How to Make a Hawaiian Style Quilt

Hawaiian quilt pattern

Hawaiian quilt pattern

This Hawaiian quilt pattern 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.

Cutting requirements

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

Paper templates if required

Making the Hawaiian applique designs

Fold paper in half twice

Fold paper in half twice

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.

Draw a pattern on the triangle

Draw a pattern on the triangle

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 the design out of the paper

Cut the design out of the paper

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.


Unfold the paper template

Unfold the paper template

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.


Geometric Hawaiian block template

Geometric Hawaiian block template

Palm tree design

Palm tree design

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

Draw the Hawaiian design on to fabric

Draw the Hawaiian design on to 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.

Cut the Hawaiian quilt block

Cut the Hawaiian quilt block

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

Lay the Hawaiian applique on the background

Lay the Hawaiian applique on the background

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 the middle of the design

Flatten the middle of the 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.

Sew around the edge of the qpplique

Sew around the edge of the applique

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

First quilt border

First quilt border

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.


Second quilt border

Second quilt border

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.

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  1. Just a quick question – and this may sound a bit silly – but when you appliqued the shapes onto the square, did you “zig-zag” stitch it? Sorry if this is obvious but I have not actually done any applique before. Cant wait to start my own design. Thanks again Rose.

    • Hi Shirley. Not obvious at all – I should have mentioned it. Normally I use zigzag or something similar to edge applique, but on the Hawaiian quilt I used straight stitch. This was partly because I intend to quilt it quite densely and partly because even though the bondaweb should prevent any fraying, I felt that I wouldn’t mind a small amount of fraying given the feathery feel of the blocks. You may feel safer using zigzag – either would be fine.

  2. Hi Rose,
    What a fantastic quilt and another excellent video. Being new to quilting this past year I am always eager to learn new techniques and have found your tutorials brilliant. Thanks to you I have just cut out a fabulous pattern and am off to my sewing room to make cushion covers to practice( haven’t done applique yet).
    Thankyou so much

    • Thanks for your comments, Tricia. That’s a good idea, practising the Hawaiian applique on cushion covers. I’m sure they’ll be lovely.

    • Gail Thompson says:

      Hi Tricia. I’m with you, new to quilting. The Hawaiian quilt looks so great tho and easy I’m going to get material soon and try it. That will give us lots of practice won’t it. I love Roses quilts and have done two of them already which were loved by the recipients.
      Happy Quilting and Thank you Rose

  3. Janis Reed says:

    My dear dear Rose, You have filled my head with such inspiration! Have Granddaughters who love to quilt with me. They are 12 and 13. I have made paper snowflakes with them for years and now we should maybe begin our Christmas Quilt as they do love to cut out paper dolls and snowflakes. Hope they come visit soon so I can share your video with them and get them as fired up about this pattern as I am. With great joy because of you, Janis

    • Thanks so much, Janis. I hope you have a wonderful time quilting with your grand daughters when they come to visit.

  4. Hi Rose.
    Just when I thought I had seen most of the design concepts for quilts, out comes your Hawaiian Style Quilt. What a nifty idea! Sorry I can’t say more right now as I’m off to give it a go. Thanks for the pattern ideas.
    Irene, Western Australia.

  5. Thank you Rose for a beautiful quilt you never fail to inspire us .

  6. angeljeanne says:

    HI Rose yes you have done it again I love this I have made one close to this one long ago and yes they are very easy to make and all can try and will sucseed at it, heavens I did and I was I think around 15 then now I am 67 so I am going to try this one also again thank you for all you have shown us and what you have to share with us,,take care an English gal missing england take care hugs Jeanne

    • Hi Jeanne. That’s really impressive, to have made a Hawaiian quilt when you’re only 15! Hope you enjoy making another one now.

  7. Debra Kay Neiman says:

    Beautiful tutorial…thank you.

  8. Hi Rose, all your quilts are beautiful, this one is so striking I’m itching to start, also thinking a matching one in blue….Thank you so much for your patterns and updates. Much love x

  9. Thankyou Rose for sharing this lovely quilt.You always explain the details that are so easy to follow.I will try and make this in the near future.Its so beautiful.Thankyou for sharing these lovely tutorials with us.

