Money and Paper LEI Tutorial

  Here in Utah, Money Leis, and Leis in general, are a BIG deal for Graduations. Here is my complete tutorial on how to make them!

 The photo here is of my son at his Graduation 3 years wearing the lei that I made for him. (Isn't he handsome?? I'm biased, I know)

To start this tutorial, I want to point out that I tied this one with a gold ribbon and hung a compass medallion that matched both his school colors as well as their graduation theme. On the Lei that I am showing in this tutorial, I did not add anything like that. But, there are a wide variety of jewelry and craft components out there that would work great for most colors and themes if you are willing to put in a little extra time to locate what you need. The gold ribbon was not used to construct the lei, I just added a small bow to it when the lei was completed. 

In steps 1-8, I will instruct and show you how to construct your own Money and Paper Lei, but first here are a few pointers and tips to help you begin your design:

a) You will want to determine how much money you intend to include. 
          ~For the Lei above as well as the one I am using in the tutorial, I included $30.00 in One-Dollar bills. There are the same number of paper medallions as there are dollar medallions, so it is a good balance of money and paper designs (that equals 60 total medallions). This is a good size for guys, but a little cumbersome for little gals. For a scaled down version that includes some leaves and a little bling, visit this post to see the girls version that I made last year. In the girls version, I only used 10 one-dollar bills. NOTE: Using larger bills such as 5's and 10's will allow you to get more ACTUAL money into a smaller lei if you choose not to make the large 60 medallion size Lei.

b) You will want to determine what you are using for your paper as you plan your design, and if it is a 2-sided reversible paper or not.
       ~For both leis shown, I used 4 different designs of paper. That gave me 2 different designs of coordinating medallions, but if you use a 2-sided reversible paper, then you won't need 4 designs of paper to complete your lei. NOTE: In my son's lei, I used a blue & white filagree and yellow &  white filagree design, as well as the same colors of plaids. For the girls version, instead of the 2 plaids, I used some blue and yellow zebra print paper. (I found all of the papers for all the leis at Hobby Lobby, by the way).

      Amount of paper needed: For a 60 medallion lei (30 money, 30 paper) using 4 designs of single-sided paper, you will need 8 sheets TOTAL of paper, 2 of each design in the 12x12 size. If you are using 8x10 size paper, you will need 3 sheets total of each design. For a reversible 2-sided paper,  you will only need 4 sheets of 12x12 size.

c) You will need to have the following supplies on hand to assemble the leis:
        ~ 3 yards of Ribbon. I use a mid-thickness, rather than a skinny or thick width. You want it narrow enough that it will fit through the openings within the folds of each medallion, but not so thin that it doesn't have the body to hold it nicely. I used the cheap .50-.75 cent rolls of basic craft ribbon that can be found at most craft/fabric stores. There is ample ribbon on those rolls to make 2 or 3 leis.
        ~ Sticky Dots...I recommend a regular non-thick style.
        ~ Low Temp Glue Gun and sticks (Why low temp? Because high temp is not necessary for paper and you will get burns if you use HOT me on this one!!)

d) Once you have completed your Lei, keep it in a cool, dry place. DO NOT LEAVE IT IN A CAR or in the sun! The glue will come undone and you will have to make repairs! (Also: Plan ahead to bring a baggie of the glue dots with you to the graduation ceremony in case you do have to make any last-minute repairs).

Fold all your Bills in fan-fold design. I do 7-8 folds per piece. You can refer to the photo below for the size of each fold. You should have 4 "peaks" on one side, and 3 "peaks" and 2 "edges" on the other side.

Cut and fold all your paper pieces. I cut mine into 2 1/2 inches wide after cutting each full sheet of paper in half so that the length of each piece is 6 inches long. This is slightly less tall than a bill, but I like to do it quickly, and that's an easier measurement to work with. As well, you will be able to get more out of each piece of paper. If you do it exactly the size of a bill, you will need more paper. Doing it at this size yields 8 pieces from each sheet. That gives you 16 pieces of each design when you are done. The size difference between the paper pieces and the bills is not noticeable at all.

NOTE: This step is where you will be deciding how your want your design to look. How you layer your papers is up to you, but pay attention to how you are layering them as you go along.

Once you have your pieces cut, lay one design on top of the other, backs together, in the pattern desired. Make sure the edges line up perfectly or you will have white edges showing when you are done (this is where double sided paper comes in handy if you can find some you like). Fold in the same way as you did the bills. Note that if you have done the proper amount of folds, you will have one side of the medallion that has 2 "openings" and one side that has two "folds". (refer to the 2 photos below of the folded and glued medallions).

Once the papers and bills have been fan-folded, you can start assembling the medallions. I start by pressing my thumb into the center of each piece to form a semi-circular opening. This helps the medallion to have a more natural rounded shape as you start to glue the ends together. Do this on both the bills and the papers. The picture of the 3 bills at the top shows the front bill rounded as described.

For Papers: Using low-temp hot glue, apply a line of glue to the edge of one side of the paper, and then press together the edges. Hold snug for 4-5 seconds, and then do the same on the other end. NOTE: I use actual hot glue (at low temp) for the paper because I found it easier to work with, and it makes it easier to tuck in stray folds of white paper at the ends of the folds. Using glue dots to do this process means that you will go through a lot of glue dots and it will take longer to construct your lei.
For Bills: Use low-profile sticky dots to hold the bills together at each end. WHY do you need to use sticky dots instead of hot glue? Because the graduates are going to want to REMOVE the money and hot glue will RUIN the money!! 

