Island works through night on quilts

Friday June 28, 2019 Written by Published in Outer Islands
Teacher Maora Murare (left) and Christine John look over their handiwork. 19062601 Teacher Maora Murare (left) and Christine John look over their handiwork. 19062601

There were sleepless nights to complete more than 30 tivaivai tui auri in four days – but it was well worth the time and dedication.


Teau Vainetini, a women’s group from Vaka Puaikura on Rarotonga, spent a week on the island of Nukuroa (Mitiaro) demonstrating the art of tivaivai tui auri.

Forty local women attended the workshop to learn how to make the intricate patchwork quilts.

Due to the short timeframe – Monday to Thursday – the women sewed in shifts until the early dawn, determined to complete the treasured patterns to be displayed on the last day.

Tivaivai is an art form traditionally done by women, in groups called vainetini. The creations are highly sought after and passed on through generations, and are usually seen at ceremonial occasions. Tivaivai Tui Auri uses sewing machines to join the patches together, but these can also be sewed by hand.

Nearly the entire island population got involved.

Wives were delighted when their husbands also took part in the workshop, each man finishing a set of block print painted bed sheets with no trouble.

Vaine Teokoitu from Puaikura said although there were long hours of sewing until the early hours to ensure the quilts were done by Friday. “It was a good feeling, the people were keen to learn and supportive and we were well looked after.”

“We felt blessed, we felt so welcome and enjoyed the time being together, talking about life, and sewing.”

The hardest part of this art is making the patterns, it was good to have Annie Taio with us who is very skilled.”

Teokoitu was impressed with the skills of the school students, “they were quick to learn, they listened and you could see they were very proud to actually make one of their own.”

The vainetini took with them two block print boards with both sides covered, four sewing machines, material, cotton and sewing tools.

Violet Tisam, who also travelled with the group, said:  “The Mama’s were so proud of the outcome of their hard work, the choices of materials, cutting, sewing, the laying out of the patterns and putting them all together for the final sewing.

“The last part was to attach the finished patches to its base to achieve the finished product. It was great to see the satisfaction on each of their faces.”

A mad rush on the last day to finish the covers for the display was celebrated and attended by the island, including Tou Ariki.

The members of Teau Vainetini are: Tinomana Tokerau Ariki (Tokerau Munro), Mataa Dean, Vaine Teokoiti, Tapu Munro, Moeroa Napara, Annie Taio, Mata Kelly, Lina Le Grice, Naomi Nena, Violet Tisam, Nana Munro, Debbie Touariki and Janet Mataora.

The women were happy to share their knowledge of patch work quilting (tui auri) with the women on the island and would like to thank the New Zealand High Commission for their sponsorship.

Leave a comment