Thursday, 21 November 2013

Making Krathong - banana leaves boat

If you have been following my travel blog (here), you will know that I am currently back in Thailand.

Every opportunity I get I'm trying to do or see something crafty, to fill the empty hole created by being on the road and without my craft stash ;).

Last weekend, I experienced 3 days of Thai celebrations for the festivals of Yi Peng and Loi Krathong. 

When my Thai friend offered to show me how to make something traditional myself, to join the celebrations, I jumped at the chance!

'Krathong' is a small raft made from a section of banana tree trunk. Today specially made bread 'flowers' or even Styrofoam are also used. Thai people decorate their Krathongs with elaborately-folded banana leaves, flowers, candles, and incense sticks. Some people also add hair or fingernail clippings.

The act of floating Krathongs on rivers, canals or any other body of water symbolises letting go of grudges, problems and anger so that one can start life afresh – a cleansing tradition of sorts. The idea being that all people should prepare suitable offerings to present to the river spirits in order to obtain pardon and the absolution of their sins. In doing so the Thais are also welcoming the spirit of good fun or 'sanook' – something they know a lot about.

Here's my finished Krathong:

There are lots of tutorials on the web that show you how to make the different pieces from banana leaves to decorate a Krathong, but I thought I'd create a quick one of my own to show you just how easy it it was to make something similar to the one I made.

I think, with a bit of tweaking this would work with paper and card too. Some DSP would create some beautiful pieces, and these would be great for table decorations or small dishes maybe.


You will need 1 or two fresh banana leaves, a stapler, pair of scissors and some pins.

1. Tear or cut the banana leaf down the centre and then cut into strips of approximately 2 or 3 inches; any excess can be trimmed later.

2. Take each strip lengthways and fold in one side to create a corner.

3. Then repeat the fold on the opposite side.

4. Fold each side inwards again to create a sharper point. Fix with staples.

5. Once you have made a few, they can be trimmed and then used to layer up.

6. For the upright pieces step 2 and 3 are the same, then take the folded piece and pull one side towards you to create a petal shape. Fasten with a staple since you have created the desired size. These will also need to be trimmed a little before fixing to the base.

7. Cut a piece of leaf to fix to the banana trunk base and pin this in place.

8. Then you can start to decorate with the other pieces. I chose to fix each piece in layers to create a star shape.

9. I also cut some brown leaves and created some pieces to fill the gaps a little.

10. Once I finished the base I added the petal shapes to create the centre piece.

11. Have a play and arrange your pieces differently, just lay them out until you are happy and then pin in place. Once you have finished, add a couple of strips of banana leaf around the base to cover it and then you can decorate with flowers.

Here are the finished Krathong from our little craft session. We then headed off to the river to release them with thousands of others.

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