How To: DIY "Vintage" Pennants
You guys know by know that affordably replicating a high-priced home decor item with my own two hands and customizing or changing it to fit my style is one of my greatest joys in life, so today’s DIY home decor post may not necessarily be up everyone’s alley, but if it is, welcome to my weird little world, my DIY-loving friends! So what random high-priced home decor item are we replicating in our own style today, you ask? Pennants! I know, I know. You may be asking yourself, what is a pennant? Why do I need one in my home? Why do you enjoy them so much? And if those questions are crossing your mind right now, you’re not alone.
When Chris saw the bolts of fabric on the table and watched me measure triangles on them and cut said triangles out of said fabric, he stared at me with a slightly confused look on his face paired with a forced smile before he asked several of those very same questions. It’s a PENNANT, C... not a pendant. Get with it! But I digress. This idea and my subsequent need to have fun fabric pennants on my wall began when I was perusing one my my (and the rest of the world’s) favorite home decor websites, McGee & Co. And I came across an entire section on the site that houses these super cool, vintage-collegiate-esque pennants, which were once (and kind of still are) real items used for real purposes, like as flags on the masthead of a ship or as a show of team spirit at athletic competitions with school names scrawled across the middle of them. Of course when I saw them on the site I wanted all of them, but my budget for pennants and the like is slightly limited as one could imagine, and there weren’t any that genuinely fit our home’s style (though I desperately wish they did because they’re so so cool). But as so often happens when I’m looking at home decor items that dont quite fit all of my exact needs, but that I love all the same, it quickly dawned on me that I could pretty easily recreate these affordably and in my own style with some really fun fabric, including some beloved scrap that I’ve had sitting around the house.
And so here we are! As I said I started with fabric scrap from other projects that I absolutely love and had hanging around, and also picked up a couple of other fabric options from Calico than I’d been dying to utilize in a project for some time. Fun fact: the reason I knew exactly which fabrics I wanted to grab from Calico is because they’re both utilized on furniture pieces in our collection for Calico’s 70th Anniversary! Actually all fabrics used in this project are from Calico now that I think about it, and they’re as follows:
Mener La Mer (the aqua plaid fabric)
Honneur La Mer (the aqua toile)
Ralph Lauren Ashfield Floral (the black & white floral toile)
Fritz Ivory (the cream fabric w/ black ticking stripe)
Truth be told I was kind of distracted when I was tackling this project and upon reflection, probably would have done a couple of things differently if I’d been laser focused on the task at hand. Which I hate admitting, but for the sake of friendship and transparency, I feel I must. Most of it has to do with the way these are framed. The pennants themselves are great, exactly what I wanted in fact, but I wasn’t really in the mood to go out and grab new frames, so I settled for using the same white Ikea frames that have been hanging in that spot on the wall for many a year to frame these beauties. I would have liked to use natural wood frames of some sort and frame them without mounting them on any fabric. I’d probably just skip any sort of backing or mat altogether and float them. But silver lining… I’m fairly certain that because I used fabric glue to adhere the pennants to the fabric backing, if I very, very carefully peeled the pennants off of that fabric, I could pull them off cleanly and put them in new frames pretty easily, no harm done. A project for another day.
There are so many ways the DIY world has tackled pennants and the truth is, I love this DIY because it’s such an easy one to amend to your liking and make it fit your style. For bigger stand-alone pennants or flags like the ones we’re making here, felt is typically involved to recreate that vintage collegiate vibe and I love that look. This same concept can also be used to create smaller pennants that make up a banner or bunting, which is so much fun for parties of all kinds or just hanging around in a space permanently to add a funky, festive vibe. All great approaches to this whole pennant thing. Personally, I just love any excuse to use a fun, funky fabric and thought that this particular approach would give them a sort of a found, romantic look that fits right into our cozy cottage-farmhouse style. So many possibilities!
Remember that you can make your pennants whatever size you want, but the same process I’m outlining below applies no matter the size. I chose the dimensions of my pennants or “triangles” solely based the size of the frames I had for them. And just for the record, I feel like this entire project was or could be an exercise in recalling my high school (middle school?) geometry knowledge - isosceles triangles for life! Angle bisector, axis of symmetry, Pythagorean theorem, altitude… it’s all swirling in my head like a long-forgotten nightmare come back to haunt me.
Geometry nightmares aside, let’s do this thing!
Fabric of choice (all of the ones I used are linked above)
1” to 1.5” Wide Cotton Belting/Cotton Webbing/Twill Tape (whatever you can find or prefer… they’re very similar things)
Hemp Rope/Cording (Mine was about 1/4” in diameter) - this is cheapest at your local craft store in the bead section.
