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Lei Maker

Basic Supplies for Lei Making

Ti also known as ki leaf is very special to the Hawaiian culture, both old and new. It was one of the canoe plants, the plants that were brought by Polynesian settlers. The kahuna's used (and still do) ti leaf in religious ceremonies, believed to ward off evil spirits. The ti was the sacred symbol of the gods. In old Hawaii, ti was planted around the entire house to keep out the evil spirits.

Though ti is not edible it has many uses. The leaf can be used to roll up fish or meat much like tin foil and baked or steamed. The center stalk (bone) can be rolled and weaved into rope or cord, a few pieces tied together create a basket for food or lei giving. Ti is also used in hula skirts as well as modern lei. Ti leaf is versatile as decor, flower arrangements, doilies, and yard plantings.

Ti stalks are simple to root and grow into healthy thriving plants requiring minimum of care. They require frequent watering and are best grown out of direct sunshine and not too windy conditions. Ti comes in a variety of colors, the green ti has a very large leaf and is the most versatile. Fancy ti come in a variety of red, maroons and mixtures of green, reds and pinks. These hybrid's generally have a smaller leaf and the deep red ti can stain clothing if used in a lei. The color variations are also caused by too much or not enough sun. If placed in direct wind, the ti leaves quickly become shredded.

Ti leis can be frozen or refrigerated over and over, to be used the following day and look as fresh as the day it was picked. There are few plants anywhere in the world that can boast this.

Prepping Your Ti

The process required before making the lei is simple but time consuming. It is a good idea to prepare quite a bit in advance. Once cleaned, deboned, and frozen - the ti can remain in the freezer till needed. Or ironed and chilled. Be patient with these directions. I have never written them out, most lei methods are taught. I am not the most patient of ti leaf lei makers, my children are much better at it than I. The ti must be tightly twined or will unravel, and it is important to space each twine even or the lei will become lop-sided. I will eventually draw pictures to explain the entire process , for now directions will have to do.

You will need only the top two on the list of supplies for this project.

  1. Ti leaf is cut off the plant and rinsed.
  2. The center 'bone' is removed (deboned).
  3. After deboning, there are now 2 somewhat soft lengths of ti leaf.

These lengths are still too crisp to be used for a lei. (but are perfect to wrap fresh fish or meat and baked) There are quite a few ways to make the crisp leaf soft enough for twining.


Freezing for a day or so will make them pliable and bring out the rich green.

Defrosting requires a day or so for the retained moisture to evaporate, unroll and lay out. Too wet ti, will quickly become a sticky mess that is difficult to work.


Ironing each leaf on med or low setting, will quickly soften the leaf. This is a great method when you are in a hurry or have not prepared in advance.

Your Ti Lei

One note of caution. If you are arthritic this may not be a good lei to make. It does come with the danger of cramped fingers, green teeth and or a numb toe. 8/98

Other Lei Links

Coming Soon - More Lei Making
Tamsters Ti Leaf Lei
Home:The Lost Art of the Lei
Coming Soon - More Lei Making

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