Quilting is as old as the hills, and for many, has that wonderful combination of domestic necessity, social cohesion, and craftwork and commemoration.
Quilting methods don’t vary enormously throughout the world, but the designs are largely specific to a country, or a society, although the traditional American patchwork designs have become loved world wide.
It is wonderful to have such a craft, which is a means of handing down traditions amongst womenfolk mainly, and which has an end product that can both look beautiful, and keep you warm at night.
An exception to this is of course the Hawaiian quilting tradition, which began under the tutelage of the missionaries, and evolved into a means of recording the Hawaiian beliefs and lives.
Their quilts talk of their gods, their departed spirits, the new members of their society yet to be born, and the main historical and cultural events of their society. Their use of the beautiful flowers and the love of their culture give Hawaiian quilting a truly magical and precious quality.
In colder climates, the quilting circle was an opportunity for the women to come together, to talk over the major matters of the day and to provide invaluable support for each other.
The new settlers in The United States of America were hardy and tough. Most of them had to start from scratch. Homes had to be built, and furnished, and in these days, nearly everything had to be grown or made.
Needlework was a very necessary skill for a woman. Without this, they would not be able to make their clothes, and would not be able to make the soft furnishings that not only ‘make a house into a home’, but are necessary for keeping out draughts from windows and doors, and for keeping everyone warm at night.
When societies became more established and there was money and time available, the quilting circle would make quilts to commemorate certain events, and together produce really large quilts that would adorn the walls of the buildings that served as community centers.


Chapter One – The History of Quilting


Hawaiian quilting is said to have started when the wives of two chiefs were introduced to quilting by missionaries on board a boat. Hawaiians would not naturally have begun to quilt for domestic use, as quilts were not needed in the warm Hawaiian climate.
The missionaries showed the Hawaiians how to cut up fabrics into pieces and then sew them back together.
This the Hawaiians found rather wasteful, as they were careful with all their resources and didn’t understand the concept of cutting up a large piece of material, only to sew pieces of it back together, and then be left with bits that couldn’t be used.
Eventually, the Hawaiians found a way of using their own clothing fabric (called tapa) which they folded to achieve 1/4 or 1/8 patterns, and they gave any waste pieces back to the missionaries for them to use in their own quilting. This tapa was from tree bark.

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The unique nature of the Hawaiian quilting is clear in their use of local flora, and the spirit world as design influences for their quilts. Conceptually, they used quilts to record their environment, their departed love ones, and their still to be born.
Their quilts were also strongly about the Hawaiian identity and the identity of the individual members of their society.
The Hawaiian Gods, their rites and ceremonies, and their history, are all depicted in the wonderful Hawaiian quilts. Local events and major historical events were all beautifully detailed and preserved in their quilts. In fact, all their quilts have a story to tell, or a person to describe, or an act to preserve for posterity.
Quilts were not made in Hawaii just to keep the women busy or as a necessary domestic duty. Quilts in Hawaii are their history, and they predict the future too!

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One of the few nations to produce famous quilts that were never intended to keep them warm at night, the Hawaiian culture and history has instead been retained beautifully. Quilts continue to be made in Hawaii, with new designs constantly emerging. Here, quilts are both the history and the future in a very unique and valuable way.

The United Kingdom

Clearly a colder climate than Hawaii, the traditions of ‘make do and mend’ were such that for centuries, cloth was very valuable and not to be wasted. Long before any mechanical cloth production, every piece of cloth was made by hand or with simple weaving frames. Anything so time consuming to produce could only be treated with care and considered to be of value.
Long before the first settlers arrived in America, British women, and men were involved in patchwork and quilting, both for home and commercial benefit. So the history of quilting in Britain goes way back.

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There are records of padded clothing being made for soldiers to be worn underneath their armor to protect them from the metal, and also to provide warmth and comfort. And as far back as the fourteenth century, quilted fabrics were used as bed-covers and clothes.
There are examples of eighteenth century pieces of clothing that remain from noble and royal households. For example, an underskirt for a Scottish wedding is now part of the Heritage Collection of the Quilters Guild, and dated at 1764.
Although in the households run by nobles and royals, there were wonderful examples of luxurious and exquisite pieces of quilting, these were the minority. The very wealthy would import cloth from abroad and use it to display their wealth and social status.



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