The Etsy Blog

Flying the Flag handmade and vintage goods


My father loved to fly the flag. On patriotic holidays, he would lean out of second story windows to secure and suspend the huge ship’s flag that had belonged to his grandfather. He was always cheerful as he hung it just right, neither too high nor too low, and certainly never crooked. As a veteran of World War II, he shared his generation’s unabashed love of country. He spent nearly his entire career in public service, and I learned from him to treat such service as a privilege and a source of pride. His particular interests were education and civil rights, but his passions were fairness and accuracy.

[1. Beaded Boots from Nbdg 2. License Plate Flag by Design Turnpike 3. Antique Photos from Theartfloozy 4. Bait Shop Photo by RandyNyhofPhotos 5. Bars and Stripes Textile by FireHorseTextiles]

Abraham Lincoln was his hero and the Lincoln Memorial his place to contemplate. I remember well our many family visits there, solemnly reading aloud from the writings of Lincoln that were engraved on the marble walls. My father loved the flag because it symbolized the principles of union and equality expressed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. That love and understanding was his greatest gift to his children.

[1. “Free” Photograph by ShainaHedlundPhoto 2. Whistle by BottleCapWhistles 3. Photo Lamp by Maryjaneappel 4. “America the Beautiful” Woodcut by Tugboatprintshop 5. Vintage Platforms from Youngandukraine]

My generation has had a more complicated relationship with the American flag. Most of my life, the flag has been less a symbol of a united country than an icon of difference and polarization. Nonetheless, I honor my father’s tradition and display my flag on the appropriate holidays.

Blessings are said to emanate with every wave of a Tibetan prayer flag. Perhaps that is true of all flags. I know I would prefer to think of flags as symbols of welcome.

[1. Jamaica Dress by Zigzagflag 2. Vintage Photo from Gwensewvintage 3. Flag Hat by Akiseo  4. Four Dog Flag by LaboniJunction 5. Texas Flag Cookies by SunshineBakes 6. Union Jack Throw Pillow by IconicPillows]

My favorite display of national flags is during the Olympics when so many countries gather in peaceful, fierce, and colorful competition. I love to see all the happy and excited young athletes swirling together, the flags becoming a patchwork of blended boundaries and melodies. The nightly news provides so many opportunities for cynicism and despair; I cherish the moments of joy and optimism.

More Shopping Posts From Cate

Cate Fitt, a.k.a. knitfitt, has been a member of Etsy since 2007 and is an experienced critic, curator and juror. She earned her MFA in fiber in 1978, later receiving an artist’s fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Through the years, she’s been a maker of one-of-a-kind hand-painted clothing, pottery, jewelry, and linocut and monotype prints. She lives in a little house close to the James River with two whippets named Moose and Peach.

  • VoleedeMoineaux
  • GoldenSpiralDesigns

    Lola Ocian from GoldenSpiralDesigns says:

    Oh man, those Texas cookies are super cool!

    3 years ago

  • thevicagirl

    VaLon Frandsen from thevicagirl says:

    Such great artwork. So many great flags. Love it!

    3 years ago

  • BizzieLizzie

    Bizzie from BizzieLizzieHandmade says:

    Fantastic article! I, too, am partial to the American Flag! After serving 10 years in the military - it made me appreciate so many things. Seeing the flags immediately take me back to my time of service!

    3 years ago

  • mfrawley

    Mary Frawley (Calligraphette Ltd) from Calligraphette says:

    Great article! In Ireland (I'm Irish) we fly the flag at every opportunity even our county ones when the local team is playing gaelic. Seeing flags fly in the UK is more of a rarity but the UK it is great to see that everyone has patriotic fever at the moment. xx

    3 years ago

  • telepelekids

    ilanit bronstein from telepelekids says:

    Very nice article!my father was in the army most of his life,his connected to the country so much and very pariot! for me as we must serve the army,i had some issue with my country,i can understand the reality,,,but still proud to hold the flag!

    3 years ago

  • ErikaPrice

    Erika from ErikaPrice says:

    We certainly have flag fever here in the UK at the moment, what with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the forthcoming London 2012 Olympics, I've never seen so many Union Jacks in my life! However, it's quite common to see the flag of St George whenever England are playing World Cup football!

    3 years ago

  • CafePrimrose

    Amanda Gynther from CafePrimrose says:

    Nice article! My grandfather was a world war 2 veteran.... He flew in the air force, they crashed on some island in asia that had no people on it and only pineapples for at least a month they were stuck there. To this day, my grandfather loves the flag and hates pineapples ad freaks out every time he sees one.

    3 years ago

  • telepelekids

    ilanit bronstein from telepelekids says:

    Intresting article,its remaind me my father,that serve the army most of his life,his patriot and every independing day the flag is part of us,,, for me and the young generation that must serve the army,we have more issue a bout that,,,

    3 years ago

  • lkmccray

    Linzee from lkmccray says:

    As the daughter of a miliitary vet and a member of that generation with the "complicated" relationship to the flag, I can identify with many of your comments, Cate, and what a lovely job you've done of melding the disparities. I will never forget the way American flags appeared EVERYWHERE after 9-11. Somehow that day cleared away the complications, at least for a time, and made flag-waving "acceptable" again.

