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Hawaiian quilt patterns from Quilt Hawaiian

Quilt Hawaiian
P.O. Box 224
Volcano, Hawaii 96785

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Quilt Hawaiian is your source for Hawaiian quilt patterns, kits and designs, Hawaiian quilts, and information on Hawaiian quilting.
About Hawaiian Quilting
What makes it a Hawaiian Quilt?
Learning to Make a Hawaiian Quilt
Constructing a Hawaiian Quilt
Project size
How to get points
How to avoid fraying
   at an inside curve
Documenting Your Hawaiian Quilt
  What makes it a Hawaiian quilt?
Even with all the stages and innovations that Hawaiian quilts have been through, the elegant simplicity in the repetition of the silhouette design commands a place of distinction in the world of quilting. Over time, new techniques, tools, fabrics and design elements were applied to the basic format of the appliqué style in Hawaiian quilts.

The Hawaiian quilt is a living art. And life is change. A description of Hawaiian quilting can never be the ultimate authority on the subject, because in the writing of it, the limitations are automatically set within the snapshot of time in which it is written.  Here we can not give a complete picture of how Hawaiian quilting started, or how it developed over time, or how it will evolve as the quilting world evolves. Many other excellent publications have given us a snapshot, in their own time, and we all owe a great deal to those who have come before us and recorded the art as it was for them. Please use our links page to find more information in other web sites on the history of Hawaiian quilting.

Lines have become blurred between the classic Hawaiian appliqué and more contemporary Hawaiian quilt designs with the use of techniques from other traditional American quilting styles. This may lead some to be concerned that the "traditional appliqué Hawaiian quilt" and its accompanying distinction, will be lost in the abyss of 21st century innovations. But even with the introduction of many choices of colored threads, use of non-solid colored fabrics, machine appliqué and quilting, use of fabric piecing additions and many other innovations, Hawaiian quilting is still recognized as it's own category. There is no mistaking a Hawaiian quilt. When a quilt strays too far from the classic appliqué style that we have come to love, it then becomes a "quilt that was made in Hawaii" or a quilt made of Aloha fabrics, and not a recognizable " Hawaiian quilt". Where that line is drawn, is not to be delegated to a body of authorities, but to the viewer and admirer of the distinctive style.

We use these guides for our recognition of a Hawaiian quilt:
1) the design is primarily appliqué work
2)the design is a circular repetition of 4 or 8
3) the design uses one or two fabrics (there are exceptions)

All of our Quilt Hawaiian patterns include basic appliqué and quilting instructions for the design they feature. But here are a few other tips to experiment with until you have built up your own wealth of experience.

Learning to make a Hawaiian quilt
The very best way to learn the skills needed to make a Hawaiian quilt is to be taught by someone experienced in the art. Not all of us have that privilege. For those of you who are stranded without a personal teacher, we offer applique and quilting instructional videos and DVDs that you can refer back to at any time.

One more note before you get started - please keep in mind that very few, besides God, are perfect at anything while they are learning. So don't be too hard on yourself. This is quilting, and you should first of all be enjoying it and even having fun !

You can start with a small piece like a potholder or pillow, because there is a definite learning curve that is visible in your first pieces, and you will be able to see the improvement in your stitches as you get better. Don't look for perfection in your first piece, in fact your first one may be one that only a mother could love.

But with practice, soon you will be making quilts that you are proud of and that others will want to possess.

Constructing a Hawaiian quilt
The better quality fabric that you use, the easier it will be to do needle-turn appliqué. A good quality fabric will make smooth curves as it is turned under. It will have some "fold memory" - that is, after you turn the edge under about 1/8", press it with your needle (needle press) or finger about 1" ahead, it will "remember the fold until you stitch it in place.

A good quality cotton fabric will tend to fray less than a poorer quality cotton or a polyester blend fabric.

For beginning "needle turn" appliqué projects, it is a much less frustrating experience if you use good fabrics. And for the experienced needle turner, it helps the project to go faster.

When choosing an appliqué thread color to blend with your design fabric, make sure both thread and fabric are near daylight, to be sure that you are matching true colors.

If you have a choice between two thread colors, choose the darker color. Thread has more sheen than fabric, and it reflects more light, making it appear lighter than the fabric. The darker color will blend in with the fabric easier, making your appliqué stitches less noticeable.

