How to Make a Lei

Three Methods:Making a Fresh Flower LeiMaking a Crepe Paper LeiMaking a Money Lei

A flower lei is recognized worldwide as a symbol of Hawaii's aloha spirit! Wonderfully colorful and memorably fragrant, leis can represent love, friendship, good luck, and other positive sentiments. You'll often see them used at graduations, weddings, birthdays, and many other occasions. This wikiHow article shows you how to make your own traditional Hawaiian flower lei from fresh blossoms, along with additional methods for making crepe paper and money leis.

Method 1
Making a Fresh Flower Lei

  1. Image titled Make a Lei Step 1 preview
    Collect some fresh flowers. A lei can be made from any kind of fresh flowers — plumeria, roses, daisies and carnations are all popular choices — but you can choose any blooms, leaves or ferns from your garden.
    • You'll find it easier to make a lei from medium-sized flowers with sturdy stems and durable petals. Flowers with delicate petals that fall off or bruise easily are not a good choice.
    • To make one, single-strand 40" lei you will need approximately 50 blossoms. Try to pick each flower at the base of its stem to make sure the stamen remains intact.[1]
  2. Image titled Make a Lei Step 2 preview
    Cut off the stems of each flower. Leave about 1/4 - 1/2 inch left.
  3. Image titled Make a Lei Step 3 preview
    Cut your string. Cut a piece of thread, cotton string or fishing line 100" in length. Doubled over, this allows for a 40-inch lei with 5 inches at each end for tying together when you are finished.
  4. Image titled Make a Lei Step 4 preview
    Thread the needle. Take a large needle and thread the length of string through the eye, until it is doubled over. Tie the two ends of the string together to form a knot — this will act as a stopper for the threaded flowers.
    • Make sure to leave 4 or 5 inches of string hanging below the knot — this will be necessary to tie the lei once it's finished,
    • In Hawaii, they use a 12'' to 18'' steel lei needle to string the flowers — so if you can get your hands on one of these, that's great. Otherwise, any large needle will do.[2]
  5. Image titled Make a Lei Step 5 preview
    String the first flower. Take your first flower and pass the needle straight through the center of the face of the flower, all the way through to the back. Gently push the flower down along the string.
    • Alternatively, you can pass the needle up through the stem and out through the center of the flower. Which method you choose will depend on the type of flower you're working with.
    • Be very gentle when pushing the flower down the string — if you push too forcefully you could damage the flower or even rip it off.
  6. Image titled Make a Lei Step 6 preview
    String the remaining flowers. Continue to string the remaining blooms in the same fashion, passing the needle through the face or stem of each flower. You can have all of the flowers facing the same direction, or alternate for added texture.
    • Some lei-makers prefer to slide blossoms to the end in groups of five or so, which accelerates the process but can cause wear and tear on the flowers if you're not careful.
    • If you're working with different colored flowers, it's a good idea to separate them out into different bundles — this will allow you to work more quickly and avoid mixing up the order of the colors.
    • Continue adding flowers until the lei is approximately 40" in length. Hold it up around your neck in front of a mirror to ensure that you're happy with the number and placement of the flowers.
  7. Image titled Make a Lei Step 7 preview
    Finish the lei. When you've finished stringing all of the flowers, adjust the placement of the first and last flowers so they're nested together, and then tie the ends of the string in a square knot.
    • Leave the hanging ends of your knot in place until just before you present the lei – this way you can hold it by these strings and avoid touching the flowers.
    • Cut off the excess string and, if you like, add some curling ribbon for extra adornment. Now your lei is ready to be presented to its recipient!
    • A lei can be worn more than once. Store it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator between uses to keep it fresh. Mist lightly with water to keep it hydrated.

Method 2
Making a Crepe Paper Lei

  1. Image titled Make a Lei Step 8 preview
    Gather your materials. To make a crepe paper lei, you will need strips of colored crepe paper ( 20 long and 2 wide) — the number of strips you need will depend on how long you want your finished lei to be. You will also need a needle and thread and a pair of scissors.
  2. Image titled Make a Lei Step 9 preview
    Fold the crepe paper. Take one strip of crepe paper and fold it, accordion-style, along the entire length. Each fold should be about 1/4 inch in length.
  3. Image titled Make a Lei Step 10 preview
    Thread the needle. Pass the thread through the eye of the needle, double it and tie a knot at the end. You'll need approximately two yards of thread, but again this will depend on how long your want your finished lei to be.
  4. Image titled Make a Lei Step 11 preview
    Pinch the folded paper between your fingers and pass the needle through the center. Push the crepe paper to the end of the string.
  5. Image titled Make a Lei Step 12 preview
    Twist the crepe paper. Use your hands to open the threaded piece of crepe paper slightly, then twist it clockwise to form flower-shaped twirls. Try to keep the crepe paper twisted as tightly as possible — this will produce a fuller-looking lei.
  6. Image titled Make a Lei Step 13 preview
    Repeat with a second color of crepe paper. Take a second strip of crepe paper, in a different color (or the same color, if you prefer) and repeat the process of folding, threading and twisting. Keep going with each piece of crepe paper until you have filled the thread.
  7. Image titled Make a Lei Step 14 preview
    Finish the lei. Once you have filled the thread with twisted crepe paper (this may take up to an hour, depending on how tightly packed the twists are), pass the needle through the crepe paper at the opposite end and tie a knot to close the lei. Cut off the excess string.

