How to Make a Flower Lei
The flower garland, or lei, is a traditional gift in Hawaii. Although most commonly associated with welcome ceremonies, people in Hawaii give lei as a tokens of affection for many different special occasions. May Day (May 1st) is "Lei Day" in Hawaii. Residents celebrate by wearing, and sharing, the beautiful floral necklaces throughout the day.
Perhaps the largest display of exquisite lei is during graduation. The Hawaii graduate is usually covered in lei by their family members and friends after the graduation ceremony. While some of these garlands are made of cloth, candy, kukui nuts, and even money, my favorite lei were always the ones made from fragrant flowers.
A lei is a special gift because...
- It is made with love
- It is always presented with smile, a kiss, and/or a hug ;)
- It signifies that the wearer should be honored
Here's how to make one:
Pick Your Flowers
You can make a lei out of any sturdy blossom, however, be careful not to use any flower or plant that is toxic or harmful. Make sure to bring a bag, basket, or something easy to carry so that you have something to store your flowers in. If you are harvesting from the branches of a tree, I recommend having someone with you as a safety precaution. Do not climb on weak branches and never aim for flowers that are dangerous to reach. Also, try to be as delicate as possible when picking the flowers- you don't want to brake branches or injure the tree!! Finally, make sure to rinse the blossoms off carefully and thoroughly before use. This will ensure that you remove any insects or sap residue.
To make the example lei for this hub, I picked puakenikeni blossoms off of the tree in my backyard. In the late 1800s & early 1900s, puakenikeni lei were sold at the docks for a dime each. Hence, it is also known as the "ten-cent flower." These sweetly-scented blossoms display a variety off-white to golden-orange tones depending on their age. I also picked some leaves off of the hanging plant in my garden to add a hint of green to my lei. Mixing and matching different colors and materials (leaves, buds, etc.) helps to create a beautifully-unique design!
You Will Need...
Rinsed flowers (35+ blossoms)
A sturdy (hard) bud or flower pod
A lei needle or thin sewing needle
Non-waxed/unscented dental floss (approx. 52 in.)
A bow or ribbon
Measure your floss. The ideal length for a lei, from end to end, is about 48 inches. This length will create a large lei that will hang nicely. However, you can make smaller lei as well. Just remember- regardless of what length you choose, always leave an extra inch or two on each end for tying!
Create a small loop at the end of the dental floss and tie a knot (leaving the loop intact). This will be your connecting piece for the other end of the lei.
Thread the looped end onto the needle.
Tie a large knot in the other (bottom) end of the floss. You may have to knot it several times to get the desired thickness you want.
Before adding any flowers, string on a sturdy bud and push it down to secure the bottom end.
Begin to add your flowers and foliage in the pattern of your choosing. Different patterns and positions will create a wide variety styles and effects. The more blossoms you have, the more elaborate your design can be.
Continue stringing on the flower/foliage pattern until you have reached your desired length.
After achieving the length that you want, remove the looped end from your needle.
Take the bottom end string, put it through the looped end and pull. This will bring the two ends together.
Double-knot the ends together to make sure they do not separate.
Tie on your ribbon or bow to hide the connecting knot (as well as provide a decorative touch!)
Viola! Now you have a lovely gift for that special someone. Make sure to present it with a smile and a kiss!!!
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