Seminole Patchwork

Seminole Patchwork

Length: 2278 words (6.5 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Seminole Patchwork

“Cross” or “sacred fire”, “arrow”, “zigzag”, “bird”, “wave”, “mountains” and “diamondback rattlesnake” all have something in common. What do all of these names have in common? They are all names of Seminole patchwork designs. What exactly is patchworking? It can be defined as the process of sewing pieces of solid colored cloth together to make long rows of designs, which are then joined horizontally to other bands of cloth to form a garment (Downs, 1995, 88). This Native American artwork is closely associated with the Florida Seminoles. The history of this tribe and how they came to make patchwork garments is rather interesting. In making patchwork garments, things to be considered include how it is done (process), what elements of design are used, whom the garment is to be made for and who actually makes it. Presently, there are less artists in this craft and the future of patchwork may be at risk. Seminole patchwork has been done for over a century, and it’s beauty and uniqueness needs to be revealed and recognized by Americans.

The Seminole Indians were not always located in Florida. In the early 19th Century the Seminoles lived in the cool areas of Georgia. They wore animals hides and furs to keep warm. This all changed in 1830, when President Andrew Jackson passed the Indian Removal Policy of 1830, which forced the Seminoles to flee to Florida. In fleeing to Florida they left behind their homes, some relatives who refused to leave and their cool climate. In Florida, there was no longer a need for the warm furs and hides and they turned to the use of cloth. In 1840, they disappeared into the Everglades and lived there in peace, with no influences from other tribes. The Everglades were rich with exotic items that were worth a lot in trade markets. Once a year, the Seminoles would take a voyage on the Miami River to Miami. In Miami they could trade items such as alligator hides and egret plumes for rolls of cotton cloth. The Seminoles would use the cotton to make various pieces of clothing. One year, a voyage could not be made to Miami to attain more cloth and the Seminoles were forced to use scraps of cloth, sewing them together to make a large piece of cloth or garment.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Seminole Patchwork." 24 Jun 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl Essay example

- Shelley Jackson's Patchwork Girl Patchwork Girl, a hypertext vision sewn together by Shelley Jackson, is a story and an account of the creation of a monster and the relationship the mind has with the monster within the technical boundary of lexia. The monster metaphorically was originally created by Mary Shelley in Frankenstein, but has now resurfaced in a layered identity with an opposing forum of complexity. Jackson has designed her version of the timeless tale from the female perspective by offering the reader not only a facet into the monster’s mind, but that of Mary’s, the girl’s, and of the author’s, which accounts for three female angles of perception....   [tags: Shelley Jackson Patchwork Girl]

Research Papers
1962 words (5.6 pages)

Essay about The Seminole

- The Seminole "As the United States is a nation made up of people from many nations, so the Seminole is a tribe made up of Indians from many tribes."  (Garbarino 13)  The Seminole are the indigenous people living in southeastern America.  They lived in what is now Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi.  The Seminole had a Muskogean language of the Hokan-Siouan stock.  (Bookshelf)  The Indian tribes found in the southeast were the Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Yuchi, Yamassee, Apalachicola, Timucua, and Calusa.  The southeastern Indians were described by the Spanish as being tall with complexions ranging from olive, to brownish.  The I...   [tags: essays research papers fc]

Research Papers
2737 words (7.8 pages)

Essay about Seminole Indians

- Seminole Indians Effects on European Settlers and The United States. Timeline of Seminole History 1528-Spain lands in Florida for first time (Cabeza de Vaca), 1817-First Seminole War. 1819-Spain cedes Florida to the United States. 1832-Second Seminole War begins. 1835-Osceola is captured by Andrew Jackson. 1838-Osceola dies in Federal Prison. 1842-Second Seminole War ends. 1845-Third Seminole War. 1907-Oklahoma Enters the union with most of the residents from the southeast part of The United States....   [tags: essays papers]

Free Essays
1176 words (3.4 pages)

Seminole Tribe Essay

- The Seminole Tribe The Seminoles are a very well established Native American tribe. They’re located in Florida and Oklahoma. Some people believe that the name Seminole might come from the word Simanoli which is what the Creeks used to call themselves. They have great connections with the land, interesting food, architecture, religion, government and leaders. The Seminole tribe are descendants of the Creek tribe. The Creeks spoke two languages, Muskogee and Miccosukee. Miccosukee is a related tongue of Muskogee....   [tags: Native American Indians]

