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International Quilt Museum

The International Quilt Study Center & Museum (IQSCM) in Lincoln, Nebraska is partnering with American Patchwork & Quilting to share information on quilting traditions around the world.


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Global Perspective: Hawaiian Quilts

Written by Linzee Kull McCray

Taking a tradition, giving it a twist, and making it one's own. It's the way of the quilting world and Hawaiian quilts are no exception.

While missionaries taught native Hawaiians to quilt as early as 1820, it wasn't until 1870 that the plant-inspired, symmetric designs we associate with Hawaiian quilts emerged. This warmly colored and intricately appliquéd quilt, made by an unknown quilter between 1930 and 1955 in a pattern called Beauty of Hilo Bay, is typical of many Hawaiian quilts. The one large design is cut from a single piece of fabric, creating a mirror image pattern, the background is the color of unbleached muslin, and the appliqué fabric is solid, rather than patterned. Another typical aspect is the quilting.

"The radiating echo quilting emphasizes the balanced pattern so beautifully," says Carolyn Ducey, curator of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum. "These quilters used batting that was very thick and of a much higher loft than was typically seen in American quilts and that, combined with the dense quilting, highlighted the pattern even more."

Photo courtesy of International Quilt Study Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2005.015.0001.