There is a rhythm to sewing Prayer Flags: measure, cut, tear, sew sew sew, measure, cut, tear…repeat…. measure, cut, tear, sew sew sew, measure, cut, tear…pause.
This morning I sat outside at my picnic table, the sun warming my neck and a slight breeze fluttering the piles of finished flags. I sewed for an hour, pulling stray threads off the torn lengths of muslin, then folding the edges over to sew the seam so that a string can be pushed through to hang them.
It is easy work, meditative, even, as long as the machine stays threaded.
Prayer flags are an ancient pre-Buddhist custom used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. According to Wikipedia, “…the flags do not carry prayers to gods, which is a common misconception; rather, the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all…
…The prayers of a flag become a permanent part of the universe as the images fade from exposure to the elements. Just as life moves on and is replaced by new life, Tibetans renew their hopes for the world by continually mounting new flags alongside the old. This act symbolizes a welcoming of life’s changes and an acknowledgment that all beings are part of a greater ongoing cycle…”
Several years ago I invited artists from all over the country to make flags for a Community Prayer Flag event in downtown Phoenix. During the event, attendees were encouraged to draw and write their wishes and dreams on flags and contribute them to the project.
This time I’m doing things a little differently.
People will be still invited to sit down and create their own flags, but this time they can take them home with them or contribute them to the project. In addition, they will be able purchase beautiful, one-of-a-kind flags made by artists from all over the country.
This kind of community gathering offers people an opportunity to creatively express something from their heart.
And this knocks my socks off like nothing else I do.
And to give artists a chance to sell their work is icing on the apple pie.
This is the work that I love.
And I even get to make some flags, too.
Yesterday I took time out from sewing the half-inch hems on the muslin to actually work on my own artist’s flag.
I am used to working with paper and glue, or fabric and glue. Once I even added hand stitching. But since I had the sewing machine out, I decided to try something a little more complex than just sewing a straight seam.
I cut swatches of fabrics from a box of remnants that I got at a yard sale and pinned them in place. I lined up longer strips to create a border on each panel. And I started to sew them in place.
But sewing with a machine is tedious. There are pins and creases and threads. There is threading the machine and replacing the bobbin and remembering to raise the arm to the highest position when I start another first stitch. And there is accidentally sewing two flags together, and having to take out all of your stitches.
But I stuck with it and sewed six individual panels that are far from perfection, and I’m really OK with that, especially because of the nature of Prayer Flags.
Prayer Flags are expected to fade and disintegrate from time and weather. And so I’m OK with the uneven stitching, the crooked lines, the already fraying edges. It’s a reminder that everything in life is impermanent.
If you’re interested in making flags for the event, you can get all of the information when you sign up at www.sparktheheart.com/flags
If you’d like to bring this event to your town, send me an email and we’ll talk!