Home Quilting A Fast Historical past with Poakalani & Co.

A Fast Historical past with Poakalani & Co.


If it weren’t for the sheer distance from the “continent” to Kona or Kauai, much more fundamental­landers would most likely be making Hawaiian quilts. However right here on the “continent,” not less than 2,500 miles away, we frequently lack the publicity. Primarily based in Honolulu, Poakalani & Co. and its beautiful Hawaiian quilt patterns reveal simply how monumental this absence is in mainstream quilting.

The Historical past of Poakalani & Co.

The corporate is the life’s work of Poakalani and John Serrao. Each had been descended from quilters, and Poakalani was the granddaughter of a prolific Hawaiian quilt designer. After her grandmother’s dying in 1972, John tailored her bed-size quilt designs for smaller cushion and wall hanging patterns. He was the primary to take action, and the corporate was born.

Pele the Hearth Goddess, designed by John Serrao and quilted by Tomiko Okada

Finally, the Serraos discovered that these small patterns lent themselves higher to instructing Hawaiian quilting methods like symmetrical design, coloured stable on white background, needle-turn applique of a single piece of material, and echo quilting—not simply in comfort however in reducing the concern issue when it got here to tackling detailed handwork.

A whole lot of Quilts

After 5 many years of instructing lessons ($6 each Saturday at Honolulu’s Iolani Palace) and sustaining an lively designing presence even after Poakalani’s dying in 2012, the fruits of Poakalani & Co.’s labor come within the type of lots of of quilts personally and thoughtfully designed by John Serrao for his college students to assemble. Some are extra up to date, whereas others pay tribute to older shade mixtures and quilting strategies.

hawaiin quilting
Kukui Nut, designed by John Serrao, sewn by Doris Shibuya

A kukui nut quilt that John designed, constructed by Doris Shibuya of Honolulu, options darker colours and fewer distinction than the standard Hawaiian dark-on-light however is quilted in a crosshatch design. “This was a quilting model that was used again within the late Eighteen Nineties,” Cissy Serrao, John and Poakalani’s daughter, explains. “[It’s a] model of quilting that’s hardly ever used right now. Most quilters excellent the distinctive echo quilting model as an alternative.”

Extra Strategies

Extra iconic examples embrace Molokama, which depicts Kauai’s well-known mountain. In conventional dark-on-light, it was quilted by Lorraine Ichiyama however designed by Poakalani’s grandmother Caroline Correa previous to World Conflict II. One other, Pele the Hearth Goddess (designed by John Serrao and quilted by Tomiko Okada) “options conventional use of dark-on-light cloth, however [Okada] used a darker crimson thread [on the background] to indicate the eruption of Pele’s volcanic residence,” Cissy Serrao says. “The lehua flower, the designated flower of Hawaii Island, grows out of the barren land that Pele destroyed. Life continues.”

Hawaiin Quilting
Molokama, designed by Poakalani’s grandmother Caroline Correa, quilted by Lorraine Ichiyama

Whereas the same old strategies are what are taught and treasured—they’re, in any case, what has saved this custom alive for 150 years on these islands—new approaches can yield beautiful outcomes. Takako Jenkins, one in all Poakalani and Co.’s protégés, designed and constructed a Hawaiian quilt solely in reverse applique. Serrao explains that it’s “a brand new model of designing for Hawaiian quilters. The reverse appliqué was normally used on a extra traditional-style design to accent the quilt, however on this quilt it’s the dominant sample.”

Hawaiian Quilting
Reverse appliqué by Takako Jenkins

Serrao finally stresses that each one Hawaiian quilts, regardless of the method or method, basically inform a narrative. “It’s a very powerful side of Hawaiian quilting,” she insists. If that is true, then maybe the best story in Poakalani and John Serrao’s legacy is that this one: the gathering of quilts and the group of quilters they’ve nurtured alongside the best way. These new Hawaiian quilters present the promise that there are a lot of extra tales to be instructed and lots of extra classes to be taught.

Hawaiian Quilting Traditions

Listed below are some phrases of knowledge from Poakalani & Co. on creating and interacting with Hawaiin quilts.


Your first quilt is historically the ulu, or breadfruit, design. It’s believed that if you happen to quilt this Hawaiian staple first, you’ll all the time have meals in your house and never need for any of life’s requirements. (However if you happen to don’t just like the ulu, don’t make the ulu!)


By no means sit or lie on prime of a quilt. That is executed in respect of the quilter and all of her onerous work in finishing the quilt. If you wish to sit on the mattress, merely raise up the nook.


After the quilt is accomplished, sleep below it for one night time earlier than giving it away. That is to seal your love into the quilt.

As you possibly can see, these quilts transcend mere cloth and thread. They embody the spirit of Hawaii, telling tales of affection, heritage, and the enduring bond between individuals and their land. With every sew, the promise of many extra tales to be instructed and classes to be taught beckons us into the fascinating world of Hawaiian quilting.


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