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Hawaiian Quilt Designs

An Evolving Tradition

For over a century the only way you could own a Hawaiian quilt was to design and make it yourself, or be the very fortunate recipient of a special gift. A few talented designers would give their individual designs to others as gifts, but there were no patterns available for purchase. And, it was kapu (taboo) to copy the design of another quilter without their permission.
Out of necessity and practicality, during a Hawaiian quilting revival in the 1970's and 1980's a few pattern books emerged for purchase, by such noted designers as Kepola [Deborah] "Hawaiian Quilting As An Art" KakaliaKakalia, 1976; Myrna Gross, 1981; EA of Hawaii [Elizabeth A. Akana], 1983; Carol Kamaile, 1985; and others. Initially patterns were for pillows or bed quilts, and gradually medium-sized patterns became available for wall-hangings. For those not inclined to design their own, the other sources of Hawaiian quilt patterns were the collections of patterns housed at a few of the public libraries in Hawaii (most notably the Waianae Public Library on Oahu).
During the 1980's, quilting in the United States was exploding in popularity. New fabrics, books, tools and patterns were being made available in specialty quilt shops across the country. Quilters everywhere were seeing Hawaiian quilts pictured in magazines and books. But with little information available about how to design these unique quilts, and very few patterns available, not many people were making them. Gradually a few more patterns became available, fueling the desire for even more.

Lei Kukui Hawaiian Bed QuiltIn 1988, Nancy and Janice published their first Hawaiian quilt patterns: a bed-sized pattern, Lei Kukui, designed by Nancy; two sets for blocks or pillows, Tropical Floral and Royalty & Hula, designed jointly; and a wall hanging, Woodland Lei, designed by Nancy.

Tropical Floral Hawaiian Block PatternsAt first Pacific Rim Quilt Company made their patterns available to the Hawaiian community in the greater Seattle area at luaus and hula conferences. Nancy and Janice also demonstrated Hawaiian quilting at weekend craft fairs in local malls. They had a little brochure they handed out that resulted in new students and modest sales for a few years. The primary focus was to educate the general public about Hawaiian quilts, not necessarily to sell patterns. Designing came easily for them, so they gradually added more patterns to the line. They continued in this modest fashion until 1999, when the internet made it possible to reach quilters around the world. In 1999, Janice created the website, a perfect vehicle to make patterns available to people interested in Hawaiian quilts no matter where in the world they lived.

The next step was for Nancy and Janice to create our incredible book, Design Your personal Hawaiian Quilt. This 66 page book is full of pictures, illustrations and instruction. It also includes a 2 hour DVD, where Nancy and Janice show you their designing process. Be inspired by the surroundings and experiences of their students in Hawai'i as they design their quilts, Visit the Bailey House Museum on Maui, and the Grove Farm Homestead on Kaua'i to view a portion of their priceless Hawaiian quilt pattern collection.

Connie's Snowflake Quilt

This is how my adventure began in the Hawaiian quilting world. Nancy taught me using the Design Your personal Hawaiian Quilt Book to create my first Hawaiian queen size bed quilt which is also my first Hawaiian quilt ever. It only seemed appropriate that I make my first Hawaiian quilt a snowflake. I was born and raised in Wyoming and LOVE winter. I blame it on my ancestors, I always say "I was made to live on an iceberg." This photo is when it was basted and ready to go. I now have one eighth left to needleturn. There have been a few distractions along the way. I am almost there though. I will share it again, I hope in the near future when the needleturn is complete!

I see Hawaiian quilting as a traditional quilting process which stands the test of time.

It is a perfect timeless art form.

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