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Fort Pierce senior’s patchwork places first at Field Day

FORT PIERCE — Spending three days meticulously sewing 1 yard of patchwork paid off in a big way for Mary Tommie.

For her artistic efforts, the Fort Pierce senior took home first place in the arts and crafts patchwork competition during Brighton Field Day from Feb. 16-19.

“It makes me feel good to know I got first place,” Tommie said.

Tommie began creating her patchwork in 2004, but she had been exposed to the Seminole tradition since her childhood.

Tommie’s grandmother, Sally Chupco Tommie, first showed her how to create Seminole patchwork, and Tommie helped her grandmother with the beadwork.

Tommie’s mother, Marie Tommie, also exposed her to the craft. After Marie passed away in 2004, Tommie decided to make a concerted effort to sew patchwork.

“I want to keep the tradition alive,” Tommie said. “There’s nobody else here in Fort Pierce that’s doing it, so I said, ‘Let me take it on from here.’”

For her piece at Brighton Field Day, Tommie spent hours stripping the materials, sewing the pieces together and trimming, ironing and adding starch to her creation. She said she believes in perfection.

Despite the amount of time and patience it took, she said she thoroughly enjoyed creating her piece. She said winning the first-place award at the event made all her efforts worthwhile.

“The Fort Pierce community is very happy and proud of Mary’s work,” said Kathreen Martinez, community property manager for Fort Pierce. “She does a beautiful patchwork and her sewing skills are outstanding.”

Although Tommie does not create clothing out of her patchwork, she gladly sells it. She likes to keep her focus on her family’s tradition of patchwork design and creation as well as on passing on her knowledge of patchwork to Tribal youth.

“I would like younger kids to take an interest in it so that the day I have to pass it on, there’s someone here to keep Fort Pierce on the map,” she said. “I want to carry on the tradition.”

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