KAPAA — As she begins sewing with two small pieces of fabric, Kapaa resident Maile Kinimaka says she feels God with her as she brings the cloth together.
And the finished product, which she gives away, she calls “Jesus quilts” in honor of the muse behind the craft she loves.
“It was an idea that God gave me,” Kinimaka said about why she’s devoted her life to her quilts. “We, as seniors, we need to keep busy and I thought, ‘Why not start making something to bless people?’”
A member of the Way of Salvation Church, the quilt maker has created 42 quilts for church events such as Father’s Day and Christmas and presents them to children and adults alike.
Having lived on Kauai for nearly 25 years, the Kinimaka has created close to 800 of her blankets. Although they weren’t originally for sale, many people saw beauty in Kinimaka’s designs and offered to purchase them.
Kinimaka has received over 500 cards from people who have received her blankets.
“A lot of labor of love, that’s why I call them my Jesus blankets,” the 75-year-old said. “I have a lot of love that goes into my blankets.”
Her mother instilled in her the passion for creating colorful quilts. But Kinimaka ramped up her sewing when she retired and moved to Kauai in 1992. Her stay was short lived. Kinimaka moved back to Oahu after Hurricane Iniki ripped through Kauai on Sept. 11 of that year and stayed with her mother and daughter until the devastation had been cleared.
After Kinimaka moved back to Kauai, she moved into an apartment with her children and continued to create her quilts.
And she’s still going strong. Kinimaka, who was featured in The Garden Island last year, said she’s also up for selling the blankets, too. She has 11 left for people who do want to purchase one in time for Mother’s Day, May 10.
Kinimaka has also traveled to 14 Pentecostal churches across the U.S and has created quilts for baby showers in addition to blankets for the parishes. She prays over and anoints each blanket.
Kinimaka said she found God in 1979 when she worked for the Hawaii State Prison, now known as the Oahu Community Correctional Center, and met an inmate who worked in the chapel of the penitentiary, who told her the badge she was wearing as a correction’s office wouldn’t allow her to get into heaven and that she would need Jesus in order to do so.
Kinimaka has worked in the movie industry performing in shows such as Hawaii Five-0 and played the maid of the character Higgins in the TV series Magnum P.I. However, Kinimaka feels most content living on Kauai and creating quilts.
“I love just to bless people with blankets,” she said.