Introduction: How to Make a Lei Po'o

About: I am an architectural designer and artist who loves to make beautiful things.

This instructable is for anyone who is interested in learning how to make a lei po'o.

Lei po'o are traditional Hawaiian adornments that are worn around the head. They can be made out of feathers, leaves, flowers, or raffia. The lei in this instructable is made out of simple raffia, and can be used as an adornment for traditional hula kahiko (ancient hula dancing.)

I love that lei po'o are seen with reverence among hula dancers-it is an honor to be able to make and wear the lei, and to be part of a tradition that dates back to ancient times. While this lei is incredibly simple, it takes a lot of time and patience (ahonui) to create. Ahonui is a virtue in hula dancing, and taking the time to create a lei po'o can be seen as a simple way to practice and celebrate this virtue.

Step 1: Assemble


  • Raffia-raffia is a natural material derived from palm trees that can be purchased from most craft stores. I bought mine from Michaels.
  • Scissors-for cutting raffia
  • Wired Brush-for ruffing out the raffia ends and creating a more full lei po'o. I got mine in the pet section at Target.

Step 2: Cut Strands

Cut multiple strands of raffia at around 9" in length. These will be used to create the "feathered" edge around the lei po'o crown.

Step 3: Create Base for Lei Po'o

Cut 3 pieces of raffia of equal length, about the length of the circumference of your head, plus an extra 12" or so. Tie a knot on one end, leaving around 6" of extra raffia on the shorter end of the knot. This extra raffia will be used to tie the po'o into a unified circle one it is finished.

This may sound odd, but once the knot is tied, it helps to wrap the end strands of the end around your big toe. This will keep the strands in place for the next step.

Step 4: Knot

This is the hardest and most time-consuming step.

Knot the 9" raffia strands around the raffia base by creating simple loops. Pull the loop tight and then repeat, until you have a string of loops the length of the circumference of your head. Knot the three strands of the base on this end as well, leaving at least 6 inches of raffia beyond the knot.

See video demonstrating the loop method.

Step 5: Repeat

Repeat steps 1-3, to create two sets of looped raffia, both the length of the circumference of your head.

Step 6: Attach

Attach both sets of looped raffia together by setting them side by side and stringing a long string of raffia around the base multiple times.

It may help to thread a piece of raffia through a large needle and string the pieces around with the needle.

Step 7: Cut

Once you have two sets of looped raffia attached together, you can cut the raffia to the appropriate size. The crown should protrude from the base approximately the same length as a standard credit card. Use a card as a guide while cutting the edges of the raffia.

Step 8: Ruffle

Once the lei is the appropriate length, it should be ruffled with a wire brush to give it the appropriate fullness. This will also split the raffia strings into multiple, thin strands, so the finished project looks "feathered." Aggressively brush the lei along the sides and front, ruffing out the strands.

Step 9: Tie

There should be around 6" of raffia beyond each end of the lei. Braid the extra raffia on each end, and then tie the braids together to create a single, cohesive crown.

That's it! Enjoy celebrating Hawaiian culture and cultivating your inner ahonui.