Grandma’s Feather Lei

So, before I left for the Big Island in April I worked on a lei hulu papa (flat feather lei) for my grandma.  This was the second one I’ve ever made, the first being what I completed as a halau assignment back in 2007.  I learned how to make this kind of lei from Kumu Hula Keli’i Chang.

Apparently you’re supposed to keep the first lei you create (whatever kind or style that it is) and then you can gift every one you make after that, but I gave the first one to my mom when I flew back to the Big Island in ’08.  I don’t know why, but I just felt like I needed to give it to her, especially after it was finally complete.

The one I created on the far left (black and red with yellow)

Unfortunately this is the only picture I have of that lei.  The funny story behind this picture is my mom brought it out to show my grandma, “Look what I got!!!” all excited and so my Grandma had to “one-up” her and was all “Awwwesome, now let’s all look at MINE!”  Hahaha!  It didn’t go exactly like that but it kinda sorta did, hahaha…It was then and there I decided, okay, gotta make one for Grandma too. :)

Flat feather leis consist of feathers sewn to one side of a foundation, each feather attached with two (or more) overcast stitches.  Feather artists use different kinds of feathers (peacock, pheasant, etc) to achieve different looks and effects but the creation method essentially stays the same.  These days when you see someone wearing one, it’s usually around a hat (like the lauhala one in the pic above).

Thankfully this time around I was aware enough to take more pictures of my lei-making progress, and before gifting it to my grandma.  Without further ado…

I would get this far before something would snag & I'd have to start over. 3 times!

Terry-cloth towels are highly-effective at catching feather remnants which can be a total PAIN to clean up.  Without a catch-all you’d be cleaning feather remnants for days.  When the work is done just fold up the towel and clean it!

Prepped feathers

I’ve only used (and only have) dyed goose feathers.  They are the most abundant and therefore the least expensive (you can purchase them by the pound whereas other kinds such as pheasant or peacock are purchased by the ounce).

after a while I was praying nothing would snag

Kinda dark but I always favor natural light over the flash

I chose this particular color combination as a nod to her ‘Ahahui Ka’ahumanu membership.  I was really pleased with the way it turned out; I tried to sketch out what I wanted on paper first and came pretty darn close.

the lauhala gift box

the lei rolled up in the lauhala box

About 21" in length altogether.

I carried that little lauhala box in my carry-on and guarded it all Gollum-like “my precioussss” until I got to the Big Island. :)  She absolutely loved it, and I was so happy to finally give her this.  I totally forgot to hand-sew some velcro on the underside but she had some metal fasteners (like the ones on bra straps) she preferred to sew on there, so I’m glad that worked out.

When I have some extra time I’d like to start on another.  I’m all out of yellow so I’ll have to see what I can do with my remaining feathers (black and varying shades of red).  I absolutely love Hawaiian feather work and my pursuit in this craft is just beginning — I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me!

This entry was posted in Arts & Crafts, Hawaii, Sewing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Grandma’s Feather Lei

  1. ihilani says:

    Oh this is soooo beautiful! Good job!

  2. gabbi says:

    what type of feather is the third from the right lei made from and where can you get them?

Comments are closed.