Research Papers
761 words (2.2 pages)

Writing in Native American Issues Essay

- Writing In Native American Issues Seminole Baptist The purpose of writing this paper is so the unique group of people will be represented properly from one of their own people. This will get a view into the culture and history that is not usually seen from the outside. In the world of today Native Americans have to be properly represented and understood or misconceptions can happen. Traditionally the Muscogee people practiced opvnkv hacogee, which means drunken, crazy, or spirited dance. More commonly known as the stomp dance they are social dances that included all community members-men, women, and children....   [tags: Muscogee, Seminole Baptist]

Research Papers
2090 words (6 pages)

The World Of American Colonization Essay examples

- Introduction Quilting has been around before the European settlers arrived in the New World. A quilt is a sandwich type cloth with a layers of fabric, padding, you sew two or more materials together. The word “quilt” comes from the latin word “culcita” which means stuffed sack, According to Johnson “but it came into the English language from the French word cuilte.” (Johnson, 2016). Quilting can be traced back to ancient egypt and china, later in the eleventh century and in the eighteenth century....   [tags: Quilting, Quilt, Patchwork quilt]

Research Papers
1187 words (3.4 pages)

Native American Tribes: The Choctaw Tribe Essay example

- Prior to the first European settlers stepping foot onto what is now the United States, Native American tribes flourished for hundreds of years. Each tribe was unique, yet all shared in the practice of living off of natural resources the land provided. Once European settlers discovered the Americas, the tails of the country’s native inhabitants spread across the seas. These early settlers began to trade with the natives and eventually named the “Five Civilized Tribes” (Choctaw Indian Facts). These tribes included the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole, and Choctaw Indians....   [tags: Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole]

Research Papers
990 words (2.8 pages)

Essay on The Dade Massacre: Florida Memory

- Treaties associated with Payne’s Landing and Fort Gibson in 1832, under the Andrew Jackson administration were written, to remove Seminole Indians out of Florida to the Westside of the Mississippi River. The Seminole Indians were to be made part of the Muscogee Creek Nation and would be given a piece of the countryside, and re-admitted to all privileges as members of the same. After years of no progression to the end state, a show of military presence was necessary and was placed into order. On 21, December 1835, six companies throughout the Florida peninsula, were ordered to go to Fort Brooke in Tampa Bay to aid in the eviction of the Seminole Indians....   [tags: seminole indians, payne's landing, fort gibson]

Research Papers
1365 words (3.9 pages)

The Plight of the Black Seminoles Essay examples

- The Plight of the Black Seminoles Scattered throughout the Southwest and into Northern Mexico, descendants of the Black Seminoles and Maroons are living in this modern world today. Over one hundred years ago, the U.S. government seemed determined to systematically eliminate the Native Americans and manipulate the descendants of the Black slaves. That imperialistic attitude allowed the policies of the U.S. government to treat groups of people with less respect and concern than they treated their livestock....   [tags: American America History]

Research Papers
1502 words (4.3 pages)

Trail Of Tears Essay

- Trail of Tears Trial of Tears and the Five Civilized Tribes During the early years of 1800s, valuable gold deposits were discovered in tribal lands, which by previous cessions had been reduced to about seven million acres in northwest Georgia, eastern Tennessee, and southwest North Carolina. In 1819 Georgia appealed to the U.S. government to remove the Cherokee from Georgia lands. When the appeal failed, attempts were made to purchase the territory. Meanwhile, in 1820 the Cherokee established a governmental system modeled on that of the United States, with an elected principal chief, a senate, and a house of representatives....   [tags: essays research papers]

Free Essays
1026 words (2.9 pages)

Related Searches

These scrapped together garments were then called “Taweekaache”, better known as patchwork. (Westermark –Many Bad Horses) These patchwork garments brought tourists to the lush, tropical setting of the Everglade area. Tourists flocked to see the Seminole Indians and to buy their patchwork pieces. The process of making these garments was rather slow and somewhat complicated (Blackard and West, Downs, 1995, 85).

A Seminole patchwork requires the maker to take/cut many pieces of clothe and then sew them together. The process of sewing, cutting, sewing and so on results in the making of complex geometric designs. There is a six-step process that illustrates how patchwork is done. This process is that of Nea Dodson, a modern day patchwork artist. The pattern is very simple, but is one that is good to get your feet wet in patchmaking. This process is the same used by the original Seminoles.

