Since tonight is Ben’s graduation, I decided to pick some plumeria to make a lei for him. Growing up in Hawai`i, lei-making was a mandatory skill that we needed to learn in school [we had lei-making competitions and the winners would get their lei showcased at the county fair!]. It’s super simple, which makes me feel silly even writing this post, but I figure someone out there might just want to know how it’s done.
Our driveway is lined with plumeria trees – their colors range from mostly white to bright yellow to full fuchsia [sorry, those were too high up for me to get photos of], and the shapes of the petals range from angular to thin to fluffy.
Ben’s favorite color is yellow, but because we have so many varieties of plumeria, I decided to make him a lei that incorporated some of the pinks too. Also, since it’s such a special occasion [and because I’m his partner], I thought I’d also intertwine a ti-leaf lei to make it a bit more special.
Ti-leaf lei are made in a different way, which we’ll have to save for another day. For this tutorial, we’ll just focus on the simple, single-strand plumeria lei.
What You’ll Need
- ~40-60 flowers [you can use just about any type of flower… and the amount will depend on how big the flower is as well as how long you make your lei]
- a needle [many people use lei needles, which are just extra long needles, but I use any kine]
The first thing you need to do is collect your flowers. This was especially fun for me today as our yard is full of crab spiders and webs right now. I’m pretty sure I just introduced about 15 new species of insects into our house…
Lay out the flowers on a wet paper towel and spray them with cool water. Plumerias wilt especially quickly, so you don’t want to touch them too much or keep them in the sun for too long.
Thread the needle, double the thread back on itself, and cut it so that it is at least 3 feet long [it’s easy to shorten it later, but very difficult to lengthen your thread].
Tie a knot a few inches from the bottom. Then tie another knot over it. Then another one. And another. Until the knot is thick enough to hold a flower in place.
Now, simply thread each flower through as if you’re making a necklace. The most common mistake people make is trying to tread a flower from the stem-side. It is much simpler to thread it from the front.
Just keep stringing – be extra gentle and push the flowers down as you go. My pattern for Ben’s lei was: yellow-yellow-light pink-yellow-yellow-dark pink…
Once you feel like you’re done, hold the lei up to your neck and double-check its length. If you’re satisfied, go ahead and cut off the needle and tie both ends together. Done and done!
I couldn’t just stop there though [what kind of wife would I be?]. I needed to entwine the plumeria with the ti-leaf lei, so I left both lei untied, twisted them around each other, laid them down and then tied the finishing knots on each lei.
To store, spray the lei lightly with a bit more water, place it in a bag with a wet paper towel, and store it in the fridge.
Easy, right? Happy creating!
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