Lei Making Methods
The Hawaiian Craft of Lei Making
In Hawaii, whenever there is a big occasion like a graduation or wedding, it is common for family and friends to get together and string leis for the event. Lei making is a wonderful time for sharing stories and getting to know one another better. It can also be a particularly fun Hawaiian craft activity for kids’ birthday parties or other gatherings.
Make Your Own Leis
You can make your own leis from materials found right in your back yard! Literally any flowers, leaves, ferns, etc., may be used to make a lei. For your first time however, you should start with the basic single strand flower lei.
To begin lei making, collect any medium sized flowers you can find – roses, daisies, carnations etc. You’ll need about 50 blossoms to make a 40″ single strand lei. Cut about a 100″ length cotton string, and fold it in half. Tie a large knot at the end of the twine – this will act like a “stopper” for your flowers as you string them. Remember to leave extra string below the knot – you will use this to tie the lei together upon its completion.
In Hawaii, a steel lei needle, usually about 12 to 18 inches in length is used to string flowers, but any large needle will do. Go through the center of the face of the flower straight through to the back. Carefully guide the flowers to the base of the string near the knot – never force the flowers, you can always move them farther down later. You are finished when the lei is approximately 40″ long. You may choose to dress your lei up with a ribbon, or just leave it au natural.
Lei Making Kit
You may want to purchase our signature flower lei making kit, which includes all the Hawaiian craft materials you’ll need to make your own leis – loose orchids, lei needles, twine, and instructions shipped directly from Hawaii. The kit comes with enough orchids to make up to eight leis, however you can easily add additional loose flowers to your order if you need to make more than eight. This is a very economical (and fun) way to go for events such as graduations when you’ll need a large number of leis.
Kui Pololei Straight Pattern Orchid Lei
Lei kui pololei, or straight pattern, is the classic lei style that most people learn first. Although this method is quite simple, it still takes practice to make a lei that will hold up well. The exact position of the needle through the flower is important for the structure and integrity of the lei.
You’ll need about 50 orchids for one lei. For preparation instructions, please see our How to Make a Lei page. Once you’ve prepared your string, pinch the stem off the orchid, or snip with scissors. Then, pierce the column or “nose” of the orchid with the needle and go straight out the pointy back of the flower as pictured. Repeat this with three orchids and line them up perfectly on the lei needle. Then, gently push the flowers all together onto the string, all the way down to the end of the knot. Be mindful as you go to keep your orchids lined up symmetrically. This method will create a nice sturdy lei.
Kui Poepoe Double Pattern Orchid Lei
Lei kui poepoe, or “double” pattern, creates a nice full round lei. The name “double” has been given to this lei because it is made with more than twice the amount of orchids as a single strand lei.
You’ll prepare your string and flowers the same way, however the method of stringing will be a bit different. Pierce the flower laterally, or through the side of the orchid, so that the orchid is facing out. String three orchids at a time, creating a circle pattern around the needle (the faces of the orchids will be staggered so that you see the face of an orchid at all angles around the needle) before gently pulling them down onto the string.
Our complete Lei Making Kit includes everything you need to make four lei kui pololei or one lei kui poepoe and of course you can order more loose orchids if you want to make more, or gather your own flowers at home! Almost any flower can be used, and using more than one type of flower can create a colorful unique lei.