Introduction: How to Make an American Flag

After reading this instructable, you'll have the power to make your very own American flag using those vertical blinds that have been gathering dust in your basement.  (If you don't have vertical blinds, you'll have the power to make them as well...just as soon as you acquire a set.)

These instructions could be used for making a flag from horizontal blinds as well; you would just need to adjust your layout accordingly.

Total cost for this project?  About $30, depending on how much paint you go through.  (Of course, this doesn't take into the consideration the money spent on blinds if you had to purchase them.)

Alright...enough with the jibber jabber, let's get started!

Step 1: Ingredients

Here's what you'll need to make your very own flag out of vertical blinds.


1 set vertical blinds (the kind you use over a sliding glass door)*
2 cans Dover White Krylon Fusion for Plastic spray paint
2 cans Red Pepper Krylon Fusion for Plastic spray paint
2 cans Patriotic Blue Krylon Fusion for Plastic spray paint
1 roll blue painters tape
1 pair heavy scissors
1 roll double-sided tape

*While you must use the plastic kind of blinds (vs. fabric), you can pretty much use whatever color you want.  That being said, it's much easier to start with a light color so that you'll only need to cover it with a coat or two of paint.

If you don't have a set of vertical blinds hanging around the house, you'll need to hunt them down elsewhere (or buy them, but where's the fun in that?!?).  I got mine from Freecycle.  It's amazing what you can get on Freecycle.  And sometimes scary.

Step 2: Flag Layout

The layout of the current flag of the United States was set forth in Executive Order 10834 by President Eisenhower in 1959.  The specifications are as follows:

* Hoist (width) of the flag: A = 1.0
* Fly (length) of the flag: B = 1.9
* Hoist (width) of the Union: C = 0.5385
* Fly (length) of the Union: D = 0.76
* E = F = 0.0538
* G = H = 0.0633
* Diameter of star: K = 0.0616
* Width of stripe: L = 0.0769

So, after determining the hoist of the flag to be 39", I calculated the rest of the specifications by multiplying each letter by 39 (13 stripes at 3" each).  Each letter roughly corresponds to the following:

A = 39"
B = 74" (82.5")**
C = 21"
D = 29.65" (33.5")**
E/F = 2.1"
G/H = 2.4"
K = 2.4"
L = 3"

**For B and D, I ignored the formula and used the length of each blind (82.5") as the basis for these measurements.  For D (the fly of the Union), I guesstimated based on how far above my garage door I had installed the bracket.  (I also adjusted the layout of the stars based on this so that when the flag was hung, they appeared centered on the Union.)

See the picture below for how the specifications correspond to the flag itself and what the letters represent.

Step 3: Painting the Stripes

Now that you've acquired your vertical blinds, you'll need to remove the blinds from the bracket to paint them. 

Count out 13 blinds from the ones you just took off the bracket and set the rest aside.  You'll need to paint seven stripes red and six stripes white.  Don't worry about painting the union just yet, you'll do that in a later step.

For each red/white stripe group:
  1. Lay the group of blinds (seven for red, six for white) on a tarp or newspaper (or not, depending on whether you don't care about getting paint on whatever the blinds are resting on while you paint them).
  2. Shake the spray paint according to instructions and then, beginning on one end of the group of blinds, spray the set from top to bottom in a side to side motion.  You should overspray each set so that when you go back and forth you're not changing direction over the blinds.  This will help you get a nice finish once the paint dries.  Be careful to spray evenly and not too close to the blinds in order to avoid runs, drips or errors (as Johnny Bench used to say, back in the day).
  3. After letting the blinds dry, repeat the process so that you have two coats.  You should now be good to go, but if you want to add a 3rd coat, now would be the time to do it.
You should now have seven red stripes and six white stripes.

Step 4: Painting the Union

The Union (also known as "the blue rectangle the stars call home") sits at the upper left corner of the flag when flown from the flag pole.  When hung against something (like a wall or the side of a building), the Union also sits at the upper left corner.  Many people think it should be the upper right corner, as that's where it would be located if the flag is rotated 90° clockwise.  But they would be wrong.  Like I was when I designed this flag.  I have since corrected this flag faux pas so that when the flag is "flown" again, the Union will be in the correct location.

