How to Make a Paper Lei

Paper Lei

A paper lei for a friend.
A paper lei for a friend. | Source

How to Make a Lei

No flowers? No problem! You too can make a lei using ordinary paper, either in color or plain white. No special skills are needed; this paper lei is made from easy-to-fold origami "flowers." It is a fun project to do with children, who will need help handling the long, sharp doll making needle used to make the lei. One adult and one child can make a lei in about an hour.

Here are the easy steps to follow:

Materials For a Paper Lei

Paper, fishing line, scissors, doll making needles
Paper, fishing line, scissors, doll making needles | Source

Step 1: Gather Lei Making Materials

  • Paper: You'll need about 8-10 sheets of ordinary 8.5"x11" paper. Printer paper is good, either white or a pastel color. I used a muted pink color. As an option, you could use origami paper, but part of the charm of this lei is using imperfect paper squares to make the flowers.
  • Fishing line, thread or dental floss: I used fishing line because I have it in the house specifically for my own lei-making activities, and because it doesn't show in the finished lei. However, you can use dental floss or thread. For children, dental floss is very easy to handle. If using fishing line, I recommend using a light weight line, such as six-pound test. I use Berkley FireLine 6 Lb Test in smoke color.
  • Scissors: Any scissors that can cut fishing line. (Don't use your good sewing scissors!)
  • Doll making needles: You can usually find doll-making needles at a good craft store, or a well-stocked sewing/needlecraft store. Alternatively, you can use a large regular sewing needle with a large eye, but it is not as easy to handle. You may also use a lei-making needle, which is not commonly or easily found in stores.


Prepare Paper For Flowers

Paper sheet, folded into fourths.
Paper sheet, folded into fourths. | Source
Paper sheet, torn into fourths along fold lines.
Paper sheet, torn into fourths along fold lines. | Source
Fold one of the small rectangles diagonally to define a square.
Fold one of the small rectangles diagonally to define a square. | Source
Tear off the "tail" so that you have a nice square.
Tear off the "tail" so that you have a nice square. | Source

Step 2: Prepare the Paper

  • Tear paper into four smaller rectangles. Take one sheet of paper and fold it into fourths. Tear along the fold lines to make 4 separate smaller rectangles.
  • Make squares out of the smaller rectangles. Take one of the smaller rectangles that you just made and fold diagonally to define a square. There will be about an inch of paper "left over." Tear or cut this left over strip of paper so that you have a nice 4.25" square.
  • Repeat with remaining paper. Continue to fold sheets of paper, and tearing to make 32-40 small 4.25" squares.

Tip: Paper squares that you make do not have to be perfect! In fact, this lei looks best when edges, squares and origami flowers are imperfect in appearance!

Fold Paper Flowers

Make diagonal folds, valley style
Make diagonal folds, valley style | Source
Fold corners to center.
Fold corners to center. | Source

Origami Folding Terms

Valley fold - From the top view, a valley fold with peak down and away from you, in a "v" shape.

Mountain fold - From the top view, a mountain fold peaks upward, like a mountain.

Step 3: Fold Paper Flower, Front

  • Fold diagonal "valley" creases. Take one square of paper and make diagonal folds.
  • Fold corners to center. With folds defined and square open, fold each corner to center. Flip paper over to back, keeping the corners folded to center.

Fold Paper Flowers

Flip over to backside, careful to maintain folds already done.
Flip over to backside, careful to maintain folds already done. | Source
Fold the corners to center, like you did on front.
Fold the corners to center, like you did on front. | Source
Backside with corners folded to center.
Backside with corners folded to center. | Source

Step 4: Fold Paper Flower, Back

Fold corners to center. With the back side of the paper facing you, fold the corners to center. The resulting folded paper measures about 2" square.

Flip to front. Flip the square over to the front side, maintaining the folds you've done.

Tip: Remember, imperfection is fine!


