It was love at first sight.
I fell in love with Hawaiian quilts with the very first one I saw. I had previously only been ambivalent about quilting. Yet there I was gawking over this hand-stitched wonder.
Obviously this is a colonial infusion into the culture. However I find the nature-inspired geometric designs a perfect call back to the designs from the tapa cloth. I’m fascinated by the evolution of a culture to reflect modern amenities while maintaining special aspects of the tradition.
My adoration of the art form has never waned since that first sight. I love Hawaiian quilts most of all quilts.
Realistically I know I’m never going to do a full-sized quilt. However, after I dithered for many years I finally decided I could do a pillowcase. Using this very detailed step-by-step tutorial, I mustered up the courage to begin.
Not long after I started I found out we were moving. Along with the rest of my worldly possessions, my barely-begun project wallowed in a box. Finally a year and a half after starting I gave myself the pep talk I needed to finish. For once I would FINISH a project that was for me and not for someone else. And I would do so before Christmas so it could be part of my Polynesian Christmas.
The applique designs are always inspired by nature and often geometric in design. I immediately noticed that my work couldn’t possibly be perfectly symmetrical. However, I noticed the leaves that inspired the design aren’t perfectly symmetrical either. Nothing in nature is perfect. I’m learning not to sweat it that I’m not perfect either.
I found the repetition of the little tiny stitches to be very calming. The predictability allowed my mind to wander, organize, and empty. Thus my nightly ritual of doing a little bit after putting my youngest to bed became therapeutic for me. I made wave after wave of echo stitches. In doing so I realized that just like the ocean waves, my stitches smoothed out the edges of my work. And the work itself smoothed out my rough emotions.
My goal was to complete this pillow by Christmas, as a gift to myself. As you can see I did not finish. But in the spirit of self compassion I’ve decided that’s totally fine. I have completed the longest, hardest work already. I can add a border and do the backside with the sewing machine pretty quickly. Hopefully over the break. (I’ll post a photo when I do!)
When I first laid eyes on the work done by the master quilters, I was in awe. The intricacy, the detail, and the time involved astounded me. Not until I made my own attempts did I learn how much the process could positively impact my heart. Working on this pillowcase gave me opportunities to practice self-compassion with my mistakes. Self care became a regular practice. Mele Kalikimaka to me, in so many ways.
Interestingly, while at Iolani Palace last year I learned that Hawaiians also made crazy quilts. Queen Liliuokalani’s quilt that she made during her imprisonment stopped me in my tracks. I felt so much poignancy looking upon this quilt she made from her own clothes.