The molas we receive from Panama are colorful fabric panels with unfinished edges. Each mola panel is unique in its color and design and no two are exactly the same. Some of our molas are geometric and mythological designs as well as designs of animals, bugs or fish.
Mola is the Kuna word for blouse. The Kuna Indian women of the San Blas Islands of Panama, stitch the front and back panels of their traditional blouse (mola) with colorful fabric designs. The designs are stitched with the technique of reverse appliqué, using several layers of colorful fabrics to achieve the even narrow lines that make up the mola.
Further explained, Reverse Appliqué is the technique that the Kuna Indian women of Panama use to create the front and back panels of their traditional blouses. In reverse appliqué, the top layer of fabric is cut through to expose the fabrics underneath. A separate layer is needed for each color in the design. Reverse appliqué is particularly appropriate where a small shape of color, such as a slash or circle, is called for.
As each layer of fabric is cut, the edges of the cut fabric are turned under and stitched in place with almost invisible stitches. The bottom layer of fabric is never cut; it acts as a lining for the mola. A very small needle, approximately 1" to 1-1/2" long, is used for the stitching. This gives the design a finished edge that will not fray or tatter over time.
The Kuna women evaluate the overall quality of their work by:
- Smooth, even, narrow lines
- A central design or primary motif that stands out from the background
- Visual balance within the panel
- Stitching nearly invisible to the naked eye
- The number of fabric layers used to create the panel
- Intricate cutouts, such as curves, angles or tiny squares
Seminole patchwork has its origins with the Native American Seminole Indians of south Florida. Seminole patchwork was developed almost exclusively for embellishing clothing of the Seminole Indians. The patchwork technique of the Seminole Indians of Florida could possibly be the forerunner of modern strip pieced patchwork.
Traditionally the two characteristics that distinguish the work of the Seminoles from other patchwork are the very small scale of the work and the use of either solid colors or small print fabrics exclusively. Modern Seminole patchwork is generally cut and pieced on a larger scale, making it quick to sew with stunning results.
The construction method in Seminole flows logically from the band format. Fabric strips of a variety of widths, patterns and colors are cut and then sewn back together to create a strip set or band. The distinctive patterns of the Seminoles are made when these bands are cut into segments, straight or angled, and rejoined by reversing or offsetting the segments.
The sections are then stitched edge to edge to form a completed band. The newly sewn bands
are squared and trimmed and then used for embellishments for clothing or to make quilts, place mats, and many other home decor items.