Just wondering, what if?
We know in the mid-1800's, when missionary wives were bringing their quilts and quilting to Hawaii, that applique and album quilts were popular on the eastern seaboard of the United States. Often when a young bride was leaving with her husband for a far-off missionary post, among their few possessions would be a prized quilt. Often these quilts were album quilts. So it is very likely that more than one album quilt found its way to Hawaii in the trunks of missionary families.
Now, what if, instead of enlarging the scherenschnitte-inspired, paper-cut blocks from an album quilt, the Hawaiian women had begun making album quilts of their own? What might those quilts have looked like?
Janice was thinking about this, and the mysterious origins of Hawaiian quilts when she was vacationing on Oahu in 1998. She had a thought, so she called her sister, Nancy, with her idea. "Nancy, I have an idea for a quilt YOU can make! What if Hawaiians had adopted all the elements of album quilts in their quilting, instead of just enlarging the paper-cut blocks? Don't you think they would have replaced acorns, oak leaves, and currants (things they had never seen) with plumeria, kukui nuts, and breadfruit?" Nancy agreed, and took on the challenge. The result is Aloha Album, our version of a typical album quilt filled with the fruit, flowers and meaningful symbols familiar to a quilter in Hawaii.
Wreath blocks turned into lei blocks with orchid, lokelani, pikake and maile. The basket block was filled with fragrant plumeria blossoms. The tree of life block became an Angel's Trumpet tree. The traditional cornucopia block became a lauhala picnic mat with an abundance of tropical fruit. And the local courthouse block was replaced with the Hawaii coat of arms. Anchoring each corner of the quilt is a scherenschnitte-style (paper-cut) block of taro, breadfruit, lauae fern, and sea turtles. Maile and lilikoi swags frame the center vases filled with all manner of tropical plants - ti, anthurium, heliconia and bird of paradise.
TIP: Make one block a month and have your quilt top finished in 17 months. OK, allow 3 months for the center vases, and have the quilt top finished in 19 months. The sooner you start, the sooner you have a chance of finishing it!
This quilt also provides the opportunity to try additional skills: fabric painting, embroidery, weaving of fabric strips, and a little machine piecing.
This article was originally published in our newsletter in October 2010. I thought it would be a fun one to share. The photo in this post is Nancy's Aloha Album Quilt.