The Unique Quilting Tradition of the Hawaiians...
Hawaiian quilting is different from other traditional forms of quilting. Originally, the native Hawaiian population was introduced to quilting in the early 19th century by visiting missionaries who attempted to teach the traditional method of piecing. This method however, was contrary to the cultural style of the Hawaiians who viewed the cutting and re-piecing of fabric to be a waste of time and materials so they modified the technique to fit their style.
Below, I will explain a bit more about the Hawaiian style of quilting and the customs that have accompanied the development of this unique quilting tradition.
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The Hawaiian Quilting Technique
Hawaiian quilters take a single piece of fabric, fold it in quarters or eighths and cut out a pattern similar to cutting a paper snowflake. The resulting image is then appliqued onto a solid background. This folding method results in symmetrical motifs that repeat depending on how many times the fabric was folded. Traditionally, Hawaiian quilts are composed of only two colors, one for the appliqued design and one for the background.
In the example shown here, made between 1855 and 1887, you can see that the appliqued motif was folded only once (in half) and was cut from a single piece of fabric including the border. Beautiful, isn't it?
Hawaiian quilters take their inspiration from their surroundings frequently using plant and floral motifs such as the antherium flower, the ti plant and the hala tree just to name a few. Quilts are also designed with images symbolic of their religious beliefs. Historically, this was a way for the Hawaiians to preserve their heritage at a time when everything was changing with the influx of missionaries and people from all over the world. Also, quilts are created to commemorate events or in memory of loved ones who have died. They are created with a specific purpose and each one is unique. The designs are considered to embody the spirit of the maker so to duplicate a design is considered stealing.
The quilt shown here depicts the antherium, and goes outside traditional design with the incorporation of additional colors. The green appliqued portion is cut in one piece and the red and yellow accents are appliqued on top.
Hawaiian Quilt Customs
There are some interesting superstitions associated with Hawaiian quilts that exemplify the spiritualism of the Hawaiians. In Hawaii, you never sit on a quilt because they are treated with great respect due to the time invested and the belief that the quilt is the embodiment of the creator's spirit. To be respectful of the quilt demonstrated respect for the creator as well. You could sleep under the quilt, but never sit on top.
Another tradition is for the the quilter to sleep with the quilt one night before presenting it to the recipient. And when a person is ill it is said that if they sleep with a quilt all the love from that quilt will help heal them.
Finally, when designing a Hawaiian quilt, never create human figures, it is believed that the figures will walk and visit you at night.
I hope you enjoyed this introduction to the beautiful Hawaiian quilting tradition. Below, you will find links to more information about Hawaiian quilting including links to a few free projects.
Want to Learn How to Make a Hawaiian Quilt?
Start with these books
Detailed instructions, 20 full-size quilting blocks (each 18" square) for creating exotic floral motifs: orchid, waterlily, hibiscus, 17 others.
Each applique pattern reveals an intricate shape that is representative of the splendor and culture of the islands. Bold graphics, contrasting fabrics, and graceful quilting characterize projects, such as Hibiscus Orchid Lei and Winds of Change.
Hawaiian Quilt Bedding
This king size Hawaiian Patchwork Quilt set includes: one 102" x 96" Comforter and two 20" x 30" Shams. (Cushions sold separately) Available in two color choices: sage or blue. Designed by a Hawaii-based artist, this set features beautiful Hawaii's unique flora to create an inviting bedroom full of ALOHA. This set will make a fabulous gift for any occasion.
Hawaiian Quilting Inspiration
More information about Hawaiian quilts...
- Hana Hou: The Magazine of Hawaiian Airlines - Current Issue
An interesting article about John Serrao and the Hawaiian quilting tradition.
- Hawaiian Quilt Patterns, Hawaiian Quilts, Kits from Quilt Hawaiian
Hawaiian Quilt Patterns, Hawaiian Quilts, Kits from Quilt Hawaiian.
- Antiques Roadshow | Tips of the Trade | Why Hawaiian Quilts? | PBS
An article from Antiques Roadshow about historical Hawaiian quilts with information for collectors.
- Hawaiian quilting with Poakalani & Co.
Learn to quilt in the tradition of Old Hawaii. Art on Fabric. Where every quilt tells a story. Includes a few free patterns.
- Hawaiian Quilted Pillow Cover
A free project with instructions for making a Hawaiian Quilted Pillow Cover from Martha Stewart.
- Hawaiian Quilt History, Kapa Moe, Flag Quilts & the Queen's Quilt
Hawaiian quilts bring to mind symmetrical floral applique but few know of their flag quilts honoring the time before Americans overthrew the monarchy.
- Aloha-Hawaii.com: THE HAWAIIAN QUILTER
Article about Hawaiian quilter Helen Friend.
- Pacific Rim Quilt Co - Home Page
Welcome to Pacific Rim Quilt Company. Here you will find everything you need to make your Hawaiian Quilts.