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Crafts and Artistry

There are several things that make patchwork distinctive from other sewing techniques: placement and creation. Unlike appliqué, which applied to the surface of the clothing patchwork is part of the structure, when you flip a patchwork piece of clothing inside out you see the obverse of the design sewn as part of the structure of the garment. It means the garment is pieced together, a more complex process then applying a design on top, which is done with appliqué.

The construction of patchwork starts with long strips of cloth that is sewn together in a long band. That band is cut into smaller strips either at the perpendicular or angle from the band. These pieces are then flip and/or turned, and re-sewn to create a new pattern. This is the simplest form of patchwork. More complex and larger designs involve multiple large bands that are cut down into strips – giving the creator more combinations to put together. Patchwork requires the tight, consistent stitch of the sewing machine so the pieces do not fall apart while being sewn in new patterns.

The earliest patterns – like fire and rain – were relatively simple and easy to incorporate. Soon after, more complex designs like sacred fire, bird, man on horseback followed. These designs were, at this time, of two colors. By the 1940’s more colors were introduced into patterns. And as more colors were introduced more complex designs were conceived.

Seminoles have a certain way of sewing patchwork that makes it a signature part of their craft. Tearing the fabric and stitching together long strips of color-to-color is learned from a family member who has been doing this for years to clothe the whole family. Now we learn both out of the need to clothe ourselves as well as preserving the tradition.

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