3 ways to make a Hawaiian flower necklace (or lei)

3 ways to make a Hawaiian flower necklace (or lei)
3 ways to make a Hawaiian flower necklace (or lei)

Around the world, the lei (or Hawaiian flower necklace) is recognized as a symbol of the sense of Hawaiian hospitality. Beautifully colored and with memorable scents, lei can represent love, friendship, luck or any other positive feeling. They are often used on birthdays, weddings, graduation ceremonies and many other occasions. This article will show you how to make your own traditional Hawaiian flower necklace with flowers, as well as other techniques for making crepe paper lei and banknote lei.


Method 1 of 3: Make a lei with flowers

Make a Lei Step 1

Step 1. Collect flowers

You can make a lei with all kinds of flowers, frangipani flowers, roses, daisies and carnations are popular choices, but you can choose any flowers, leaves or plants in your garden.

  • It will be easier to make a necklace from medium-sized flowers, which have strong stems and thick petals. Flowers with fragile petals, which mark or drop easily are not a good choice.
  • To make a one yard necklace, you will need about 50 flowers. Try to pluck each flower at the base of the stem to keep the pistil intact.
  • If you prefer, you can use artificial flowers.
Make a Lei Step 2

Step 2. Separate the flowers from the stems

You can leave about 1 cm of stem.

Make a Lei Step 3

Step 3. Cut your thread

Cut a piece of thread, cotton thread or fishing line 2.5 meters in length. Lined, it allows you to make a one-meter collar, with over 10cm of thread at each end to tie it up when you're done.

Make a Lei Step 4

Step 4. Pass the thread through the needle

Take a large needle and pass half the length of the thread through the eye. Tie the two ends of the thread together, this will serve to block the threaded flowers.

  • Make sure you leave about 10cm of thread hanging out below the knot, you will need it to close the collar when it is finished.
  • In Hawaii, a special metal needle is used to thread the flowers, about 30 cm long. If you can get hold of one, great. Otherwise, a large needle will do.
Make a Lei Step 5

Step 5. Thread the first flower

Take the first flower and pass the needle through the center of the flower from above, until it comes out the other side. Gently push the flower along the wire.

  • You can also pass the needle through the stem and bring it out on top of the flower. The best method will depend on the type of flower you are going to use.
  • Be very gentle when you push the flower along the wire, with too much force you risk damaging the flower or even pulling it off.
Make a Lei Step 6

Step 6. Thread the remaining flowers

Continue to thread the remaining flowers in the same way, passing the needle through the stem or pistil. The flowers can all be positioned in the same direction or you can alternate their direction to add volume to the necklace.

  • Some people prefer to thread small groups of flowers at a time, which speeds up the process, but can damage or tear the flowers if not careful.
  • If you are using flowers of different colors, it is better to separate them into separate piles, you will work faster and you will not get confused in the order of the colors.
  • Keep adding flowers until the necklace is about three feet in length. Look at yourself in a mirror, placing it at neck level to make sure you are happy with the number and placement of the flowers.
Make a Lei Step 7

Step 7. Finish the lei

When you have threaded all the flowers, adjust the first and last flower so that they are tight together and tie the two ends of the thread with an overhand knot.

  • Let the ends of the thread hang over the knot until it is time to offer the lei, so that you can avoid touching the flowers by holding it by the threads.
  • Cut the excess thread and if you wish, add bolduc for a little more decoration. Your lei is now ready to be gifted!
  • A lei can be worn multiple times. Store it in the refrigerator in a plastic bag between each use to keep it fresh. Gently spray a little water on it to keep it hydrated.

Method 2 of 3: Make a crepe paper lei

Make a Lei Step 8

Step 1. Gather your materials

To make a crepe paper lei you will need strips of crepe paper (50cm long and 5cm wide), the number of bands will depend on how long you want your necklace to be. You will also need a needle, thread, and a pair of scissors.

Make a Lei Step 9

Step 2. Fold the paper

Take a strip of paper and fold it like the bellows of an accordion along its entire length. Each fold should measure approximately 1/2 cm.

Make a Lei Step 10

Step 3. Pass the thread through the needle

Pass the thread halfway through the eye of the needle and tie a knot at the end. You will need a little over two yards of yarn, but again this will depend on how long you want your necklace to be.

Make a Lei Step 11

Step 4. Take a strip of crepe paper and fold it accordion-style along its entire length

Each fold should be about 60mm. Hold the folded paper between your fingers and pass the needle through the middle. Push the strip of crepe paper to the end of the thread.

