Seminole quilting originated from the Seminole patchwork used for clothing by southeastern Seminole Native Americans. In the late 1800s it was a long trip from the Everglades to trade for cotton cloth so women began sewing strips made from the fabric left on the end of the bolts to make what was know as "strip clothing". The sewing machine became available to these women around the end of the 19th century making it possible to use much smaller strips. Seminole designs grew to become even more elaborate and complex. Seminole patchwork was usually used for traditional dress including the women's long full skirts and big patchwork shirts worn by the men. Even today these garments are worn for special occasions. These beautiful Seminole patchwork patterns eventually become popular in quilt making as well. (from America's Quilting History by Womenfolk.com)
Seminole piecing in quilting can lead to beautiful, often elaborate designs. However, when reduced to the strip piecing technique commonly used they are not that difficult. This is a simple design, however, the principle and technique remains the same for all seminole patterns.
Requirements and cutting instructions:
Linen (or background fabric): cut three rectangles 1 1/2" x 12"
one square 4 1/2" x 4 1/2"
Green fabric: cut one rectangle 1 1/2" x 12"
four squares 1 1/2" x 1 1/2"
Blue fabric: cut one rectangle 1 1/2" x 12"
one rectangle 2 1/2' x 12"
one rectangle 2 1/2" x 1 1/2"
one square 1 1/2" x 1 1/2"
Quilter's graph paper: one sheet with a 1" x 1" grid
I always start off by charting my pattern repeat on graph paper (primarily because I am old fashioned and don't know how to drive fancy computer graphics packages!) - however, this step could be done on said fancy computer graphics packages!. Feel free to copy mine or just print out the image so you have it handy.
A 1/4" seam allowance is used throughout each step of this tutorial.
1. With right sides together sew one linen 1 1/2" x 12" rectangle to each of the blue and green rectangles of the same size along the long edge. Then sew one linen 1 1/2" x 12" to the blue 2 1/2" x 12" rectangle in the same manner. (photo does not show the 2 1/2" blue strip combo because I forgot to take it!!!). Then cross cut these sewn pairs into 1 1/2" segments (green/linen - 7; blue/linen - 7; blue (2")/linen - 6).
2. Now referring to your graph, and using the green, blue, and linen 1 1/2" squares as well as the 1 1/2" sewn pair segments, lay out your pieces in the order required to achieve the pattern making sure to stagger them as per the graph - do not simply lay them side by side with the tops aligning as this will distort the finished pattern completely.
3. Once this is complete it is time to sew them all together. It is important to note that these will form a diagonal strip when completely sewn together. Start by taking each 'vertical row' of the pattern and sewing all the pieces in it together. When this is complete go back and start sewing vertical rows to each other. I find the best way to do this is to sew pairs of rows together and then join them to the preceding pair. Manipulate the horizontal seams in the direction that enables them to 'nestle' into an adjoining seam. It is important to make note of the seam placement from one row to the next. You can see from the photo that (with the exception of the beginning and end) there is quite a large or steep step down from one vertical row to the next. If this placement is not correct you will see immediately that your pattern has been skewed.
4. To square off each end of this strip - first cut each linen 4 1'2" square across one diagonal to produce four half square triangles. These triangles are larger than they need to be because this makes the next step much easier. Place the triangle diagonal along one side of one end of the pieced strip, right sides together. Since we are working with a biased edge (and in this tutorial, linen which is prone to moving because it is a loose weave) treat this triangle with loving hands so it is not stretched. Sew in place. Press the seam allowance towards the triangle and press the triangle 'open'. In the same manner repeat for the other side of this end of the pieced strip. With the remaining two half square triangles repeat this step for the other end of the pieced strip.
5. To finish the seminole pieced strip it must be trimmed so it can be used in further projects. To do this lay a long quilter's ruler along the pieced strip from end to end so that the 1/4" mark on your ruler is level with the points of the triangles of the coloured pieces within the strip (see the photo because a picture is worth a thousand words!!!)
Trim all the excess end triangle fabric and the linen 'points' off. Repeat down each side of the strip. Finally, again using the 1/4" marking on your ruler and aligning it with the end coloured triangle in the pieced strip', trim both ends of the pieced strip.
The Finished Seminole Pieced Strip
In this tutorial this strip is only short. However, they can be made very long for use in many projects and many 'shapes' can be produced. Here are a few examples of seminole piecing in quilts.
image: Silver Thimble Quilting
image: The Patchery Menagerie
image: So Many Colors!
(a great tutorial here for diagonal - zigzag - seminole piecing)
Until next time, happy quilting, knitting, sewing, crafting ....