On my last visit home to the islands, my mom and I both wore Hawaiian appliqué jackets that I had ‘made’. The jackets are store bought sweatshirt jackets that I embellished with some Hawaiian applique.
More about Hawaiian Appliqué:
Hawaiian applique is distinctive, and generally are inspired by nature and floral designs, and used for quilts, home dec projects and garments. Designs are cut from a large, single piece of fabric and appliquéd on a background fabric.
There are four main elements to Hawaiian appliqué quilts, all based on the rich history of the Hawaiian culture.
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- Applique is cut from one large, single piece of fabric. Historically, Hawaiians made their own fabric from plant bark to make their clothes and textiles. This was called “tapa”. In today’s world, Hawaiian appliqué quilts are made with quilting cottons.
- Generally, Hawaiian appliqué is two-colors — the background fabric, and the appliqué fabric. Traditional Hawaiian quilts use solid colors, but today’ you’ll find popular batiks used with the traditional quilt pattern. There is a debate on using fabric prints for Hawaiian quilts, some say that it’s not a traditional Hawaiian quilt when a printed fabric is used.
- The applique fabric is folded and cut, like when you would make paper dolls or snowflakes as a child, which makes the appliqué piece symmetrical, and ready to be hand quilted onto the background fabric. Generally the fabric is folded into quarters or eighths, the design is drawn onto the fabric and carefully cut, so that when it is opened, the quilter has a beautiful and symmetrical design.
- After hand appliqué, Hawaiian quilts are traditionally quilted with echo quilting, to make the design more prominent.
With today’s Hawaiian quilts, the appliqué can be hand appliquéd with a basic needle turn method, or can use more modern techniques like fusing and machine appliqué.
Traditional Hawaiian quilts used both the positive and negative cut outs for quilts, conserving fabric which was scarce, and making two quilts at once. Some of the popular designs are pineapples, hibiscus, breadfruit and other plants and flowers native to Hawaii.
Browse through more appliqué projects and inspiration on Create Whimsy.