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Do-it-yourself socially-distanced flag making kit instructions


Download a pdf of these instructions here!

Do-it-yourself socially-distanced flag making kit instructions:
Here you will find instructions on making flags at home. The process is essentially the same as would have been for public workshops, but recognizing the unique circumstances of the current coronavirus time. We want you to stay safe and healthy but also have a chance to make something and think about the wonderful city you live in. These instructions contain all the information you will need to order a kit and make a flag (or flags if there are more folks in your household) with or without a sewing machine.

What is Flags for Iowa City?
It is a participatory flag project by artist Peter Haakon Thompson and the Iowa City Downtown District that is engaging residents in making flags that represent them and what they find important about Iowa City. All the flags will fly over Black Hawk Mini Park to be decoded and enjoyed by the whole city when we can all be together again.
Note: Before covid times, we were planning on flag making at public workshops…

What will happen?
Do-it-yourself socially-distanced flag making kits will be available starting this Spring, with materials ordered online and mailed. On the site,, participants:
• Pick a pre-made flag blank.
• Pick up to 3 symbols from a code system that represents ideas about what makes Iowa City amazing (for example, a symbol for history, coming and going and U of I).
• Arrange your symbols on a flag blank.
• If you have a sewing machine and wish to sew your symbols, you can!
• Or you can glue/mark your symbols locations and send back for sewing.

After all the flags have been made and we can once again meet in person, flags will fly above Black Hawk Mini Park so the entire city can see what their fellow citizens think is important about Iowa City. Visitors will find instructions for decoding the flags in the park. No sewing machine necessary!

What do I need to know for do-it-yourself socially-distanced flag making?
There is no equipment you need, other than a pen and a glue stick if you have it. If you have a sewing machine that is great, but not required. Beyond that you need a willingness to think about what Iowa City means to you and an interest in sharing that through making a flag. This is an all ages activity! And its free.

Below find instructions for do-it-yourself socially-distanced flag making.
Note: These instructions start with the flag/symbol ordering process and then cover actual flag design and making.

Ordering your Flag kit! (remember- its free)
Step 1.
Navigate to the project site When you get to the site, make sure to look at:
• Code and symbol page.
• Feel free to watch a video that explains process rather than reading!
• Schedule of upcoming zoom calls for chatting, tips and feedback.

Step 2.
Pick out flag blank, there are 4 colors that correspond to North, South, East, West sections of Iowa City. Pick the one that fits where you live or identify with in the city. This may be where you live or lived in the past, or maybe it’s a part of the city you like to visit, this is up to you to decide! Add that flag blank to your shopping cart (its free).

Step 3.
Go over symbols and code page. Familiarize yourself with the code, think about what resonates with you.
• If you are with other people while working on this (your family, housemates etc-- be safe!) have a conversation with them about what symbols correspond to what you like about Iowa City.
• If you are working on this by yourself, take some time to muse and ruminate. Have a coffee, look out the window.
• If you like, set up a call with someone else who is socially distancing to discuss!

Think about (and share):
• How you came to be in Iowa City (came for school, grew up here, etc).
• What you like about Iowa City?
• What characteristics of Iowa City are important to you?
• Which of these code symbols do you think represents those characteristics?

Step 4.
Pick out 1-3 code symbols that resonate and communicate what you find special and important about Iowa City.
Add those symbols to your shopping cart.

Step 5.
If you are planning to sew your flag, add a spool of thread your cart. These flags use bonded polyester thread intended for outdoor use.
A glue stick works well to adhere your symbols to the flag blank, this is handy if you are sewing or sending your flag back for sewing. If you need one, add that to your cart as well.

If you are not sewing your symbols on, you will trace their location on your flag blank. You can also glue or tape them down, if you need a glue stick you can add that to your cart.

Step 6.
Go to checkout and enter your name/address etc.
(is there an option for mailing or pick up?)

