I kēlā me kēia mana`o
By Leona Lueders
(The following arrived as an email written by Leona to her children “Kawika, Kapua, Kanoe, Konohiki and Kahiakala, their spouses or significant others and whoever who would understand my ramblings…”)
So I’m getting the courage to begin my first Hawaiian quilt that I’ll work on my own – lucky to have been taught by Grannie, as she learned from two very old friends in Wahiawā Ward (church) – Lizzie Nunes and her mother, Sister Ka`a`a, who was in her eighties. I remember that a bunch of the ladies in the ward were quite interested in the Hawaiian quilts. They would take their fabric and pattern to the ward building and spread everything out to begin each person’s quilt. Grannie’s was the white background with bright green `ulu leaf pattern. Grannie told me today that her `ulu quilt pattern was taken from the `ulu trees in the yard of the home we lived at in the 1950s on Ernest Street at the foot of Punchbowl! That means she put that pattern away until the time she was in Wahiawā and ready to quilt. I’m so glad I called her to talk about quilting and other things.
As I looked through the patterns that I have, it occurs to me that I got these at a quilting open house at the Wai`anae public library back in the ‘70s. I was with Puna and the Aunties, probably visiting Uncle Buster. As we were busy running around as we always did, we noticed a quilt show at the library. We hurried in and each of us ran off in different directions, to collect as much of the information as we could. I remember being so excited to get some patterns that were out for sharing with rolls of butcher paper and pencils for tracing. I have several patterns from that day. But somehow my stuff got with some of Grannie’s and a few years ago she was rummaging through some boxes in her garage and found them. These patterns have been waiting for a long time.
Although many people want a Hawaiian quilt (kapa kuiki,) not many want to go through the process of making one. Everything is done by hand, except for the joining of lengths of yardage together to get a piece large enough to cover a bed. Through the years I’ve practiced. As a young girl I helped Grannie to baste in the large snowflake-like pattern onto the top of the quilt. In Waimānalo I started several pillow tops. It has been good practice. It is also good to do this while Grannie lives so she can lead me through and give me some tips on how to proceed. I was about to pre-shrink the fabric when I called her and she told me to baste and appliqué everything before shrinking – it will all shrink at the same time and look like an old-fashioned quilt – WOW!!
Now I find myself hoarding those Jo Ann’s coupons. One went for the nine yards of navy background fabric, the way I see some of the ocean around Diamond Head; another coupon for nine yards of a print depicting the plant life for the top pattern. Although I still need to purchase another nine yards for backing the entire quilt, and then all the yards of batting, I find that I can begin now to work the top. I chose the Pua o Lē`ahi pattern, Lē`ahi being the Hawaiian name for Diamond Head . I don’t know how many quilts I will be able to do in my lifetime, especially with the other projects at hand, but, at least, this is a start. Maybe when I’m eighty years old I’ll still be quilting, who knows.
Grannie tells me that when she started quilting it was a joy. She was constantly at it and turning out a quilt every three to six months. I figure it will take me much longer. I will store all the patterns with notations of where they came from, should someone else in the family decide on a kapa kuiki. There is a time and a place for everything a person wants to do, and it has been a goal of mine – remember?? – quilt in the winter, ‘ukulele in the spring!!
Leona Lueders grew up in Wahiawā on O`ahu and graduated from Kamehameha in 1968. She moved to Washington in 1985 and works with special needs students at an elementary school. She’s also paddled on a canoe team and was a volunteer firefighter-EMT for five years. When she returns to Hawai`i , she visits the lo`i to pull taro and attends `ukulele building classes. She hopes to eventually write a book about Hana Buddah Dayz.
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