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Tutorial for a Tricolor Braided Ribbon Lei with Picot

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Nothing can compare with the beauty of an elaborate, handmade floral lei (don’t take my word for it – check out Wandering Malia’s post Merrie Monarch Parade 2016 for some fabulous photos). Flower lei aren’t always practical or possible, though, so I wanted to share with you yet another way to make yourself a ribbon lei! This tutorial is for a tricolor braided ribbon lei with picot ribbon accents. It’s very similar to the basic ribbon lei, but with a couple extra pieces of ribbon.

My husband is now on shore tour (yay!), but when his boat got home from deployment last fall members of the FRG made ribbon lei in the boat’s color for every single sailor. Wow! Even though they’re fairly quick to make, that was a time commitment. Ribbon lei like this are great for situations where you need a lot of lei, need them to last, and don’t want to risk staining someone’s dress uniform/clothes/gown/etc (I’ve heard ti leaves stain dress whites – eek!). I used a narrow picot ribbon for my accent pieces (picot is the ribbon with little loops on the outside, in case you aren’t familiar), but you can use a narrow plain satin ribbon, instead.

How to Make a Tricolor Braided Ribbon Lei

Materials needed to make a tricolor braided ribbon lei:

  • 10-12 yards of a 3/8″ wide plain satin ribbon, cut into two 5-6 yard pieces
  • 10-12 yards of 3/16″ or 1/4″ picot or plain satin ribbon, either two 5-6 yard pieces of two different colors or two pieces of the same color

That’s it! You may also want small binder clips, paper clips, or quilting Wonder Clips to hold the ribbon in a loose coil, but it isn’t mandatory.

ribon for braided ribbon lei

Pair up your plain ribbon and picot. You’ll be braiding with the picot lying along the “shiny”/”smooth” side of the satin ribbon, like this:

place tricot on top of plain ribbon

Take one set of ribbons and loop them into a slip knot. Leave a tail that’s at least 1 foot long so you can tie the lei into a loop once you’re finished braiding! You want the picot to be on the satin ribbon’s smooth side on the working end of your ribbons (the end leading to 5-6 yards of ribbon you’ll be braiding with). In the pictured example, this is the set of ribbons with the blue picot and is referred to at Set 1.

tie a slip knot

Place the second piece of picot along the smooth side of the second piece of satin ribbon, move about a foot away from one end, and simply fold the ribbons over to form a loop. This is with white picot in the example and is referred to as Set 2. Insert this loop through the slip knot in Set 1, as shown.

form a loop

Using the working end of ribbon Set 1, form a loop, making sure the picot is on the outside, and insert it through the loop in Set 2.

second loop_

Pull on the ribbons in Set 2 to close the loop, as shown. You want the ribbon loops to be snug, but not so tight they cause puckering.

tighten the ribbons

Now you have a little loop like a rabbit ear made from the ribbons in Set 1 sticking up, so you just repeat the process outlined above! Make a loop with the ribbons in Set 2 and insert it through the loop in Set 1. Snug the Set 1 ribbons down.

braiding the ribbon lei

That is all there is to it! Just keep making loops and snugging them down.

braiding the tricolor ribbon lei
braiding the tricolor ribbon lei-2

Keep going until the lei is about 3 feet long and/or you have about a foot of ribbon left. To bind off the end, pull the tail of the ribbons all the way through on the very last loop.

Before tying the ribbons together to form a loop, decide which side you’d like facing out. You can either have the side you’ve been looking at while making your loops:

braided ribbon lei

Or the “back” side:

tricolor braided ribbon lei

I think this side is prettier when making a tricolor ribbon lei, but the choice is yours!

Once you’ve picked a side, tie all four tail ends together to form a closed loop. I like to tie a square knot then a simple bow. You can also make a separate, more elaborate bow and tie it in place.

tie a square knot

And there you have it! A simple, but pretty tricolor braided ribbon lei.

braided ribbon lei

If you’d like to see the process in motion, I have a quick YouTube clip that shows how to form and tighten the loops. The demonstration is with two pieces of ribbon, but the process is exactly the same.

