Grade: all
Subject: Art

#4396. Design a Hawaiian Quilt Block

Art, level: all
Posted Sat May 16 15:40:57 PDT 2009 by Marilyn J. Brackney (Marilyn J. Brackney ).
Discover Hawai'i Unit Contents
Columbus, Indiana, USA
Materials Required: See list
Activity Time: One hour
Concepts Taught: Students will learn about the history of Hawai'i and Hawaiian quilting.

It's generally believed that Hawai'i was settled by Polynesians sometime between 600 and 1000 A.D. They voyaged thousands of miles in double-hulled canoes, possibly making the trip many times to bring their families, animals, trees, and other plant life with them.

They lived undisturbed for centuries on their island paradise till January 18, 1778 when an Englishman named Captain James Cook discovered Hawai'i.

The Hawaiians' economic, social, and religious order underwent drastic change after Cook's discovery, and the coming of missionaries from America in 1820 greatly contributed to this development.

After being a U.S. Territory for many years,
Hawai'i became a member of the Union in 1959, and on August 21st of this year, Hawai'i will observe its 50th year of statehood.

Design a Hawaiian Quilt Block

If you use a Hawaiian theme in the classroom, creating a quilt block is a good way to teach students about the islands' history, flowers, plants, and animals. Display the quilt blocks by hanging them side by side so they form a bed quilt design.

History of the Hawaiian Quilt

Before contact with Western societies, Hawaiians created most textiles by making kapa or bark cloth. In the early 1800s, missionaries introduced new fabrics and quilting techniques. Native artists adapted the materials and sewing methods, using their own sense of design to create Hawaiian quilts.

The missionaries, who had come from New England, also taught children how to cut snowflakes from folded paper. The adults liked this simple method of creating symmetrical designs, so they modified the idea, using Mother Nature as inspiration in their quilt making patterns.

A Hawaiian quilt is made of two, contrasting colors. The background piece is a cloth big enough to cover a bed, and the other consists of fabric cut into a large design. This cloth is appliqud or sewn onto the top of the bed-sized piece.

Characteristics of Hawaiian quilts are a central appliqud pattern that is symmetrical, and stitches that follow or "echo" the shape of the design. Motifs may include plants, flowers, and animals native to the state.

You can get an idea of what it's like to create patterns for a full-sized quilt by making a much smaller square called a quilt block. For design ideas, study flowers, plants, insects, and animals that you'd see in Hawai'i. If you prefer, refer to some that are native to your area.

You Will Need:

Mat board scrap
Copy paper of a contrasting color
Glue stick

How to:

Cut a piece of scrap mat board so that it measures 8" x 8", and cut the copy or other light weight paper 7" square. Fold the paper in half, and then fold it in half the other direction. Now crease it diagonally with one folded side touching the other.

Lay the paper in front of you so that the long, diagonal fold faces your right or left and the short, folded side is at the bottom. On this short side, measure in about two inches from the point where the long fold meets the short one.

Start your design here, using shapes from nature, such as flowers, leaves, an animal, or a combination of the motifs. Fill the remaining triangular piece of paper with the drawing, taking care to extend it to the sides and top.

Keeping the paper folded, cut out the design. Now, carefully open, and glue it to the center of the mat board.

Tips and Tricks:

Reuse a sheet of copy paper to make the design. Create the work on the clean side of the paper, and glue the printed side down.

Substitute a solid-colored page of wallpaper from a sample book for the mat board. Employees at decorating stores or interior design studios are often happy to share old, outdated books.

Visit a picture framing shop to find scraps of mat board. The 8" x 8" size is recommended because most framers usually discard mat board that's around that size.

To learn more about Hawaiian quilts, visit the following Web sites:

Bishop Museum Quilt Database:

Hawaiian Quilting with Poakalani:

Download free Hawaiian quilt patterns: