Forbes Quilt Project

Breathing New Life into a Historic Quilt
a project supported by the Hawai`i Council for the Humanities and the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Hawai`i

Historic quilts like most objects deteriorate with time and use. The quilts in Hawaiian Mission Houses' permanent collection are no exception. So, when the Colonial Dames approached the museum to discuss the potential conservation of a quilt they had seen in the museum's 2008 exhibition, Fundamental Fiber: Lauhala,Tapa & Quilts exhibition, the museum was very pleased. It presented the museum with a wonderful opportunity to not only preserve a quilt that deserved some TLC but to also provided museum and quilt historians with an opportunity to further study the Forbes Quilt and its importance in quilt history. By providing the additional funding necessary, the Hawai`i Council for the Humanities insured that the museum could look at this project as a pilot for future quilt restorations.

Textile Conservator, Linda Hee was chosen to work with the quilt. Her first act was to photograph the Forbes quilt to document it. She then began the work that would stabilize the object. Areas of fabric that had extensive losses (holes or tears) where covered with yellow nylon netting to hold the remaining fabric in place. Smaller tears and holes on the white fabric of the quilt's face were repaired with cross stitching,similar in style to original repairs on the quilt. Hee then protected the extensive wear on the red piped border by covering the fabric with a finered nylon netting. Finally the quilt was wet cleaned releasing dirt, mildew and moth ball odor. Hee treated the quilt with a hydrogen peroxide solution to reduce the brown discoloration on the white fabric. Though not 100% successful, this treatment did reduce the intensity of the brown spotting significantly.

                          Before                                                          After

Click here for more before and after photos!

Hawaiian Mission Houses is fortunate to have a strong collection of quilts showcasing both Western and Hawaiian quilting traditions. The museum's collection reflects the early American quilting traditions (patchwork, embroidered and applique) the missionaries brought with them from New England in 1820. The collection also reflects the evolution of changing quilt styles in Hawai'i from traditional New England quilts to a style uniquely Hawaiian and even a few quilts in between the two.

Essay: The Forbes Quilt and its Hawaiian Context, by Linda Boynton Arthur, PhD.