NativeTech: Native American Technology and Art

How to make
Seminole Pouches & Bandoliers

by David Mott and
Rick Obermeyer (Dec., 1990)

in 19th Century Seminole Men`s Clothing
Rick Obermeyer ~ Editor


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 Seminole examples.

Click on Thumbnail for Detail Photo

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 of designs.


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:



X 2
+ 1
ft. shoulder-to-hip


foot extra

feet total length of bandolier

Save this measurement! Choose between four and five inches for the bandolier width.

At this point, decide on how the bandolier ends will look. Some examples are:

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 or chalk.

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.

Beading & Designs on Seminole Pouches & Bandoliers

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

Contributed by Rick Obermeyer E-mail:
From the book 19th Century Seminole Mens Clothing
© 1991-2000 Sherwood F. Obermeyer Jr., 2124 Miscindy Place, Orlando, FL 32806

Return to NativeTech's Main Leather & Clothes Menu

Leather & Clothes Bibliography and Books to Buy On-Line

NativeTech Home Page
Text and Graphics
© 1994 - Tara Prindle
unless otherwise cited.