This time of year means graduation. High school graduation and college graduation. I grew up in Hawai’i and graduation means giving leis to all the graduates you know. Most often we give flower leis, but ribbon leis are also a traditional graduation lei. Since I currently live on the mainland where it’s more difficult to come across fresh flowers (at a reasonable price) to make leis, I rely on the traditional ribbon lei. You make the lei in the graduate’s school colors and the lei is a nice graduation keepsake. Learning how to make a ribbon lei is simple and once you get the hang of it, you can make a single strand in under 30 minutes. I’ve included a graduation ribbon lei making video, too.
If you grew up in Hawai’i then you have a mom, grandmom or auntie that has been making ribbon leis for years. If you didn’t grow up in Hawai’i the best way to explain how leis are a staple of every graduation is to show you a photo from my high school graduation. I still received more leis after this photo was taken and I did not receive a lot of leis by Hawaiian graduation standards. With my second “baby” graduating this year, I’m in full-on lei making mode. If I lived in Hawai’i now, I would talk to my aunties and neighbors to get fresh flowers from their yards. My favorite fresh plumeria source was to walk to the post office. There were several old (which means full of flowers) plumeria trees at the post office that provided us with many, many homemade leis for graduations and hula performances. Since I live on the mainland where fresh flowers cost almost as much as a college education, I turn to the traditional graduation lei made from ribbon.
Ribbon leis are traditionally made in the graduate’s school colors.
How to Make a Ribbon Lei
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Pick up 2 spools of ribbon at your craft store. These spools of 10 yards of ribbon work perfectly for a small or average size graduate. For a tall or larger graduate, you’ll want 12 yards of each color of ribbon. I prefer to use the 1/4 inch ribbon and that’s a great size to use when you’re first learning how to make a ribbon lei.
More Ribbon Lei Tutorials
How to Make a Ribbon Lei
Find the middle of each color of ribbon. Crease the ribbon at the mid-point.
Insert the first ribbon loop (the light blue) inside the other loop.
Insert the second ribbon loop (the dark blue) inside the previous loop. Pull the previous loop (the light blue) tight. Be careful not to pull the loop so tight that the ribbon buckles. You want the loops to secure each other, but still lay flat.
Insert the first ribbon loop (the light blue) inside the previous loop.
Pull the previous loop (the dark blue) tight. Be careful not to pull the loop so tight that the ribbon buckles. You want the braided ribbon to lay flat and smooth. If one of the loops twist, take the time to straighten it out before continuing. If you don’t take the time to make the adjustments as you go, you’ll find that your pattern isn’t smooth and even later. It’s best to go slowly and make sure each loop is smooth and even now.
Continue the braiding pattern with the loops until you reach the end of the ribbons.
When the ribbon is too short to continue making loops, thread the ribbon through the final loop and pull tight.
Tie the two colors of ribbon securely into a double knot.
Secure the two ends of the lei with thread Add a coordinating bow to cover the joined ends of the lei. Add a tag wishing your graduate best wishes.
You may find it helpful to watch my video of how to make a ribbon lei.
Books on ribbon lei making available on Amazon:
You can give a single strand ribbon lei or now that you know how to make a ribbon lei, you can give your graduate the traditional three strand lei to celebrate their big day and big accomplishment. Happy Graduation.