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Quilt, Appliqued Hawaiian

1950-1975
Origin: Hawaiian Islands
Overall: 83 1/2 x 85 1/2in. Textile widths about 30 1/2" as drawn up in quilting.
Cotton (confirmed by microscope 12/7/2011)
Museum Purchase, Dr. and Mrs. T. Marshall Hahn, Jr. Fund
Acc. No. 2011.609.6
Red and white quilt, almost square with rounded corners, appliquéd in the Hawaiian style with red cut fabric in a large-scale overall design of scrolling leaves and flowers with a strong diagonal X running from corner to corner, the design called "Popo Lehua O Pane'ewa". The bedcover is quilted with contour quilting using white cotton thread in 6 running stitches per inch through cotton batting. The quilt is backed with the same white cotton textile as that used on the front.
Label:This striking quilt is appliquéd in the Hawaiian style with solid-red cotton cut in a large-scale overall symmetrical design called Popo Lehua O Pana‘ewa, depicting the tropical flower Ixora casei. Typical of Hawaiian products, the quilting is worked in concentric lines of stitching that follow the outline of the appliquéd motif, a technique called contour quilting.

Although women in Hawaii have quilted in a number of styles, the classic Hawaiian quilt is unmistakable in appearance. It usually consisted of a single large symmetrical design of a tropical flower or foliage appliqued to the surface of the quilt. The appliqué was formed by folding a large piece of textile into fourths or eighths and cutting a preplanned design through all the layers, not unlike cutting a paper snowflake. The most typical color scheme consists of two solid colors, like this red on white example.

Hawaiian quilts developed around the middle of the nineteenth century, probably inspired by album quilts with symmetrical folded-and-cut paper patterns that were fashionable on the mainland in the 1840s and 1850s. Although the concept of using folded paper or textiles to create appliqué patterns may have come from outside, Hawaiian women themselves adapted the technique and made it uniquely theirs by greatly enlarging the scale and selecting designs inspired by tropical plants.

Provenance:The quilt was purchased on the mainland. The name "Grewell" is inked in a corner of the backing. Although there is no firm provenance, records show that a woman named Jean Farriel Grewell, resident of Hawaii, married Colorado resident Daniel Edward Leemaster on 3 September, 1972. In another record, Bess Grewell from Illinois sailed for Honolulu in April of 1951.
The maker of the quilt is unidentified.