How To: DIY Pennants
1. For our pennants I wanted to utilize the selvage of the fabric (the edge of a bolt of fabric that’s finished and keeps the fabric from unraveling or fraying) as the triangle’s base to give them more of a vintage feel (even though for the most part I covered that up with the twill tape so… whatever), and also because it made my measuring and cutting easier by providing me one perfectly straight triangle base to start with. Also, you should be using the “wrong side” or back of the fabric to measure, mark and cut so you’re not marking up the “right side” or the pretty, patterned side of the fabric. As you’ll notice from the pics, that’s not what I did. Again… I was a little lazier than I’d like to admit on this one, so be better than me!
2. For the large pennants I decided to make the base (the edge with the corded loops and twill tape on it) 11” long and to do that I simply measured along the selvage and marked that 11” piece with two small dots. For the smaller pennants, the base was 6” long. Just make sure you’re finding a spot on your fabric where you love the pattern. Things to think about!
3. Next I measured to find the center point of that 11” piece (5.5”) and placed another small dot at the base (on the selvage) to mark that center point.
4. Then I placed my ruler perpendicular to the base at that center point, and made a mark at 15” out from that center point to mark where I’d be connecting the two legs of my triangle. A T-square would probably be the proper tool to use here and I’m sure somewhere my dad is already fuming at my lack of a) proper geometry skills and terminology and b) my tool selection, but this huge paint stick/ruler happened to be easily accessible at the time of making these so… yeah that’s what I used.
5. Next I used my ruler to draw the two legs of my triangle and make the triangle complete. Using your ruler, draw a straight line from one of the dots at your base to the dot at your point. Repeat on the other side and bam, you have yourself a triangle!
6. Now you’re ready to cut that triangle out. I just used sharp fabric shears and it worked wonderfully. Some people may get fancy and use a rotary cutter, but it’s not a necessity. Though if you have a rotary cutter, it is a pretty awesome way to cut fabric. Just sayin’.
7. Once you have your triangle cut out, you can cut your twill tape/cotton webbing/cotton belting (seriously, whatever you can find. They’re all so similar.) to fit the base of your triangle. For our large pennants, that piece of twill tape was 11” long. For the smaller pennants, it was 6” long. And just a note on the whole twill tape/cotton webbing thing. If you were to use cotton webbing, you could find some with a cool red stitch or “line” to give it more of a vintage feel. Again, if I were making more of an effort on this one, I may have hunted down such a thing.
8. I simply attached my piece of twill tape to the “right side” or front of my pennants using fabric glue. Because I wanted a little bit of that selvage to show, I glued the base of my pennant right in the middle of that piece of twill tape instead of lining up the edges, which you can see in the pic below.
9. Next I attached my rope/cording to make those little loops or “ties” for my pennants. You can really make these loops as big or small as you want for visual purposes since these aren’t functional pennants, but I cut each piece of cording to be about 2” long, then folded it in half to make my loop and twisted the ends together a little bit so the loop stays in place.
10. I glued the twisted end of each loop to each ends of the base of my pennants using fabric glue. I held each one in place for a second to make sure that it was secure and that the twisted part of the loop didn’t untwist.
11. Before I framed my pennants, I decided to fray the edges of each pennant a little bit to give it an extra pinch of vintage flair. Super simple to do. I just held each pennant in one hand by pinching the tip of the triangle and letting the rest hang down, then using the other hand ran one of the sharp edges of my fabric shears down the edge of the fabric to fray the threads. It’s not a science, so hold it and fray however is easiest for you.
12. Once I let the glue on my pennants dry for 10 minutes or so, I mounted them on the fabric backing that I put on my frames using more fabric glue. There was no real method to the madness here and I didn’t really take a ton of time or care tackling this part. I simply cut a piece of fabric to fit my frame, glued that piece of fabric to the particle board backing of the frame and then arranged and glued my pennants on top of that. Like I said, if I’d put more time/resources into it, this probably isn’t the framing route I would have gone. Nevertheless, it works for now!
And there you have it - easy DIY pennants for all! Or at least those that think pennants are awesome. Which they are. I think a bunting/banner in this same style would be such a fun addition to a bridal shower or baby shower, too! You’d have to make more pennants that are smaller, but you could just stack the fabrics on top of each other when you measure and cut to make sure the pennants are all the same size, which would be the moment a rotary cutter would really come in handy.
Happy pennant-ing, friends!