PORTLAND, Maine — Out of a small Skowhegan factory, Maine Stitching Specialties is this year taking on companies first to market in the early 1800s.

Maine Stitching began stitching and shipping its American flags this spring, two years after buying and restarting the former Dirigo Stitching factory. In advance of the Independence Day holiday, it’s put out “a few thousand” flags at retailers around the state, according to owner Bill Swain.

“It’s an additional focus, and we do it because we take pride in making the American flag,” Swain said.

The company’s bread and butter is in draperies and curtains for hotels and hospitals, as well as its line of pet products, which Swain said took up all of the company’s focus through 2015. Swain said he hopes the line of flags will grow to be a bigger part of the business next year.

“Our goal for next year is to sell 10,000,” Swain said. “That’s really what we’re working toward, and at that level it’s profitable and efficient to manufacture.”

National flag sales are estimated at around 150 million each year, with the value of those flag sales at more than $302 million, according to the last product-specific economic census figures in 2007.

“It’s really almost impossible for us to compete at large volumes,” Swain said. “Where we set ourselves apart is we believe we put a little more hand craftsmanship into ours.”

Right now, Swain said one employee is dedicated solely to making the flags that have individually stitched nylon stripes and come in three sizes. The medium size — at 3 feet by 5 feet — sells for $22.99 at Renys.

Maine Stitching this year secured distribution through Renys retail stores, L.L. Bean and is building more distribution at places that already offer its pet products.

“When we’re replenishing the pet items, we offer the flag as well,” Swain said. “We hope that they’re pretty universally available throughout Maine.”

The materials for the flag are all supplied by companies in the United States, Swain said, and the company tries to source materials for all of its products domestically.

“It’s really our focus to make it here with products that are made here and put people back to work and make a premium quality product,” Swain said.

Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.