Pendleton’s Tamiami Trail Blanket and Seminole Patchwork

A Modern Favorite based on Historical Treasures

Tamiami_Trail_Frnt blanket

Pendleton’s Tamiami Trail blanket has been making some noise this year, showing up on the pages of Lucky:

web_lucky_10_14 Lucky Magazine spread featuring several Pendleton blankets

InStyle:

web_instyle_7_14 InStyle magazine spread featuring the Tamiami Trail blanket

And DOMINO:

Domino magazine spread featuring several Pendleton blankets

The most exciting appearance was on Blake Lively, wearing a Lindsey Thornburg cloak that you can find on preserve.us.

Blake-Lively-leggy-in-boots--wearing a Lindsey Thornburg cape made from a Pendleton Tamiami Trail blanket

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.

The History

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.

Click here to read about  the symbology of these patterns.

Vintage tourist postcard of a man and woman wearing traditional Seminole strip clothing

“Strip clothing” became the traditional dress for Seminole men and women.

Below is a Seminole strip dress from the permanent collection of the Met.

A Seminole strip dress in the permanent collection of the Met museum, photo courtesy 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.

A Seminole seamsress sews garments on a sewing machine

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.

A museum display of tourist dolls dressed in Seminole strip dresses
Vintage tourist postcard of Seminole people in strip clothing

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.

Modern Seminole strip dresses

Additional information here:

http://www.colliermuseums.com/history/seminole_patchwork

http://www.semtribe.com/

http://funandsun.com/1tocf/seminole/semart2.html

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