    3 years ago

  • volkerwandering

    Jess from volkerwandering says:

    Those patriotic heels are killer!

    3 years ago

  • laurelgreene1

    Laurel Greene says:

    As the daughter of a member of The Greatest Generation, the wife of a veteran and the mother of a former Marine our flag holds a special place in my heart. I never take it for granted that it waves to remind us of our freedom and the many lives that have been sacrificed to make sure it will continue to wave. What wonderful colors the red white and blue are.

    3 years ago

  • VintageEye

    VintageEye from VintageEye says:

    Wonderful post, Cate! My husband, the son of Army veterans & himself an Air Force vet, has always been one to proudly display the colors. He has become somewhat of a local flag expert and is always happy to answer questions about the proper care, display & disposal of Old Glory.

    3 years ago

  • EmiliaFaith

    Edie Ann from OhHoneyHush says:

    Beautiful article !

    3 years ago

  • minimalblue

    Jim Long says:

    Thank you Cate. Your article asks me to recall the values that my father honored, values that have been obscured by memories of his personal struggles. Dad was a war hero but he wasn't a flag-waver, and he taught me that, in life, being generous is always the best path, no matter the circumstances.

    3 years ago

  • chavezar

    AudreyRose says:

    FLAGS! I used to be awesome at identifying countries by their flags. I was a member of the international student club in college and I was in charge of flags. In our cafeteria we would fly the flags of countries represented by the student body. They loved seeing their flag because it was a piece of home and it meant the world to them. It was also a cool way to connect to my friends. We could discuss the reason why their flag changed in color, etc one year to the next. Great conversations, friendly rivalries, beautiful memories of my friends. I miss them so much. P.S. With all this college talk please pay no attention to the grammatical errors, etc. It's late, I'm exhausted, and I am just typin'. Luv you Etsy!

    3 years ago

  • customizeBaby

    Custom Baby from customizeBaby says:


    3 years ago

  • ansluasi

    ansluasi from OnceUponABookshop says:

    Funny how I tend to take seeing the flag for granted most of the year. But every Memorial Day, it's significance is brought sharply home to me again when I see it carried past in our small town parade. Somehow, in that melange of veterans, scouts, church groups, kids with crepe paper decorated bikes, farmers on antique tractors, horseback riders, marching bands, roadsters and beauty queens is the essence of all that is sweet and enduring and good about our country. Our flag waving overhead marks the spot like a "You Are Here" on a map, and it feels exactly, perfectly, wonderfully right.

    3 years ago

  • iammieCLAYshop

    iammieCLAYshop from iammieCLAYshop says:

    Nice story and picks!

    3 years ago

  • DecadenceandDecay

    jordan from DecadenceandDecay says:

    i really liked this article. i don't think a lot of articles on etsy's storque are heart felt or meaningful or even relevant, but this was very reverent and brought in/tied in a lot of things happening not only in our country but our world too. very well done, it's a very nice article.

    3 years ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    Victoria Baker from LittleWrenPottery says:

    I always thing flags are a strange thing, I'd hate to design one thats for sure!

    3 years ago

  • julietdiyjewelry

    xiu qing zhu from julietdiyjewelry says:

    great article!

    3 years ago

  • dietraw

    Dietra Walton says:

    Great prose and wonderful pictures -- thanks for always giving your all!

    3 years ago

  • jascamille

    jascamille from jascamille says:

    Oh, that's right, Flag Day is coming up. good choice for an article!

    3 years ago

  • fatlama

    Laura from fatlama says:

    In the UK I have grown up with a pretty complex relationship with our national flag..sadly when I was growing up it was highjacked by 'skinheads" and football nutters...and now the EDL (english defence league, horrible racist/facist group) use it...sad, but I would not display it myself as those associations are too strong. However, that said, I do feel a lump in my throat when I see it raised in first place in the Olympic stadium. What a feeling that must be for the athlete!

    3 years ago

  • myvintagecrush

    Kathleen from myvintagecrush says:


    3 years ago

  • TheBeautyofBoredom

    Gracie from TheBeautyofBoredom says:

    Love these items! So colorful, especially the different shoes and the flag made out of license plates.

    3 years ago

  • windycitynovelties

    Windy City Novelties says:

    Great Items! Love the design of the pillow!

    3 years ago

  • liddysopretty

    liddy sopretty from liddysopretty says:

    Neat article :)

    3 years ago

  • Kayylovee

    Kayla Olson from Kayylovee says:

    I can relate to this article and I appreciate you sharing. It is very personal and colorful. I agree that the Olympics are much more than a competition but the unification of all the countries competing! It is refreshing to read of your patriotism.

    3 years ago

  • LoveButtons

    Julia K Walton from FireHorseVintageHQ says:

    Good to see some positive patriotism. I love the US flag made from licence plates!

    3 years ago

  • MyBFFbag

    Lisa from MyBFFbag says:

    Awesome! I love family history and what a way to pass it down in your own creative way!

    2 years ago