Leis, also known as a Hawaiian garland, are popular gifts to present to the new grad on the day of the graduation ceremony. There are many types of graduation leis, including floral leis, money leis, candy leis and origami leis. The most common graduation lei is the flower lei, because it symbolizes affection and congratulations. Purple orchids are usually used by professional florists for making graduation leis, however, carnation leis are very easy “do-it-yourself” projects and makes for inexpensive graduation gifts.

Carnation flowers are affordable and come in a large array of flower colors. If you would like to learn how to make a Hawaiian lei out of carnations for the graduate in your life, then follow these simple steps and be done in less than one hour.

First you will need:

  • About 60, or 5 dozen, carnations (either in the grad’s favorite color or their school’s colors)
  • Scissors
  • One embroidery needle (the longer the needle the better)
  • Six feet of sturdy tread (you would rather have too much string then find out you cut too little and have to start over)


Step 1: Remove carnation heads from the stem, making sure that you do not actually cut the whole hip of the flower or else the carnation will fall apart. Leaving ¼ inch of the carnation head will ensure this from happening.

Step2: Attractively arrange the lei flowers in your desired order, alternating colors if multiple carnation colors are being used.

Step 3: Thread the needle by matching up the ends of the thread and placing it through the eye of the needle. At one of the ends, triple knot the end so later as you pull the carnations down the string, the knot can hold them into place as you build your lei.

Step 4: By holding the bottom of the carnation head, gently push the threaded needle horizontally through the side of its hip until it comes through the other side of the hip. Gently push the flower through the length of your thread until it reaches the knot at the end of the thread.

Step 5: Repeat step 4 with the rest of the carnations until all of them have been strung.

Step 6: Once all the carnations have been strung, cut the needle from the remaining string. Tie the two loose ends together in multiple knots to ensure the lei will not slip apart.

Your graduate will love the fragrant carnation gift!