In Hawai’i it’s tradition to give graduates leis to celebrate their accomplishment. Leis are made from many different types of materials and in many different styles. Since we’re now stationed away from Hawai’i on the mainland, I focus on giving graduates ribbon leis since I don’t have easy access to traditional Hawaiian flowers. Ribbon leis are ideal for graduations because they can be kept as a keepsake. This year I’ve been expanding my lei making repertoire by making double braided ribbon leis. Once you know the steps, they’re easy to make and quite impressive.
I grew up in Hawai’i. This is from my high school graduation just last year (wink) with about half the total number of leis I received. If you’re not familiar with Hawaiian graduations, I received fewer leis than many of my classmates that had large extended families.
Somewhere in that beautiful mass of leis around my neck are several ribbon leis. While everyone loves fresh flower leis, a ribbon lei is special when it’s made personally just for you. I held onto my ribbon leis for years as treasured keepsakes and memories of a very special day.
Double Braided Ribbon Lei Instructions
While ribbon leis play an important role in Hawaiian graduations, there are many occasions that are perfect for a lei.
- High School Graduation
- College Graduation
- Lei Day (May 1st)
- Last Day of Work
- Secretary’s Day
- Boss’s Day
- Teacher Appreciation
- Coach Appreciation
Ribbon Leis are traditionally made in the graduate’s school colors. If you’re not sure of the school colors, you can usually find them on the school’s website.
Ribbon Lei Supplies
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- Satin Craft Ribbon 1/4 inches wide – You’ll need 8-10 yards of 4 lengths of ribbon. Two colors are used make the traditional double braided ribbon lei, but you can use three or four colors if you choose.
- Clothes Pins, Chip Clips or Large Paperclips – Used to hold lengths of ribbon neatly bound while you braid.
The double braided ribbon lei is made with 4 separate strands of ribbon. To keep the ribbon from getting tangled (and yourself from becoming confused), you’ll want to use clips (or paper clips for the technique shown in the video below) to keep each strand of ribbon neatly organized. Be sure to take the time to set your ribbon bundles up neatly before you start braiding.
Make a loop with a knot in one red and one white ribbon (use my directions for red and white ribbons to match the colors you choose). Leave approximately 4-6 inches of a ribbon tail when you make your knot.
Fold the contrasting color ribbon to form a loop and thread through the loop of each knotted ribbon. Leave a ribbon tail of about 4-6 inches on each folded ribbon.
Set your ribbon pairs up like the photo below. This step is critical, so take your time to get the set up correct. The color ribbon you want to be the outside color of your double braided ribbon lei should be in the position of the red ribbons below. In the photo below, the red ribbon will be on the outside edge of the 4 ribbon lei and the white ribbon will be on the inside of the lei.
Starting with the red ribbon on the top or outside of the lei (see above), take the corresponding white ribbon, make a loop and slip it through the red loop. Pull the red ribbon until it snugs up on the white ribbon you just threaded through it.
Then do the same with the while loop you originally created and its corresponding red ribbon.
Take your time keeping the ribbons straight and snugged down tightly, without wrinkling. The weaving process is most difficult at this starting stage One you’ve woven about three inches of lei, the weaving process become easier.
Now work through the top or outside red loop with its corresponding white ribbon.
Complete this step by working through the lower white loop with its corresponding red ribbon.
Be sure to stop after each pair of loops to straighten the ribbons and snug up the loops.
You’ll notice that each white (or inner lei color) crosses over the previous white ribbon. This is what creates the braided look in the middle of the lei.
Continue braiding until the lei measures 40 to 45 inches long.
Once your lei reaches your desired length, slip the ends of the ribbon through the loops and pull tight. Knot or sew the ends of the ribbon together to create the lei. Create a bow to tie onto the joined portion of the lei.
You can see the braiding process in action in this video.
It takes about an hour to an hour and a half to complete a double braided ribbon lei and costs about $4 – $5. The project is a great portable craft that you can take with you to appointments or sports practices. It’s also easy to work on while watching your favorite show.
Be sure to check out my seven other lei tutorials. Who do you know that would love to receive a double braided ribbon lei? Grab those 4 strands of ribbon and get to making a memorable gift that will be treasured.