DIY Recycled Lei

Did you know flower leis were first worn and woven by the Hawaiians so long ago that they have no record of their origins? But what we do know is that May 1st is Lei Day. Instantly recognized as a symbol of Hawaiʻi, leis are known to be worn by both men and women to celebrate special occasions. With graduation season coming up, flower leis will be in high demand! Switch things up by gifting eco-friendly leis made out of recycled paper.


  • Glossy paper catalogs, junk mail, or newspaper
  • String
  • Glue
  • Needle (threading needle or sewing needle)
  • Cup or coaster to measure “flowers”
  • Scissors
  • Marker
  • Ruler or measuring tape

Step 1: Cut Out Flowers

Gather the scrap paper of your choosing.

Using a marker and circular object such as a cup or coaster, trace out circles in the paper. The larger the circle, the larger and fuller your flowers will be. To make things faster, you can stack papers on top of each other and use the marked paper as a guide for cutting.

Cut out as many circles as you would want – the more circles, the more flowers you can make!

Then, take one circle and cut five small nicks, or cuts, around the edge of the circle. This creates the petal effect and will help with the folding. Repeat for all circles.

Step 2: Fold Flowers

Take each circle and pinch a crease from the nick to the center.

Repeat for each nick until you have a piece of paper with a point in the center. Do this for each flower. This will create a five petalled flower. When you’re satisfied with the shape of your flower, you are welcome to move on to the next step.

Step 3: Thread Flowers

Your string should be about 80 cm long (or long enough that your head can fit through it). Knot one end of the string. Thread a needle onto the other end of the string. Begin threading the needle through the flowers, making sure that the flowers are touching one another.

Once you’ve reached the desired length, bind the two ends together, cut off the tails, and voila! You have a recycled paper lei!

This method of lei making can help you participate in reducing waste, repurposing recycled materials, and celebrating Lei Day! You can make these for any day that requires a lei and is a great chance to be both fashionable and eco-friendly.

Recycled Paper Hawaiian Lei
How to Make a Lei
The History of Lei Day