Enough with the flag etiquette issue and let's get on with painting the Union.

When spray painting, it's awfully hard to get a nice straight line.  Actually, I'm pretty sure it's impossible.  That's where your painter's tape comes in handy.

Lay out six stripes (3 white and 3 red) side by side and, after determining how long you want your Union to be (mine is 33.5" as part of it will be hidden from view when I hang the blinds from the bracket) and mark that spot on the edge of each blind.

Now, draw a line across the stripes at each mark to indicate where you'll put your tape.  Place a strip of tape across the line, making sure it's sealed to the blinds.

Next, place the portion of the blinds that won't be painted blue (the feet, if you will) in a large trash bag (in order to protect the stripes from inadvertent spray).  Tape the trash bag with the second strip so that only the portion to be painted blue is showing.

Finally, paint the Union using the same technique as you did for the stripes, but don't wait for it to dry between coats.  After applying the first coat, immediately start on the second coat.  Once you've finished the second coat, carefully take the tape off the blinds.  (If you wait until the paint dries, you run the risk of bleed through where the blue will bleed under the tape and mess up your stripes.)

You're now ready to reach for the stars.

Step 5: Making and Painting the Stars

The stars were the hardest part of the flag.  I was unable to find some at the store that were the right size so I had to resort to making my own.  (This was actually a good thing because it reduced the cost of the project.)

Using the ratio found in flag specifications, I created a star template using Paint.NET and printed it out.  I cut that star out and traced it onto an extra blind.  I then cut that star out and used it as my template for the rest of the stars.

At this point I should tell you that while you should probably decide on your star layout before cutting out all 50 stars.  I ended up cutting out 50 stars, but eventually decided on a Betsy Ross Flag design that only required 13 stars (arranged in a circle on the Union).

On the rest of the blind, I traced my template star and cut out 50 stars using a pair of heavy duty scissors.  (I then iced my hand and took a couple of Advil as cutting out all those stars was punishing.)

It was now time to paint the stars so I laid them out on my tarp and painted them.  When laying them out, be sure that the curve of the blind matches the curve you used when laying out your stripes.

Step 6: Laying Out the Stars

Like I said in the previous step, I decided on laying out the stars as shown in a Betsy Ross Flag.  While you could use a compass to create a nice and neat circle, I went with an even easier process:  a 12" plate.  (I used 12" via trial and error.  14" was too large and 10" was too small a circle.)

NOTE:  Think about how you will be displaying your flag (horizontally or vertically) before laying your stars out.  Regardless of which way you display your flag, the Union should be in the upper left corner.  (I did not follow these instructions and that's why the photos show the Union in the upper left (even though I was going to hang it vertically).

I laid the plate in the center of the Union (well, not exactly in the center, it was more like 6" off center as I'd be hiding the first 6" behind the valence) and then put the stars around it.  Unfortunately, since there were 13 stars, it wasn't as easy as laying out a clock face, but with a little adjusting here and there, I soon had the layout I wanted.

I was originally going to attach the stars with a hot glue gun, but decided on double-sided tape instead in case I wanted to change the layout later on.  With that in mind, I taped each star down using a piece of double-sided tape.

Step 7: Displaying Your Flag

If necessary, install your bracket according to the manufacturer's instructions.

After hanging the bracket, figure out where the center blind hook is located.  (I'm not sure if that's the name for it, but it's basically the little piece of plastic to which the blinds attach.)

Connect a red stripe to the center hook.  Moving to the right, alternate between connecting white stripes and red stripes until you have connected seven blinds.  (You might have to reverse this if you're hanging it from the inside of a garage door so that the flag is displayed outside the garage I did.)

To the left of the hanging stripes, connect the Union stripes (alternating white / red) so that the star field is displayed correctly based on the layout you chose.

Now, call over your friends (or your daughter and niece) and be proud of your homemade flag!
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