Sunday, April 17, 2011

Week 16: Lei Making - Haku Style

In Week 15, we strung leis on thread. This week, we'll do a different style of lei making: a traditional braided lei, called haku style. Before thread and needles were introduced to Hawaii, one way to make leis was to braid the flowers into dampened ti leaves, creating a beautiful natural necklace or hair ornament. Ti leaves aren't as easily available as old bedsheets, though. So feel free to rip up some soft old sheets to long, thin lengths and use those instead.

Here's a flowered hair "scrunchy," woven with ti leaves and carnations:
You can attach this pretty braided hair ornament with bobby pins or tie underneath.
What You Need

  • carnation heads or flowers of your choice
  • damp ti leaves or long fabric strips (old bedsheets or light, soft fabric)
  • optional: hook and block of wood, for leverage

Start out by tearing your fabric, either long enough for a necklace length or shorter if you're going the flowered hairpiece route. Then tie one end, leaving a couple inches extra at the end.

It helps if you have something to use for leverage as you braid. In the class I took at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, we used a block of wood with hooks screwed into it. We stuck the tied end over the hook, as seen here:

Ti leaves hooked onto a block of wood, for leverage
Then we could stand up and pull hard on the leaves, helping to pull each braid tight. If you don't have a block of wood set up, don't worry. Just go ahead and braid, making sure to pull each braid as tight as possible.

Start by braiding four braids. Then, on the fifth braid, start adding flowers. Add a flower for each left and right braid that you make. The bottom of the flower head should be pushed below the braid, and the top should be above.

Braid four times, then start braiding in the flowers to the left and to the right.
The only thing holding in the flowers is the tightness of the braid. Pull hard on each braid to make sure it's really tight after you add in each flower.

Here's how the lei looks from underneath. You can see how the bottoms of the flower heads poke out underneath each braid.
Finish the lei by braiding four times at the end (without flowers). Then tuck the middle piece of braid underneath and tie the left and right ends together, again leaving a couple inches of leaf or fabric at the ends. You can use these loose pieces to tie the lei together, or to attach to your head with bobby pins.
The finished lei hair "scrunchy." You can't see the braids from the top, as the flowers fan out over the braided areas.
It's beautiful and fragile; to prolong the life of your lei, put it in a paper bag in the fridge. And then spend one evening with the prettiest hair scrunchy you'll ever wear.

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