Modern Hawaiian Applique
There are two types of Hawaiian quilting: kapa lau and kapa 'apana
In kapa lau quilts, a central design in four or eight identical segments is cut from a single piece of fabric, then appliqued atop a background. In many contemporary kapa lau quilts, the foreground patterns can be detailed and take up most of the backround spaces. In older designs, large areas of the background would be left visible.
In kapa 'apana quilts, a central medallion (piko) and a border that often incorporates the central design elements are composed separately and attached later. Some kapa 'apana may have separate motifs, usually four or more, symmetrically arranged in the quilt's center.
Shortly after moving to Utah, Moani learned the basics of quilting from a neighbor. She felt an immediate connection to the process. Moani was able to connect to her heritage and her ancestors as she learned the techniques of whole cloth quilting and completed family quilts. For the next several decades, Moani attempted to design a quilt for her mother but nothing ever felt right.
On the 10th anniversary of her mother’s passing, Moani recalled her mother caring for orchids at their home in Hawaii. The design immediately popped into her mind. As Moani searched for fabric, she recalled another instance when a butterfly flew into their home and landed on an orchids while she and her mother watched.
Modern day Hawaiian Quilts differ from other Pacific Island styles of quilting in composition and process.
Hawaiian quilts are made of three layers: a top design, middle batting, and bottom backing.
To create the top design, or medallion, a quilter will fold a square of fabric into eighths. A design is traced or drawn onto the folded fabric or cut freehand. To finish the quilt, the applique design is basted and sewn onto a contrasting background fabric. Then, the top fabric and background fabric are joined to the middle batting later with small quilting stitches through all three layers of material.
The contour quilting you see here, also known as humu lau, kuiki lau, and echo quilting is created by following the outline of the central applique design, keeping the rows usually about half an inch apart from the center of the quilt to the border.
The repetition of the stitching creates a design that echo's the applique patterns. Many Hawaiian quilters speak of these stiches as representations of waves breaking in the ocean, and the border as ho'opae' which translates to "go ashore." (Hammond, Joyce D. Tifaifai and Quilts of Polynesia. University of Hawaii Press, 1986.)
Since his youth Maurice “Keola” Ohumukini has trained to become a steward of Hawaiian arts and culture. He is a recognized master in the traditions of hula, singing, lei making, and foodways among others. Keola’s grandmother instructed him in Hawaiian quilting and taught him the meaning of the designs and stitch techniques.
When not performing, Keola still finds time to work on his craftsmanship and quilt projects. He is currently making a custom quilt for each of his children to inherit. The quilt design on this pillow depicts two intertwined leis - the green represents the maile lei made from ti leaves and the orange represents the ilima lei made from fresh flowers.