  10. Hi Rose,
    Some time ago I bought a pattern for the Hawaiian quilt block. It seemed very complicated and time consuming, so it was put away in the back of the cupboard. I will now get it out and see if I can do it your way. It does look a lot easier. Thanks. Yolande

    • Hi Yolande. Good luck. I think that it’s the way you sew on the applique that makes such a big difference to the time it takes.

  11. Sandra Barnett says:

    Dear Rose,
    Love this quilt Have decided already that I am going to do it in purple and cream. Have the purple fabric, having just bought it on Tuesday, now just have to get the cream. You come up with such wonderful patterns.
    Of course I am not as fast as you are, but I do look forward to Friday’s, to see your new adventure.
    Thank you for sharing.

  12. This is simply beautiful Rose. I can’t wait to make one. Thanks.

  13. Margaret W Fairgrieve says:

    Well Rose once again you have brought back a lovely memory. I have once made a small wall hanging in the much loved Hawaiian applique .

    So I can see me getting out my fabric to make a quilt in this wonderful design. Cheers Margaret
    ps you will see I have changed my email address .

    • Hi Margaret. It is a lovely type of quilt, isn’t it. I’ll change your email address on my list – thanks for letting me know.

  14. Woweee – I love this quilt. Makes such a nice change from the norm. I will defo be making this. Once again Rose, a brilliant quilt and a brilliant tutorial. You always make it seem so easy. Thank you. You are a star.

  15. Anita Broadhead says:

    Dear Rose, You never cease to amaze me. This is brilliant and I used to love making these paper shapes when I was much, much younger. The possibilities are endless. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful ideas and enriching our lives.

    • Thanks for your kind comments, Anita. I think that it was making the templates that I found such fun – so completely different from ‘normal’ quilt making.

  16. Hi Rose—It,s me from the frozen country. Love the Hawaiian guilt .Have to try one. Question——Do you by any change have a pattern for ‘{ Grandmothers Flower Garden }—–It is done with Hexigons—My mother is looking to make it -She is 89 and still going strong and asked if I could find it for her. Thank – you and keep up the good work.

    • Hi Bea. Do you know, I started making some hexagons for a grandmother’s flower garden quilt many, many months ago but I never completed the project. Now that you have reminded me, I’ll dig out the ones that I have made and try and get on with the quilt.

  17. Wow, Rose! This is so beautiful. I love it. You are soooo clever. What a great way to make a quick iron-on appliqued quilt if your instructions are followed to the letter. Can’t wait to see what you will come up with next week.

  18. Hi Rose, What a lovely easy quilt to do. I love it. Thank you Rose

  19. Gail Thompson says:

    I doubt that you could ever make anything that’s not beautiful Rose.
    This quilt looks like it would be so very hard to do for this beginner but with a bit of practice I think I can do it too. You are so very talented and like I’ve said before, your sharing with all of us throughout the world is so much appreciated. Thank you again.

    • Thank you so much for your kind comments, Gail. I appreciate your thoughts – and I’m sure you could make a hawaiian quilt.

  20. I have always loved Hawaiian applique but have always read that it is tedious and time consuming. You make it look FUN! I can’t wait to get started. Thanks so much for this tute!

    • Hi DinnaRae. I think it would take forever if you used needleturn applique. I think that using bondaweb and machine sewing the edges of the qpplique makes a huge difference to the time it takes.

    • I was in Hawaii in October and visited a quilt shop in Kona where a quilter was doing the Hawaiian blocks and she was doing hand applique–I much prefer using the machine.

      • Oh Marlene, how jealous am I! Thinking of Hawaii while I look out the window at gloom and low clouds and rain. The traditional Hawaiian quilt is beautiful and was always made with hand applique, but I’m lazy and always try and find the quick way.

  21. Rose…this is fabulous! You make the most intimidating patterns seem so easy. I’m going to try a block. Thank you for all you do for us.

  22. I am looking for a yard or so of rowing fabric for a quilt .cotton.
    This is for crew rowing with three or four or more rowers

  23. Ann Lundie says:

    You explained this method beautifully Rose. You quilt is lovely. Thank you.

  24. Hi Rose,
    This is a lovely striking design, another to add to my wish list.

  25. This is amazing, Rose.

  26. Thank you. Thank you. Just love it. I does so appeal to my enjoyment of bright colours. Think I will have to do a lot of practise to be able to do anything like this. But I still love it. Thank you.

    • Thanks, Janny. Honestly it is much more easy to make than it looks – one of those ones that will wow your friends who don’t realise it’s a simple pattern!