Tivaevae – 50 Years and 5600 Miles Removed

By: Rägi Marino
Cedar Hill, Texas

Quilts made of solid fabrics. My first thought was Amish quilts, but there are many quilt types that are always or often made of solid fabrics. Initially, I had not considered the Tivaevae (also spelled Tïvaevae, Tīvaevae, or Tivaivai) of the Cook Islands, as I was unaware of them.

Early missionaries likely introduced quilting to the Cook Islands; however, no written record exists of the introduction. What is certain is that the Cook Islanders developed their own style and quilting has become an integral part of their culture.

Four types of Tivaevae exist: 1) Tivaevae ta’örei are of tiny pieces of fabric, generally squares, sewn together to form designs; 2) Tivaevae manu are appliquéd using two contrasting colors similar to Hawaiian quilts; 3) Tivaevae tataura are appliquéd using three or more colors, and embroidered using variegated pearl cotton; and 4) Tivaevae tuitui tataura are embroidered blocks crocheted together, then sewn onto backing fabric. The Tivaevae, while considered quilts, differ from standard quilts, as they are actually coverlets; they do not have batting.

My study piece is a set of two Tivaevae tataura pillowcases from Rarotanga dated circa 1970. Does a matching quilt exist, or were they learning pieces? My challenge, beyond learning the Tivaevae’s construction technique(s), was designing a quilt to “match” the pillowcases. Although I used the same design elements, I chose different colors from the original pillowcases.

As with every Quilt Study, this Study has pushed me in terms of research and quilt construction. For the time being, this is my favorite study quilt, as has been every other quilt when I’ve completed it! North Carolina, Texas, Ohio, Missouri, Wales (United Kingdom), and now the Cook Islands … where will the next study take me?