In the 1820s, the first American missionaries to the Hawaiian Islands brought woven textiles and the concept of quilts. By the end of the nineteen-century Hawaiians had developed a quilting style all their own – appliquéd patterns of flowers and leaves created by folding and cutting fabric in eight-fold symmetry.
In 1933, the Mokihana Club on Kaua’i held the first exhibit of Hawaiian quilts. A strikingly graphic red and white quilt at that exhibit was entitled Kamehameha IV’s Crown and Crossed Kahilis, and was probably made as a gift for missionary Mary Sophia Hyde Rice (1816-1911), matron of the Punahou School, built in 1841 in Honolulu for missionary children. I chose this dramatic and historic quilt as my inspiration quilt.
Royalty symbols were often included on Hawaiian quilts to honor their ali’i or chiefs. They were documented in Joyce Hammond’s poster session at the 2016 AQSG Seminar, “Hawaiian Monarchy Quilt Designs: Expressions of Love and Loss.” When I saw this poster display, I knew that a royalty quilt was in my future.
My quilt is made in the royal colors of scarlet and gold, found in Hawaiian feather cloaks and kahilis, tall feather standards carried in processions. In true Hawaiian fashion, I designed my own layout rather than duplicating my inspiration quilt. I kept the crowns in the center, but put eight kahilis, one for each of the eight main islands, in the outer border, along with spikes from the fence around Iolani Palace, where Queen Lili’uokalani, the last Hawaiian monarch, was imprisoned in 1895. I added maile leis and the Queen’s favorite crown flowers to complete my design. My quilt has a wool batting, used in early Hawaiian quilts, and is hand quilted in a traditional echo pattern. It honors Queen Lili’uokalani and the native people of the Hawaiian Islands.