A friend of mine was graduating from her middle school recently so I wanted to make sure she was looking correct at the ceremony. Turns out buying graduation leis at the last minute is the WORST, because seriously just for a carnation lei, the grocery store was trying to sell it to me for $75. For an orchid lei? $90. Seriously!?
So I figured I’ll throw together a last minute DIY one. I actually really like the carnation leis because they look so much more full than the candy, or orchid leis. I don’t like being able to count how many flowers are on someone’s lei from a far distance. Even using expensive flowers, it makes me think that whomever made them was running out of materials or something. Which is the opposite feeling you want to give someone at a graduation, a ceremony where you want to feel like the opportunities coming your way are limitless.
But turns out this one, from beginning to end took me about an hour, and the materials cost only $28. My usual supplier wasn’t going to be open early enough in the morning so luckily I found some FRESH carnations at the flower market. My friend ended up LOVING the lei, and people at the ceremony kept asking left and right how to make it, so I figured it should be a special secret just for us at TTF. Shhhhhh
5 bunches of large carnations in 2 contrasting colors (at least 50 blooms)
1 pair of floral shears
Thick sewing string
1 appliqué sewing needle
Thick ribbon (at least one foot)
Step #1: I make sure to find carnations that look really fresh and the stems are still very green. You’ll need at least 50 blooms and choose colors that will go well together. Make sure the blooms are not looking dry because the lei will not last.
Step #2: Cut the carnations at the stem right under the base, leave about one cm so that the string has something to hang on to but not enough that there’s any sharpness left.
Step #3: Lay out the blooms separately in a single layer so that none of them get crushed.
Step #4: Tie a loop knot. First thread the string through the needle and then take the ends and create a loop. Twist the loop in the opposite direction and from your end pull the needle through while you’re holding the string.
Step #5: Repeat this same step two more times to create a really strong knot. This is going to be what holds the entire lei together.
Step #6: Start with one of the bigger blooms, thread the string through the base of the carnation. Pull the flower all the way to the knot.
Step #7: In a criss-cross pattern, alternate colors two at a time in order to create a large striped pattern.
Step #8: Once you get to the end, tie the end of the strings together three times; leave about an inch and half of space. In the space, tie an outer facing bow. An oversized bow makes the entire thing POP.
*Note — I ran out of flowers towards the end because I was planning on only using 4 bunches. So there’s an extra section of red carnations. Whoops.