Quilting has been a part of Hawaiian tradition for centuries, where it represents the Hawaiian culture. This form of quilting distinguishes itself from others by the quilt's unique patterns and the techniques used to make it. Today, it has become an art form.
Quilting was taught to the women of the Hawaiian Islands by the missionaries from New England in the 1820s. They taught them to sew scraps of traditional materials from New England. Prior to learning the art of making quilts, Hawaiians made textiles in the form of bed covers known as 'Kapa Moe'.
They were made from the barks of trees, since the weather in Hawaii was not favorable for cotton cultivation. The barks were beaten, felted, and then dyed into patterns. After learning the quilting techniques and adapting to the fabrics provided from the West, the Hawaiians used their own innovative style to make the quilts which were reflected in their traditions and cultures.
They follow the appliqué-quilting technique. The natives use intricately-cut pieces of fabric in different colors and shapes to create the designs. They also use the 'snowflake method', taught to them by the missionaries. It involves folding the design into quarters and cutting out the appliqué at the same time. This gives the quilt a symmetrical design. The 'echo' technique of quilting―that follows the contour of the design throughout the quilt―was also used. Using 'motifs' is another characteristic of the quilting technique. They make use of only two contrasting colors in the design, one for the appliqué, and the other for the background.
The designs used by the natives in quilt-making are created using inspiration from nature, and also reflects their personal experiences. They are created on the basis of a certain observation, a significant event, or even dreams. Floral patterns and the use of plants and other objects representing the natural beauty and traditions of Hawaii, is an important aspect of designing the quilt. Every quilt that is created is named after the inspiration behind its design. Designing and creating it is a time-consuming job, as it involves a lot of detailing. Even the sewing is done manually.
Famous Types of Hawaiian Quilts
The Flag Quilt: This traditional style uses the Hawaiian flag and symbols of Hawaiian royalty in its designs. They are known as 'My Beloved Flag' quilts. These quilts represent the independence of the Hawaiian Islands as a sovereign kingdom, that are owned by some of the families on the island.
Queen Liliuokalani's Quilt: This quilt was made by Queen Liliuokalani using the 'crazy quilting method'. She made it while she was imprisoned in her palace after the downfall of the Hawaiian monarchy by the United States. This quilt is now termed as 'priceless' and is considered an important part of Hawaiian history.
The beauty of a Hawaiian quilt cannot be compared to that of any other. The sentiments of the natives of Hawaii towards their land, adds to its beauty. The worldwide popularity of these quilts has made Hawaiian quilting a valuable form of art.