IACA Journal, Spring 2014 - page 15

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The patchwork technique was developed
around 1910 when the Seminole Indians
started using hand cranked sewing
machines. They soon became proficient
at sewing, and their patchwork style be-
came well-known. Seminole patchwork
is easily recognized, even today, for its
bright colors and interesting designs.
The earliest designs of patchwork were
simple, consisting of two contrasting col-
ors and simple patterns. To make these
designs, they would cut a colored cloth
into long strips, which were then sewn
together to create a stacked line pattern.
This long band was cut into smaller seg-
ments, which were then sewn together
to form the beginnings of the design.
As more and more segments were sewn
together, the pattern would emerge.
Two of the most primitive patterns are
known as ‘Fire’ and ‘Rain.’ Rain is a
simple linear design created by the alter-
nation of two colors. The Fire design is
made with two colors in a saw-tooth pat-
tern. This is created by sewing two strips
and then cutting the segments diagonally
before sewing together again. These early
patchworks were much wider than the
later versions.
New designs soon emerged, and by
the 1930s were in common use. Some
designs were inspired by weather,
landscapes, animals, and the cardinal
directions. The patterns had names
such as ‘Storm,’ ‘Turtle,’ ‘Waves’, and
‘Broken Arrow.’ Newer designs were
typically in two colors and vertically
oriented. By the 1950s, innovative artists
were shifting design orientations from
vertical to diagonal, and were including
more colors in their palette. They were
revisiting some of their older designs
and making refinements, incorporating
newer techniques into the process.
Designs reached yet another level of
complexity in the 1970’s. One pattern
An example of patchwork pattern “Rain”.
Muskogee regalia featuring
“Wind” patchwork pattern.
An example of patchwork pattern “Fire”.
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