Showcasing Hawaii’s Distinctive Quilts

Outrigger, Mission Houses Museum team up to share culture

By: Dawna Robertson


Supporters of arts and culture, and quilters in particular, will have an opportunity to enhance their Oahu visit with an educational experience revolving around Hawaii’s distinctive quilting heritage.

Between Oct. 14-Feb. 4, the Mission Houses Museum will showcase Hooulu i ka Nani, Breadfruit Quilts of Hawaii. This special display of handmade historic and contemporary quilts features one of the most important plants in Hawaiian history, the ulu (breadfruit) tree. In conjunction with this exhibit, the Outrigger Reef on the Beach will hold a two-day quilt design workshop Oct. 20-21, as well as a free Hawaiian quilt exhibit and demonstration.

The quilt design workshop will be led by John Serrao of Poakalani Hawaiian Quilt Designs, one of the islands’ foremost quilt designers. A descendent of quilters, Serrao has authored four books and taught numerous classes on Hawaiian quilting. During the workshop, the Outrigger Reef on the Beach will also exhibit a collection of Hawaiian quilts, open and free to the public.

Quilting was introduced to Hawaii by American missionaries in the early 1800s, and subsequently evolved into its own distinctive art form prized for its intricate and creative designs. Cherished as family heirlooms, Hawaiian quilts are sewn from patterns that are traditionally inspired by nature, such as breadfruit and ginger plants. However, according to Poakalani’s Cissy Serrao, what makes Hawaiian quilting truly distinctive is the story behind every quilt.

“There are many commercial patterns that are available to quilters, but for a special quilt, it’s important to design your own, to start your own tradition,” explained Serrao.

The quilt design workshop fee is $125 per person, and attendees staying at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach will receive a free autographed quilt book. To sign up, have your Oahu-bound clients visit, call Poakalani at 808-521-1568 or e-mail Cissy Serrao at Space is limited.

The Mission Houses Museum’s Hooulu i ka Nani display will include about two dozen, handmade quilts some of which are more than a century old. Art, legends and recipes using breadfruit will also be featured. Many of the quilts are from the private collections of individuals and other museums in Hawaii.

Admission to the museum’s quilt exhibit is $5 per person. The museum is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

For rates and packages available during the program, contact the Outrigger Reef on the Beach.


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