Sort of unrelated – I think one of the neatest ways I’ve seen an ‘artificial’ lei used was by a lady who lived near me in Virginia. She was Hawaiian and she’d wear a lei either over her shoulders or in her hair every single day when she walked her dog. It helped remind her of home while she was living so far away and I loved seeing her when I was out with my dogs. {{As a side note, it turns out SE Virginia was too far away from ‘home’ for me to deal with! I got cold and moved back to South Carolina when I met a Miami Cuban and eventually moved to Hawaii with him. Cuba is on the same latitude as Hawaii and Charleston, SC is the furthest north he’s ever really lived, apart from a few months in the NE for training. One day we’re going to have to move somewhere colder and it’s going to be a trial.}}

No matter where in the world you are, I hope you enjoy this tricolor braided ribbon lei tutorial and have fun creating custom ribbon lei! Also, I hope you take a minute to stop by Day 10 of the Daily Gratitude Challenge!


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{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Jessica smith May 20, 2016, 06:10

    I cannot find yards of ribbon that come in that length anywhere! I’ve looked at three different stores! Where do you find your ribbon that comes in 10-12 yards?

    • Natashalh May 20, 2016, 06:59

      Long lengths of ribbon like this are almost all the local craft store has (in terms of ribbon). I know the ribbon isn’t exactly the same, but a lot of fabric stores do sell trims and ribbons by the yard, so that might be a place to look. Also, you could try looking for ribbon or floral supply stores. If you can’t find long lengths, you could always try linking a couple shorter spools together with a couple quick stitches, fabric glue, or even hot glue. =)

  • D. Renée Wilson April 25, 2016, 05:36

    Wow! That is amazing. Your talents have no end, Natasha. This is so beautiful!

    • Natashalh April 25, 2016, 07:20

      Aww, thank you! You’re so kind.

  • BeadedTail April 18, 2016, 12:41

    I finally got a chance to watch your day 10 video so wanted to respond about our tradition which is being messed up tonight actually. Every end of tax season my husband makes tacos with homemade shells because that’s my favorite. Well, he’s in a meeting at work today so he’ll be late getting home and since the shells take awhile to make, I’m going to try my hand at making dinner. I don’t cook so we’ll see if he doesn’t end up grilling something after he gets home anyway but I’ll be missing my traditional tacos either way.

    • Natashalh April 18, 2016, 13:33

      Oh, wow – that’s cool! It’s always so neat when someone takes the time to make something from scratch instead of just buying it at the store. Sorry you’ll be missing out on your tradition this year but I hope dinner goes well. =)

  • Duni April 15, 2016, 08:04

    Those floral lei are beautiful, but look complicated to make!
    Love your ribbon version! Wearing it in your hair is also a pretty option 🙂

    Even after all these years in Europe I still can’t take the cold. So I know how your hubby feels!

    • Natashalh April 15, 2016, 08:31

      Aren’t they gorgeous? They are such beautiful art. Cold weather is so difficult for me to deal with – I don’t know how anyone does it!

  • Paige April 15, 2016, 03:37

    I like the back side more, too! Haha.

    As for the prompt in the video, I’m thankful for my morning routine, too. We’re a one-car family so I start the day by dropping my husband off at the train station. Then I cook myself some eggs while my coffee brews, and eat while I ease into the workday with some emails. It’s just a pleasant way to start the day. 🙂

    • Natashalh April 15, 2016, 07:32

      Ooo, train station! How nice. =) I’m very familiar with the one car routine! Glad to know I’m not the only person who enjoys doing the same thing every morning.

  • BeadedTail April 14, 2016, 09:15

    That’s such a pretty lei! I’ll need to make a ribbon lei for my hula class! My hula teacher (I can’t remember the Hawaiian name for that) was teaching us the Hawaiian alphabet and words too and she always used lei as an example of how we Americanize things. There is no S in the Hawaiian language so that means the plural of lei is lei – not our American leis. We made her cringe a lot in the way we said things!

    • Natashalh April 14, 2016, 12:03

      I still think it’s really neat you take hula! I also think active efforts to help the Hawaiian language are fantastic. I know several people with children who’ve learned Hawaiian in school, even though they, themselves, don’t speak Hawaiian. I love that similar movements have been taking place around the world (like with various dialects of Gaelic). It’s great we’re beginning to recognize the importance of culture and diversity. Any kids we have will definitely be raised bilingual and will be taught to be proud of their Latin heritage.

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