A Modern Favorite based on Historical Treasures
Pendleton’s Tamiami Trail blanket has been making some noise this year, showing up on the pages of Lucky:
The most exciting appearance was on Blake Lively, wearing a Lindsey Thornburg cloak that you can find on preserve.us.
That’s quite a bit of press for one blanket. People are responding to the intricate, colorful pattern, but there is a story behind the Tamiami Trail blanket. And it isn’t just a good story. It’s an amazing story about resourcefulness and creativity thriving in diaspora.
Tamiami Trail’s design is based on Seminole patchwork designs used in quilts and clothing. By the end of the Seminole Wars in 1858, the Seminole population of Florida was reduced from thousands to a few hundred. By the late 1800s, most had been driven out of Florida, but small bands remained in the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp. Seminoles quietly retained their culture — farming, hunting alligators and visiting trading posts along the Miami River with pelts and egret plumes to trade for supplies. Their thatch-roofed homes were called chickees, and they traveled in dugout canoes made from cypress logs.
It was a long canoe trip from the Everglades to trade for cotton cloth. Seminole women began sewing with whatever materials and scraps they could find, including survey pennants, fabric selvedges and end-bolts. The patterns themselves tell stories.
“Strip clothing” became the traditional dress for Seminole men and women.
Below is a Seminole strip dress from the permanent collection of the Met.
The sewing machine became available to Seminole seamstresses around the end of the 19th century. “A sewing machine in every chickee” was the rallying cry. Seminole quilting evolved using ever-smaller and more intricate piecing.
In 1928 the Tamiami Trail, the highway from Tampa to Miami, opened. The Seminole saw new trade opportunities in the tourist market for crafts such as patchwork and palmetto dolls.
So yes, This is a beautiful blanket. But its design tells a larger story about a beautiful Seminole artistic tradition. Their entrepreneurial success along the Tamiami Trail is a testimony to Seminole resilience. Strip clothing is still made and worn today, and it’s every bit as beautiful.