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BellaOnline's Hawaii Editor

Make Your Own Lei

Beautiful and fragrant flower necklaces, called leis, are worn in Hawaii for practically any occasion. They are given out of love and respect.

There are many ways to make a lei; traditional, contemporary, permanent or fresh, and there are several ways to string a lei: complex weaving, knotting and braiding.

Here are instructions for how to fashion a simple and beautiful flower lei.

Items you will need:

-A lei needle, (or any long, thin needle), about 10 inches long.
-Lei thread, (or fishing line, carpet thread or even dental floss), about 90 inches long.
-Flowers. For our purposes, we will suppose our lei is to be made with Dendrobium orchids. You will need about 50.

-Thread the needle and remove the stems from the flowers. Pierce the orchid in the front, right through the center, and out the backside. Pull the flower onto the needle and continue this process until you have several flowers on the needle, then slide the flowers onto the thread. Continue this process until the thread is full of flowers, leaving 2 inches at either end. Tie the ends together so that the flowers join end to end and the thread is no longer visible. Trim off the remaining thread ends and your neck lei is complete.

-Another style of neck lei is to leave it open-ended. In this case, just knot the ends of the lei so that the flowers donít slip off and trim the thread ends off. This style of lei is meant to be worn with the lei around the back of the neck and the open ends hanging down the front of the body.

-Leis can also be worn around the ankles, wrists, and around the head. For these leis, measure the thread accordingly, again leaving room at the ends. Wrist and ankle leis will need about 10-15 orchids and a head lei will need about 25. These leis are to be fastened onto the body, not before. For a pretty touch, you can add ribbon to either end of the thread and use this to fasten the lei in a satiny bow.

-Store your completed lei in a moistened plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Leis can be made from a number of materials: greenery, nuts, seeds, shells, wood, plastic flowers, money, paper, yarn, etc. Itís really up to you, depending on your taste and the occasion.

The gorgeous and fragrant flower leis that we all picture we will be adorned with when stepping off the plane in Hawaii are not always available, depending on where you live. After all, about 90% of Hawaiiís flowers are found only in Hawaii. But donít despair. You can use any type of flower you wish when creating your own lei. Roses, violets ad pansies, to name a few, make gorgeous leis. And donít be afraid to mix them up a bit. The possibilities are up to you.

One of my personal favorites is a simple carnation lei. They are very affordable, hardy, and can be found in shops practically anywhere, and at any time of the year. They make wonderfully fragrant and super thick garlands.

There is no wrong way or wrong material when it comes to making your own lei. They are fun to make and to give. But donít forget, it is rude to not accept a lei as a gift, and when giving a one, it is customary to accompany it with a kiss.

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