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This Japanese technique is basically a form of reusable fabric gift wrap. Wrap a square piece of fabric around an object, either to carry it or to just make it look pretty for gift giving. I’ve been seeing this technique pretty frequently around the web as of late and there are numerous shops that sell these squares at incredible prices. But why bother paying loads of money when you can get in on the fun at a fraction of the cost?
Not all fabrics work equally well for wrapping furoshiki-style. It’s better to use a lightweight, but sturdy, fabric. It’s preferable if it isn’t see-through and if it is printed or colored on both sides. The fabrics I used in this post were discovered hidden away in my grandmother‘s attic after her passing away. I would never use them for clothing because I can’t stand polyester against my skin (or Hawaiian prints, for that matter), but they’re perfect for this application. But if you don’t have random fabric you want to get rid of, look elsewhere in your home or thrift shop. Lightweight curtains, sheets and comforter covers are all great sources of fabric yardage.
Ok, let’s get cutting! As per Wikipedia, the most common sizes are 45 cm and 68-72 cm squares. As I wanted to get the most out of my fabric, I pretty much split the length of my fabric into two columns, one of which was roughly 70 cm wide and the other about 45 cm wide. Then I cut squares out of each column. I also made some gargantuan squares for bigger packages about 110 cm wide, taking up the whole width of the fabric. How do we make perfect squares? Easy! Lay out your fabric cut to the width you want, then fold one of the outer corners diagonally up so as to form a triangle.
Snip snip, and you’ve got a square! If you’re slightly more careful about cutting than I was here, you’ll have a perfect square and not a wonky one like mine. But really, it doesn’t make much of a difference in the end if it isn’t perfect, so don’t sweat it!
A fun trick to getting fast and perfectly straight cuts without having to measure too much is to just rip the fabric. Fold your fabric to form a triangle as above. Make a little cut along the top edge of the fabrics but, instead of cutting all the way down, hold each side of the snipped fabric in a hand and continue to tear it all the way to the other side.
When you do this, the fabric rips along the grain, making it a perfectly straight tear. The edges will be slightly fray-ey and puffy, but a quick ironing will fix that up. In any case my fabric really needed it anyway, huh? (Can you tell that I hate ironing?!)
Now let’s finish off the edges. The easiest thing in the world is to simply serge/overlock them. Just whip them through the machine, and you’re done. If you don’t have an overlocker, you can do a simple zig zag stitch around all the edges or, if you have a very thin fabric, rolled edges with a rolled hem foot. If not, fold each edge over twice as little as possible, iron and stitch down. If you want to get fancy, this tutorial for mitered corners is awesome and makes absolutely perfect corners.
And now for the fun part: wrapping and folding! You can just be creative and fold them however you like. The above image is from the Japanese Ministry of the Environment (and is also available in PDF form) and gives a good overview of classic basic wrapping techniques. A good idea would be to print out a copy to give with your furoshiki-wrapped gift so that the recipient can learn how to use it. If you don’t want to use massive amounts of ink while printing, you can find the same diagram in black and white here. If you want more techniques and more detailed instructions, furoshiki.com has a great database of wrapping techniques. Here’s a quick look at three of my favorite ways to wrap up gifts:
Yotsu Musabi (four tie wrap)
This is super easy and my general go-to method. Place the item diagonally in the center of the square.
Tie together two opposite corners with a double knot. If you item’s sides are not the same length, first tie the corners that the shorter sides point to. Doing this will create a first smaller knot. Then tie together the other two corners, creating a larger double knot that will cover the first smaller one. And that’s it! Way faster than using regular wrapping paper, huh?
This is fine if you’re giving a gift directly to a person, but if you are at a birthday party or have lots of gifts under a Christmas tree, your packages will get all mixed up without a nametag. So make a cute upcycled gift tag with this tutorial. Tie up the first furoshiki corners and then the first knot of the second set of corners. Slip one corner tie into the tag string and tie the second knot. Done!
Otsukai Tsutsumi (basic carry wrap)
Sometimes, if the fabric is considerably larger than the item to be wrapped, the first knot can be a little too bulky underneath the second one. In this case a good solution is the Otsukai Tsutsumi (basic carry wrap). For this method you just fold over (and under the item, if necessary) the first opposite corners, then tie up the second set of corners. Mine above is a bit wonky because the furoshiki square was really too big, but you get the idea. Actually, now that I think of it, in this case, it probably would’ve been better to fold over the other corners first rather than the ones in the pictures. Just fiddle around and you’ll get something you like!
Entou Tsutsumi (long object wrap)
Let’s say you don’t have a rectangular item, but something tubular like a travel umbrella. In this case the Entou Tsutsumi (long object wrap) is perfect. Place your item diagonally at one corner. Fold the corner over it and roll the item up completely. Then tie the two ends together. If your ends are very long, you can pull them to the center but instead of tying them, twist them around each other and wrap around the object to the other side and tie on that side.
Your gifts will be truly beautiful with minimal effort once you prepare a few squares and learn a few easy furoshiki wrapping techniques. The great thing about reusable fabric gift wrap is that there’s no need to buy or throw away wrapping paper and you will educate people with your wrapping decisions. It’s also so much faster to wrap gifts with furoshiki. And if you use recycled textiles, they won’t cost you anything! A win-win situation!
Don’t forget to check out my other ecological gift wrapping ideas for lots of great ways to create gift packages without extra waste!