1.) Cut scraps into equal sized squares, making sure to be accurate.

2.) Next, cut a neutral fabric into long strips, which are as wide as the scrap

3.) Sew the scrap squares between two strips of neutral fabric, like this.

4.) Cut strips apart so you now have a rectangle made of three squares: a square of
neutral, a scrap square and another square of neutral. It is important that the
edges are straight and the two neutral sides are even.

5.) Shift one rectangle down so that the top edge of the uppermost neutral square on the
right is even with the top edge of the scrap square on the left. Sew the rectangles
together. Keep adding rectangles in this manner. You will get a strip that looks
like this.

6.) Keep adding rectangles until you have a strip as long as you want. Turn the strip
so that the scrap squares are all on point (standing on one corner). Trim the upper
and lower corners off the neutral squares (see the dotted line in the first picture).

The resulting piece of patchwork should look like this:

Being a woman herself, Nea Dodson must know what it was like for the women of the Seminole tribe. All that cutting and hand sewing must have been very tedious. It wasn’t until the 1880’s that the hand operated sewing machine made its debut into Seminole villages. This made the process much easier and patchwork soon flourished. The sewing machine could do more tasks and incorporate more features into Seminole clothing. Around 1900, women were putting “built in” belts into men’s shirts. (Blackard and West) Then around 1920, the Seminole women began to put bands of contrasting colors into their clothing. A Seminole named Judy Bill Osceola remarks: “There wasn’t any designs then, there was just pieces of cloth . . . When they put all of the pieces together, they saw it was colorful and that was that (Downs, 1995, 89).” Design plays important part in the making of any craft or piece of artwork. The elements of design in patchworking can be easily seen.

There are four predominant elements of design found in patchwork garments. These four elements are color, texture, rhythm (motion) and pattern. Color is very important because it brings attention to the garments. Bright pieces of fabric are used in patchwork clothing, giving life and spirit to the wearer. Colors were sometimes a bit contrasting in that a bright warm color may be put into a predominately cool colored garment. This contrast brought attention to certain designs and patterns. Next, the texture of patchwork garments started out just having a plain, nappy cotton look, but once satin began to be used, the texture had a smooth, shimmery look. The texture of these garments lies heavily in the material used. The rhythm or motion of the patchworks is very important. All patchwork garments are made so that the bands of patterns are horizontal. These bands wrap all the way around giving the garment a circular, flowing motion. Though color, texture and rhythm are important, the biggest element in patchworking is pattern. Every garment is made with a special pattern that has either a religious, family, historical or everyday life significance. These patterns were first given names by a white woman named Harriet Bedell, who was an Indian Arts Activist. She encouraged the Seminole women to give the patchwork patterns names to facilitate their growth in the business market. The first two patchwork patterns documented through photographs were bold and basic. They were the “rain” and “fire” patterns as seen in source one. Another popular pattern made around the same time was one that looked like a checkerboard and named “rain and storm” (source two). As time moved on, the development of patterns augmented. The pattern “rain” was no longer just vertical stripes; it was now comprised of horizontal stripes (source three). Another development in patterns was that certain family units had special representational patterns such as

the “bear”, “snake”, “panther”, “crawdad”, “toad”, “turtle”, “bird”, “deer” and so on (source four). Along with “fire” and “rain” patterns, other everyday life patterns were just as common. Some example of these are “lightening bolts”, “crosses”, “spools”, “arrow”, “mountains”, “trees”, “wave” and “storm” (source five). Any of these patterns could be put into any one garment. As shown in source six, the women’s skirt has patterns such as “fire”, “tree” and “rain and storm” incorporated into its design. Both women and men’s garments looked the same, but each had their own distinctions (Downs, 1995, 90-108).

All of the patterns mentioned before and then some can be found in all Seminole clothing. No pattern was gender specific. Women’s attire consisted of a skirt, blouse and jewelry. The skirt was a very full, floor-length skirt. At knee level there was a ruffle and the whole skirt gathered around the woman’s waist. The blouse worn was long sleeved, with an attached cape that could be closed to cover the extremely short blouse. The actual blouse was so short that it would barely cover the woman’s chest and left a few inches of her midriff showing. In old photographs, like the one in source seven, women were always photographed with their arms crossed in front of their midriff gap, giving the photo a sense of decency. Then to top the outfit off, they would wear 10-15 pounds of glass beads. All of the garments were made of patchwork of course, but is thought that Mrs. Alice William McKinely Osceola was the first woman to wear a row of patchwork on her dress (source eight). A row of “fire” adorned her cape. Also you can clearly see the 10-15 pounds of glass beads around her neck (Blackard and West).

