Crafty stuff

A Heliconia Hawaiian Quilt

Making a Hawaiian Quilt

13 years ago I finished a Hawaiian quilt, photographed it (with help from Felicity), blogged about it, and gave it to dear friends who had just had a baby.

And then I immediately started another one, because Hawaiian quilts take a looooooooong time to make, especially when you only work on them around other projects.  But I knew that at some point someone else I loved enough to make a quilt for would have a baby, and I needed to be ready!

12 and a bit years later, the quilt had progressed quite a lot, but wasn’t quite done, and my dearest friend in the world (the one who knows secrets about me she’s going to have to take to the grave) was pregnant.

And what do you know, the quilt that I started all those years ago was perfect for her and my not-quite-nibling to be.

So one of my big sewing achievements this year was finally finishing my third Hawaiian quilt!

So, that’s one per decade so far…

Hawaiian quilts are fully handsewn.  They feature a central motif that’s usually based on a stylised plant (although there are some animal quilts, and a few examples with lei or kahili or historical motifs) appliquéd on to a plain ground.  The central motif is cut out from a folded triangle so it opens out to form 4 or 8 mirrored sections.

Making a Hawaiian Quilt

Different motifs symbolise different things.  Breadfruit usually symbolise abundance and are often given for weddings and housewarmings.  Pineapples symbolise hospitality so are also popular housewarming gifts

This quilt is based on a heliconia pattern, specifically heliconia rostrata.  Heliconias are a flower that have been imported in to Hawai’i as ornamentals.  The plant has proved hardy and thrived, without becoming an invasive pest.  Heliconia rostrata are usually grown from rhizomes: sections of root that branch out from the parent plant, and develop into their own plant which can be planted elsewhere.

Like me, my friend Stella is an immigrant to NZ.  The quilt is a wish that her child will thrive here, growing up with the support of its family and friends, until it can stand on its own.

Making a Hawaiian Quilt

The quilt represents hundreds of hours of work.  You cut the central motif, and then baste it on to to the background layer.  The motif is then sewn on with slip or appliqué stitches.  The layers of the quilt (applique on background, warm wool batting, backing fabric) are basted together so they don’t shift.  Then the layers are quilted together with lines of running stitches that spread out and in from the lines of the motif, like ripples spreading in water.

Making a Hawaiian Quilt

Making a Hawaiian Quilt

Finally you bind the edges.  This is the only part I did by machine, as I wanted it to be as strong as possible.

Making a Hawaiian Quilt

As with the other quilt I blogged about, Felicity helped with both making and modelling!

Making a Hawaiian Quilt

Making a Hawaiian Quilt

Such a workhorse my cat!

Making a Hawaiian Quilt

Making a Hawaiian Quilt

Thirteen years later, and she’s still eager to play fetch with her favourite toys: the plastic caps from water bottles.

Making a Hawaiian Quilt

Making a Hawaiian Quilt

(Yes, Stella is fully aware that Felicity has been all over this quilt!  Obviously the last thing I did before I gifted it to her was to get it cleaned.)

Making a Hawaiian Quilt

I’m pleased to report that Stella loves the quilt (baby Embee is a little young to have an option on it), and she’s given it the greatest compliment you can give a sewist who makes you something: she’s actually using it.

Grandma thinks its too precious to be used, and should be put away, but Mum knows me.  I want her to use and love it and enjoy it.

Embee gets to lay on it all the time, and better yet, it’s the backdrop to the monthly photo!  (awww!).

So every month I get to see a photo of slightly bigger adorable little Embee on my make.  💛  Worth every stitch!

Making a Hawaiian Quilt


  1. nofixedstars says

    that is truly beautiful, and will be treasured for generations by the recipient’s family, no doubt. and felicity approved, too! i love both the appearance/motif and the construction method of this quilt. what a loving, meaningful gift.

  2. Christina Kinsey says

    That is gorgeous…and Felicity approved too

  3. Hooray for finishing a long running project!! It’s beautiful, and Felicity contrasts so well with the colours.
    I’m glad it’s being used too. Much better to be seen and appreciated than to be hidden away in a cupboard.

  4. Lynne says

    That is stunning! So much love has gone into that – I am glad it is being used, too, and I hope you little almost-niece cherishes the quilt and uses it for her children. You’ve sent something very beautiful out into the world.

  5. Jaw-dropping is about the only adjective I can come up with; it’s beyond amazing. What a gift!

  6. Charly Clarke says

    That’s such a beautiful quilt, with wonderful symbolism. I’m sure Embee will treasure it forever.
    Felicity is the purrfect sewing buddy. She obviously contributes a lot of hard work.

  7. Susann says

    Oh, wow, what a wonderful gift!
    Knowing how much work went into it, I would be siding with Grandma and making sure it’s NEVER used and ONLY taken out once or twice a year to look at it admiringly. 🙂

    • Well, I’m glad mum agrees with me instead! I would definitely it be seen and appreciated every day, and worn out, then saved and almost never seen!

  8. Stephanie says

    This is amazing. I’ve never heard of Hawaiian quilts, and don’t remember your last one though I have been reading your blog for a long while.

    I read this entry during a break from cutting patchwork squares! My quilt will be a lot less labour intensive though!

  9. Lylassandra says

    A little late to the party, but WOW! Leimomi, it’s so beautiful! My mom is a lifelong quilter, so I have the utmost respect for handquilting and this is just spectacular. Thank you for sharing it with us!

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