Easy Machine Stitched Hawaiian Style Appliqué technique

Hawaiian appliqué is traditionally hand stitched and needle turned form of applique using large, radially symmetrical, natural designs and forms. It speaks of the natural landscape where it originates from, and a shared love of the islands. Certain features mark a design as typically Hawaiian, and one is the large central shape which is symmetrical along a number of plains, the echo stitching inside and outside the design, and the bold single colour design (though sometimes additional colour accents may be added). 

Traditional Hawaiian applique is created using a needle turned hand sewing method, but this  method uses your sewing machine and a standard sewing foot to produce fast, effective results.


  • 1/2m HeatnBond
  • 1/4 m black or white fabric
  • 1/4 m contrast
  • backing and wadding to fit

In the 1820’s it is believed that missionaries first introduced the Hawaiians to quilting, though they had obviously been working with fabrics before then. Fabric was hard to come by and so by the 1870s, the Hawaiians had developed a very unique and distinctive style, sometimes using just two pieces of fabric. Typically one brightly coloured fabric is used for the large applique piece and a white or cream fabric (usually made from a bedsheet) was used for the background. Additional pops of colour are sometimes added.

Because the islands are so isolated and therefore fabric was hard to come by, the tradition palette was quite simple, resulting in a bold and easily recognisable quilt. The applique piece fills the entire quilt top and is cut from a single piece of fabric, in a similar way to how we would cut out a paper snowflake.


Cut your Bondaweb into a square and fold into 4 quarters. Then fold that quarter in half to create a triangle.

Draw a pattern! The pattern needs to touch both sides of the folded paper and radiate from the centre point. Fluid lines are good because natural forms are a firm Hawaiian favourite and keep it simple. 

Tips – keep your design simple. Too many nicks and bends can make your piece tricky to stitch once you have opened it out. Remember that you need to manoeuvre your sewing machine around the edges of your applique and very tight detail can make it time consuming.


Cut put the shape and open it out to see your completed shape.

Place the Bondaweb with the glue side down onto the back of your applique fabric. Press until the iron on adhesive is fully stuck and cut along the drawn line. Remove the paper backing and place onto the background fabric. Press to stick.

Choose a stitch to permanently attach the applique, choose an appropriate stitch.

Tip – I complete this stage before adding the wadding and the backing because the back or a zigzag or a satin stitch isn’t the most attractive stitch ever. The Bondaweb is thick enough to act as a stabiliser so you don’t need to worry.


Tip - You can do a running stitch in a matching colour, or a blanket stitch, a zigzag or a satin stitch. It is up to you. Slowly stitch all the way around the edge of the applique.

Another feature of Hawaiian quilting is the multiple lines of quilting echoing inside and outside the template edges. This is most effective once the panel is layered with wadding and a backing. 


Tip – make sure your fabrics are firmly basted together because the multiple lines of quilting can lead to puckering if the layers move.

Use the edge of your foot to keep an even distance from the previous line of stitching/ edge of the fabric. This is called echo stitching.

Tip – Use a walking foot for this stage if you have one as it stops the layers moving as you sew around the shape. If the pieces move, you will end up with a lumpy bit when both ends of you echo stitching meet.

Now use your block to create a unique work of art!


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