Fabric wrapped christmas gifts

The holiday season offers an opportunity to accessorise our homes with festive ornaments and décor, creating an elegant setting in which to spend time with loved ones. No festive scheme would be complete without beautifully wrapped presents displayed underneath the tree and one of the most striking ways to wrap presents is to use fabric. In this article, we explore the beautiful Japanese art of furoshiki as a striking and environmentally friendly alternative to paper gift wrapping. Read on to learn about the craft, its rich heritage and find inspiration for your own furoshiki wrapping this holiday season.

AN INTRODUCTION TO FUROSHIKI

Furoshiki is the term for the Japanese art of wrapping goods and items for transport. The term is used for both the craft of wrapping and for the cloth itself. Furoshiki cloth is a square piece of fabric, often featuring elegant, decorative and colourful designs.

Furoshiki was originally invented to serve a practical need to protect valuable goods. Since its inception in the 8th century, Furoshiki has evolved to become an art form and what was initially a practical way to transport goods has become a beautiful way to present gifts.

THE ORIGINS OF FUROSHIKI

Furoshiki originated in Japan around 710 B.C. during the Nara period. At this time, the cloth used to wrap an object was referred to as Tsutsumi, which translates to “package” or “present”. Tsutsumi was primarily used to wrap and protect treasures from the imperial household. These woven cloths were a precious commodity and the folding of the cloths carried a deeply spiritual meaning.

Original drawing of furoshiki from the picture book of Kyouka poems
Detail of Furoshiki from Katsushika Hokusai, Picture Book of Kyouka Poems: Mountains Upon Mountains (1804). Courtesy of Met Museum.

During the Heian period between 794 and 1185, the cloth was most commonly used to wrap clothing belonging to the aristocracy and was named Koromo-Tsutsumi (kimono wrapping).

The name furoshiki began to be used during the 14th-16th century. It is understood that the shogun of the era, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, invited feudal lords to the large bathhouse in his residence. His guests wrapped their kimonos in furoshiki cloth featuring their family crest. After bathing, it is believed that the guests would relax on the cloths to dry, hence the term ‘shiki’ which means ‘spread’.

As bathhouses grew in popularity throughout the 17th-19th centuries, so did the practice of using furoshiki to wrap clothes. Furoshiki was adopted by tradespeople and travellers and began to appear in other aspects of society as a means of wrapping books, gifts and other merchandise.

MODERN FUROSHIKI

In recent years, Furoshiki has seen a resurgence as cultures around the world revere the practice as a sustainable alternative to paper gift wrapping. In 2006, Yuriko Koike, the Japanese Minister of the Environment, promoted furoshiki cloth in a campaign to increase environmental awareness.

Paper gift-wrapping can only be used once. Furthermore, often the glues, glitters and embellishments on gift wrapping paper mean that it cannot be recycled. However, fabric wrapping can be re-used year on year, making this a sustainable way to wrap gifts.

Furoshiki Wrapping with Textiles Book by Chizuko Morita

Furoshiki cloth can be any size but is always square. Furoshiki can be bought or created at home by repurposing fabrics and linens. The fabric is cut into squares and stitched along each edge.

The practice requires no glue or tape, instead the fabric is fastened into position with knots and bows. There are various methods to wrap objects depending on their shape and proportions and to achieve creative designs.

If you would like to learn how to wrap gifts of all shapes and sizes, fabric wrap brand, Wrappr, shares step by step guides to wrapping gifts using Furoshiki on its website.

Furoshiki can also be used to wrap bottles of wine. Below we share Wrappr’s step by step guide to wrapping two bottles of wine.

A furoshiki cloth can even be transformed into a grocery bag.