Seminole Beading Techniques

Published on June 23, 2011 by Amy

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Seminole beadwork classically has beads in earth tone colors
Seminole beadwork classically has
beads in earth tone colors

The Native American Seminole tribe is known for its intricate and extensive decorative bead work. The women of this tribe were known to wear beaded necklaces around their necks that weighed as much as 12 lbs. They bought and wore ever more beads throughout their entire lives. Beads were also used to decorate pouches, clothing and bandoleers worn by both men and women.

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Technique for Creating Beadwork

Seminole beading is done with a two-needle method, also know as the two-thread applique method. This technique is easy to do and does not require a loom. Although beads were not gauged in the early years of bead trade, the most common bead size used was equivalent to a standard size 12/0. Finished pieces have beads on them ranging from size 11/0 to 13/0. The beads are threaded onto the string in a colored pattern, and then the string itself is tacked down to the material it is decorating.

Colors and Shapes of Beads

The main colors of beads seen in Seminole bead work are opaque: light blue, dark blue, turquoise, muted white, crimson, salmon, rose and mustard. Beads used in modern Seminole pieces can be purchased from bead catalogs or bead merchants.

Classic Patterns

The patterns most typically seen in Seminole beadwork are rattlesnakes, diamonds, hearts, human figures, swastikas and flowers. These shapes were done in repeating patterns, and were more symbolic than realistic. This was due to the difficulty of creating precise shapes with beads and string.

Seminole beading
Seminole beading

Seminole Beaded Necklaces

Female Seminoles were given beaded necklaces as gifts, starting at a very young age. They continued throughout their lives to collect these necklaces as either gifts or personal purchases. The necklaces are not worn hanging long, but were instead worn wrapped around the wearer’s neck.

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