Prayer Flag Tutorials

Mixed Media Textiles: Prayer Flag Tutorial.

Welcome to my first tutorial on how to make a Prayer Flag. We will be exploring the following techniques that I personally use to create my beadwork.

  • Colouring evolon fabric using water soluable  and non - soluable colour pencils.
  • One needle couch stitch using yarn,embroidery floss and cord.
  • One needle couch stitch using yarn,floss and cord to create a curve.
  • Couch stitch bead embroidery: How to use couch stitch for beadwork.
  • Couch stitch bead embroidery: Going round in  circles/encircling a round sew on stone.
  • Bonus tute: Using straight stitch to attach beads individually onto fabric. Great for big odd shaped beads,freshwater pearls and odd items.

What is a Prayer Flag?

Prayer flags are traditionally used to promote Peace, Compassion,Strength and Wisdom. The Tibetians believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. therefore benefiting everyone.

The prayer flags do not send prayers to the gods which is a common misunderstanding.

Contemporary Prayer Flags.

Prayer flags made today by artists will have a prayer in the form of a favourite affirmation , inspirational quote or just a word such as Heal, Believe, Growth, Love. These flags incorporate a variety of media such as paint, marker pens for writing words or drawing pictures, photo transfers, thread,beads,shell,paper and much more. Anything goes with a prayer flag, making them a very playful,meditative and unique expression of a persons wishes.

For examples of Prayer Flags made using a variety of materials and the very candid and touching stories behind them visit which invites submissions of prayer flags.
2012  Fresh Flag by Jen Clair a variety of embroidery stitches.

Fly by Liz Pearce fabric and origami paper birds.

Play by Deborah O' Hare fabrix and stenciled words.

Believe by Terri lace,fabric,photo,key and diamantie button.

All images are copyright protected to their respective creators. All prayer flag images obtained from The Prayer Flag Project.

Materials List

Inktense colour pencils x 3 colours and some water or regular colour pencils or acrylic paint.

DMC or Anchor six strand embroidery floss and one strand perle cotton any weights.

Sharpie Marker in any nib width (ultra fine, fine,chisel,bullet tip.) or Gel pens in any color.

Chenille needles multi size pack

Beading Needles (John James Beading needles is a well loved brand.)

Nymo B or D thread in black,white or grey. You can also buy many other colours to match your fabric or beads.

Evolon either medium,heavy or superweight.

Size 11 seed beads in any finish or colours you think will express your emotions and key word.

Czech Glass Bicone Crystals 4mm size

Assorted shape / size / colour freshwater,acrylic or crystal pearls.

Optional materials:
Variegated colour perle or embroidery floss, These are threads dyed in mutli colours or shades of one colour.

DMC Secret Perfume scented six strand embroidery floss (12 scents to collect. in 3 groups: Delicacies. tutti frutti and floral bouquet) chocolate,apple,almond,honeysuckle.rose

Word stamps or stencils

Acrylic paints

Step One: Cut and Colour

Cut  a piece of Evolon fabric 11 inches  long by 5 inches wide. Use either acrylic paints or Inktense water soluable pencils in your favorite colour or colours to paint a background.

If you don't want to wait for the paint or ink to dry the process can be speeded up with a hair dryer. Or use colour pencil ( non soluable)  or marker pens to colour the evolon.

Step Two : Choose your word and write it down

Using a sharpie or gel pen in any colour write your chosen word (s) onto your prayer flag. If you used colour pencil (non - soluable) to colour your evolon use a Sharpie to write your word.

Step Three: Select crewel needle,cord and floss

Select a size 24 chenille needle and floss. Cut a length of floss 10 - 12 inches long.
 and seperate 3 strands from the six strands that make up the larger strand of floss.(or use a single strand of perle cotton thread).
Thread your needle and tie a knot at the end.

Cut a length of cord , twisted sari ribbon or a thick un-seperated strand of embroidery floss and lay it onto your evolon with one hand while holding the needle in the other.

Step Four: One small straight stitch

Holding the thick floss or cord onto the evolon, with one hand. The threaded needle goes through the evolon from the back next to the cord.

Bring the needle out through to the front next to the cord and bring it over the cord and back down right next to it on the other side.

From the back of the evolon move the needle down a half a centimeter and repeat the above.
Continue doing this making the stitch in half centimeter (or more if you wish) increments to hold down the cord.

When you reach the end bring the needle to the back and sew into the back of the fabric a stitch or to, knot your thread and cut it leaving a short tail.

Step Five: Stringing a strand of beads + a short straight stitch = Beaded couching stitch.

Thread a size 12 beading needle with a single strand of Nymo size B thread. Put a knot in the end.For extra stability you can double the thread and knot the ends.

Bring the needle up through the fabric .
Select and string onto your needle and thread 12 or more size 11 seed beads and bring the needle down at the end of a imaginary straight line. (you can also sew along the edge of your cord as a guide.)

Bring the needle back up 3 beads down the end of the string of beads bring the needle over the bead,making a very small stitch and go down into the fabric on the other side right next to the bead.

Continue down the string of beads bringing the needle up , over and down every third bead.When you reach the end.Bring the needle down and weave the needle into the fabric on the back ,knot and cut the thread.

This method can also be used for strings of bigger beads such as 4mm czech glass crystals. With those you can sew down every 2nd bead.

 For even larger beads sew in between every bead.Shown using purple 5 - 6mm pearls sewn on top of the couched down ribbon.

Step Six: Couch stitch with beads round a circle (sewing around a circular or oval acrylic stone,button or coin pearl ).

Thread a size 12 beading needle with a single strand of Nymo size B thread.( or double for extra strength as shown)  Select your circular embellishment ( button, coin pearl,acrylic or crystal sew on stone).

Also flat backed gemstones called cabochons, which can also be made from any material. One shown is a doll face cabochon made of polymer clay with merino wool for hair.This would be glued down first using superglue (or solvent based jewellers glue)

 Bring needle through the bottom of the fabric and through the hole.(kind of threaded the embellishment onto the needle) Bring needle out of the hole and back over the edge and down into the fabric. While holding down the embellishment with a finger.

 Bring the needle and thread up through the front of the fabric into the other hole and put the needle through the needle back down into the fabric.
Do this a couple of times to secure the button or stone. On the back of the fabric will be a long stitch from one end of the stone to the other.

Bring the needle back up near the edge of the stone hole, thread on 19 size 11 seed beads.

Lay the string of beads down around the stone holding it in place with a finger. Add more beads if need be.

When you have enough beads for one side of the stone (from hole to hole) push needle into the fabric near the other hole, bring it back up 2 -3 beads down on the outside edge of the string of beads.

Bring the needle over the bead from the outside edge in ( I find this helps the beads hug the edge of the stone) continue bringing the needle down through the fabric, up , over and down every 2-3 beads.

Continue doing this using different beads,small pearls,small bicone crystal beads,tiny shell beads etc...Try also stringing different sizes of bead on the one strand of thread and couching them down.

Step Seven: Finishing your flag.

Measure 3 inches down from the top of the short edge of your flag ( the bit that is 5 inches wide). Fold the fabric over to either the back or front of the flag and press.

Use fabric glue, machine or hand sewing to secure the flap to your flag.
You can furthur decorate this flap and it's edge with buttons,trims,strips of fabric,pom poms etc...

Cut and string 10 inches or more of heavy cord through the tunnel the flap has made (you can make the tunnel the same width as the cord by laying the cord down and bringing the fabric over it to make the flap fit.)

Knot the ends to stop the flag sliding off and hang up outside on a sunny breezy morning or afternoon and let the postive energy waft into the air, to travel wherever the wind blows.