even personify the meanings of the words (which is not lost on the girls - they noticed how strong the word strong was right away!).  She then digitized each word, scaled each one to fit in a random pattern, confirmed the pantone color with me, and then sent me the file for uploading to Spoonflower for printing.  I ordered two yards and was thrilled with the quality of the final fabric.

The fabrics I chose for the front of the flags were off-the-rack fat quarters from JoAnn Fabrics.  Sometimes you just really luck out there (especially with the 50% off coupons!).  The backing is from an up-cycled queen size sheet.  Like the banner before this one, the top hem worked perfectly as the hanging pocket.  The dark brown for the backing and letters, and bright green for the pennant strips, are my nod to the traditional colors representing the girl scouts over the years.

I used stiff felt for the letters and cut them out free hand.  In hind sight I would like to have re-done those, but time got the better of me there.  That floating "R" will bug me every time I look at it!

For the personalized contribution from the girls I had originally thought of embroidery.  I envisioned each of the girls taking thread and needle and sewing their initials.  But then I got real and switched gears to glittery puffy glue.  While I am really happy with that choice (it was way more fun to execute) I didn't anticipate a few things: 1) The way dried glue would stick to my machine, 2) The girls' LOVE of the glitter glue, and 3) the drying time.
I wound up just sewing the tips of the flags together as many girls went all the way to the edges of the pennants with their glue and there was no way my machine could handle sewing through that.  I also had to run many of the points through the machine with parchment paper to ensure a smooth sewing surface.  Lastly, while the glue bottles stated a 4-hour dry time, that surely applies to conditions of normal use.  Many of our girls used the glue like frosting and piled it on (which I LOVE about each of them) but it meant that the three days I had set-aside for sewing the banner were dedicated to glue-drying time.

And what makes their contributions 'secret'?  Well, you can't see them unless you approach the banner and flip the individuals pennants up.  Each girls art is there, it's just behind the surface that you immediately see.
In the end - and with the help of a lot of fray check - I finished the banner with about an hour to spare before the annual St. Patrick's Day parade.  [The final blow was the realization that I made a banner suited for a 7.5 ft. tall person - because I didn't want to waste a bit of that precious two yards of fabric - so I had to cut it down to size for kids.  A hasty hemming job fixed that pretty quickly.] 
But it all came together.  I think it is a fun representation of our troop and vibrant reminder of how so many different parts (glue, fabric, design) can come together with a harmonious end.

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