Activity for ‘A Quilt for Kiri’

A Quilt for Kiri

by Don Long

This is a reader in the Ready to Read series which is set in New Zealand. Kiri’s grandmother lives in the Cook Islands, and Kiri is devastated when she learns that her grandmother has died. When she receives a parcel in the post a few months later, Kiri is delighted to find her grandmother’s old quilt. She and her mother lovingly mend and wash the quilt, and it helps her and her father to remember grandmother and share special memories together.

This book was nominated because of its themes of family and Pasifika artwork. It also highlights a common occurrence for many Pasifika New Zealanders – having grandparents who live away from New Zealand.

Activity: A CLASS TIVAEVAE (The Arts)

Curriculum Level 1 & 2(see curriculum links at the end of the activity)

NZC Key Competencies

  • thinking
  • using language, symbols and text
  • participating and contributing
  • relating to others
  • managing self


 In this story, Kiri is sent her Grandma’s old quilt from the Pacific Island where she lived. The images on the quilt, of bright flowers and leaf patterns, are reflective of the Pasifika style.In the Cook Islands, the art of quilt making is known as ‘tivaevae’. Each finished piece is considered extremely valuable – not in a monetary sense, but as something from the heart.Wikipedia describes tivaevaeas:Tivaevae or tivaivai (Cook Islands Māori: tīvaevae) in the Cook Islands, tifaifai in French Polynesia, is a form of art at which Polynesian women excel. Tivaevae means to stitch or sew and Cook Islands women make magnificent bed covers called tivaevae. The tivaevae are either made by one woman or can be created in groups of women called vainetini. The vainetiniuse this time together to bond, sing and catch up on village news.By custom, a tivaevae is not measured by monetary value nor production cost. Its value is said to be reflected by the love and patience that the creator(s) have put into making a stunning work of art. Cook Islands women often described their tivaevae as being “something from the heart.”Tivaevae are often given on very special occasions either to important visitors, as birthday and wedding gifts or used to cover the body of a loved one who has died. They are often displayed during important events like the traditional boys’ hair cutting ceremonies, birthdays and weddings.The tivaevae’s origins are uncertain. Rongokea (1992) believes it to be an imported art form, and cites two sets of Christian missionaries in the 19th century as possible origins.

It is widely believed that while the Cook Islands women may have gotten the idea of making quilts from early Christian women, they have taken it to extraordinary heights and developed it into a unique artform that is beautiful to behold.


In this activity, children each create their own ‘square’ of quilt, which will be sewn together into a large class tivaevae.

1.     Talk about the quilt in the story and identify the patterns and shapes that can be seen. Children should be given time to practice drawing the leaf and flower shapes, like those on Kiri’s grandma’s quilt. They may also adapt their ideas to create their own leaf and flower designs.

2.     When they have decided on a design they like, provide them with a paper square the same size as their quilt square will be. Draw the design – keep shapes large and simple.

3.     Choose a square of material in a ‘base’ colour. Then choose some fabric in colours for drawing and cutting out leaf and flower shapes.

  • children may need help with cutting fabric shapes

4.     Arrange shapes on the ‘base’ square and stitch into place using wool and big stitches

  • children may need practice with stitching using a needle, if they have not done this before

When all the squares are complete, ask a parent to sew them all together to create a ‘class’ tivaevae for display on the wall.

Traditional tivaevae images:


  • paper for creating designs
  • material in different colours, cut into squares of the same size
  • lots of material in a variety of colours, for flowers and leaves
  • thick needles
  • wool or thick thread for stitching
Curriculum Links Visual Art

  • Share ideas about how and why their own and others’ works are made and their purpose, value and context (Level 1 & 2)
  • explore a variety of materials and tools and discover elements and selected principles (Level 1 & 2)
  • investigate visual ideas in response to a variety of motivations, observation, and imagination (Level 1)
  • share the ideas, feelings and stories communicated by their own and others’ objects and images (Level 1 & 2)
  • investigate and develop visual ideas in response to a variety of motivations, observation and imagination (Level 2)
Applications for Level 3 and above  At Level 3, children could be involved in researching other Pasifika icons, and create quilt squares featuring these icons, which could be sewn together to create a large class ‘Pasifika’ quilt.

Other Ideas

  • talking and writing about losing a loved one, and how special things (like Kiri’s grandma’s tivaevae) can help us to remember them (English)