Making a hawaiian quilt is great fun – you kind of make it up as you go along. The basic idea is that you design a pattern on folded paper, cut it out in folded fabric and applique it to a plain square. The applique shape is known as a Kapa Lau. A traditional hawaiian quilt design has designs of natural things like flowers and fruit, but I have shown you in this pattern a selection of curved and geometrical designs just to show you the possibilities – and a palm tree because that fits in with the Hawaiian theme. There needs to be a strong contrast between the applique colour and the background fabric.
The quilt is 44″ square and I have used 1.1/4 yards each of red and cream fabric.
I have drawn the designs that I used on a piece of paper if you want to use them, but you may choose to make your own designs – it’s a bit like cutting out snowman chains for Christmas decorations. Hawaiian quilt templates.
10.1/2″ squares: nine red
12.1/2″ squares: nine cream
2.1/2″ strips: four red and four cream cut across the width of fabric for the borders
Enough bondaweb or similar double sided fusible interfacing to back the red squares – optional
Loads of newspaper for trying out your designs
Making the Hawaiian applique designs
I used up a small rainforest’s worth of paper while I played with designs. If you get the folding wrong you’ll end up with two or four pattern pieces rather than one large one, so it really is worth doing this a couple of times to be sure that you’ve got it right.
Cut 10.1/2″ squares of paper, fold in half twice so that you have a small square which is four layers thick.
Now fold that square along one diagonal to make a triangle. This really is the crucial part. Place the square so that there is a folded edge along the bottom and up the left hand side. Fold the top left corner down to the bottom right corner. You now have two folded edges across the bottom of the triangle, one folded edge along the diagonal and cut edges going up the right hand side of the triangle. Draw a design on the triangle.
Cut a small curve or triangle out of the left hand bottom edge of the triangle – this will give you a circle or star in the middle of the Hawaiian design. The shape along the bottom of the triangle will unfold to give the smaller pattern in the up and down or straight across directions. The shape along the diagonal edge of the triangle will unfold to give the shapes along the diagonals of the Hawaiian quilt block.
Cut the design out carefully, making sure that you hold all the eight layers together firmly as you cut. Unfold the paper template and check that it is still one piece. This one is just general curves and is a good starter Hawaiian pattern.
The possibilities are endless, but I have also drawn a more geometric design with straight lines forming triangles everywhere. The third design is intended to show palm trees along each of the spokes. This is a fun idea but is definitely more difficult to cut out.
I have used nine blocks to make this Hawaiian quilt. You could have nine blocks all of one design or different designs for each block. I have used three basic designs and used them a few times each.
Cutting the Hawaiian design in fabric
Now you need to transfer the design to fabric. First of all prepare your red squares of fabric. I have backed all my squares with a square of bondaweb slightly smaller than the fabric square. This is a lightweight interfacing that is fusible on both sides – meaning you can iron it to the applique fabric and then when you’re ready remove a protective layer and iron it to the background fabric. I must stress that this is just my personal choice – you don’t have to use an interfacing. I find that it makes it more difficult to cut the fabric out because you have so many layers to cut through, but it saves a huge amount of time and anguish when you are placing the red applique on to the background fabric.
Fold the red fabric square in exactly the same way as you folded the paper to make the template. Refold the paper template if it’s still unfolded and place it on the fabric triangle. Draw round all the curves of the template and cut the fabric along the lines.
Completing each Hawaiian quilt block
Now to transfer the applique to the background square. Fold the background square in half twice and press so that you have fold lines on the square. Place the red shape on the background square and line up the folds with each other. This should centre your design.
Flatten out the middle of the design, still making sure that the folds all line up. Begin pressing from the middle outwards – this means just using the tip of your iron at first as you press along each spoke of the block.
Repeat with all nine blocks.
I have chosen the most simple method to secure the applique to the background fabric – just machine sewing around the outline of the design. Traditional Hawaiian quilts were made without using any interfacing and the applique was sewn by hand to the background, turning under a small hem as they were sewn, but my method is obviously a lot quicker.
When the applique designs have been sewn to the background squares, sew the Hawaiian quilt blocks together in rows of three and then sew the rows to each other.
Adding the quilt borders
I have used two simple borders for the Hawaiian quilt. The first one is made using 2.1/2″ strips of red fabric. You’ll need two strips 36.1/2″ long for the top and bottom of the quilt and two lengths of 40.1/2″ for the sides.
The second border is made with 2.1/2″ strips of cream fabric – two lengths of 40.1/2″ for the top and bottom and two lengths of 44.1/2″ for the sides.
That completes the Hawaiian quilt top. I had hoped to get this layered and quilted in time to show you now but I’m afraid that time ran away with me. I will try and do this fairly soon and will add the link then.
Here’s the video:
You can see how I machine quilted the Hawaiian quilt here.