How to Make Money Leis

Three Parts:Folding the MoneyAttaching the MoneyAdding Other Decorations

Hawaiian leis are symbols of love, spirituality and respect that date back to ancient times. Leis can be made of almost anything you can imagine and many cultures have made their own contributions to the modern lei. Money leis are of Japanese influence and have gained popularity as wedding and gradation gifts. Instead of sticking a check in a card, make a memorable gift by following a series of simple steps.[1]

Part 1
Folding the Money

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    Determine what amount of money you'd like to gift. While the number of flowers will vary based on the length of the lei and personal preference, most money leis require anywhere from 40 to 60 flowers. Based on that amount, determine how many bills of what denomination you need to create the lei. If you need extra flowers, you can create more from paper and intermix them with the money.[2]
    • A typical money lei could, for example, consist of 30 $1 bills and 30 paper flowers, 50 $1 bills or even 20 $5 bills and 20 flowers. The variety and amount is up to you.
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    Fold one edge of a a bill of paper money. First make a 1/2-inch (1.3cm) fold across one of the short sides of the rectangular bill.
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    Create a folding pattern. Turn the bill over and make a 1/2-inch (1.3cm) fold in the opposite direction on the same side. Flip the bill back over and make another 1/2-inch (1.3cm) fold in the same direction of the first fold.
    • This begins an accordion-style folding pattern.
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    Repeat the folding pattern. Continue folding 1/2-inch strips in alternating directions until you have folded all the way across the bill. Your bill should have the appearance of an accordion.
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    Wrap a small rubber band around the center of the accordion-folded bill. The rubber band will keep the bill in place so you can attach the decorative ribbon.

Part 2
Attaching the Money

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    Put the folded, secured bill onto a Kukui nut or other beaded necklace. Tie the rubber-banded area of the bill to the necklace with a slender, 6-inch (15.24cm) piece of colored ribbon. You can tie it in a bow or any decorative knot.
    • You'll find it's easiest to evenly disperse the bills if you tie them to the string in between the beads. That way you can place them a determined number of beads apart.
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    Fan out the ends of the accordion-folded paper bill. When the two ends meet, the bill will form a circle. Secure the ends together with a thin piece of double-sided tape.
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    Repeat this process with the remaining money. Continue folding additional bills until you have the desired number of money flowers secured to the necklace. Space the money flowers evenly throughout the length of the necklace.

Part 3
Adding Other Decorations

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    Add paper flowers in the gaps between the money flowers. If you feel the lei is too sparse. it's easy to create matching paper flowers. If you prefer, you can also make extra flowers for the lei out of pretend money instead of paper.
    • Cut colored paper into money-sized rectangles. You can choose a single color or a variety of colors.
    • Fold each paper rectangle in the same accordion style you folded the money. Wrap a rubber band around the center in the same manner, as well.
    • Attach the folded paper to the necklace Just as you attached the money, use a small piece of tape and ribbon to attach the paper flowers to the necklace. You can add as many paper flowers as you like in between the money.
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    Mix up your homemade money leis by adding other decorations. Try tying colorful silk flowers, candy or even jewelry intermittently throughout the necklace.
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    Personalize the gift by adding things that are special to the recipient. Choose small childhood mementos, baby toys, special charms, sea shells, ticket stubs - anything that brings to mind a treasured memory.
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    Write or print inspirational notes on slips of paper. Then fold and tie the notes in the same fashion as the money flowers.


  • Use as many bills as you like, in any denominations that you like, but keep in mind that many Origami money leis are never spent.
  • You can use almost any type of necklace including shells, wood or semi-precious stones. Braided rope or yarn necklaces work nicely as well or you might choose to make your own.
  • Making money leis can be time consuming. If you have friends to help, it might be easier to form a type of assembly line. Let one person fold the bills, another person wrap the rubber bands, etc.


  • Be careful not to cause permanent damage to the bills or render the money useless. According to Title 18, Chapter 17 of the U.S. Code, anyone who “mutilates, cuts, defaces, disfigures, or perforates, or unites or cements together... any bank bill" can be fined or imprisoned. So while you can fold the money and fasten it with rubber bands and ribbon, be sure not to cut or use glue on the money.[3]

Things You'll Need

  • Paper Money
  • Colored or decorative paper (optional)
  • Rubber Bands
  • About 3 yards of ribbon
  • A beaded necklace
  • Double-sided tape
  • Scissors

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