inspired by


Crafting Tongan Style

My husband comes from the Island Kingdom of Tonga.

First question: where’s Tonga?

It’s a tiny little group of islands in the South Pacific—north of New Zealand and east of Fiji.

Second question: why is it an “island kingdom”?

Tonga is actually still ruled by a king—King Tupou VI—and is the last remaining monarch in the South Pacific today.

Crafting is a large part of the Tongan culture. If you were to go to a Tongan wedding, you would see an abundance of woven mats, Tapa cloth (cloth created from the bark of the mulberry tree and decorated with paint made from the koka tree), and quilts, as well as elaborate costumes worn by young women and men performing traditional Tongan dances.

My husband actually is well known in the local Tongan community for composing cultural dances, as well as creating dance costumes. In creating costumes, he’ll often use tapa, seashells, coconut fibers, and shells (no, he does not make coconut shell bras!), ti plant leaves, pandanus tree leaves, and myriad other natural products.

This photo features the top of a costume for a young girl; the base is made of tapa cloth. He decorated it with pieces of tapa that he cut into leaf shapes, as well as fibers that he twisted into little cones (sorry; the pic isn’t great!). My mother-in-law recently took a mat that had been woven by someone else and incorporated colorful yarn into its borders. Weaving is certainly not a lost art form for the Tongan people. I’ve witnessed my husband braid Ti plant leaves for costume decorations, as well as for leis. He held the end of the leaves between his toes and braided up.

Interestingly enough, when I showed my husband MDS, he jumped right onto it and started playing around. He loves creating in all forms! The need for creative expression is definitely not unique to one culture, one demographic, one sex—it’s universal, which is what makes what we do at Stampin’ Up! so exciting.

Kimberly F.
Sr. Writer/Editor


  • Kimberley Morris

    Feb 06

    Cool--my son was born in Hawaii and a Tongan family from church made a tapa cloth blanket for him :-) Neatest baby gift ever!