Photos By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin

Lee Wild shows a pattern by the late master quilter,
Meali'i Kalama. Below, a quilt on display this weekend.

Stitches in Time

One of the goals of the
Hawaiian quilting festival this weekend is
to perpetuate the cultural art form

By Catherine Kekoa Enomoto

IT'S a quilting bee to beat the band. This weekend's inaugural Hawaiian Quilt Festival at Blaisdell Center offers a patchwork of activities.

Displays, exhibits, demonstrations, lectures, workshops, a marketplace and hands-on practice cover each step in the quilting process - pattern tracing, cutting, laying out, pinning, basting, hemming or appliqueing, and quilting.

"We'll have old quilt patterns and dressmaker's tracing paper for purchase at $2 for a two-yard sheet," said Augusta-Helen "Aunty Gussie" Bento, president of the Hawaiian Quilt Research Project and co-chair of the three-day festival. "It's enough to trace one large quilt design and a couple of small designs. The patterns themselves stretch out to 40 or 48 inches."

Bento said different quilt patterns will be available Saturday and Sunday, plus pencils for general use.

"Then, people will be able to quilt on a horse that's there for community quilting," she said.

Oahu and neighbor island quilters will lead workshops, such as stencils, Hawaiian tropical placemats, Hawaiian quilt pillow, miniature Hawaiian quilt, and designing a Hawaiian quilt. Cost will range from $26.50 to $75.

Co-chair Elaine Zinn said festival goals are three-fold - "to help the public understand what the Hawaiian Quilt Research Project is about, to perpetuate the art of Hawaiian quilting so that it continues to grow, and to let people know how to take care of their quilts, because our environment and insects are so threatening to textiles."

The 16-year Research Project has documented and registered more than 900 quilts and 700 quilt patterns on all islands. People will be able to sign up at the festival for future registries.

"The project is important to preserve the history of Hawaiian quilts," said Zinn, who produced the 13-part public television "Hawaiian Quilting" series, "and to preserve the actual quilts that are still with us, so they will last a few more generations. They are very precious."

"It was the greatest show of friendship to share one's quilt patterns," said Elizabeth Akana, who can conjure a genteel picture of tutu (grandmothers) with flowers in their hair, gathered on a porch to share snitches of gossip and stitches of colorful threads.

"The quilts are enlightening us about our history and bringing about a love of history, because when you're dealing with a quilt you've got to have love in your heart," Akana said.

Meanwhile, people can take their own paper and pencil, and trace quilt patterns at Waianae Library, which has a prodigious collection of 400 patterns, with more patterns yet available at Kailua Library and Brigham Young University-Hawaii collections.

Akana said of Hawaii's unique quilting process and product: "We're looking at love in fabric and thread."

Historical threads

Event: Hawaiian Quilt Festival
Place: Blaisdell Center
Times: "Preview" 5:30 to 9 p.m. Friday, festival 9a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
Admission: $15 for Friday preview; $5 Saturday and Sunday; $20 special festival package.
Information: 239-9766

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