A Hawaiian quilt is a distinctive quilting style of the Hawaiian Islands that uses large radially symmetric applique patterns. Motifs often work stylized botanical designs in bold colors on a white background.
Hawaiian quilting derives from the kapa moe, an indigenous bed cover textile. Kapa was constructed from the inner bark of local trees. Traditional kapa was beaten and felted, then dyed in geometric patterns.
Quilting may have begun in the Hawaiian islands with the arrival of missionaries and Western fabrics in the 1820s. The climate of Hawaii is unsuitable for cotton cultivation and kapa is unsuitable for quilting so all Hawaiian quilts are constructed from imported material. The earliest written reference comes from Isabella Bird who visited Hawaii in 1870 and wrote a travelogue Six Months in the Sandwich Islands.
Another Hawaiian quilt style incorporates multiple copies of the Hawaiian flag and commemorate the state's former independence as a sovereign kingdom. Many of these flag quilts date back to the overthrow of the monarchy, when displaying the Hawaiian flag was considered treason. Quilts bearing symbols of the monarchy were a form of silent resistance.
Hawaiian quilters also made other styles of quilts including embroidering quilts and crazy quilting. The most famous Hawaiian crazy quilt is the one made by Queen Liliuokalani during her internment after the overthrow of the monarchy.
Antique flag quilts fetch higher prices than applique quilts: high quality flag quilts may be valued at $40,000 - $60,000 while applique quilts sell for $9000 – $15,000. Factors that affect price include the quality of the original construction, preservation of the item's color and physical integrity, and provenance.
- Serrao, Poakalani, The Hawaiian quilt, A spiritual experience, Reflection on its history, heritage, designing, quilting methods and patterns, Honolulu, Mutual Pub., 1997.
- Severson, Don R., Finding Paradise, Island Art in Private Collections, University of Hawaii Press, 2002, 237-254.
- "Why Hawaiian Quilts?" Antiques Road Show
- The Hawaii Quilt Guild
- The Queen's Quilt
- Quilting History of Hawaii
- Bishop Museum Quilt Database
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