How To Make a Lei
When I was a kid, I enjoyed spending time at the neighbor's house, where I was usually drafted to make a lei or two. Idle hands were simply not tolerated, especially when you could be making use of all those flowers blooming in the backyard. When I left home, my neighbor gave me several lei making needles to take with me, "just in case."
Lei making is largely about having the right materials at hand. To make a simple single-strand lei, you will need:
- Lei-making needle, about 12" to 18" in length
- Fishing line, lightweight, no more than 4lb test (or use dental floss)
- 25-50 flower blooms (such as plumeria, alstromeria, orchid, carnation)
Lei making needles are nothing more than a length of steel with a point ground onto one end, and an eye turned on the other. If you don't have a lei-making needle, you could try a doll-making needle, but they tend to be heavy and sometimes the flowers fall apart. You could always experiment, of course. Alternatively, you could take a 12" length of stiff wire and fashion your own lei-needle. The lei needle has some flex to it, but it is stiff.
Making the Lei
Start by cutting a length of fishing line or dental floss, about 60". Thread the lei needle so that you have about 12" of line on the short end and the rest (around 48") on the other. I don't put a knot in the long end, but you can if you'd like. If you do, tie the knot so that you have a tail of about 8" on the long end, so that you can tie the lei when you're done.
Take your first bloom and check the bottom of it. Some blooms, such as some orchids, will fall apart if you pierce it straight through it's center. In the alstromerias that I used, I pierced it off-bottom slightly, then ran the needle through the inside of the bloom. The flower stays intact this way, plus, as I add more flowers, each nests into the previous, hiding the green stem.
When you have about 6" or so of flowers on your needle, gently push them down (one at a time) the length of the fishing line or floss. Remember to stop about 8-10" away from the end, so that you have room to tie off the lei when you are done.
Occasionally check the length of your lei. Your finished length should be around 36" -40". Tie the finished lei with a square knot.
Lei making is a fun activity to do on a warm summer night, when your garden is in full bloom. It's also a great bridal shower or pre-graduation activity. Florists can advise you on how to order large quantities of orchid blossoms, carnation blossoms, or even rose buds. Or better yet, start growing a lei garden, filled with plumeria, tuberose, carnations, and roses.
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