Yeah, yeah. I know you're thinking, "You live in Hawaii, isn't it summer ALL THE TIME?"
Yes. Yes, it is.
But when you have school-aged children, life is markedly different when all four of them are home at once. All of a sudden I have to prepare three square meals a day, not just dinner. They wake up at 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning and I have to keep them occupied so they don't become internet/online game junkies. But I'm not complaining.
On to crafty endeavors.
Back in February, I volunteered at my son's school to make lei for the 6th Grade Promotion Ceremony. I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but I was drafted to teach the ladies in the committee how to make yarn lei. I was so freaked out to do it because I'm not a teacher. I come from a family of teachers, but I never felt I was patient enough to be one. When I was in high school, I made a conscious decision to never become a teacher. All of a sudden, I'm supposed to teach fellow parents how to make something.
Crazy enough, on the day I was to hold the workshop, I spent approximately one hour learning from a locally published book, made some foot-long twisted needles from floral wire (to string up the grosgrain ribbon that makes up the center of the lei - I didn't want to spend money to buy ten needles), and I headed to the school for the tutorial.
THANK GOD this particular style was super easy to make.
|Fifteen lei on my messy dining room table. Look, my daughter didn't even bother to put away her shoes.|
This lei doesn't take a lot of materials: just one skein of eyelash yarn (in this case, 2, because of the colors), 1-1/2 yards of grosgrain ribbon, 2 kukui nuts, a long needle, scissors, and a drinking straw. Yes, a drinking straw. Give yourself 30 minutes and you got one of these babies. Give yourself a month, some wine or coffee, a good TV show, and you've got 15 of these babies. Ha ha!
Each of the ladies in the committee were asked to make 15 lei each, and each student had a keepsake that will last them a lifetime.
|All the 6th Graders wearing our handmade lei during their class song. Congratulations MES Class of 2014!|
In my experiences growing up in Guam and Hawaii, we always gave lei to those who were celebrating special occasions. Graduations are no exception. In fact, graduation time is when lei-giving is at its craziest. There is a phenomenon that happens in the islands during this season with families and friends giving the celebrant as many lei as possible. So many, that the entire stack of lei practically engulfs the recipient from the neck up. The best kind is when the graduate has to peek through the lei to even see. This is a tradition I'd missed when we left the islands. For my mainland friends, if you happen to attend a high school or college graduation and see a graduate with a crazy high stack of lei that looks like it may choke them, you will probably be correct to presume they have close family ties to Hawaii or Guam.
|Congratulations, Chelsea! (Check out the lei of bouncy house balls, the shoe lei, and the flotation device?!)|
|Congratulations, JJ! (Note the "For Sale" lei and the yellow "Do Not Cross" ribbon.)|
I wanted to note that for both my niece and nephew pictured above, the lei around their necks were only half of what each of them actually received on graduation night!
Lei are 100% handmade. I know of no automated process that creates lei. If you see mass productions in stores or online, keep in mind they were all made by someone's hands. Of course, traditionally they were made of flowers, but lei can be made with practically anything that encircles the recipient. Just as any gift, lei is a symbol of love and caring from the giver and can be made as personal as you want, especially if you're giving it to your friends or loved ones. It goes without saying it can get really expensive if you're giving lei to a whole bunch of people. Folks here in Hawaii get damn creative when making a large amount of lei for friends.
|Lei I made for my daughter's classmates for graduation. Made with grosgrain ribbon and handmade pouches filled with super cute Japanese candies. Cheap and easy. (Hey, there's 30 in that bunch -- made in one night)|
I won't go into the history of lei. There are lots of good resources out there on the interwebs. But if you'd like to learn more, you can discover its origins on HawaiiHistory.org and on Discover-Oahu.com. The website Coffeetimes.com has a more in-depth article on its history located here.
The yarn lei I created at the top of this blog post was made of 2 skeins of eyelash yarn. Of note, it is my experience that local stores here in Hawaii have THE LARGEST selection of eyelash yarn for these lei in all manner of colors to fit all possible graduating schools in the State. For this product, unfortunately, Michaels and Joann's ain't got nothing on these local stores.
**Shameless Plug Alert**
If you would like a lei made for your special graduate, contact me at the bottom of this post well in advance of the graduation date (maybe a month or two) and we can work something out.
And with the end of graduation season and all that "lei"-ing, came the summer. Stay tuned!