Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mystery Quilt Fun and Creating the Seminole Border

I'm playing with an online group on Facebook called "Just Us Quilters" and they started a Mystery Quilt.  I love Mystery Quilts!  So of course I was in.  And this one only required 3 fabrics!  Nice.

Now this looks very complex, but when you do a Mystery Quilt, everything is broken down into little bite size chunks and it all goes very fast!  Yes, I know, that is surprising isn't it?!  There are tons and tons of Mystery Quilt patterns out there.  You never know what your quilt will look like until you solve the Mystery.

I changed one block up just a bit as I went along.  My top is completed, the "Mystery" is solved.  Now I am working on the border pieces.  I want to do a little 2 inch square going all around the center, then the light fabric and then the teal.  It will echo what is going on in the quilt blocks nicely.

You can see in the photo at the top, that I am auditioning the fabrics for the border.  Here are the instructions for how to make a basic seminole block border.  The blocks in the quilt start at 2 inch width, so to compliment them I am using the rust fabric and the light background in the same 2 inch dimension.  

Cut 2 strips of the light background fabric 2" x width of fabric
Cut 2 strip of your accent fabric (rust) 2" x width of fabric

I like to cut these strips in half so I am working with a 22 inch piece as opposed to a 44 inch piece.  Sew them together in a strip set as you see below.  Press to the dark.

Now take your ruler and measure off 2 inch pieces and cut as below.

You will want to lay these out so that they are staggered as shown below, when you flip them over to sew to each other, they will nestle together at the seam.

I know this looks a little weird, but you will take up a 1/4 inch bit with your seam allowance and it all sorts out.

Take them to your machine and start chain piecing until you have a length you want to work with.

You can tuck a pin in next to the seam if you are worried about them shifting as you sew.  But they should nestle together easily.

When you are done, you will end up with a piece like this, take your ruler and carefully trim off the points so that you have at least 1/4 inch of fabric sticking beyond your squares.  This will provide you with a nice seam allowance when you stitch it to your quilt, so that all your points will be spot on.

Now let's audition the border with the seminole patchwork squares.

I like this effect.  I hope you enjoyed this mini tutorial on basic Seminole technique piecing for a border strip.  Below is a brief history of Seminole Patchwork and some examples, as well as a list of books for you if you would like to explore this technique further.  It's a fabulous way to make quick statement borders for your quilts!  And we have these amazingly resourseful women to thank!

History of Seminole Patchwork

Seminole Patchwork
The introduction of hand-cranked sewing machines around 1900 revolutionized Seminole clothing design and prompted women to begin experimenting with strips of colorful cotton fabric bought at local trading posts. Working in their remote camps in the Everglades and Big Cypress, by about 1916, Seminole and Miccosukee women had developed a new and distinctive style of clothing known as taweekaache or patchwork.
If you could imagine, living in the Florida Everglades in the 1800's and needing cloth to sew for clothing and basic needs.  It's not like you could just roll to the local fabric store.  It would take a trek of weeks to get to civilization.  These resourceful women had to utilize what was at hand and they created beautiful artful designs (as women from all cultures strive to do).  They worked with tiny bits of cloth by hand, creating techniques that were both simplistic in their approach and complex. 

To make patchwork, different colored cloth is first torn into strips and then sewn together to make long bands of geometric patterns and designs. These strips are then joined horizontally to other bands of colored cloth to assemble the body of the garment. The most complicated designs need to be cut and re-sewn many times.
According to one local story, Seminole Indians who guided the advance clearing crews during the Tamiami Trail's construction often collected the surveyors' colored cloth streamers at the end of the day to use in making patchwork clothing.
Patchwork is still a source of cultural pride and identity to the Seminole, and a product of great commercial value. Designs are never written down and new patterns are still being created.
To learn more about the Seminole Indians, their culture and their museum, visit

Books you may enjoy:

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Karen!
    I am working on this mystery quilt with my quilting circle. When I dicovered your post, I decided I want to add a Seminole border to mine as well. It really adds a beautiful finishing touch to the quilt! Did you ever share a photo of the completed quilt? I'd love to see how it turned out. Thank you for the inspiration!
    Anita B. in Wisconsin