Seminole Piecingcomments (25) July 11th, 2008
Piecing isn’t just for quilts. Joining fabrics together in an intricate manner is a fun way to add interest to almost anything—from sheets and towels to skirts and shirts. The Seminole technique lets you form really narrow patchwork strips without struggling with pieces that are almost too tiny to sew.
This style of patchwork is attributed to the Seminole tribe of Florida, who developed the technique in the early 20th century, using hand-crank sewing machines. Their colorful garments are filled with design variations that are unique to their style of clothing.
There aren’t a lot of books written about this patchwork technique, but I happen to have one that’s full of designs and examples: The Seminole Patchwork Book by Cheryl Greider Bradkin. It's out of print, but you can find used copies on Amazon and Alibris.
Seminole piecing starts with strips of fabric (typically solid colors, but there’s no reason you can’t use prints) that are sewn together, cut into chunks, rearranged, and sewn back together. Simple as that! Here’s a basic design to get you started. Or try your own variations.
Step 1. Choose three fabrics. Cut two into 1-1/2-inch-wide strips and one into a 1-1/4-inch-wide strip. Cut on the lengthwise grain, if possible, to avoid stretching. You can cut stable fabrics on the cross-grain as well, but don’t use the bias. Sew the strips together with the narrower strip in between. Press seam allowances in one direction.
Step 2. Cut this unit up into 1-1/4-inch-wide pieces.
Step 3. Arrange the pieces on the diagonal as shown and sew them together, carefully matching the seamlines.
Step 4. Sew an edging strip of fabric to the long edges to encase the patchwork.