Furoshiki is the Japanese art of wrapping gifts in beautiful fabric instead of disposable paper.
I am on a quest this summer to find alternatives to using disposables and plastic. Last week I met my cyber friend Survival Betty, Kirsten. She gave me a beautifully wrapped gift with cotton fabrics in the same colours as my blog theme. Local Oregon honey and honey sticks! What a treasure. Especially with the concerns about Colony Collapse Disorder and the plight of the bees — the concerns of food security. But when I saw the wrapping, I loved it as much as the gift.
Why use fabric as gift wrap
While I use and reuse gift wrap, and buy gift bags and gift boxes to use over and over, even wrapping kitchen themed gifts in tea towels, I hadn’t thought of using fabric. But when I saw the artistic way that Kirsten wrapped this gift, I knew I had to find out more.
Fabric wrapped gifts and parcels have been used around the world for centuries. Remember the hobo with the handkerchief on a stick to carry his worldly goods? But the Japanese have mastered the art of folding fabric to make beautiful parcels and gift wraps — called furoshiki in Japan. Think of it as origami with cloth instead of paper. Furoshiki is the simple art of wrapping with reusable and beautiful cloth.
I find furoshiki appealing because
- It’s reusable
- It’s pretty
- It’s doesn’t end up in the land fill
- It isn’t made of plastic, at least if you use natural fabrics
- It can be sewn into another object, a napkin, a purse, a pillow, for instance
- Many of us have a stash of fabric waiting to be used
- It makes good use of fabric remnants
- It’s eco-friendly
- You can give it to a friend or neighbor without worrying about getting it back
- It’s unique
- The fabric choice can be customized to the gift theme or the recipient
- I was amazed and delighted to receive a gift wrapped in cloth
While your thoughtful handmade gift will be appreciated no matter how you wrap it, gifts wrapped in furoshiki fabric are a greener choice.
Free resources to learn furoshiki
The Japanese government offers an info-graphic that shows you how to do different furoshiki wraps tailored to the shape and size of the gift. You can download a pdf copy of this furoshiki infographic here. If you like origami you’ll love this.
“[Furoshiki] is much better than plastic bags you receive at supermarkets or wrapping paper, since it’s highly resistant, reusable, and multipurpose. In fact, it’s one of the symbols of traditional Japanese culture and puts an accent on taking care of things and avoiding waste.”
Now lest you think I thought up this idea all by myself, I was actually pushed by another blogger, Better Hens and Gardens, who posted today about her method for green gift wrap using fabric.
How to create furoshiki gift wrap
Traditionally fabrics used for Furoshiki are square — small items are usually wrapped in a 16 inch square of cloth, medium size items are wrapped in a 22 inch square, and larger items are wrapped up in a 26 inch square. This tells me that a pretty linen napkin would be ideal for many furoshiki wraps. I love to hunt for linen napkins at thrift stores so now I have another reason for my passion of recycling old linens.
But you can also use fat quarters from your stash, so you aren’t limited to hemmed and finished fabrics. Fat quarters are a popular size for quilters and crafters to purchase cotton prints for quilting. A fat quarter is generally 18 x 22 inches, almost square, and just the right size to wrap a gift. (I’ve been purchasing my fat quarters from Craftsy/Bluprint) (ad)
You can also use a 1/2 yard of fabric and fold it in half, the way Survival Betty did when she wrapped this honey for me. Here’s the fabric that Survival Betty used for my honey-gift. Just follow the pictures for the simplest furoshiki folds.
I’m certain your gift recipient will be as delighted as I was to receive a gift wrapped Furoshiki-style in pretty printed quilt fabrics like fat quarters. And if you are gifting to a blogger, may I suggest that you choose their blog colours for the prints. That extra touch was a huge Wow factor.
Which fabrics are the best for furoshiki?
The best fabrics for furoshiki gift wrap are fabrics that are the same on both sides. Most prints are printed on only the right side. However, batiks and woven prints like gingham are the same on both sides and ideal for furoshiki applications. Look for fabrics that are in 1/2 yard or fat quarter sizes.
Where to find fat quarters:
Wrapping gifts in fat quarters can reduce your fabric stash — so that’s a bonus if you have S.A.B.L.E. (stash accumulation beyond life expectancy). If you don’t already have a significant fabric stash to draw from, inexpensive fabrics can often be found at thrift stores and garage sales for pennies on the dollar.
The best fabrics for furoshiki gift wrap are fabrics that are the same on both sides. Most prints are printed on only the right side. However, batiks and woven prints like gingham are the same on both sides and ideal for furoshiki applications.
While your thoughtful handmade gift will be appreciated no matter how you wrap it, gifts wrapped in fabric are an eco-friendly choice.
More things you can do with quilting precuts
- Sew a throw pillow like this or this
- Sew a heating pad
- Sew a catnip mouse
- Sew a lavender eye pillow for headaches