Vintage flag


CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Apr 3, 2004
New Jersey
A local museum needs a WWII Japanese flag framed. It's silk and very delicate sewing down the corners will make the rest of the flag sag causing the 'Rising Sun' to become an oval. What's my best course of action?
I had a Japanese Battle Flag come in a while back. White silk with the Red Rising Sun. It had a great deal of writing and names of the men in the Battalion? Regiment?. The customers father had taken it off of a dead Japanese officer and given it to the Grandson.

I used to work for a Japanese cell phone manufacturer so I called one of the secretaries and she did a translation on the text and names. I typed this up and gave it to the family when they came to pick it up.

It was very simply framed, black flat profile, shallow shadow box frame with a black mat. The top corners were reinforced so it was Attach-Ezed (can you verb Attach-Eze?) all along the top edge but specially the corners and allowed to hang somewhat naturally. Then just tacked down on the lower corners. Looked very nice and the customer liked it. I'll post pictures when I get to the shop along with the translation if I can find it.

It could be that your flag is very similar. I understand that officers made these flags as good luck talismans to their firends going into battle.
The old silk may be so fragile that any attempt to sew it would shatter the threads of the weave. If it is anything like the old silk falgs I have framed, my guess is that it would not withstand any amount of stress.

I suggest using a fine mesh fabric overlay mount using Stabilitex (polyester) or Crepeline (French silk organdy) fine mesh fabrics, which are almost invisible in applications like this.

Cover a sturdy board with polyfill to give it a slightly springy loft, and cover that with a chemically neutral, color fast fabric.

Lay the flag on the lofted background fabric, and overlay a piece of Stabilitex or Crepeline to cover it. Pull the overlay tight enough to slightly compress the polyfill and create slight pressure between the background fabric and the overlay fabric -- that's what supports the flag and holds it gently in place. Fasten the edges of the fine mesh overlay on the back of the mount board. For more on this technique, see the May, 2005 issue of Picture Framing Magazine, page 49.
Thanks for the insight. I want to get this right. The information from the family that donated it to the museum explained that the grandfather captured it on Okinawa Easter Sunday 1945. I want to do that Marine justice.
A few months ago I had to frame a shredded silk flag. Jim Miller piped in with the above Stabilitex method and we had great success! It was helpful to see the article in PFM. The only part that I wasn't happy about was that I had to buy a whole yard of the Stabilitex and it is a bit pricey. With shipping I believe that it was $75.00. It is amazing stuff though and the customer was thrilled. Thanks Jim Miller!
Is the polyfill archival, I'm thinking of the batting that you can get for quilting? And what types of fabric are chemically neutral?
Originally posted by framinzfun:
Is the polyfill archival, I'm thinking of the batting that you can get for quilting? And what types of fabric are chemically neutral?
Polyfill, sold as quilt batting, is spun polyester. As far as I know it should be as chemically stable and preservation-worthy as other polyester things, such as Stabilitex and Melinex. I don't know about additives to this form of polyester that could come into consideration, though. And I wouldn't consider any other kind of spun synthetic fiber.

Cotton quilt batting is also a good choice for preservation, except that it will lose its loft over time; it will compress, whereas the polyester will stay fluffy better.

Choose a fabric that is known to be colorfast. Wash it several times, until the rinse water is crystal clear. I would probably select a linen or cotton fabric for the background -- one with a fairly coarse weave and a "toothy" surface texture, to help hold the flag.
As Jim says, you would want needle punched, spun-bond polyester - no adhesives, sizing etc. Insulite is one brand, it is about 1/8" thick, used for quilting. For a flat textile like you describe, you don't need a lot of padding.

Cotton is stable, but would absorb more moisture from the air, so not as good a choice. Silk is much better off with as little moisture as possible.

Thanks for that reminder about cotton's absorbency, Rebecca. Would a washed polyester fabric be good for the background?

Padding is often used for a decorative purpose in mounting textiles, but the padding in a fine mesh overlay mount creates a slight tension in the fine mesh overlay/textile/background fabric assembly. The gentle, overall pressure serves to keep the textile in place. A textured background fabric helps, too.
Yes, polyester is a good choice if you can find one that isn't too slippery. Washed silk is also good, though colorfastness can be an issue.

Testfabrics has unsized fabrics which might suit.