The man’s attire was a little less complex than that of the woman’s. Men wore a simple full cut shirt and either a short skirt or pants, depending on what Seminole tribe you look at. A very popular garment for men was the “big shirt”, which had a gathered waistband at the knees. The “big shirt” also known as the “long shirt”, came to be known as the “medicine man’s coat”. Only those of special rank or stature then wore them. Originally this was not the case, all men owned one and it had no affiliation tied to it (Blackward and West). Later into the 19th Century and into the 20th Century, a patchwork jacket gathered at the waist and wrist was quite popular. In source nine you can see present day Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, James E. Billie wearing a patchwork jacket (Westermark -Bad Horses). James E. Billie is not the only present day Seminole to wear traditional patchwork garments, but the number of Seminoles who do not uphold the tradition of patchwork outweighs those who do.

Seminole patchwork in the 90’s has been somewhat disappointing. There was once a time when the art of sewing was the most important event in a young girl’s life and their mother, aunt, grandmother or other family member still loved to keep the tradition alive. Present day Seminole women have moved into the job market and do not have time to make the patchworks by hand. Instead they buy rolls of pre-made patchwork or already assembled outfits. Thus the history and tradition of patchworking slowly fades away with each passing year. Fortunately those like Effie Osceola, Irene Cypress and Pauline Doctor have taken the time to create new complex patterns and keep the old way of making patchwork garments alive in the 1990’s. In source ten, eleven and twelve, you can see the work of Effie, Irene and Pauline respectively. It is easy to see the complexity of the patterns in comparison to those of early day patterns such as “fire” and “rain”. In source ten and twelve the use of metallic material is used giving the garments a flashier more modern day look, but at the same time retaining the orginial process of making patchworks (Downs, 1995, 115-117).

In 1995-1996, Lee Tiger, a Public Relations Executive, held a Seminole patchwork exhibition in Berlin, Germany. This exhibition showcased the works of Seminole patchwork throughout time. Showing the progression from around the 1900’s to now. This exhibition was held to create awareness of Seminole patchworks, but what exactly does the future hold for Seminole patchwork? (Westermark –Bad Horses) This question is a good one, because present day Seminoles do not have an answer to this question. The women who know how to sew patchwork together are becoming rather old and they are losing eyesight and memory on how to do it. Seminole women in their forties or younger seem to not have an interest in making patchworks anymore. “They recognize its importance not only as a mark of tribal identity but as a tangible link to their cultural heritage”, (Downs, 1995, 118). Steps are being taken to keep the tradition alive. Schools are now teaching young girls how to sew and make patchworks, and cultural programs are being brought into several tribes to teach the same thing. These efforts should bring a new awareness to their heritage and Seminole patchwork will again thrive throughout the tribes. (Downs, 1995, 118-119)

In a sense, it was beneficial for the Seminole Indians to be forced into Florida. If they were to remain in the cool regions of Georgia, then they might have worn furs and hides forever. Instead they were forced to make clothing out of cotton scraps and thus started a tradition known as patchwork. The Seminole’s history was very vital to their heritage. When making these patchworks garments, things that were taken into consideration were the process, elements of design, who wears them and who makes them. The future of Seminoles may be at risk, but efforts through education and public relations hopefully will stop absolution of patchwork. Seminole patchwork has been done for over a century, and it’s beauty and uniqueness has been and further needs to be revealed and recognized by Americans. “Patchwork has done more than just identify the people of the Seminole tribes: it has reflected their pride in their Indian heritage (Downs, 1995, 119).”


Blackard, David M. and West, Patsy. “Seminole Clothing: Colorful Patchwork.” (9 Dec. 1999)

Dodson, Nea. “Seminole Patchwork.”
Downs, Dorothy. Art of The Florida Seminole and Miccosukee Indians.

University Press of Florida, 1995. (pages 83-119)

Westermark- Many Bad Horses, Victoria. “Seminole Patchwork.” (9 Dec. 1999)
Return to