Project size
There are two reasons to start with a smaller sized project if you are new at needle-turn appliqué:

1. You will improve as you go along. If your first few projects are small (potholder, pincushion or pillow size) your "learning curve" will not be too obvious. In a larger piece, you will see much more of a difference in stitch quality from beginning to the end.

2. With a smaller project, you will be finished before you are frustrated !

Use appliqué needles (sharps) when you appliqué. Use quilting needles (betweens) when you quilt. Everything will go much easier if you use the right needles. The size is up to you.

Some people hate them all. Some people can use just about any kind there is. Some people actually don't even need one - I know someone like this !! Some people use one on each hand. Just keep trying different kinds till you find one that suites you. Try using your friends' thimbles, so that you don't have to buy one of each.

A 14" or larger, round hoop gives you enough room to have some quilting to keep you busy for a while, before you have to move the hoop. Use a size that is comfortable for you to handle. There are many different kinds of hoops available. Try to borrow different ones before you buy your own. A good hoop is expensive. Collapsible hoops are great to take when you travel. Buy the best hoop you can afford. It's worth it!
You may not even need a hoop. Some of us quilt without any - Honest !

How to get points pointy...
Points are not for the novice. Choose patterns with broad points until your appliqué stitch is under control. As you appliqué, about ½ inch before you reach the point, needle-turn the fabric under all the way through the point. Then turn under the other side of the point. There may be some fabric protruding from under the first side of the point. Snip most of that away with small sharp scissors, and tuck any remaining fabric under the point. Continue with your appliqué stitches to the point. Take an extra stitch at the point to lock it in place. Then continue stitching down the other side of the point. It will take some practice to get consistent looking points, but your best teacher is experience. Broader points are easier. Pointy points are a bugger, but don't avoid them. The more you do, the less intimidating they become.

How to avoid fraying at an inside curve...
As you approach a inside curve, needle-turn only to the bottom of the curve. Try not to overwork the fabric, as this causes more fraying to occur. As you approach the bottom, take each stitch closer to each other. By the bottom of the curve, they will almost be satin stitches. When you reach the bottom, needle-turn an inch or so up the next side, and continue with close stitches, making them further apart as you stitch upward, returning to your normal spacing between stitches.

Labeling your Quilt
A label can be as simple as the quilt name, the quilters' name and a date penned (in fabric safe ink ) onto the back of the quilt. But the more information that is included, the easier it is to identify the quilt in case it is lost, and the more "personality" the quilt will have over it's lifetime.

Here are some things that can be included on a label:
quilt name
quilters name(s)- (all who worked on the piece)
design name -especialy if it is a commercial design
copyright information - date and designer
date of completion
starting date
where it was made
who it was made for
what occasion it was made for
fabrics and materials used ( fabric content,batting type, thread etc.)
anything else that you would like to go along with the quilt
on it's journey

Documenting Your Quilts
Why Document? There are many reasons to keep good documents of a quilt. You as the quilter may see the quilt that you are making as "just a gift for my grand son", which could be absolutely true, but it may be much more than that, someday. You never know if your quilt will be exhibited as an example of Hawaiian quilting. Or if it will travel around the world. And it may be handed down to several succeeding generations who would love to know more about it than is on the label. Those who come in contact with your quilt may love to know more about it's origins or it's reason for being. Each Hawaiian quilt design is distinctive, and usually has a specific focus - a plant, place, event or person that it is honoring. It is a treat for the possessor of the quilt to know it's story.

Documenting can be a spiral notebook or a bound book dedicated to records of each one of your quilts. Sketches and fabric swatches are always nice to include. In the years after the quilt is completed, it is just as satisfying to the quilter as to any one else to read what brought the quilt into being.

Many good questions have been asked through the website. Some are answered here, as well as a personal reply to the sender. If you have a question, please write to us. Probably many other people have the same question.

Larger Hawaiian quilts that require piecing the panels are sometimes joined in the middle, whereas others have a middle panel and then two halved panels sewn on each side of the middle panel. Which is the correct method and why?