Make a Lei Step 12

Step 5. Twist the crepe paper

With your hands, slightly spread the strip of crepe paper that you have threaded and turn it clockwise to form flower species. Try to make crepe paper twists as tight as possible, this will give your necklace more volume.

Make a Lei Step 13

Step 6. Repeat with a strip of crepe paper of another color

Take a second strip of crepe paper, a different color (or the same color, if you prefer) and repeat the same process (folding, threading and twisting). Continue until the wire is filled with it.

Make a Lei Step 14

Step 7. Finish the lei

Once the thread is filled with twisted crepe paper strips (this may take you up to an hour, depending on how tight you have your paper strips), thread the needle through the crepe paper on the other end. and tie a knot to close the collar. Cut off the excess thread.

Method 3 of 3: Make a lei from banknotes

Make a Lei Step 15

Step 1. Gather your materials

To make a necklace with banknotes, you will need around 50 new and very rigid 5 euro banknotes, colored beads, around 2.50 m of thread, a stick of glue and about twenty small document clips.

Make a Lei Step 16

Step 2. Fold the tickets

Take a bill and fold it in half right in the middle. Make sure the ends are perfectly aligned.

  • Place the folded bill on the table in front of you, then fold up one end, just at the white margin. Turn the bill over and do the same on the other side.
  • Continue to fold each side of the bill into an accordion, until you come to the center. Make sure each fold is the same size and press firmly to make well-defined folds.
Make a Lei Step 17

Step 3. Make the flowers

When you are done folding the accordion note, it should be shaped like a rectangular strip. Fold this strip in half, down the middle.

  • Open the folded strip to form a "V". With your glue stick, put some glue on the two inner edges of the V. Don't put glue all the way to the middle though, only on the top half of each side.
  • Squeeze the two glued sides of the V together and use a document clamp to hold them while the glue dries.
  • Pull the outer sides of the V, until the bill takes on a circular flower shape. Glue the two outer ends of the flower together (without putting any glue on the lower part) and hold them with a document clip.
  • Repeat this process with the other 49 banknotes, these will be the flowers for your necklace.
Make a Lei Step 18

Step 4. Assemble the lei

Once the glue on the banknote flowers has dried, you can assemble your necklace. Take your two wires and tie them together at one end.

  • Thread three beads (in the colors of your choice) on the double thread, then take one of the flowers, remove the clip and pass the thread through its center.
  • Continue like this, adding three beads and then a flower until you have used all your flowers and the thread is filled with them. Tie the two ends of the wire together to close the lei.


  • After wearing a lei, never throw it in the trash. Instead, put it somewhere outside so that it returns to the earth. "Important:" Cut the thread first to make sure that no animal strangles with it.
  • In Hawaii, to make traditional flower necklaces we use in particular: syringe flower (Walahe'e Haole), wild ginger flower ('Awapuhi ke'oke'o), hibiscus flower (' Ilima), which is the symbol of Hawaii, the bougainvillea flower (Kepalo), the gardenia flower (Kiele), the tuberose flower (Kupalo), the roses (Loke), the jasmine of Madagascar (Male), the flamboyant flowers ('Ohai Ali'i), orchids (' Okika), Arabian jasmine (Pikake) and, the most famous flower for making necklaces, the frangipani flower (Melia).
  • Never refuse a lei that is offered to you, as it is considered disrespectful and very rude.
  • Depending on the type of flower, different methods are used to thread them onto the wire: one method is to pass the wire through the center of each flower, another is to pass the wire twice in a circle through each stem. There are other methods as well, but the one that involves running the thread directly through the center of each flower is the most common, widely used, and easiest.
  • Typically, frangipani flower necklaces last about two days.
  • You can use artificial flowers if you cannot get real flowers or find it more convenient.
  • You can also use waxed dental floss as the thread for your collar; it is stronger than thread and more comfortable to wear.
  • According to Hawaiian tradition, visitors should throw their necklaces into the ocean when leaving the island. If the necklace returns to the shore, it means that the visitor will one day return to Hawaii …


  • Frangipani flowers contain a whitish sap which is poisonous. Let them air dry before putting them on your collar.
  • Do not put the frangipani flower necklaces in the refrigerator: this will dry out the petals and make them brown. If you want to keep the flowers fresh, spray them with a little water every now and then to keep them moist.

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