The beginner’s guide to tivaevae terms

This week is Cook Islands Maori Language Week in New Zealand. In celebration, here are 7 Maori words or phrases relating to tivaevae.


The name for this art form is sometimes spelled ‘tivaivai,’ and the meaning of the word itself is “patchwork.”

Tivaevae ta’orei

tivaevae-taoreiThis is the patchwork style of tivaevae made from 1-inch squares of fabric, sewn onto a solid backing. With thousands of pieces necessary for one blanket, ta’orei quilts can take years to complete.

Tivaevae manu

tivaevae-manuProbably the most common type of tivaevae, this type of tivaevae features cut-out patterns sewn applique-style on to a solid color backing. Designs are cut out similar to paper snowflakes, by folding the fabric into quarters or eighths.

Tivaevae tataura

tivaevae-tatauraBoth tivaevae manu and tataura are made from cut-outs appliqued on a solid back. Tivaevae tataura also includes embroidery stitches used to embellish the design.

Tivaevae tuitui tataura

This last form of tivaevae is made from embroidered squares that are crocheted together to create the finished blanket.


An expert, skilled craftsman, one with special lore or skill.” So, an expert in the craft of tivaevae would be called tivaevae ta’unga.

Pange tivaevae

“The gathering of the mamas to do the tivaevae is called a pange tivaevae or literally ‘support tivaevae’. To that extent one can identify the social event as the work of the smallest unit in a village done by the women for the women. Everybody puts in the work together, to finish the communal project. Pange here refer to something to hold up or support the back of the quilt like the back cloth upon which the pieces after being stitched are sewn on as the pange or support.”

The description for pange tivaevae is from the Cook Islands Maori Database, which has an excellent article on tivaevae that goes into the village customs surrounding the making tivaevae as a group. The article is a worthwhile read and can be found here.

One of the things I appreciate about researching for this film is the automatic exposure to the Cook Islands language. I wish I could have studied Maori instead of Spanish in school!

Learn more about the Cook Islands language:

Melodie is the director and producer of Spirit of Tivaevae. Born in New Zealand to a Cook Islander father and American mother, Melodie was raised in the United States. Her family background gives her a unique perspective on being a Pacific Islander raised outside the culture.