Flowers 101: How to make a basic lei

What’s more iconic to Hawaii than the flower lei? I’m kicking off my new Flowers 101 how-to series by showing you how to make your own lei!

Step #1: Prep

You will need the following materials to get started:

  • 2 bunches of flowers
    • The flowers you select need to have a sturdy stem/head.
      • Plumerias and orchids are the most common flowers used for traditional Hawaiian leis. Carnations, daisies, and roses are also really popular varieties.
    • I used 44 mini carnation flower heads for this lei. Buying two bunches was more than enough to accommodate this quantity.
      • You can easily find affordable flower bunches at Costco or Sam’s Club wholesalers.
  • Dental floss
    • This is what you will string your lei with. You can use thread or fishing line instead, but I prefer dental floss because it is sturdy, easy to use, and convenient.
  • Scissors
    • Use scissors that are meant to cut flowers (Don’t ruin your paper scissors!)
  • Large sewing needle



Step #2: Method Instructions

Now that you have all the materials needed, it’s time to start making the lei! Here is a simple step-by-step guide:

  1. Prep the flowers
    1. Cut off the stems of each flower. Leave about 1/4-1/2 inch (to ensure the flower head stays together!)IMG_0265
  2. Measure the dental floss/string
    1. Starting and ending from the back of your neck, measure how long you desire the lei to be. Once you have established how long you would like the length to be, double it. After you have doubled that length, add an additional 4-5 inches to ensure extra string at the end to tie it off.
    2. For example: if I wanted my lei to measure 40 inches around, I would need 85 inches of floss total. 40″ initial (doubled) + an extra 5″ = 85 inches
    3. Don’t stress! There is no exact science for this. Just make sure to have enough string/floss to work with. When in doubt, use more than anticipated. You can always cut off the excess.
  3. String the needle
    1. Take the floss and string it through the eye of your needle. Place the needle in the middle of the string. There will be equal lengths of floss on both sides of the needle.
  4. Tie the knot
    1. About 4-5 inches up one end of the string, tie a knot.
      1. You may need to tie several knots at the same spot so the knot is large enough to block flowers from sliding off.
      2. This is where the first flower of your lei will be strung to.
        1. Ensure there are a few inches of extra string here so you can tie off your lei when finished.
  5. Start stringing the flowers
    1. Take your needle and begin to string your first flower.
    2. Usually, the lei is strung through the flower head“face first”. Insert the needle into the face of the flower. Pull the needle through the stem end. Continue pulling both strings through until the flower is in place.
      1. The first flower will stop when it reaches the end knot.
    3. Continue to string flowers until the desired # of flowers is reached.
      1. As you string each flower, make sure to pull the entire string through. (You will always have one string hanging loose on one end of your needle)IMG_0300
  6. Finishing off the lei
    1. Once you are done stringing all flowers, tie the two ends of the floss/string together in a double knot (at least).
    2. There most likely will be excess string. You can cut off these loose ends after you have tied off the lei.
  7. Sport (or share) your new lei
    1. Congratulations! You made your very own lei. Sport this beauty around, or share it with someone special. Leis are a great way to show congratulations, support, and of course aloha!