'Flag Ladies' Embroider Symbols of Presidential Pomp, Power

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7, 2009 - Some dedicated ladies in Philadelphia are using their embroidery skills to construct dozens of colorful ceremonial flags for President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden.

The 15 embroiderers, known as "the flag ladies," labor at the Defense Logistics Agency's supply center in Philadelphia, where they are busy making 90 new presidential and vice-presidential banners, flag workshop supervisor Diane J. Harris said. Embroidery is the creation of decorative designs through hand or machine needlework.

"It's just rewarding seeing that the president gets what he needs ? his flags," said Harris, a 40-year employee of the workshop. Incoming chief executives and vice presidents, she said, get new flags.

The mostly handmade flags are constructed of either blue or white rayon; a blue field for the president and a white one for the vice president, Harris said.

The ceremonial banners use silk thread for fashioning the white stars and red, white, blue, silver, yellow and gold thread for embroidering the presidential coat of arms.

The president's flag, Harris continued, features gold and silver hand-knotted fringe edging, while the vice president's banner gets regular fringe.

It takes two embroiderers 45 days to complete one flag, Harris said.

Several of the new flags, Harris said, will make their debut during Jan. 20 inauguration activities.

The president's and vice president's ceremonial flags likely are the finest of their type in the world, Harris said, due to the amount of hand work involved and the top-notch materials used. The workshop, she added, also makes ceremonial flags for the armed forces.

The Defense Supply Center Philadelphia is the troop-support component of the Defense Logistics Agency, based at Fort Belvoir, Va. The Philadelphia facility provides U.S. troops with food, clothing, textiles, medicines, medical equipment, and construction supplies and equipment. The center also supports United States' humanitarian and disaster relief missions.

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