Beginner's Guide to Hawaiian Quilts

Our quilt tech expert Sarah Griffiths shows you how to create your very own island-inspired designs.

How to make hawaiian quilts
Published: February 13, 2020 at 8:49 pm
Try 6 issues of Love Patchwork & Quilting magazine for £9.99

Hawaiian quilts began life when natives combined traditional patchwork skills brought over by missionaries with their own traditional techniques to create motifs inspired by their beautiful surroundings. In this essential guide we'll talk you through how to get the look in your own quilts.


This Quilt School post was first published in Love Patchwork & Quilting magazine

Your complete guide to making Hawaiian quilts

Step 1

Fold a square of fabric for the appliqué in half (a), and in half again to form a square (b). The square will have two raw edges and two folded edges. Bring the two folded edges together to form a triangle (c) and press. All the raw edges of your fabric should now be along one edge of your triangle.

How to make hawaiian quilts diagram

Step 2

Trace your pattern onto a piece of card and cut out. Line up the pattern with the corner of your fabric. Make sure the edges match up with the folds exactly and trace around your template. Pin the layers together, then carefully cut along your drawn line through all your layers. If you find it difficult at sharp corners, go back and neaten with a small pair of scissors after cutting the main shape. Remove any template marks and unfold your appliqué.

Step 2: Trace the template on to your folded fabric
Step 2

Step 3

Fold a square of background fabric the same way you folded your appliqué fabric in step one. Press lightly and unfold. Centre your appliqué piece on the background fabric, carefully matching up the fold lines and pin in place. Baste in place ¼in from the edge.

More like this
Match up the fold lines and pin in place
Step 3

Free Hawaiian Quilt Pattern

We love Jo Avery's Tropical Crush cushion pattern  from our 50th issue of Love Patchwork & Quilting magazine – the colours are perfect for summer! We're planning on making a cute coordinating pair, so we have a second free appliqué template for you to download for free – download our Free Hawaiian quilt pattern here.
Free hawaiian quilt pattern

Step 4

When stitching your appliqué in place, you want to achieve nearly invisible stitches. Choose a thread colour that matches your appliqué piece. We’ve used a contrasting thread so it’s easier for you to see the stitches!

Bring up your needle 1/8in from the raw edge of your appliqué. Turn the fabric ahead under, using your needle, to meet your basting stitches. Turn under only about an inch at a time. Use the thumb of your non-stitching hand to hold down the turned fabric
while you’re stitching.

Pulling your stitches tight will help roll the fabric under, which also helps hide the stitches.
Pulling your stitches tight will help roll the fabric under, which also helps hide the stitches.

Bring your needle back down into the background fabric, directly opposite from where you came up. Take a small stitch and bring your needle up again at the edge of the folded fabric.

Step 5

When stitching outer curves, there is no need to clip the fabric. Simply smooth the edges under and make your stitches slightly closer together.

For inner curves, make small clips in the seam allowance, a bit less than 1/8in. For sharp ‘V’ shape curves, make one straight clip, ending 2–3 threads outside your basting stitches. Ease under your fabric edges and stitch very closely at the point.

Step 3: Match up the fold lines and pin in place


Straw needles are perfect for appliqué. The eye of the needle is stamped into the shank, so the eye glides through the fabric as you stitch. The long, flexible size 10 or 11 will help you create fine stitches, nearly invisible to the eye. I love Jeana Kimball’s Foxglove Cottage straw needles. Pick up a sampler card, to find the right size for you.

Step 6

To create a sharp point, stitch up to the tip of the point on one side. Turn the point under, straight across and flatten with your thumb. Take another stitch, almost on top of your previous one, pulling tight. Fold under the remaining side and continue stitching.

How to make hawaiian quilts step 6

Step 7

Once you’ve stitched all the way around your appliqué piece, remove your basting stitches and press well. Layer with a piece of batting and backing and quilt as desired. Hawaiian quilts traditionally feature echo quilting around the central motif, and sometimes include leaf details over the appliqué.

How to make hawaiian quilts step 7

Creating your own design

  • You can easily create your own design for Hawaiian quilting. It’s kind of like making a paper snowflake. Fold a square of paper as you would your fabric (Step 1) and make cuts through all the layers, keeping at least part of each folded edge of the triangle in tact. Experiment until you find a design you love.
  • Fold the paper back into it’s triangle form, and trace onto a triangular piece of card. Add a 1/8in seam allowance outside your lines, easing into any ‘V’ cuts, and cut out to create your own template.
Test designs on paper before cutting fabric

Free Hawaiian quilt pattern – Folded Flora

Pair hot and cold colours for a tropical mini quilt with traditional roots…

Free hawaiian quilt pattern

You will need

Fabrics Used

  • Bella Solids by Moda in Mango.
  • Quilter’s Basic Solid by Stof in Aqua.

Finished Size

  • 18in square

Cutting out

Step 1

Cut your background fabric into two 18in squares and two 4in squares. Also cut two 2½in strips, for binding.

Step 2

Create a quilted Hawaiian appliqué block following steps 1–7 above, using your appliqué fabric and 18in background squares. You can use the template included, or create your own. Square up your block.

Step 3

Fold your remaining background squares in half diagonally. Line up the raw edges in the top two corners of the reverse of your block and baste in place. This will create two ‘pockets’ for your dowel to hang your block.

Step 4

Join your binding strips with a diagonal seam and press in half. Use to bind the edges of your block.


Step 5

Insert your dowel in the fabric ‘pockets’ and hang.


Sarah GriffithsSenior Technical Editor, Love Patchwork & Quilting magazine

Sarah is our resident tech-expert, as at home whipping up quilt samples as she is tackling complex quilt-math with the aid of her trusty calculator, so she’s an essential part of Love Patchwork & Quilting team! She’s got a fabric stash that any quilter would envy (and yes, it’s a stash – not a hoard!) and an almost indecent number of projects on the go at any one time. She’ll often bring finished projects into work and wow the team with her sewing skills. Sarah’s our in-house American, originally from Ohio, she loves a good cup of tea (spearmint’s her favourite) and comes from a long tradition of family quilters. Find her on Instagram @spindleandshears

Comments, questions and tips

Rate this recipe

What is your star rating out of 5?

Choose the type of message you'd like to post

Choose the type of message you'd like to post

Overall rating


Sponsored content