Candy Lei’s ~ a nice graduation gift

It’s that time of year again folks when there are graduations galore. Our niece, Faith, graduates from high school this Friday and we wanted to do something extra special for her. Not gift her with the usual flower lei, balloons or bouquet of flowers, but something she can wear proudly and show off to her fellow graduates who will look at her with envy that she is well loved and cared for.

With helpful instruction from our dear friend, Anh Nguyet, Rob and I worked tirelessly for hours on end over several days to create 2 very heavy, super intricate candy lei’s made up of Werther’s candies and Starbursts for Faith to don on her big day. Since we spent so much time on it, we thought we’d document (aka blog) the detailed instruction on how it’s done so that we’ll never forget how to create it and also to share with the world on how it’s all done so you can create it yourself for a loved one.

*sorry for the poor quality images in this post. i took these on my cellphone and half of ’em didn’t come out so great.*

Part I: the Werther’s lei

What you need:

  • Curling ribbon (this can be purchased from Party City)
  • Thicker ribbon (around 2 inches wide; got mine from Costco)
  • 1 big bag of Werther’s hard candies (ours contained ~80 pieces); big bags available at Smart & Final; make sure it’s the twisty wrapper kind.

Step 1: Cut curling ribbon into lengths of 6 inches. You’ll need one ribbon per piece of candy. I used 2 colors for Faith’s lei’s (green and black) to represent her school colors. You can do 1 color ribbon or even 2+; all up to you.

Step 2: Tie ribbon to one end of Werther’s candy (as illustrated below). Make sure there is an even length on each side.

Step 3: Cut the thicker 2 inch wide ribbon into 3.5 feet in length (may want it longer if the person has a bigger head; measure it on yourself leaving room to knot the 2 ends later).

Step 4: Start double knotting candy to 2 inch wide ribbon; making sure to alternate sides that the candy is on.

Photo of me in action:

Step 5: After you’re done going all the way to the end, tie the two ends together to complete the circle; take a scissor and curl the ribbon so that its not so straight and pokey.


Part II: the Starburst lei *warning: takes 10x as long and is very tedious*

What you need:

  • Curling ribbon
  • Thicker ribbon
  • Loose Starburst candies (ours contained ~90 pieces; purchased from Target)
  • Clear cellophane wrapping (got ours from Party City)

Step 1: Cut curling ribbon into lengths of 6 inches.

Step 2: Cut 4 inch squares of the clear cellophane wrap. This part was super tedious and hard. I had Rob make me a cardboard template that was 4″ x 4″ to measure and cut the cellophane. It was hard enough that the material doesn’t stay put let alone it being almost completely invisible!

Step 3: Sort candy. This really isn’t a step unless you’re picky with the colors. We purchased 3 variety packs and chose only the hues of pinks, reds and purples to go on the lei. We’re now stuck with the yellows, oranges, and greens to eat.

These are the 6 colors we worked with; it was so hard not to devour ’em while putting the lei together.

Step 4: Wrap each Starburst candy with cellophane and tying the end with a ribbon (as illustrated below).

I found that there was a lot of extra cellophane after it was tied at the end so to make it easier to tie to the main ribbon I’d cut some of the extra cellophane off. You don’t have to but I’m just knit picky.

Step 5: Cut the thicker 2 inch wide ribbon into 3.5 feet in length.

Step 6: Start double knotting candy to 2 inch wide ribbon; making sure to alternate sides and colors to get in a good mix. It starts getting really difficult when you mix in multiple color ribbon and candy colors. You can see in the photo below that I curled the ribbon as I went along so that it didn’t seem so overwhelming at the end.

Step 7: Tie the ends together (you can leave a bit of space w/o any candy, it’s ok b/c it’s behind their neck).

Viola! This is the face of a person after hours on end of back breaking work to put this Starburst lei together. I look like total crap and usually would not show a photo of myself in this sort of condition but I had to show you proof that making this Starburst lei takes a ton of dedication, time, and MUCHO love for the recipient in order for you to power thru it all. I am not convinced that I can or ever will make this lei for any person ever again. Perhaps the love for my children or grandchildren when I am super old without much to do in my retirement age will entice me to give it another shot. I did tell Rob that I would make this for him for his graduation (that would mean he’d have to go back to school). hehehe.

Step 8: get a back massage.


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    December 28, 2020
  2. Yvonne said:

    I have made this candy lei every time one of my kids graduaates. You are right it is time consuming but so worth it. Thank you for sharing.

    May 17, 2019
  3. Anita Garcia said:

    Thank you, great work & instructions.

    August 26, 2018
  4. Tiffany LG said:

    I am currently making this for the second time. First time was last year for a high school grad. I got so many compliments and some people were trying to buy it from me too! Instead of using cellophane, I got the clear cake pop covers and cut them into 4 pieces. It was a lot easier and quicker. Thank you for the tutorial ! My sister requested this after she saw the first one I made.

    May 1, 2016
    • thaoie said:

      thank you for the tip!

