Weekend Project

Justin Newcombe's tips on outdoor DIY projects

Weekend project: Waving the flag

By Justin Newcombe

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The NZ flag may be a contentious topic. But Justin Newcombe feels patriotic and makes his own.

Justin Newcombe with his self-designed New Zealand flag. Photo / Dean Purcell
Justin Newcombe with his self-designed New Zealand flag. Photo / Dean Purcell

I first became interested in the history of the New Zealand flag when working for Auckland Artist Stanley Palmer in the early 1990s. Stanley is a history buff and I arrived at his house one morning to find him dishing out instructions to two women on his kitchen floor. One was an expert in textile dye and the other was a seamstress. The project that morning was producing a New Zealand flag - but not the standard New Zealand flag or the black flag with silver fern. Stanley's flag was the Confederated Chiefs' flag - "... the one we all agreed on," he thundered. Not content with buying the flag from a shop or market and being as close to a Renaissance man as New Zealand has ever produced, Stanley was busy mixing and testing dye and selecting the exact cloth and thread a flag maker would have used 150 years ago.

Once I delved a little into the historical side of flags in New Zealand myself, I found we've been quite free and easy with our flag adoration. I found many local regional and borough flags which we have sadly abandoned. In many ways we seem to have reached a cultural bottleneck and this is reflected no more so than in the flag debate.

All this to-ing and fro-ing can be very divisive but I'd like to take a leaf out of our forebears' book and make my own flag for this country. I want my flag to reflect the human and cultural history of New Zealand, its natural beauty and its physical position on the planet. So in my design the two tones of blue form a horizon line where the sea meets the sky, the cloud/koru shapes represent the three main islands which form New Zealand and the stars, naturally, depict our own Southern Cross constellation.

It might not be the flag you'd prefer to stand under on an important occasion but that doesn't mean our current flag reflects who we've become either.

Step 1

Design your flag keeping in mind that bold and simple is best, as cutting out can get fiddly and difficult. Shop around for the most appropriate material; make sure it is double-sided and appropriate for all weather conditions.

Step 2

Make a pattern from tissue paper. Brown wrapping paper or a paper bag is a good substitute.

Step 3

Pin the paper to the various different pieces of material and cut out the shapes. Hemming may be necessary on the larger pieces (like the big rectangle) so allow another 1.5cm around the outside to turn under and hem. Smaller, more complicated shapes can simply be attached by sewing directly on to the background fabric around the raw edge. Use a straight stitch to place the shapes, then sew a second time with a very closed together zigzag or satin stitch to prevent the raw edges from fraying.

Step 4

Attach a durable strip of support material on one side (usually the left) to mount the eyelets on.

Step 5

Pin pieces together and sew the flag. Use an eyelet tool to punch in eyelets to attach the rope to. Run the flag up your flagpole. Investing in an eyelet punch is well worth your while. It can be used for repairing tarpaulins, making barbecue covers or even a bit of sail making.

- NZ Herald

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