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Hawaiian Quilting - History

Hawaiian Quilting - Mysterious Origins

The evolution of Hawaiian quilts is a bit obscure. There are few facts, much conjecture, and a wealth of stories. One well-known fact is that in 1820, when missionary wives arrived in Hawaii, they brought with them their pieced and patchwork (now known as applique) quilts from the eastern seaboard of the United States. They also brought an insistence that natives be clothed. The hasty construction of a muumuu left few scraps for piecing a quilt. Since Hawaiian women had been making kapa cloth for clothing and bedding for hundreds of years, they were used to working with large pieces of fabric, or kapa. So, to them, it made little sense to cut a large piece of fabric into pieces, just to sew the pieces back together again to make a quilt. A more logical approach was to work with a whole piece of cloth.

Conjecture takes over at this point. We believe the organic shapes of leaves and flowers used in applique



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