For quilt collectors and those who love graphic decor items, a true Hawaiian quilt is a valuable art piece. Authentic pieces can run hundreds of dollars, which is why making reproduction Hawaiian quilts is such a big business. If you just love the design, it probably doesn't make much difference to you, but if you want to invest in the history and master craftsmanship of a traditional Hawaiian quilt, do some investigating before pulling out your wallet.
Are you buying the quilt from an individual seller, or is it being sold from a catalog or in a store? If you can buy multiple copies of the same quilt, you're not dealing with an authentic antique. You're better off buying a Hawaiian quilt from an individual buyer—that way you can ask questions about the quilt's history. If the owner doesn't know anything about the quilt or refuses to answer questions, investigate further, but be wary.
Look at the Construction
Does the quilt look mass produced? If the seams are perfectly even, with stitches that are all the same exact length, you're probably dealing with a factory-made item. Many of these are made with cotton/polyester blends instead of 100 percent cotton. Can you find a tag on the back of the quilt or quilted piece? That's a sure sign of a mass-produced quilt.
Check Out the Design
Original Hawaiian quilts made by creative quilters have a few things in common. Certain motifs run through the art, such as coconut palms, palm fronds, and hibiscus flowers. The design is based on the fabric being cut much like you cut a paper snowflake when you were a child. Mass-produced quilts have very simple designs with basic details, where a handmade true Hawaiian quilt has deep cuts, intricate detail, and an almost puzzle-like design with identifiable objects hidden in the pattern.
What Is the Difference?
Why should you care where your quilt is made? If you're looking for a beautiful design, you might think it doesn't matter, as long as you like the design. It depends on how you plan to use the quilt, mostly. If it's for a child's bedroom, go with the factory item, since it will get well-used anyway. Quilts for guest rooms can be either one, since they won't be worn out as much over time. If you're looking for the highest quality, however, you've got a better chance of getting in with a traditional, handmade quilt. You can find examples of fine workmanship in quilts made in the Philippines or other craft-producing areas, but you'll have to inspect them more carefully just to be sure of the quality.