Open Up the Paper Flower

From the front, open pockets.
From the front, open pockets. | Source
Open all four pockets to resemble a flower.
Open all four pockets to resemble a flower. | Source

Step 5: Open Pockets

  • Carefully open up the flower. Carefully place a finger in one of the four "pockets" of the flower and open them up, using the above photos as a guide. Note how the center of the flower comes up while each pocket opens on the diagonal folds.

Tip: To make it easier for children, you can make horizontal "mountain" folds to better define each pocket before opening the pockets.

Fold Paper Flower Petals

Fold each corner outwards to resemble petals
Fold each corner outwards to resemble petals | Source
Side view of flower, petals folded out.
Side view of flower, petals folded out. | Source

Step 6: Fold Petals

  • Make petals. Fold each corner outward, from corner to corner.
  • Shape flower. Finally, shape the flower so that the petals stick out a bit, and relax the shape of the flower by spreading out the bottom corners, as in the pictures above.

Paper Flowers For Lei Making

You'll need 32-40 paper flowers to make a paper flower lei.
You'll need 32-40 paper flowers to make a paper flower lei. | Source

Step 7: Make Remaining Paper Flowers

  • Repeat flower steps. Continue making paper flowers until you have between 32-40 paper flowers.

Tip: Paper flowers can be painted with watercolors for a different look. Paint just the tips of the petals, or the base of the petals and allow to dry.

Make a Paper Flower Lei

Thread doll making needle with about 42 to 60 inches of fishing line, depending on desired length of lei.
Thread doll making needle with about 42 to 60 inches of fishing line, depending on desired length of lei. | Source
Thread paper flower onto needle, through center of flower.
Thread paper flower onto needle, through center of flower. | Source
Add the second flower, push flowers down the fishing line as you work.
Add the second flower, push flowers down the fishing line as you work. | Source
Keep flowers loose on the line, not too bunchy or close together.
Keep flowers loose on the line, not too bunchy or close together. | Source
When your lei is the desired length, remove needle and tie the line ends together with a knot.
When your lei is the desired length, remove needle and tie the line ends together with a knot. | Source

Step 8: String Flowers to Make Lei

  • Thread fishing line onto needle. Cut a length of about 42-60 inches of fishing line, floss or thread. Choose a needle with a large eye and thread the line onto the needle. You won't need to knot the end of the line, just leave about 8" of overhang with the line. If you do decide you want to knot the line, make the knot at a location about 8-10" up from the bottom of the long side of the line. The tail that you leave will make it easier to make the final knot to tie off the lei.
  • String flower onto line. Take one paper flower and pierce it with the needle, through the center of the flower. You'll be working from the bottom of the flower up through the top. Push the flower down the line, stopping at about 8-10" from the bottom of the long fishing line.
  • Check flower placement. As you continue to string flowers onto the fishing line, occasionally check to make sure that the flower remain loose and are not getting smashed together. The idea behind this lei is to keep a loose, casual appearance.
  • Check lei length. After stringing about 20 flowers, check the length of your lei. If you think you will need more flowers, you can make more. Continue to string flowers until the lei is the length that you want.
  • Tie off lei. REMOVE THE NEEDLE, and put it away. Then, check one more time to make sure the lei is the length you want. Remember that it needs to go over your head! When you are sure it is right, carefully tie the ends of the fishing lines together to make a knot. Make the knot close to the flowers so that there are no large gaps.
  • Fluff out lei and wear. Fluff out the flowers by making sure they have enough room and that they are not flattened out or crammed too tightly together. Now you can wear your lei!

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Comments 2 comments

Jenna Estefan profile image

Jenna Estefan 3 years ago from Seattle, WA

Excellent photos and clear instructions! I'm going to share this with my mom, who's really been into origami lately, I think she'll have fun with this one.


Dreamhowl profile image

Dreamhowl 3 years ago from United States of America

This is great. Your pictures really helped me understand the steps. This would be fun to do one day to relax. Voted up.

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