Easy Primitive Style Flags with Coffee Stain

Give store bought flags a primitive, grungy look with coffee stain. This is an easy and inexpensive project to create vintage style flags with an aged appearance.  
coffee stained flags, jar of buttons
Any other vintage lovers out there? How about primitive? 

True, authentic vintage items can cost a pretty penny! These primitive style flags use inexpensive supplies, take just minutes to make, and will add wonderful, grungy primitive style to your patriotic decor! Read on for the supplies list, coffee stain recipe and instructions.

How to make easy primitive style flags with coffee stain

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What if I told you that you could turn those bright white, mass-produced mini flags into authentic looking primitives in just a few short minutes? It really is that easy and the secret is coffee stain.

What is coffee stain

I'm sure you've heard of staining items with tea leaves. Well, coffee stain is similar but even easier! The bonus is a wonderful smell and true grungy appearance to anything you want to give an aged appearance to! I've used this coffee stain recipe to grunge a printable sign, make primitive style hardware apron flower pockets and create vintage style labeled bottles with faux rusty lids.

I first came across this coffee stain recipe from Tracey at My Sweet Home Living. Tracey is a true primitive-loving kindred spirit! She calls her recipe coffee grunge. I've added a couple simple tweaks, which I'll share below.

Coffee stain recipe

To a glass jar with lid, add the following:
Shake or stir ingredients. Store in fridge (will keep for months). When ready to use, mix well (the cinnamon will not dissolve and has a tendency to clump). You may want to heat in microwave for 10 seconds to soften the cinnamon if it's very clumpy. Recipe can easily be doubled.

*don't use your good spices or vanilla; dollar store or discount store products are best!

The combination of the coffee with vanilla and spices gives this stain not only an amazing smell, but the spices add a primitive, grungy, rusted look to your DIY projects and crafts!

What else can you do with coffee stain?

  1. Mix it with acrylic paint to deepen the look and give a bright color more of an old-world, primitive tone (I'll be sharing this technique on a brand new project very soon!)
  2. Make your own decoupage medium by mixing a little coffee stain in a jar with regular white school glue
  3. Add a primitive and aged appearance to fabric, paper, wood, paint, etc!

Supplies you'll need for primitive flags

*look for flags with wood sticks; flags themselves need to be cotton or a cotton/poly blend as polyester alone won't accept the stain

Here's a peek at the before and after to show you how the coffee stain will transform the brightness of the store-bought flags, give them a primitive look and gentle waves.

Steps to coffee stain mini flags

Step 1 - Prepare cookie sheet

Lay out a piece of wax paper or parchment paper onto one or two cookie sheets. 

Step 2 - Heat oven

Preheat oven to 175° or as low as your oven will go

Step 3 - Add flag to coffee stain

Twirl a flag around its flagpole and insert into jar of coffee stain. Swish it to cover the entire flag and let it sit for a minute or two.

Step 4 - Add waves

Remove flag from jar, using fingers to press out excess moisture. Lay wet flag on prepared pan and using your fingers, create a couple of gentle waves in the flags. If you want extra grungy looking flags, sprinkle a little more cinnamon (or even coffee crystals) onto the wet flags.

Keep in mind that the coffee stain will lighten as it dries. If you feel it's not as primitive as you'd like, add the flag back to the coffee stain for a little longer.

Step 5 - Bake

Bake flags for about 5 minutes or until dry, flipping over halfway. Baking isn't necessary, you could let them air dry, but it does help to stiffen the fabric so the waves hold their shape.

Step 6 - Stain flagpoles

When flags are dry, use a foam brush to apply a little bit of dark wax or stain to the flagpole.

Add your primitive style flags to a jar of buttons, rusty tin or wherever you choose to use them.

I love how the coffee stain and baking the flags in the oven helps them to hold their shape, it makes them much easier to display!

The cinnamon adds a faux rusty or grungy look, which you can really highlight if you like that extreme primitive look. Just add more while the flags are wet!

I hope you love this easy tutorial! Be sure to tag me @diybeautify on Instagram or share your primitive flags with me. This project is part of my brand new Patriotic Series - sign up HERE to get my new projects right in your inbox!

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  1. I REALLY like this! I already have a jar of your stain in the fridge and some flags stashed away, so, as you can imagine, I will be making these right away! Thank you for the great ideas!

  2. Michelle |Thistle Key LaneMay 17, 2024 at 8:28 AM

    What a brilliant idea Cindy! Love the primitive look of your flags!

    1. Thank you Michelle, I love how the coffee stain softens the bright white and the waves help them stay put!

  3. LOVE the antiqued vibe of your American flags! And your recipe is super easy too!


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