Queen Lili'uokalani's Quilt

Queen Lili'uokalani's Quilt

This quilt is a political protest.

What would you do if you were sentenced to house arrest? As a crafter, you would no doubt spend a lot of time working on an incredibly intricate project. Surely there would be few better ways to pass the time. I suspect this is true of most crafters, and it is also true of Queen Lili'uokalani, the deposed Queen of Hawaii.
Queen Lili'uokalani was overthrown in 1893, her reign ended, and the Kingdom of Hawaii brought under rule of the American mainland. Queen Lili'uokalani herself was found guilty of treason as part of the resistance movement, and was sentenced to permanent house arrest in an upstairs bedroom of the Iolani Palace in Honolulu.
 
Queen Lili'uokalani had many artistic talents, including music composition (she composed and wrote a song that became a classic, "Aloha Oe"), writing, needlework and quilting. After being sentenced to house arrest she continued these activities, even though her resources were limited. And so she began making a quilt as both a political statement and a record of her imprisonment. 

The finished work is nearly square, 97 by 95 inches, in a traditional nine panel style. It is currently on display at the museum in Iolani Palace, although most visitors don't appreciate what it represents. An organization called Friends of Iolani Palace is working to raise funds to publish a book about the quilt, including color photos and information about each of the nine squares.
 
The quilt is made in a "crazy quilt" style, and made with rich fabrics including silk brocades and printed ribbon. Each of the nine panels features a crazy quilt composition, separated with strips of a dark brown fabric to bring the composition together.
 
The center panel is embroidered with the words "Imprisoned at Iolani Palace… We begin the quilt here…" It features "the Kalakaua coat of arms and framed by pairs of crossed Hawaiian flags," and details the events that led up to her imprisonment and Hawaii's political takeover. 
 
The quilt is made with fabric that appears to have come from her own wardrobe and that of her attendants. The pieces are appliquéd to a muslin background, exquisitely embroidered "in multicolored silk threads and further embellished with ink, painting, and a profusion of embroidered flora and fauna." The quilt also features "commemorative and patriotic ribbons and badges," as well as amazingly intricate embroidery throughout.
 
This moving piece of political history deserves its place in the sun. And long may it serve as inspiration to crafters everywhere!