I've been intrigued by Furoshiki, the Japanese art of gift wrapping with fabric, since I first learned about it many years ago. It wasn't until a business trip to California, however, that I found the book Gift Wrapping With Textiles: Stylish Ideas from Japan (available other places too, of course!). That book, combined with a little spare time (hey, there's not all that much to do in a hotel room, even an eco-friendly one, besides watch really bad TV and work), inspired me to start playing around with the concept ... and it's so very much fun!
Today I was lucky enough to be able to work with two new Harmony Arts fabrics, Black and White Whispering Grass Wide-Width Sateen and Blue Moon Light Flannel, and I couldn't resist trying a little furoshiki. (The new fabrics are probably worth an entry in their own right, especially because it's so wonderful having a printed flannel that can be used for the whole family and because the black and white version of Whispering Grass is so strikingly eye-catching, but instead I'm simply using the fabrics as props for a larger post. Do check them out, even if I'm not giving them their due in the blog.)
Traditional furoshiki (that's the word for both the wrapping cloths and the concept) come in eight standard sizes, according to the book, ranging from 18" square to 96" square. As a point of reference, the smallest ones are great for wrapping a few CDs, a small fruit, a couple of paperback books, and the like; the largest pieces wrap pictures and large boxes and can work as a tablecloth or coverlet. The in-between sizes wrap everything else, of course. I've had the most luck using tightly-woven cottons or hemp-silk blends, but I encourage you to try any fabric and let us know how it goes. You'll note that I didn't edge the 18" square pieces I was using, but that's because I was being lazy; I'd serge, hem, or at least cut the sides with pinking shears were I planning to use the furoshiki as part of a gift.
I love the concept of furoshiki for so many reasons. They're aesthetic, environmental, practical (it's much easier to make a last-minute furoshiki than a quick fabric gift bag, even though it doesn't really take that long to make a gift bag), cultural, economical, and more. And besides, it's just plain fun and impressive -- I get the same feeling of accomplishment when completing a difficult wrap as I do when managing a complex piece of origami.
If you want to save paper and money by not buying a whole book, Japan's Ministry of the Environment has a free .pdf file showing some basic ways to wrap with fabric, and if you're lucky enough to read Japanese you may be interested in the Furoshiki Study Group Website as well. (My Japanese is nonexistent, but I still enjoyed the site, especially the bow tie diagram and the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle brochure explaining how furoshiki fit within an eco-friendly lifestyle.)
My most recent idea for wonderful, easy-to-make gifts is creating an assortment of furoshiki in different sizes and patterns, packaging it with the above-mentioned instructive .pdf file, and, of course, wrapping the whole caboodle with yet another piece of fabric. If I wanted to get a bit more elaborate I'd silkscreen, draw, or embroider designs on the fabric (most Japanese furoshiki have either a large picture in the bottom left corner for orientation or a picture/motif with a clear top, bottom, left, and right). At the very least I'll definitely be wrapping the homemade canned goods I traditionally give over the holidays with a nice napkin, furoshiki-style. And what could be more logical and appealing than wrapping a To-Go Food Carrier and bamboo utensil set with a couple of napkins? (You can see a utensil set wrapped "kimono style" to the right; you'd definitely want to use a larger piece of fabric to wrap the food carrier, though, as I got very frustrated trying with an 18" square!)
Anyway, check out our new fabrics, and do consider trying furoshiki/the fine art of gift wrapping with textiles. I've really only touched the surface ... some of the wrapping jobs are absolutely unbelievable, and I look at some of the instructions and shake my head in disbelief. I'll get there someday, though. Really I will. I just have to keep practicing...
But watch out ... you just might find furoshiki as addictive as I do ... and what a fun, environmentally-friendly, productive craft meme to spread, don't you think?