Hawaiian Quilt

“Imprisoned at Iolani Palace … We began the quilt here.” Somber words to grace something as festive as a crazy quilt but they nevertheless adorn the most famous and revered Hawaiian quilt ever made.

A traditional Hawaiian quilt features a symmetrical appliquéd design that radiates outward from a center point. This appliquéd design is traditionally all one piece, cut from fabric that is folded and refolded in the same manner children make snowflakes out of construction paper.

A traditional Hawaiian quilt is made with solid colored fabrics in bold, vibrant colors that represent the elements of nature indigenous to the islands. Native plants and animals are standard motifs.

The non-traditional Hawaiian quilt made by Queen Lili’uokalani during her captivity in the late 1800s doesn’t feature this bright, bold appliqué style at all, probably because she was imprisoned at her palace with little access to the large pieces of whole cloth needed to quilt in the traditional style.

The Queen’s Quilt, as this most famous Hawaiian quilt is now called, is a nine-paneled crazy quilt made from a wild assortment of shapes, colors, and fabrics. Measuring 97 inches by 95 inches, the quilt is said to be made from the queen’s own clothing and from the discarded clothing of her captors.

Stitched into the design of this Hawaiian quilt are symbols, messages, dates, and names that document the history of the queen’s life, making it a treasured historical artifact as well as a quilting marvel. It is believed Queen Lili’uokalani began a needlepoint project but, as her 10-month captivity drug on, it became a political statement as well as a means of passing the time.

It’s impossible to give a dollar value to this most famous Hawaiian quilt but a price tag of more than $100,000 has been suggested. The quilt is not for sale, however.

Instead, this exquisite Hawaiian quilt is on display inside a Plexiglass case in the same room Queen Lili’uokalani was imprisoned in the Iolani Palace, where it remains a treasured part of Hawaiian history.