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Hawaiian quilts once seen are not easily forgotten. The strikingly beautiful patterns originate from the spirit of design. They are quite different from the ones seen elsewhere in the world.

American Missionaries arrived in Hawaii in the 1800ds. They introduced the Hawaiian women to the art of quilting. Hawaiian women were already very skilled in making bedding and everyday clothing from Tapa, a natural fiber derived fom plants.

The Missinaries taught the Hawaiians the art of
"Snowflake" paper cutting, which in turn inspired the designs for the quilt appliques.
The cloth was folded into quarters or eights,
and the applique was cut in one piece, no matter how intricate the design. This was different from the geometric and straight line designs that the missionaries had used. The Missionaries also used many smaller pieces that were sewn together.The Hawaiian women developed their own unique quilt designs. The designs were inspired by nature, representing flowers, like Ginger, plumeria, Orchid etc... trees and other plants, and the quilts were named accordingly.

Two basic colors were used, one for the background and one for the applique. Occasionally another color was added to accent a flower or a specific part of a design.

The climate being mild, the Hawaiian women were in no hurry to finish their quilts, and so they were able to produce very elaborate quilts, some of which took a year or more to complete.

Hawaiian women developed their own unique style of stitching, following the contours of the cloth over and over again giving it a rippling effect, like the tiny waves on the ocean created by the wind.

The art of quilting in Hawaii became almost extinct about ten years ago. Now, fortunately, it has been revived and we see many beautiful quilts handcrafted everywhere in Hawaii.


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