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!!!
TattooKitty (author) from Hawaii on October 04, 2012:
Thanks for stopping by, Lindacee!
And much mahalo for your votes (Cisco loves the fame, LOL!)
Linda Chechar from Arizona on October 04, 2012:
This is such a great Hub! I could almost smell the sweet aroma of the flowers as I was reading. Leis are such a wonderful tradition of welcome and affection. Voted up, beautiful and useful! BTW, your "model" is a cutie! :)
TattooKitty (author) from Hawaii on July 15, 2012:
@ ytsenoh- Thanks for stopping by! Hope you try it ;)
@Faith Reaper- First off, your name ROCKS!! Thank you for your kind comment and I hope you make some fantastic lei using this method.
@rebeccamealey- Mahalo for reading! Candy lei also make great favors for summer parties...just don't use chocolate, lol!!
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on April 29, 2012:
This is really cool. Summer birthday pool party coming up. I'd love to use this. Thanks for sharing!
Faith Reaper from southern USA on April 29, 2012:
This is a really beautiful craft - making the flower lei. I love the ones with the live flowers. Thanks for explaining why the lei is a special gift. This makes it even more meaningful. Great hub and instructions are too! I believe I could make one. Thank you for explaining this lovely art form. In His Love, Faith Reaper
Cathy from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri on April 29, 2012:
TattooKitty (author) from Hawaii on November 13, 2011:
Hi A.CreativeThinker! Glad you enjoyed this lei tutorial; I had so much fun making it! Thank you kindly for reading and commenting ;)
A.CreativeThinker on November 13, 2011:
This is a very nice hub and great photos of how to make a
lei. Thanks for sharing. Take Care :)
TattooKitty (author) from Hawaii on October 23, 2011:
Hi there, Nellieanna! I, too, enjoyed using flowers to act out all kinds of scenes when I was little ;) Oleander blossoms are very lovely, I especially like fuschia ones!
Here in Hawaii, we are very fortunate to have a wide variety of flowers to choose from (many with breath-taking fragrances!) Thus, I learned to string lei at a very young age. It really is a gift made with love ;)
Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your childhood memories (and kind words)!
Nellieanna Hay from TEXAS on October 23, 2011:
I was born and spent my childhood in Del Rio, Texas - a Mexican border town with a balmy climate and a natural spring which supplies the otherwise arid Souhtwest Texas area with abundant water which makes it lush and lovely. There are native oleander bushes all over town and we, of course, had some in the yard. The flowers are lovely with colors ranging from white, pale pink, bright pink to almost red. I tried and tried to make lei out of them when I played "island", inspired by the old Dorothy Lamour movies! I had no idea how to do it and they didn't hold up very well. As I recall, I just stuck the flower tubes below the blossoms into the next ones. Not very stable. And of course, oleander leaves are very poisonous. So perhaps my guardian angels were with me.
How I'd have loved to have your instructions and your flower choices! This is an enchanting hub. Thank you and welcome to Hubpages. You've certainly gotten off to a wonderful start! Thank you for the follow, as well.
And thanks for the clarification that the plural form of the word is lei.
TattooKitty (author) from Hawaii on October 07, 2011:
Thanks for your comment and votes, Happyboomernurse!! Glad you liked my hub ;) Cisco was such a good sport for those lei pics...he also modeled a candy lei as well, lol:
Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on October 07, 2011:
Wow! Great hub with interesting facts about leis and step by step illustrated instructions on how to make them from real flowers. Loved the Aloha photo at the end which left me smiling!
Voted up, useful, beautiful and interesting.
TattooKitty (author) from Hawaii on October 06, 2011:
Mahalo (thank you), ktrapp! I hope you find some blooms to work with ;) Silk flowers work too, but the effect is greatly diluted! Check your neighborhood for possible materials. I bet an autumn-themed lei (with leaves of orange, red, and yellow) would look gorgeous!!
Kristin Trapp from Illinois on October 06, 2011:
Wow. The lei you made is absolutely beautiful (especially on the dog). I only wish I knew of any bushes around me with blossoms like that. I will have to keep my eyes open next spring, but these are gorgeous.