My Beloved Hawaiian Flag

By: Pamela Lindsay
Santa Paula, California

Hawaiian quilts create an indelible image with their bold designs and intricate quilting while using solid colors. The politics of the island nation that evolved from the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1795 to statehood in 1959 fascinated me. Hawaiian Flag quilts seemed a visceral reaction to the political and social turmoil.

The Quilt Index contains images of ninety Hawaiian Flag quilts. All but three of these quilts follow the same general layout. Each side of these quilts contains a Hawaiian flag. There is an appliquéd motif in the center of the quilts which vary widely, but reflect the royal heritage of the islands. They are executed in solids, pieced, appliquéd, and quilted. These quilts date from the last quarter of the nineteenth-century and continue to be made today.

The Hawaiian flag features the flag of the United Kingdom in the canton and eight stripes in the field sequencing white, red, and blue. The eight stripes represent the major islands of Hawaii: Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe. The islands were unified under King Kamehameha I, who designed the flag in 1816.

My study quilt is a scale reproduction of the inspiration quilt using a pattern created from the photo. It is machine pieced, hand appliquéd, and machine quilted. The small British flags were paper pieced. The central design reflects Hawaiian royalty using the crown with its taro leaf design surrounded by a lei of maile leaves.

My inspiration quilt is dated circa 1955. I hope it was made as a celebration of statehood that occurred in 1959. Whether to honor the past, protest inequities, or look toward the future, Hawaiian Flag quilts are a source of the Aloha Spirit.