When I was at San Francisco Pride this weekend, I got overwhelming interest about my head piece and if I made it. I would give mini, impromptu, tutorials on how and where they could probably find tutorials on how to make them. I've been making these for years so I figured, why not make my own tutorial?
So here it is!
What is a ribbon lei you ask?
Well, curious bystander, let me tell you a thing! A ribbon lei is traditionally a form of necklace. The word "lei" referring to the Hawaiian wreaths that beautiful woman place around your neck, typically made of flowers, when you arrive at a Lu'au. However, ribbon leis have many practical and cosmetic uses! They are a series of loops and are made by weaving these loops together.
We're hovering around a "I learned how to do this when I was 6" level.
Approximate Time Needed:
The one seen in the examples took me about 1/3 of an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. So about 10-15min for a head piece and MAYbe 20-15min for an entire lei. Maybe even less if you're not watching an episode of your favorite TV show and periodically getting distracted by awesomeness.
So are you ready?!
I'm going to make YOU a ribbon lei expert!
Step 1: Supplies
You will need two things when making a ribbon lei.
2. Two available hands.
That's a lot to remember so let's go over these supplies in detail.
You can use any ribbon to make a ribbon lei. Please excuse my over excessive use of the word 'literally', but you can use literally any ribbon! You can even use things that are ribbon shaped, like grass or tape! You will, of course, get different results of elasticity, width, and texture depending on the ribbon you use, but for the sake of learning how to make a ribbon lei, you can use any old ribbon you've got laying around.
How much ribbon will you need? For a headpiece, about a 4ft of ribbon. For a headpiece with long tassels, about 2-3 yards depending on the length of your tassels. For a entire lei, I play it safe and get two spools of the same ribbon. You can use the excess ribbon, if any, to make a matching bracelet or headpiece.
You can even use two different colors/types of ribbon, which makes for an excellent pattern, but ensure your ribbon is the same width or your loops will come out lopsided.
I have to hand it to ribbon lei making, pun intended, that it is a very hand friendly activity. My mom had pretty severe arthritis and she enjoyed making ribbon leis and could pump them out like it was making her money! It's also friendly to shaky hands. There's nothing precise about making ribbon leis! If you're looking for a hobby that requires very little dexterity, this is the activity for you!
Step 2: Uses
Ribbon leis are incredibly useful! They can be made into:
- Handles for home-made purses/bags
- Hair Attachments
- Base for a flower headpiece
And probably 100 other uses I haven't thought of yet!
For the belts, I recommend 2in ribbon or wider.
For the handles, I recommend more of a chord/fabric type of ribbon. Normal ribbon works well too but will be more elastic than one typically wants their purse straps to be.
Step 3: Let's Make a Ribbon Lei!
Let's get started!
Utilizing the labeled photos above, follow the steps below.
- Start with two, unattached, pieces of ribbon. For the sake of this tutorial, I will be using an orange 1/2in ribbon and a purple 1/2in ribbon in the examples above.
- Decide how much tail/excess you want for your headpiece. I recommend leaving enough to tie a bow, 10in or so, to neatly tie your ends together at the end. Once you've decided how much to leave, measure that out and tie a knot, ensuring that your two pieces of ribbon are coming out of the same end of the knot, as seen in image #1 above.
- At the base of the knot, create a loop with one of your two free pieces of ribbon so that the excess is on top, folded toward you, as seen with the orange ribbon in image #2.
- Wrap your 2nd piece of ribbon, in my case - the purple ribbon, around the back of the loop you just made. Fold it over so the excess ribbon is facing toward you, as seen in image #3.
- Still using the purple piece of ribbon, make loop with the excess ribbon folded toward you and on the top as seen in image #4.
- Feed the loop you just made (purple) through the loop you made in step 2 (orange) as seen in image #5 & 6. NOTE: These loops do not have to be tight! (Yet)
- Tighten the loop you made in step 2 (orange) around the loop you made in step 5 (purple) by pulling on the excess ribbon tail (the orange tail) that should be hanging out of the bottom of your started piece, by the knot you just made. Reference image #7 for a visual.
- To continue, you will again make a loop using the opposite color (orange) than the one you just made a loop with (purple). Reverence image #8 for a visual.
- Feed the loop you just made (orange) through the loop you made in step 5 (purple), as seen in image #9 & 10.
- You have passed the hardest part!! How do you feel? Take a deep breath. It only gets easier from here!
- Continue making loops and feeding them into the opposite loop. Don't forget to tighten as you go, but not so tight that you are creasing the ribbon. I continue in the images above in images #11-13.
- Once you've made 8-10 loops, stop to admire your work, as seen in image #14.
- Once you have made your ribbon lei your desired length, measure out a tail for both ribbons to match the same length of tail you left at the beginning. Cut both at the desired length as seen in image #15
- Whichever loop you left off on, pull that ribbon all the way through, as seen with the purple ribbon in image #15.
- For the sake of symmetry, tie a knot off at the end, as seen in image #16.
- You can then tie the ends of your ribbon lei together in a neat bow or a simple knot. See image #17 for a visual.
- You now have a thing! Whether you aimed to make a bracelet, as I have in the example images, a necklace, or what have you, it should now be that thing!
If you found these steps confusing, please message me with feedback! There are plenty of video tutorials on YouTube, as well.
I hope you enjoy your thing! Wear it out and show the world how talented you are! Or give it as a gift and exaggerate how hard it was to make and how long it took to make yourself seem like an even cooler friend! May your ribbon lei adventure be joyous!
Live long and prosper.