Making your Flag!
Check the mail often! Thank your mail carrier.
Your flag kit will include:
-Flag blank/s ---- each flag blank will come with a unique number tied to your name/address so we can return it to you at the end of the project.
-Code symbols
-Glue stick

Step 1.
Arrange symbols on flag blank, (see note below on flag design) think about:
• Whether you want to use both sides of flag.
• Symbols can be separate or overlap/stack.
• Symbols can butt up to or even wrap over edge to the other side.
• Grommets will be added to corners- best to stay away from that area of flag.
• If you cover up the Flag ID number, please use a sharpie to write it somewhere visible.
• Try different arrangements to see how you like it!

Note about flag design:
There has recently been a surge of interest in good flag design, primarily sparked by Roman Mars, the host of the podcast, 99% Invisible. His focus is primarily the often poorly designed state and city flags, of which there are many. I am a fan of his podcast and his ideas about flag design- not using a state seal as image, keeping words off flags, using bold colors and design to make visually arresting and immediately identifiable flags.

However, I also like to think about flags as two-sided paintings or sculptures that do not have to be identical on both sides but can play with the opportunities provided by an object that flies! So, don’t worry about whether your flag will follow the “good” flag design guidelines, but think of this as an opportunity to experiment.

Custom embellishment:
With this current iteration of the project, some of you may be interested in further customizing your flag. There is no pressure to do so, but you are welcome to customize if you like! Just note that eventually these flags will fly outside in the elements, so if you want your embellishments to last, use materials that can withstand wind, rain and sun. Or play with the idea of embellishments that fade over time.

Step 2. (If you are sewing your flag- skip ahead to Step 3.)
When you have settled on where to place your symbols and are returning your flag for sewing:
• Trace location of symbols on flag with pencil/pen or chalk where you want them sewn on.
• Tracing locations is sufficient, but you may also use glue stick, tape, whatever works to adhere symbols to flag where you want them sewn on.
• Skip ahead to Step 4.

Step 3.
Sewing time! Sew symbols on your flag!
• It can be helpful to glue/attach symbols before you sew, you can use a glue stick, double stick tape, pins, etc.
• To sew, please use included V30 bonded polyester thread. It comes on a bobbin that in this case is doubling as a spool. Wind some thread on your bobbin, then use the remaining thread on the bobbin as you would a spool.
• Use a zig zag stitch if you have it on your machine. Try to get the zig on the symbol and the zag on the flag!

Step 4.
Please take a maximum of two weeks to work on your flag!
When you are done, return your flags to a drop off point: Drop off locations TBD!
I will let you know!


How can I be more involved?
Get in touch! If you have questions, thoughts or ideas, you can email me!

Who is doing this?
Flags for Iowa City is a project by Minneapolis based artist Peter Haakon Thompson in collaboration with Iowa City Downtown District.

Peter Haakon Thompson is an artist based in Minneapolis, MN, whose primary mediums are participation, interaction and conversation. Some of his works include: The A Project, Art Shanty Projects, Mobile Sign Shop and Flag Services for South Minneapolis. He is a past recipient of a McKnight Fellowship for Photographers and holds a BFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts and an MFA from the University of Minnesota. He also has cousins who live in Iowa City!
More info about past and current projects here:

Downtown Iowa City has had an active business association since the turn of the 19th Century after the founding of Iowa City as the original state capitol in 1839. After more than a century of growth, the business association rebranded in 2012 as the Iowa City Downtown District by a successful petition to property owners to generate tax revenue through a Self Supported Municipal Improvement District (SSMID) to enhance Downtown. The ICDD is a 501(c) (6)nonprofit organization representing property owners and stakeholders in the Downtown and Northside Neighborhoods of Iowa City charged with overseeing the reinvestment of these funds as they advance a mission to steward the area.
The ICDD provides a leadership directive that advocates for the District mission and serves as a mechanism to more efficiently implement District-wide marketing, programs, events, and projects that support vitality for the benefit of all the businesses within it, the University of Iowa, community members, and the region at large. Since its inception, the Downtown District continues to forge an exciting and deliberate path forward towards cultural vibrancy, resiliency, and sustainability.