Method 3
Making a Money Lei

  1. Image titled Make a Lei Step 15 preview
    Gather your materials. To make a money lei, you will need 50 crisp and new one dollar bills, a collection of colored beads, two 50 inch lengths of thread, a glue stick and twenty small binder clips.
  2. Image titled Make a Lei Step 16 preview
    Fold the dollar bills. Take a dollar bill and fold it in half, right down the middle. Make sure the two edges are perfectly aligned.
    • Set the folded bill on the table in front of you, then fold back one of the edges, just to the edge of the white margin. Flip the bill over and do the same of the other side.
    • Continue folding each half of the bill, accordion-style, until you reach the center. Make sure each fold is the same size and that you press it firmly to get a crisp edge.
  3. Image titled Make a Lei Step 17 preview
    Make the flowers. Once you have finished the accordion folding, the dollar bill should look like a single, rectangular strip. Fold the strip in half, down the middle.
    • Open the folded strip so it forms a "V" shape. Take your glue stick and rub a little glue on the inside edges of both sides of the V. Don't take the glue all the way to the center though, only glue the top half on each side.
    • Press the two glued sides of the V together and use one of the binder clips to hold it in place while the glue dries.
    • Pull out the outside edges of the V, until the bill forms a circular, flower shape. Glue the two outside edges of the flower together (leaving the lower section glue-free) and secure with a binder clip.
    • Repeat this process for the 49 remaining dollar bills — these will be the money flowers for your lei.
  4. Image titled Make a Lei Step 18 preview
    Assemble the lei. Once the glue on the money flowers has dried, you are ready to assemble your lei. Take your two pieces of string and tie them together at one end.
    • Thread three beads (in any color combination you like) onto the double layer of string, then take one of the money flowers, remove the binder clips and pass the strings through the center.
    • Continue in this fashion, adding three beads and then a flower until you have used up all of the money and the lei is full. Tie both ends of the string together to close the lei.[3]


  • You can also use waxed dental floss for your lei string; it is stronger than thread and easier on the neck.
  • Don't refuse a lei when one is offered to you, as this is considered disrespectful and it is impolite.
  • Imitation flowers may be used if real ones are unavailable or impractical.
  • After wearing a lei, never throw it away in the bin. Instead, place it somewhere outside so it can return to the earth. Important: Cut the string first to ensure that no animals will get tangled in it.
  • Different stringing methods are used with different flower types: one method goes straight through the center of each flower, while another threads a circular/double pattern through each flower's stem. There are even additional variations beyond these, but threading straight through the center of each flower is the most common approach,the most used, and the easiest.
  • According to Hawaiian tradition, visitors should throw their leis into the ocean when leaving the islands. If a lei drifts back to shore, this is a sign that the visitor will return to Hawaii one day.....
  • Plumeria leis will generally last about two days.
  • Flowers traditionally used in Hawaiian lei-making include: Walahe'e Haole (Mock Orange), 'Awapuhi ke'oke'o (White Ginger), 'Ilima, the state flower (Hibiscus), Kepalo (Bougainvillea), Kiele (Gardenia), Kupalo (Tuberose), Loke (Roses), Male (Stephanotis), 'Ohai Ali'i (Poinciana), 'Okika (Orchid), Pikake (Arabian Jasmine) and the best-known lei flower, Melia (Plumeria).


  • Plumeria blossoms contain a milky sap which is poisonous. Allow them to dry in open air before stringing.
  • Do not refrigerate plumeria leis; it dries out the petals, causing them to turn brown faster. If you need to chill them, mist them with water occasionally to keep them moist.

Things You'll Need

Fresh Flower Lei

  • Lei Needle or sewing needle (stainless steel)
  • Thread or fishing line
  • 50 flowers

Crepe Paper Lei

  • Colored crepe paper
  • Needle and thread
  • Scissors

Money Lei

  • 50 crisp dollar bills
  • Glue stick
  • Thread
  • Selection of colored beads
  • 20 small binder clips

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Flower Arranging and Floral Art