Recycled Paper Hawaiian Lei




A lei made from recycled paper which is a great alternative for your next Hawaiian themed party.

I love using paper for any application possible, and even better when I can recycle something that would otherwise be thrown away. Of course you can use any paper you have available, but do consider giving all that advertising junk mail a second life.

This instructable combines a bit of paper bead making with some origami crease folding. My final lei is about 80cms long.

* Glossy paper catalogue or advertising junk mail
* String (I've used wool)
* Glue

* Needle (knitting finishing needle works well as it's not overly sharp)
* Glass (to measure circles)
* Scissors

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Step 1: Make Paper Beads

I won't go into detail here on how to make paper beads as there is an excellent instructable called "How to make paper beads" - - which is where I learned how to make them.

I recommend making beads that are about 3.5cm long (1.5 inches) to allow enough space for the 'flowers' to take shape. The quantity will depend on how long you wish your lei to be. I've used 25 beads in this example.

No need to give these guys a varnish coat at the end as they won't be exposed to water.

Step 2: Cut Out Flowers

Keep several sheets of paper stacked together so you only have to mark and cut a couple of time.

Use a small drinking glass as a circle template and mark circles across your paper. Cut out the circles. Flick through the final cut outs to match similar colours together. This will help to keep a consistent theme.

With a small stack of circles in hand, cut five small nicks around the edge of the circle. This creates the petal effect and will help at the folding stage. Repeat for all circles.

Step 3: Fold Flowers

This is the origami creasing stage. Take one flower and pinch a crease from the point of the nick to the centre. Repeat for each of the nicks which should leave you with a piece of paper that now has a point at the centre. If you're happy with the shape of the flower at this stage, you can leave it here and move onto the next step.

Otherwise if you're after a bit more detail, take your creased flower and make a reverse crease towards the centre of the petal. That crease should come naturally based on the first set of crease you made (essentially the crease made when you join the two existing creases together). Continue for each of the other petals.

You should end up with a five petalled flower that has some body and shape. Repeat this procedure for all other flowers. You'll end up with a nice stack of formed flowers. This is the kind of task that you can do in front of the TV which makes the folding part go more quickly.

Step 4: Thread Beads and Flowers

Take a length of string (somewhere around 80cms seems to be long enough to be able to get your head through) and knot one end. Thread a needle on the other end and begin by threading on one bead, then pierce the needle through two flowers facing BACK TO BACK one at a time, i.e. have the points of the flowers touching. Continue with the bead and pair of flowers combination until you reach the desired length. Tie the two ends together, cut off tails and that's it.

Get creative and form your own patterns based on paper colour, bead colour, or shape combinations.

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12 Discussions


9 years ago on Introduction

I plan on making mine from one of those travel magazines, nice tropical colors from Hawaii and the Mediterranean!


9 years ago on Introduction

I'm thinking of threading Christmas colors on a stiff wire... Instant wreath!  I had a little hand crank machine as a kid to make those paper beads.  I think I must have made thousands.  All it really was was a bit of metal tube with a notch to catch the end of the paper, attached to a hand crank to wrap it around, and it came with a glue stick. 

2 replies

Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

Hey, I might try that wreath idea! There are a few products I've seen used on the Internet. I gather that the device you describe allows you to have one hand free. I love the simplicity of using a tooth pick or skewer as they're so accessible.


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

Yeah, the kind of wire that holds its shape pretty well, but the only kind I've seen is for bracelets... maybe the kind that they put in those el cheapo laundry hampers?


9 years ago on Introduction

ah, I really like this, i think i might make some for no reason except to lei my friends in the middle of winter. (: thanks for the idea.


9 years ago on Step 4

brilliant idea.. thanks


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

I've seen a few versions of the paper lei where the flowers are cut out and kept flat (no folding) and straws used as spacers. Certainly much easier for children. As my focus is on using recycled paper, and because I love making beads, I've taken the paper bead option.


9 years ago on Introduction

These are really pretty. :)

I'd almost like to make just the flowers to string along the walls of my apartment!

1 reply