May 25, 2017

Graduation Gift Idea: Handmade Money Lei

It's the time of year when graduations are all around. A graduation tradition in Hawaii that's spread to the mainland is the lei - even the supermarkets here in Los Angeles sell orchid leis at this time of year. But you can up the ante by making a money lei to give your favorite graduate. Here's how:

How to Make a Money Lei at

How to Make a Money Lei

Materials Needed:
100 new $1 bills
12 feet of string or ribbon
scotch tape
decorative ribbon

Step 1: Get one hundred new $1 bills at the bank. This is not as easy as it sounds. Apparently, today's banking system means banks rarely get new bills, and you really need new, crisp bills for this project. However, my bank is willing to request new bills, and although they can't guarantee they'll get them, they haven't failed me yet. However, it may take up to a week so if you can, plan ahead.

Step 2: Start folding. This step is the definition of tedium. Basically, you're making a fan out of each bill, as demonstrated in the video below:

When I'm getting started, I put the entire stack of $1 bills in a reusable shopping bag. After I fold each bill, I drop it back into the bag until it's time to assemble the lei.

Step 3: Assemble the lei. You'll need to cut 12 feet of string or ribbon. I like to use white curling ribbon, but that's certainly not the only type that would work in this project. Once you've got your length of ribbon, find the center, fold the length of ribbon in half, and make a knot, leaving a long tail on the end, as shown:

Money Lei starting the ribbon -

Next, place a folded $1 bill in the center of the knot, and tie it into place. Fan out the bill, and tape the ends, as demonstrated in this video:

Repeat with all remaining dollar bills.

Step 4: Finish the lei. Once you've tied all 100 $1 bills in place, you're ready to finish the lei by bringing the two ends together and making a tight knot, as demonstrated in the video below:

Cut off the excess ribbon, and cover the last knot with a decorative ribbon.

As you can see, it's not immediately obvious that the lei is made up of 100 $1 bills, and the drawback is that the lei would have to be dismantled in order to spend the money. However, the finished lei looks quite impressive and it's fairly easy to make!

I've made these leis as class gifts for my sons' teachers, and they've always loved them - so they'd make a great end-of-year gift for your child's teacher too!

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