Saturday, March 07, 2009

Miccosukee and Seminole Indian Patchwork Clothes and How They're Made

It's really kind of amazing the way the Indian women make these items. They used to live in thatched roof chikees, which are a thatched roof on cyprus poles, no walls! They used old Singer treadle sewing machines because they didn't need electricity.

Most people today call these a Seminole jacket but the Indians refer to them as shirts. The traditional mens' garb was a "long shirt" down to about the knees, but eventually jeans and T-shirts became popular and the patterned "shirts" became shorter. Women wore ankle length full skirts with the patchwork bands. The skirts were gathered at the waist and had a waistband. Many of the women wore a top that was more like a cape, except that it hung down to the waist in the front as well as the back. There were no seperate sleeves; it went over the shoulders and hung down over the arms. Womens' skirts and mens' jackets had the patchwork bands. The womens' tops usually didn't, and before jeans came along the men didn't wear pants under the long shirt.

The brightly colored cotton fabric was cut into strips and sewn together to make long strips of striped material. This was then cut crosswise, either straight or on the diagonal. They were then sewn back together with the colors offset from one another, or every other piece might be turned upside down before being sewn in place. You'd end up with a long strip of cloth with the pattern. These were then sewn lengthwise with strips of solid color fabric. Various colors of rick-rack would be sewn on the solid color bands.

Usually, if you wanted the shirt to fit correctly, you'd let the woman have one of your ordinary shirts and she'd make your Indian shirt with the same dimensions and sleeve length. With all the money pouring in from casinos, bingo, and tax free cigarette sales, this is a fast dying art. Now it's just so easy to drive the SUV into town and buy a skirt at Saks or shirts at Brooks Bros. This particular shirt was made about 1974.

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Blogger Barb said...

that is amazing. I always thought that those indian skirts/dresses were one piece of fabric. Thanks for showing me the back side. As a quilter I can now appreciate all the work that must have gone into those. Do they still have the "indian villages" around? I remember going as a kid and watching the guy wrestle the alligator

6:48 AM  
Blogger Barb said...

That's very much how we "modern" quilters do patchwork now. Cut into long strips and then resew and recut. Guess we learned from the best. Thanks for the great post.

5:19 AM  

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