Flagmaking 101: Betsy Ross and Me


Here are two wall hangings  that I made to celebrate July 4th. Given the simplicity of these banners, I’m sure that many others have already come up with the design, but I made them without patterns or copying others’ works. So — like Betsy Ross — I guess I’m a true flag designer!

I love the story of Betsy Ross. She was born on January 1, 1752, the 8th of 17 children. She and her first husband (John Ross) had an upholstery business.  They also went to church with George Washington and his family.  After John was killed during the Revolutionary War, Betsy continued working in the upholstery business repairing uniforms and making supplies for the army.  In 1777, she married her second husband (from which she had 2 daughters), who died in a British jail. She married husband #3, John Claypoole, in 1783. This couple had 5 daughters. John Claypoole died in 1817, and Ross continued working in the upholstery business until 1827. She died in 1836, at the age of 84, and had been completely blind for 3 years.

There is some dispute whether Betsy Ross actually made the first flag, or was one of a group of flag-makers. Whichever is true, this amazing lady outlived 3 husbands, had 7 children, and ran a successful business for 50 years. She’s definitely a hero, in my estimation!

I was thinking about Betsy Ross while I was making these wall hangings. Not because I’m a historical figure who is doing great work for our country. I was thinking about Betsy Ross because I was having major problem with thread breakage on my longarm. And I wondered what problems she faced in hand-sewing the flag (no electricity, tight deadlines, a sore back and eventual blindness come to mind). It makes me hesitate to complain!

However, this is a quilting blog, and my 21st Century problems are important too. The truth is that longarms can be frustrating. I’d used my trusty spool of white OMNI thread to quilt a table runner for a client. No problems at all. Then I loaded my flag wall hanging and the thread was breaking every 10 inches. I changed the needle three times. I cleaned the machines. I changed the bobbin thread.  I invoked the spirits of my foremothers! Nothing worked. I finally switched to Signature thread and completed the project without any more thread breakage.

Instances like this are so frustrating. I’m blaming the thread, but I’ve yet to have thread go “bad” in 2 hours.

You can learn more about Betsy Ross, her life, and how to display flags at


(If you can’t see the photos, please check out my blog at quiltnotes.wordpress.com)

American Flag Wall Hanging #1

American Flag Wall Hanging #2


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