The Framing of the Union Jack

Happy 4th of July!  Ironically, I have spent my day in the shop today finishing the framing of a flag.

Strangely it wasn’t the Stars and Stripes–  it was a Union Jack (or Union Flag).  A Canadian made Union Jack to boot.


Our client found it at a shop in Toronto and then has kept it rolled up in her house for about a decade.  Recently, she moved here from Toronto and luck was with her on the day that she found us and realized that we could frame it for her.

All she knows about its history is that it is quite old because of the wooden dowel, the hemp cord and the fact that it is sewn (not printed).  So really maybe it flew somewhere awesomely cool in its day.  Please imagine it right now waving away on some special flagpole.

Measuring a bit more than 68″ x 34″, framing this flag took quite a bit of our time and effort, and did not happen overnight.

To start with, we had to source out some material for the background.  Although matboards and foamboard do come as large as 96″ x 48″… they only come in white.  White was just not going to happen with this antique flag.

This brings me to the only sad part of this framing story: my trip to Fabricland on Merivale, currently Ottawa’s only (not high end fabric) fabric store. I don’t like speaking ill of any one or thing in a blog so just suffice to say I did not find what I was looking for there.

So my girl Sharon, our volunteer extra-ordinaire whose many talents include sewing, came to my aid.  Although she has more material in her basement than a small fabric store, she didn’t have anything that would work either.  Luckily, Sharon was heading to Toronto one weekend where she consented to source out some heavy duty canvas for me.   Alas, even in Toronto they didn’t have antiqued canvas so Sharon took it upon herself to dye it for me.  The result was absolutely perfect.  Thanks Sharon!  You rock…and now I know how to get the same effect if ever I have need to use a fabric background again.  Not telling you guys how she did it though.  Its now a super secret trade secret.  (:

So once I had the fabric (and the client’s okay on it), I made the substrate for the flag.  This consisted of acid free foamboard with a strainer (or stretcher if you’d rather) attached.  Then I stretched the fabric over it like we would a canvas.IMG_1046

Next was the actual mounting of the flag.  Using heavy duty invisible thread, I carefully sewed along the flag’s perimeter to attach it.  I also sewed the hemp rope in place so that it wouldn’t move about in the shadowbox.

IMG_0690The next challenge was finding a day where we didn’t have to finish out any other jobs so that we had the space to make the frame and fit the job (perhaps the most challenging part of the whole project).


Jimmy was able to make the frame yesterday and amazingly, since everybody was outside enjoying the beautiful day today and not coming into my shop… it got finished today!

After I installed the plexiglass in the frame — our glass comes as big as 48″ x 68″ and this job needed a piece 72 3/16″ x 38″… so plexiglass it got — I shadowboxed it with foam board covered with the antique dyed canvas. Then we got it all fit together and finished out.

I called the client and she came right out.  Luckily for her and me, again!, Jimmy and his truck were immediately available to deliver it out to her.  I’ve been loving looking at that flag everyday in my shop, but am I ever super happy to see it go!

So, if you have a crazy large item for framing, now you know where to go.  It might take us awhile ( 2 months?) but it will be done right and look great.  After all, as your mother might have told you once, good things are worth waiting for.


Our client was sweet enough to snap a picture of her flag and us outside by my beautiful new side wall and birch tree/flower decorations.

Wait!  How about some Union Jack trivia?  Here’s some stuff I did not know before:

The Union Jack is actually made from the joining of 3 flags.  Its design dates from a Royal proclamation following the union of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801. The flag combines aspects of three older national flags: the red cross of St. George of the Kingdom of England, the white saltire of St. Andrew for Scotland (which two were united in the first Union Flag in 1606), and the red saltire of St. Patrick to represent Ireland.


And… if you see a flag flying upside down, it means SOS.  This is particularly subtle with the Union Jack but a keen eye will notice that if the white band at the top left is narrow instead of wide, something foul is afoot.