The gas shortage is not bad news for everyone. In a small shop in Alexandria, for instance, there's a lot of flag waving going on.

That's the shop of Theodore J. Christensen, president of the Copeland Company, flagmakers who may make more than $15,000 for manufacturing the 2,000 sets of red, green and yellow gas availability banners that are supposed to wave customers in or out of local service stations.

Ironically, the gas flags are the largest order for the 117-year-old company since it recently completed 600 flags for the navy of oil-rich Saudi Arabia. Yesterday Copeland received another order from the Saudi Arabians and an assignment from the Soviet Union, Christensen said.

"There are more flags," Christensen said proudly, "than you can shake a stick at." Or shake a flag pole at, which is another firm specialty. "I like to make flags. It's so interesting, the people I meet. We have a very high calibre clientele."

For instance, one of his biggest orders was thousands of 4 inch by 6 inch flags sent up with the first moon landing, Christensen said.

"It's nice to have something sent up in space and have it come back."

Christensen said he also had his sewing machines full during the Bicentennial. Besides flags, the company made hundreds of red, white and blue streamers and street decorations.

"We do the patterns, cutting by hand," Christensen said. "We sew by machine and trim them up by hand."

Copeland is not the only flagmaker in the area. A few other firms, such as canvas shops, make flags along with other unrelated goods, but they are not purists, Christensen insists. He is. "That's our business," he said.

On the gasoline flag order, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments requested 1,030 sets of red, yellow and green 18 inch by 18 inch nylon flags, aluminum poles and brackets. The cost of each set is $8.35. The COG sets were for Northern Virginia and the District.

Christensen said yesterday he just completed the 1,000 flags ordered by the Maryland officials.

A green flag flying at the service station means it is open, a yellow flag indicates only leaded gas is available and a red flag means the company is not pumping gasoline.

Sales for the Copeland Co. are "well into six figures," without the gasoline flags Christensen said. "It isn't $1 million - yet."