I made 5 leis over the weekend for various graduations. With three simple materials, you can make a beautiful, forever-lasting lei while watching an episode of "The Big Bang Theory."
Plastic straws from McDonald's.
And yes, McDonald's specifically. These straws are wide enough for the ribbon to thread through, sturdier than other straws and free. Be advised that the eyeball/pearl tea straws are too wide.
Skeins of fun fur
Available at craft stores like JoAnn Fabric or Michael's. I used a variegated fun fur to make the blue lei above. Red and orange will mimic ilima or ohai alii. If you are in Hawaii, it is well-worth the trip to Ben Franklin for their huge selection of fun fur and other yarn that can be used to make flowers.
3/8 inch grosgrain ribbon
Any color is fine because it won't show. Grosgrain is important because the ridges help the lei stick together.
Making a Simple 1-Straw Lei
Thank you to Acornbud's Yarns, which has the clearest directions that I've found. Here's a quick summary.
1) Measure the grosgrain ribbon to the length of lei you want and then add 8-10 inches to that.
2) Cut a small (1/2") slit on one side of the straw. This is to anchor the ribbon
3) Thread the ribbon through the straw and run it through the slit. Tape it down to secure it.
4)Tie the fun fur around the straw.
5) Start winding the yarn around the straw. Just make sure that it's not too tight and fairly consistently spaced. But these leis are very forgiving.
6) When you are done with the whole skein, tie the end in a knot. Know the grosgrain ribbon to keep the length of lei you want.
7) Tie the lei together and use the extra grosgrain ribbon to make a bow, or trim it off.
NOTE: If you do this while watching TV, it's best not to watch anything too exciting. Stanley Cup and NBA playoff games are not conducive to good lei-making. Stick to sitcoms, Glee, Law and Order, Golf Channel or baseball.
I did two slightly more complex versions using three straws. These Ben Franklin videos are great step-by-step instructions.
3-Straw Lei with inner band
3-Straw Lei with central band
Because I couldn't find similar 'flower' yarn, I used 3 skeins of fun fur. There are a lot more ways to customize these versions, particularly if you have access to more flower-like yarn.
If you can braid, you can make these lei. The 3-straws are simply variations on twisting around the straws. See school-color versions below.
The Real Deal
If you have about 3 hours to make a lei, a fresh haku headband is a fabulous gift, especially for a female graduate.
Interestingly enough, it still involves twisting to create a lei. Buy flowers in bunches--alstromeria and baby roses work well as 'main flowers' baby's breath and assorted greenery work to fill everything in. Use the fern as the backbone and then simply wind the raffia to secure flowers and wind around the fern stems. For haku, it's important to wrap tightly.
Congratulations all graduates!