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How to Make Fabric Leis

Fabric leis are made by stringing flowers together.
pineapple and lei image by William Berry from Fotolia.com

Making your own lei is a creative, festive and beautiful way to add a personal touch to any party or luau. Leis are made of flowers and are given on special occasions. They are considered symbols of good luck, and to be given one is considered an honor. Making your own by stringing fabric flowers together might take a little time, but the end result is worth the effort you put into it.

Fabric leis are made by stringing flowers together.
pineapple and lei image by William Berry from Fotolia.com

Things You'll Need:

  • Card Stock
  • Scissors
  • Fabric Marker
  • Sewing Needle And Thread
  • Three Different Pieces Of Silky Fabric (At Least A Yard Of Each)
  • Embroidery Needle
  • Fabric Flowers
  • Beads Or Shells
  • Straight Pins Or Safety Pins
  • Lighter Or Match
  • Tea Light Candle
  • Fabric Glue
  • Dental Floss (Unscented)

Making the Flowers

Draw circles onto the card stock. Draw one circle 4 inches in diameter, one circle 3 inches in diameter and one small circle 2 inches in diameter. They do not need to be perfect. In fact, the less perfect the circles are, the more realistic the flower will look. Cut out the flower templates.

Line up your fabric so that all three pieces are on top of one another. Pin the fabric so that the silky material does not slip. Using your patterns, cut out the fabric circles. Be sure to cut slowly around the pattern, keeping in mind that you are cutting through three pieces of fabric. If the fabric is too unwieldy, cut the yard into smaller pieces that are easier to handle before you begin cutting out the patterns. Leis usually have anywhere from 30 to 40 flowers, so you will cut 30 to 40 circles in the fabric.

Separate all your fabric circles by color and size. Arrange the the rest of your fabric flower supplies so that they are handy and easily accessible.

Arrange your fabric in an assembly-line format. Each flower will have the larger piece on the bottom, the middle piece in the middle and the smallest piece on the top. Once completed, this will give you three-tone tropical looking flowers. Pin the center of each stack of circles so that they do not fall apart. If you do not want uniform looking flowers, alternate the colors of fabric so that the same colors aren't always on the bottom, middle and top. Set the pinned fabric circles aside.

Sew the center of each pinned circle of fabric so that you can remove the pins. Six or seven tight hand stitches should be enough. The stitches should be quite close together and knotted so that the knot is not visible from the front. Do this for each fabric flower.

Light the tea light and hold the fabric flower upside down over the flame, being sure that there is at least an inch of space between the fabric and your flame. You are not burning the fabric or lighting it on fire. Instead, you are using the heat from the flame to crinkle the edges of the silky fabric, giving the flower a realistic look. The fabric will wilt extremely quickly. Turn the fabric in your hand over the flame until you get the desired effect.

Making the Lei

Arrange the items so that you have them easily accessible, again in an assembly-line fashion. Once you have made the flowers, the actual lei making is simple. This part of the craft can be done by smaller children, as an embroidery needle is not particularly sharp.

Thread your larger needle with the dental floss. Be sure to tie a knot around the eye of the needle, since the floss, beads and flowers are relatively heavy. Do not cut the other end of the floss, as this end will help keep your lei strung together until you are ready to cut the string.

Using an alternating pattern, string together the flowers and beads by plunging the needle through the center of the flower, then a bead, then another flower. Repeat the step until the lei is the desired length or all of the flowers have been used. Depending on the size of the beads used, you might find that not all the flowers are used. If this is the case, then you can make lei bracelets with any leftover materials.

Cut off the end of the dental floss, holding it carefully so that the flowers and beads do not slide off.

Tie together the ends of the floss, cutting the knot off the needle. Be sure that you tie them securely, double and triple-knotting your lei as needed.


One yard of fabric should make about 20 to 30 fabric flowers, depending on the size of the patterns you use. If you are making more than one lei, or need it to be longer, adjust the amount of the fabric accordingly.

Leis can also be made with ready-made silk flowers. Just be sure that they are aptly secured in the center so that they stay together while strung onto the lei.


  • Always make sure children are properly supervised around sharp objects and open flame.
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