Good question. A 90" wide quilt takes two 45" wide pieces of fabric. If the design to be appliquéd is very detailed in the middle section, then a single panel in the middle helps avoid appliquéing over many seams, which may distort the appliquéd edges. This is probably why it is commonly done this way.

An appliqué design that is uncomplicated in the middle section and more detailed toward the outer edges, may be easier to appliqué with the seam in the middle.

A quilt wider than 90" requires at least two seams, or a fabric width more than 45".

There is no "correct" way to piece the panels for an Hawaiian appliqué quilt. In quilting, as in life, there is only tradition, experience and creativity. If you can think of it, and it works, you can do it.

I want to make a quilt for a coworker who is from Hawaii. What patterns are used for baby quilts?

Lately, any quilts that are about 42" x 42" (the width of standard fabric) are called baby quilts - or" keiki quilts" in Hawaii. It's not clear if that is because of the size of the quilt, or because they are a good size to use for a baby. But either way, they make wonderful quilts for a new baby, or anyone for that matter. Any pattern is appropriate.

I notice that most of the quilts are made out of solid color fabric. Is it customary to not have any kind of printed fabric for the pattern? I was out at a swap meet, and they seem to believe that the printed fabric is a definite no-no. Please advise....

Many of the older, traditional Hawaiian quilts that have been preserved, are done with two solid colored fabrics, and these are the ones that we are most familiar with. This is very possibly due to the fact that at the time that Hawaiian appliqué quilts were first evolving, the Hawaiians had access to bolts of solid colored ( usually red, white or yellow ) fabric from the merchant traders. Also, at that time,Hawaiians did not usually use calicos or printed fabrics for their clothing. Therefore, what they used, was what they had.

In working with the Hawaiian Quilt Research Project, I have seen several older and many more recent Hawaiian quilts from the 1920's on, done with printed fabric. My understanding is that there was no "kapu" (no-no) about the issue of prints or solids, but some of the most well designed and well crafted quilts were done with solid fabrics, and were also the most well preserved and therefore became the most popular style. This then became our concept of "the Hawaiian style quilt".

Along with the development of the stunningly beautiful Hawaiian style appliqué quilt, the Hawaiian culture adopted rules (kapus) and limitations to go along with the making of them, that complimented their culture as it was at the time. As the craft was passed down through the generations of women, the rules were followed and eventually taught to the incoming exotic cultural groups of women who settled here. They too, honored the kapus.

With the renaissance of quilting in general, around the world, in the last 30 years, Hawaiian quilts also have been the fascination of many people. The new rules in the quilting world in general are that there are no rules. With the better quality fabrics, dyes, battings, threads, sewing machines, lighting etc., the original limitations hardly apply to what is possible to be created now. In quilting as in life, change is necessary in order for us to grow.

If you want to create a "traditional Hawaiian quilt ", follow the rules - two solid fabrics only. If you are interested in building on the fabulous foundation that the Hawaiians left us, then you will find yourself stretching the boundaries into all kinds of wonderful new ideas. Many of them are already out there in more recent "contemporary Hawaiian quilts ", and many more are yet to be discovered, maybe by you !

Are your patterns what would be called traditional designs?

To help answer your question - a traditional Hawaiian quilt is a bed sized quilt that is completely an appliquéd design. The design is cut out of one square piece of fabric with a repeat of 8. The appliqué fabric is folded in half, or three times and all 8 layers are cut out at the same time, then opened out, like a "snowflake". Usually the designs are symbolic of the flowers, trees or places in Hawaii.

Our appliqué designs follow this style, although they have all been designed in the last 20 years. Most are smaller than bed sized. Many of the "old" or "traditional" designs are not available to the public, but belong to the Hawaiian family that designed and quilted them. Some designs from the 1940's and later, are in the public domain and can be copied for free at some libraries around the state.

One of the reasons we have this website, is to make Hawaiian designs, instructions etc. available to anyone around the world, who is interested.

There are many wonderful books written and illustrated about Hawaiian quilts, some of which I hope to carry on the website soon. Also, other websites, like The Hawaiian Quilt Research Project have extensive information to read. Try the "links" page on this site or others, for more information.

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Hawaiian Quilt Patterns, Hawaiian Applique Designs, Hawaiian Quilts, Kits from Quilt Hawaiian