Saturday, January 14, 2017

Olé, Olé

While we were on our cruise around Hawaii we Dreamers attended a class on ribbon lei making. I was enamored with the ribbon lei* that many of the crew members wore, and enjoyed learning how to make the simplest version.

Lei were introduced to Hawaiians by early Polynesians, who adorned themselves with necklaces of flowers, seeds, shells or bones. The lei soon came to signify peace among opposing chiefs.With the advent of tourism, lei became a symbol of welcome. I received a flower lei as I boarded the ship. Each night the cabin steward would adorn the towel creation with my wilting lei.

The instructor of our class explained that lei are given to friends and are proffered for special occasions. She told a story about engaging fellow airplane passengers in making ribbon lei on a trip to the east coast to attend her daughter's graduation. Passengers round her helped and by the time she landed she had ribbon lei in school colors for all of the graduates.

This is the first lei that I made.

After learning how to make lei I decided I wanted to make more. When we docked in Hilo the next day we made a quick stop at a craft shop. I was amazed by the ribbon aisle. I'm used to seeing a variety of ribbons, usually on spools that are 3 to 4 inches in diameter. The craft stores at home have a long aisle of ribbons in great variety of widths, colors, fabrics and styles. This craft store had that aisle, then it had another with nothing but large spools of 3/8" grosgrain ribbon in many colors, all on 7" spools, each spool holding 100 yards of ribbon! I guess that says something about how popular ribbon lei are in Hawaii!

For the next few days, until we met the rest of the family, I experimented with making lei in different color combinations and with slight variations to how I folded the ribbon. I incorporated silver ribbon and a gauzy ribbon. By the time we caught up with the family, I had more than enough for everyone.

The ship also had classes in making lei using Kukui nuts. I didn't have the opportunity to take the class, but I purchased several different styles of nuts and shells. We Dreamers made a few lei with the nuts. Here the little one reluctantly wears a Kukui nut lei with her grass skirt.

Items made from Kukui nuts have spiritual significance. Kukia nuts are said to "enlighten" the wearer. The nuts from Hawaii's State tree, also called the candlenut tree, have dense oil that was once used for lamps. The original oil lights consisted of the Kukui nut meats themselves. A number of nut meats were pushed down on small wood spindle forming a candle. The top most nut would be lit afire. As the nut was slowly consumed by fire, the next nut would catch fire.

Samples of lei displayed on the ship

It is said that if you toss your lei in the water, you are guaranteed to return to the islands. This is the other grandmother's lei.

I didn't toss mine. When my lei had met its end I didn't think about the legend. Perhaps if one's lei is buried in a landfill in Hawaii, the same can be said?!

* There is no plural form of words in Hawaii. Therefore, "lei" could be singular or plural.


  1. Your lei are gorgeous, Dreaming! I love that you were cruising the Hawaiian waters!

    1. Thanks, and the cruise was wonderful. I am so glad that we opted for that rather than a few days here and there. Between rental cars and ship excursions we saw a lot!

  2. You learned a new craft and that ribbon aisle sounds wonderful! What pretty creations...and your Grand looks so cute! :)

    1. I am smitten with our granddaughter. She is a challenging little girl and already knows what she wants and when she wants it!!


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