When you have folded in both sides, you will have two small openings in the center of each folded and glued piece of paper.  See that little edge of white showing on the front of the black medallion? That's where the low temp glue will come in handy...just a dab to hold it down. Last year I used the thick glue dots to hold everything and it was a pain in the buttocks to fix those edges with a fat glue dot!! Trust me, use glue on the paper pieces and you will be happier with the end result!

The bills will also have the same openings, but you will have used glue dots instead of the glue gun.

Fold your length of ribbon in half, creating a loop at one end. Wrap the ribbon over itself and create a knot, leaving a loop at the end, as shown below. The loop only needs to be a couple of inches long and as the steps proceed, it will make sense why you do this step.

Add one of the paper medallions onto the ribbon by inserting each strand of ribbon through one of the holes. Only one strand per hole, and you don't need to keep track of which side goes through which hole, because it all aligns itself just fine.

NOTE: You will want to pay attention to your design beginning with the placement of this first medallion. Decide now if you want your designs all going the same way or not. It's up to you how your finished product looks!

For this beginning paper medallion ONLY, tie the two ribbon strands together, forming a knot in front of the medallion. This is only to keep things lined up correctly. Don't skip this step, it does make a difference in how the lei, well...lays. haha. Don't do it after putting on any of the other medallions...this one only.

Now you can layer on the remainder of the paper medallions, as well as the bill medallions. Keep your pattern in mind as you go. I didn't worry about keeping track of whether my bills were up or down because the pattern is not as obvious as the paper. When I did the leis last year, I alternated the patterns, but for this lei, I keep the papers all going the same direction throughout the design. Again, it is up to you how you want your final design to look!

When you have strung all the medallions onto the ribbon, you will be left with a length of the double strands of ribbon. Do not cut this ribbon yet!

Note that I have tied a knot in the ends of the ribbon below. I have FIRST pulled the double strands THROUGH the opening of the loop and adjusted the length to where I wanted the entire lei to hang. In other words, this section determines the final length of the lei. You can now cut the excess ends off, but leave a short section so that the knot can be easily untied if needed.

For comforts sake, it's best to leave this small opening at the back (top) of the lei so that the wearer doesn't have the rough and somewhat sharp edges of the medallions rubbing against their neck! Also, for the girls, their hair won't get stuck in the sticky dots as easily.

Hopefully the photos and description make sense for this step!


I see a few edges I need to tighten up (by gluing with the glue gun) before I deliver the lei to my friend who placed the custom order with me. It will only take me a few minutes to do a once over on the entire lei to make sure it's looking great!

The receiver is likely going to want to remove the money, even IF you tell them it's for emergencies only!! (I told my son that...and he had all the money off within an hour after he left the ceremony...haha).   Advise your gift recipient that they can keep the lei intact even when the money is gone. The remaining medallions can be slid around to fill any gaps, and then the ribbon end can be shortened to make it smaller as the lei shrinks. (Just like Then they can hang it in their bedroom or something...

In case you wanted to see the original post, you can find it here.

I am including a couple of pictures of another custom order that I did this week. It was for a girl, but the amount on it was $50.00 rather than $30.00. That's WAY too much bulk to work with in with one dollar bills, so I used larger bills. Also, because Girls Lei's need to be a little smaller (in my opinion, otherwise they overpower them), I had to formulate a new design than I have previously done. 

It's a little hard to make out the pattern, so I will list it to make it easier for anyone who wants to follow the exact pattern and money gift amount.

Girl's Medallion Pattern:

~20 paper medallions (2 different double-sided designs)
~ 9 FIVE dollar bills
~ 5 ONE dollar bills
~Leaves in quantity of choice (I did 4 sets of 2, but I wished that I had done 6 sets and had them at the ends).

This was my pattern:
~NOTE: There was one more $5.00 bill than I could fit into the design, so the last set of 4 medallions at the top had an extra Fiver thrown in (you can see it on the left side at the top)
~Between each set of 4 medallions, I put in 1-one dollar bill. (There were 5 sets of 4 paper medallions each)
~On either side of each leaf set, I put a Five dollar bill.

For the leaves, I just free hand cut out the amount I needed. I used a heavy weight textured paper, and I ended up rolling the leaves around a pencil to give them some curl....though I did that AFTER I took the picture, so you won't be able to see that. Sorry!  In the picture below the next one, you can see a different style and quantity of leaves used on the girls lei I made last year. I punched a hole in the base of each set of leaves, and then I put BOTH strands of ribbon through at once.

For the Lei below, I had also added in clear "wagon wheel" beads after each set of leaves that I put into the design. This Lei only had $10.00 in ones, so it was much less to work with. My pattern was a little more random with this one, but it looks like I used roughly 20 paper medallions. 

One thing that I want to stress with the girls Lei's, especially for young ladies that have long hair....make the ribbon length LONG so that the glue dots don't get stuck in their hair. 

The little gal that I made the one below for last year had a lot of problems with that because of her long hair. The one above that I made this year had a ribbon length that is twice as long as the one below.

This Lei, as well as my sons, had a bow and a metal adornment added to them. If you want to do so, just tie the thicker ribbon onto wherever you want it to hang once your design is complete. There is no need to work it into the actual construction of the Lei.

GOOD LUCK!! Let me know how this tutorial worked out for you!

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