      May 2, 2016
  5. Karen said:

    the leis are very beautiful. I’ve the simple candy leis using a long strip of elephant and rolling and tying the candy inside. So making them for 6 church grads took a long time. But doing them while watching a long movie or basketball playoff game made it more bearable. Keep making them for the people you love and they do appreciate your labor of love. Thanks for showing me something AMAZING!

    September 11, 2015
  6. PandaRae said:

    Is the lei heavy? You know how in Hawaii they get lots of leis so I don’t want my one to be super heavy…. #CampbellSabers

    May 16, 2015
    • thaoie said:

      The Starburst lei is significantly heavier than the Werther’s one. Unfortunately I did not weigh these after I made them so I can’t say exactly.

      May 28, 2015
  7. Alicia Arthur said:

    Love the ideas!! Live in Hawaii & candy leis are the go to gift but these take candy Lei to a whole new level!! Seen a jolly ranchers Lei on etsy but I swear they charge you a lot & besides I’d rather make it myself, it’s more personal? So I was just wondering if I used jolly ranchers if the concepts the same as the werthers? Because I’ve got a 6th grade graduation in June & would love to make these! Much Mahalos????????

    May 6, 2015
    • thaoie said:

      Hi Alicia!
      Yes, with Jolly Ranchers it should be the same concept as the Werther’s tutorial. Good luck!

      May 28, 2015
  8. Dawn Wagner said:

    thank you for showing these steps towards completing a beautiful full lei. It was easy to follow and came out great , thank you..

    April 18, 2015
  9. Katie said:

    oh… WOW… my idea of a goodie bag is out the window! I’ve GOT to make one of these for my BFF! Thank you so much!

    April 3, 2015
  10. kikas_head said:

    Thank you so much for this!!! Great tutorial and pictures!

    February 17, 2015
  11. Anonymous said:

    omg theses are so nice I want one of those

    January 16, 2015
  12. Nataly said:

    Great tutorial. Thank you very much!

    October 24, 2013
  13. Debra said:

    thank you thank you for this tutorial!!! I’ve seen others but I love that you put close-up pics to your actions!!

    May 15, 2013
  14. Rhoda said:

    Thank u for this tutorial… I followed your directions and my ladies turned out really nice, but it was flat like a Micronesian ginger lei. Any suggestions on how to make it more like a plumeria lei… More tubular, less flat. Thanks for any help u can offer! :)

    May 3, 2013
    • thaoie said:

      I guess to give it more shape you would need to vary the direction they ultimately sit in so rotate them as you go.

      May 28, 2015
  15. rebel said:

    what WHAT i did! where’d it go? blushmuch, not too good at this monster machine. so, shorted version..wowwie mommy, never liked the appearence of candy leis but you’ve made a gorgeous and charming gift for a lovely young one. and if you don’t notice, it stands way apart from the other lovely leis. i’m amazed how beautiful and pro-like it is. i’m stuppered trying how you could even figure that out, compound!. sooo, after our praises and appreciation , maybe you’ll forget what tedious even means, ok? and darlin, your pic is as sweet as your make, right down to the spinning pinwheels goin ’round in your eyes…i’m old,..(grandma) but will you adopt me !?!?! bless your hearts, love to you and yours,

    June 13, 2012
  16. rebel said:

    never cared for the appearance of candy leis tho the children are seeing with their minds and tongues !! but mercy me what you’ve made there is just gorgeous and charming. stands way out from the others. and how to even think up how to do it is baffling to me. sharp, very pro-like and original. soooo, hope these songs of praise and appreciation have made you forget what tedious is . my eyes are old but my glasses say you look adorable. even those pinwheels spinning ’round in your eyes are sparkley. bless your heart, we viewers scored just by the awsomeness of it all. i’m a grandma but ,….always there’s new love and dedication all ’round.

    June 13, 2012
  17. Jamie said:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful tutorial!! I’ve been looking all over for this kind of lei, and not just the simpler one!

    May 21, 2012
  18. Michael said:

    Aloha and Mahalo, i appreciate this tutorial i own a small shop in SoCal and i cant wait to make these for Graduation Season, these candy leis are not common around but i know they’ll be a huge hit this year :D

    January 20, 2012
  19. Rob said:

    @tiffany After knotting the curling ribbon to the candy, you would then double knot that to the wider ribbon so that the candy w/ the curling ribbon does not get loose and fall off.

    June 13, 2011
  20. mareyberry said:

    oooooh! where’s my starburst lei?? hehe

    June 11, 2011
  21. Helen said:

    Holy cow!! Agree with Anne’s comment! Please make me a starburst for fun. haha! Jk!

    June 9, 2011
  22. tiffany dacanay said:

    i think these are absolutely amazing!! just what i was looking for!! i do have a question(s)…please forgive me for sounding ‘dumb’, but when you tie the pieces of candy, what do you mean double tie, and just exactly how are you tying them on??? like i said, forgive me…*blush….i have a daughter graduating high school friday and my son is promoting from junior high into high school and these would be perfect!! thank you so much for sharing!!

    June 8, 2011
  23. Anne said:

    Haha @ Rob!

    You did a really nice job Thaoie! Those are rad!

    June 2, 2011
  24. Rob said:

    I did like 5% of the work while watching the Laker games.

    June 1, 2011

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