With these thoughts about tradition in mind, let's consider the use of color in Hawaiian quilting. Have you wondered if Hawaiian quilts are ever made with more than just two fabrics - two colors? The use of two or more colors of applique fabric Multi-colored Hawaiian Quilt is relatively new. It is seen rarely in older quilts, then more frequently from the 1980's to today. Would it be considered traditional? Or a break from tradition? Is it legal? Can you do it?
We think the addition of a second, or even third applique fabric needs to be done with great care. Since you have probably looked at a lot of photos, you have seen that some Hawaiian quilts using multiple applique colors are quite successful and others not so much. Why is that?
First, consider the whole symmetrical design of your chosen pattern. The use of a single applique fabric is one of the major identifying characteristics of Hawaiian quilts, the element that gives them such strong visual appeal. Your choice of colors needs to support that entire design. The use of added colors can camouflage the overall design that you originally found so attractive, or it can break-up the design making it confusing to the viewer. So, consider the secondary design that is created by the additional colors. If there is too little of the added color in just a few small places it can leave the viewer wondering what's the point; or worse yet, wondering where the design is.
One way to maintain the integrity of the overall design is to match the value (darkness or lightness) of the applique fabrics. When the quilt is viewed from a distance the added colors need to hold their own in the complete design. You don't want them to 2-color Cyclamen disappear into the background, nor do you want them to be overly prominent and demanding.
This version of our Woodland Lei pattern successfully maintains the integrity of the total design because both the greens and the brown are similar in value, and are in strong contrast to the dark background. This quilt was created by Margaret Davis. The same is true with the unfinished Lilikoi Hawaiian quilt above. In both cases the entire design holds together without confusion.
Yes, it is true, the use of a single applique fabric is one of the major identifying characteristics of typical Hawaiian quilts. But, there are many different creative options from there. Where will you take your Hawaiian quilt in this evolving tradition?
How To: Here is one easy way to replace leaves or blossoms with another fabric: Cut the entire design from a single fabric and lay it out on the background fabric in the usual way; use the paper pattern to cut the flowers (or other elements) from a different fabric; cut away the original flower or element and use it as a placement guide to position the differently colored piece in its place.
Let's continue the conversation about the living tradition that is Hawaiian Quilting on our Facebook page. Share a photo of your Hawaiian quilt using additional colors, or other modern twists on tradition.