Money Lei with Kukui Nuts

A family friend's daughter graduated from high school last month and I was inspired to create a money lei with kukui nuts for her. I remember being so excited to wear beautiful orchid and candy leis for my high school graduation and thought that this would be the perfect gift that would paid homage to Hawaii, a state that has a special place in her heart.



  • 2 60" of black ribbon 
  • 20 5 dollars bills (dollar denomination and amount is up to you) 
  • tape (removable tape would be best)
  • scissors
  • 28 kukui nuts 
  • embroidery needle

You will first need to fold all the dollar bills. This process can be a bit nerve-wrecking as the folding can really wear on the bills. So be as gentle as you can while still creating crisp folds.

To begin, fold the bill in half lengthwise with the front facing down. Open the bill up and using the newly creased center line as a guide fold the four corners inward to create two triangles on each side (below right).


Next, fold the top and bottom ends to the center line. (below left). Then fold these flaps back so they are aligned to the top and bottom ends respectively (below right). 


Flip the entire bill over so that the front is facing you. (Hi Mr. Abe Lincoln!) Fold the bottom flap to the center line (below left) and fold the top flap to the same line (below right).


Then fold the center line again so that you are left with a zig-zagged dollar bill with pointed edges.


Next, you will need to fold each bill in half to create something that almost looks like a butterfly. You will want to make sure the president's image is facing you to have the prettiest result. 


Secure the two flaps together with a piece of tape. Try to use as little tape as possible while still being secure. Removable tape works best. The last thing you want is for your graduate to rip his or her celebratory loot. 


Now you are ready to string everything together. Take the two pieces of ribbon and tie a double knot about 9-11" from one end. String both ribbons through your embroidery needle, then string one kukui nut and knot. Repeat this until you have strung four nuts. You can also double knot in between each nut if you want them to look more spaced out.


At this point, you are ready to string the folded dollar bills. Make sure the two ribbons are separated. 


Please one bill on top of the bottommost ribbon (below left) then string that ribbon through the middle of the bill (below right). Be as gentle as you can.


String the topmost ribbon through the middle of the dollar (below left) and pull both ribbons gently until the ribbons are taut but not so tight that the dollar bill is being scrunched. Tie a gentle knot. 


String another kukui nut and repeat this process until all the dollar bills have been strung. Then finish with four nuts with knots in between each to match the other end of the lei. Tie each end together and trim off any excess ribbon.


And there you have it! A simple but very beautiful lei that will make your graduate gleam with pride. You can change the amount of dollar bills you use and there are a wide variety of painted nuts available online that will add a personalized touch to your lei. 


Congratulations to all this year's graduates!