How to Make a Lei Using Crepe Paper

By Karren Doll Tolliver ; Updated September 15, 2017
Make a crepe paper lei for an exotic addition to your holiday wear.

According to Hawaiian tradition, a lei is a string of flowers, leaves, shells, feathers, seeds or other items worn around the head or neck for decoration. Early Polynesian settlers to Hawaii from Tahiti likely brought the custom to the islands. Leis are often given as welcoming presents or all-occasion gifts. Today’s leis can be made from paper, a custom that probably began with the early tourist trade in Hawaii. In fact, in the early part of the 20th Century, lei artists created very intricate crepe paper leis.

Cut the thread twice as long as you want your lei to be. Thread it through the eye of a large needle, bring both ends together and knot it. This makes the thread twice as strong.

Roll out a length of crepe paper on your work surface and leave it attached to the roll.

Insert the needle in the middle of the end of the crepe paper and make a running stitch along the length of the crepe paper strip. Each stitch should be about 1/4-inch long. After you have sewn two or three stitches, pull the thread all the way through.

Gather the crepe paper into a fan fold as you sew, pushing it gently but firmly toward the knotted end of your thread.

Twist the bunched fan fold in a clockwise direction when you have an inch or so gathered, keeping a firm grasp on it so that it does not untwist.

Continue sewing through the center of the crepe paper strip, gathering the crepe paper into a fan fold, and twisting the bunches every inch or two until you have the length of lei you desire. If you run out of one crepe paper roll, simply begin sewing another roll onto your thread.

Sew the end of the lei to the other end and make a knot to hold it in a circle. Trim off any excess thread.


Use different colors of crepe paper to vary the design of your leis.

You can use sheets of crepe paper instead of rolls. Cut the sheets into two-inch strips to make the leis.

Make a multi-colored lei out of two different colors of crepe paper layered together. Place one color strip over the other and sew the thread through them as though there were only one layer.

Try using strips of crepe paper of differing widths together in one lei for an unusual effect.

You can also cut scallops or fringe in the outer edges of the crepe paper strips and even twist the cuts before sewing and twisting.


Crepe paper leis are very delicate and can be easily crushed. Keep them in a safe place.

About the Author

Karren Doll Tolliver holds a Bachelor of English from Mississippi University for Women and a CELTA teaching certificate from Akcent Language School in Prague. Also a photographer, she records adventures by camera, combining photos with journals in her blogs. Her latest book, "A Travel for Taste: Germany," was published in 2015.