Thursday, February 12, 2015

Crafting from Around the World: Lei Making in Hawaii

I have just returned from a week long vacation in Hawaii and yes, it was awesome. It was sunny and warm and the scenery was beautiful. But you didn't think that I would actually take a vacation from crafting though, did you?

I went with two of my friends from medical school and we stayed near the Waikiki beach area. On day 3 of our trip, we discovered that just a few blocks from our hotel, the Royal Hawaiian Center was offering free Lei making lessons every week day. Of course we had to be there! Our class had a total of 25 participants and the three of us sat down at a long table with a surprising number of tourists from Canada. (We were all there to escape the snow :) )

The basics of lei making are pretty simple: you just need to string a bunch of flowers one by one onto a piece of string with a needle. Execution of this though, was a little trickier than it first seemed.

The materials

We were each given a basket containing a generous collection of orchids and two other flowers which I have forgotten the names of. At first, I was a little horrified at the thought of all those cut flowers being used in a craft - I kept thinking of how much trouble my mother has with coaxing our orchid plants to bloom each year and the thought of using those blossoms to make garlands made me a little uneasy. However, I was in Hawaii and the blase way they treat orchids makes them seem like they grow like weeds there. My hang ups didn't last long. :P

The first thing we did was snap any residual stems off the orchids. Then, using the needle, we would string the flowers together one at a time, careful to pierce each flower right in the centre.

The needle was a foot long!

A flower shouldn't spin around on the string once it is strung - if it does, you did not pierce it at the right spot. 

The pattern was fairly simple: orchid, orchid, orange flower, white flower, repeat.

It took about an hour but the three of us all managed to finish our leis (some of us with fewer injuries than others in the process :P). I thought that the different types of flowers made our leis much prettier than the plain orchid leis that were being sold on the streets.

Another nature craft which we made in Hawaii was a crown woven from coconut leaves and decked out with flowers.

It's not quite like braiding; you need to twist each strand under before weaving it in. 

Flowers go on the right side if you are single and on the left side if you are 'taken'.

I wish Canada had the same abundance of flowers for me to craft with. In the cold climates, you either need to be super rich (real flowers aren't cheap!) or work in a flower shop if you want to play with blooms on a regular basis. Hmm... maybe I'll try making a dandelion lei in the summer...

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