Seminole Pouches & Bandoliers
by David Mott and
in 19th Century Seminole Men`s Clothing
The single most impressive item of Seminole Indian adornment of
the 19th century was the beaded pouch and bandolier. A few of
these pouch sets still exist in collections throughout the United
States, though usually with scant or non-existent provenance.
Though Southeast clothing was distinctive from other regions,
the clothing for Native Americans within the Southeast had very
blurred "tribal" styles. Nevertheless, a full attire
almost always included the pouch and bandolier, and a careful
researcher will learn to identify the characteristics unique to
The pouches and bandoliers were cut from trade wool, or strouding
as it was called at that time, obtained through trade with first
the English, then with English traders acting as agents for the
Spanish, and finally through American trade outlets. Red, navy
blue, and black were the standard colors. Strouding was seemingly
the cloth of all purpose, as it was also used for Southeastern
style leggings and breechcloths.
The pouch and bandolier was lined with calico, edged with ribbon
(often silk), and handsomely beaded. Decorative beadwork used
designs both ancient in derivation and spontaneous with the maker.
The two-needle appliqué technique was used, supposedly
out of necessity. The trade needles the Native Americans got were
rarely fine enough to go through many of the trade beads. Fortunately,
the beads came strung on hanks, instead of loose, so the crafters
merely sewed down the thread the beads were strung on. To a certain
extent, this linear line-up of beads tended to influence the development
The first step is, of course, to select the style and cut of your
pouch and bandolier. Here are several examples.
The size and shape of the pouch can vary, as shown. 7"x 8",
8"x 9", 8"x 8", 9"x 7", or 7"x9"
illustrate the range of typical measurements. The flap is another
matter of choice. It can hang overlapping below the bottom edge,
meet flush with it, or stop just shy of it. It can be long and
pointed, or full and rounded, but a characteristic example of
Seminole style is its triangular shape.
The sash could as long as the width of a piece of wool off of a bolt. If you're in the Order of the Arrow, your sash would be a good guide for the length of the bandolier. Otherwise, measure the distance from the top of the shoulder to the hip bone. Double this length and add one foot. For instance:
At this point, decide on how the bandolier ends will look. Some
All of the fingers are six to eight inches long (generally matching
the height of the bag), and 1/2 to two inches wide at their base.
Draw your chosen style onto the wool and calico with thin charcoal
Cut slits in the cloth if using styles #1, #2, or #3; cut out
triangles if using styles #4 or #5. Trim to a tapering point if
using style #6. Styles #1-#4 should be rounded off, as shown.
Styles #5 and #6 can be left pointed.
Sketch out the pouch and bandolier in full size to see what you
like. Use brown kraft paper (a grocery bag) so you can cut it
out to use for a pattern.
Now, transfer the pattern to your wool and calico, using chalk
or charcoal to draw on the cloth. The calico pieces should be
1/8" to 1/4" larger than their corresponding wool pieces.
Cut out the wool and rip apart (or cut out) the calico. Ripping
the calico when the cut is along the weave will produce a straighter,
more authentic edge. Set this aside for now.
Backing, Edging and Detailing on Seminole Pouches & Bandoliers
Seminole Bandolier Attachment and Conclusions
Appendix and References for Seminole Pouches & Bandoliers
Complete Index to Articles in 19th Century Seminole Mens Clothing
Leather & Clothes Bibliography and Books to Buy On-Line
Text and Graphics
© 1994 - Tara Prindle
unless otherwise cited.