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Monday, June 3, 2013

Fry Phrase Pennant Flags

I was on a mission to make some new flags that had text of some kind: a small message or phrase that were more monochromatic but with an outdoorsy camping feel, and I wanted to screen print them instead of color blocking solids like I did on the nautical flags.  I really wanted it to be a project like an art project that didn't just feel like making things to make them; like it was grounded in something.  I was trying brainstorm clever phrases to put on the flags but most of the things I came up with felt arbitrary and didn't really work.

That's when I came across Fry Instant Phrases and short sentences.  The words in these phrases come from an Instant Word List developed by Dr. Edward Fry (1925-2010) from a book he wrote in 1980.  According to Fry, the first 300 words in the list represent about 67% of all the words children encounter in their reading.  They are divided into sections of 100 phrases per group.  The first 100 are the easiest, the next 100 are a bit harder, and so on.  These phrases are ones that children commonly come across when learning to read as well as in writing and spelling fluency.

Reading through these phrases, I could see that a lot of them were common place short sentences (So there you are, He called me, Have you seen it?) but when brought together and read in a sequence they created an interesting narrative that was so loose it was really up to the reader to decide what was happening.  This really got me excited about telling a story through something I was making instead of traditional story making: sitting down and typing or writing out a story, so I picked out my favorite ones and made a list:

I read through the first 5 groups (500 phrases).  I really like how it felt when I paired them up with ones that kind of went together or that had some kind of descriptive chemistry creating a tiny narrative.  I typed them out in Illustrator and chose appropriate fonts that went with each one.  Next I arranged them into color circles with small graphic elements.  Below is the original 16 but as I moved forward I boiled it down to 12 since I would be screen printing each one in a different color (kind of a lot of work, you know?)  It's good to edit anyway.

I used creme muslin which I pre-washed making the fabric so super soft!  I precut the fabric to the approximate size of the flag.  Then it was onto the screen printing which took me about 2 days to burn each screen, print, wash out, reburn, etc. Cue upbeat movie montage music!

Finished! (the printing at least)

I printed 3 of each design and will sell them as editions of a limited run so when someone has one flag, there will only be 2 others like it making it a bit special and rare.  Next I sewed them into flags with pointy bottoms using a thin layer of batting as filler so they would have more weight to them.  I sewed in a loop of fabric at the top to fit a dowel through for hanging.

I bought the dowels at an art supply store, sawed them in half and hand sanded the ends.

I tied white paracord on the ends of the dowels for easy hanging.

 The back of each flag is signed and numbered with the edition.  Here's the first edition finished:

Done!  I hung one of each of them on the wall and took a group photo!

Some individual shots:

The flags are great to hang in apartment entry ways, bedrooms, living rooms, or kids rooms (the phrases are for children after all) to add a pop of color and some subtle style to any room.  Is there one that resonates with you?  They will be for sale at the Mokuyobi Threads booth #159 at the Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn, NY on June 22+23. And after that in the Zipper Teeth Etsy shop while supplies last.

I hope you had as much fun reading the post as I had making them.


  1. This is incredible! I love the things you come up with :)

  2. This is a fabulous work of creativity that you have been successful in accomplishing. These flags are so colourful and will add colour to the entire theme. Kids would love them.