In my attempts to do something a little bit differently and a little bit more sustainably this year, I have decided to try my hand at furoshiki, that is, the Japanese art of wrapping gifts in reusable or recycled textile wrappings.
My interest in the subject was sparked by Marie Kondo, who last year had an article on her website introducing the topic. (I can’t find the article anymore, on the other hand, she is now selling textiles on her website to do furoshiki, to which I won’t link because it just irritates me that someone who has made her living talking about decluttering is now selling stuff to her captive audience. I still love her, she has the right to benefit from her success. I just won’t link to it.)
Just to whet your appetite, here is a little gallery of my recent, first-go attempts at furoshiki, and you will see why it makes my little heart go pitterpatter:
Please keep in mind one other thing while you read this expository on learning how to furoshiki: wrapping gifts is my favorite part of Christmas. This whole process was part of my experiment in doing Christmas on my own terms this year, and in no way am I prescribing going to these lengths. But it was fun!
On that note, let the festivities commence!
The “Right Kind ” of Fabric
As you know by now, I “took one for the team” and went to my nearby thrift store last week to procure some fabric to play around with. I found some, but let it be noted: those amazing African wax prints in the above “pitterpatter” gallery? Those were fabrics I had purchased in Uganda in 2007. I have been protecting them with my life, never wanting to use them for anything because they were too precious. More on that in a little bit.
My idea was to find household linens or fabric remnants that I deemed pretty enough to work with, but that were cheap enough to not break the bank to be used for gift wrapping.
You may have noticed, but I am partial to brightly-colored, bold-printed textiles. I knew for a fact that I had those Ghanaian-printed fabrics in my stash, but I came down to one very serious problem: they carried too many memories and were too precious to me to be willing to use them as gift wrap for someone who may not love them as much as I do. To use these, it would have to be for someone in my immediate circle, so that I could keep custody of those fabrics.
As it turns out, these wax print textiles are the primo, best most amazing fabrics to use for one very important reason: the printing is equally saturated on both sides. There is hardly a “right” or “wrong” side to these textiles, which means that when you wrap, the little ends poking out, which are theoretically the “inside” , are just as colorful as the outside.
However. Because I was wanting to find textiles I would be willing to part with for my gift wrapping efforts this year, I made my way to the thrift store.
You Take What You Can Get
I tried to spend as little time as possible in the thrift store, because, as you remember, I am not supposed to buy any clothes in 2021. That is my challenge for this year, and here, I was at Temptation Central. So I bee-lined to the home goods section and only touched what I thought might do the job. I settled on these lovelies:
The Spider-Man fabric was from a duvet cover. The one side, with that gorgeous navy blue webbing reminded me of my African wax print in terms of motif, so it was a no-brainer. I didn’t photograph the other side, which was a more basic light blue background with a bunch of “Amazing Spider-Man graphics on it. You will see more of that side later.)
The two florals are a vintage polyester, which, quite honestly, I wish I knew how to sew myself a blouse from, because they are amazing. But since I was able to get them both for 1€ (that is 0.50€ a piece!), I figured it might be a good and lovely way to wrap gifts, too.
Lastly, that navy is an Ikea curtain with a cityscape printed on it, which, with the duvet cover, I also got for 0.50€ a piece. It reminds me of some of the more traditional furoshiki prints I have seen out there, and will probably be what I use for the extended family’s Christmas gifts this year. With a pretty red bow, I think it will be just what Santa Fields ordered.
Upon getting my finds home, I threw them in the washing machine and dried them out on the line. I ironed the cotton-y ones as best as I could.
Two weeks ago, I had a little mini-breakdown relating to my children, who were driving me out of my mind. I called a girlfriend and cried for about twenty minutes. She said to me, “Listen, Saturday I will come over and pick up your boys. I will keep them for the day so you can have a break.” I was so grateful for this kindness, but I also felt guilty: she has two boys of her own (ages 9 and 11). I couldn’t imagine that this would be easy for her.
But in the end, I took her up on it, because sometimes, we need to learn to accept help when it is offered.
So. My first attempt at furoshiki was to wrap gifts for her and her family to thank them for saving my marriage by taking the boys for a day.
Here we go!
-Invisible hair bands
-Fabulous printed fabric
Cut your swatch
Just as if I were wrapping a gift, I cut a little swatch of the material to the size of the gift.
(This is a little fridge magnet that reads, “You are the friend everyone dreams about.” Because really, she is.)
I placed the magnet diagonally across the swatch
Fold in the excess
Pulling all four corners to the top, I folded the corners inside, towards the center as if making a pleat.
Absolutely not a term of art, I decided to call the resulting little package a dumpling, because that’s what it made me think of.
Close the Dumpling
Traditional furoshiki relies on tying a pretty bow with the corners of the textile, but this package was very tiny, and the fabric too bulky to tie.
I slipped a little invisible hair tie down to secure it. I discovered that one hair tie might be too fragile and break, so I used two, and it held up much better.
Tie a ribbon
The ribbon is unnecessary, since the whole thing is held closed by the hair tie, but I believe in excess when it comes to wrapping gifts. So, voilà. A little ribbon for good measure.
An oddly shaped package:
I bought a pair of Advent Calendars to thank my friend’s two sons for sharing their toys with my scalawags, and for being altogether excellent hosts.
Wrapping this package with paper wrapping would have been a feat of geometry, with the added risk of tearing paper. With furoshiki, though…
A fabric pocket
I took the fabric and sewed it into just-right sized rectangular pockets for the Calendars. They ended up looking like pillowcases!
Then, I folded the excess towards the inside to close it, allowing the fabric to shape to the package.
A touch of fun
I closed the package with a bit of white fuzzy yarn, which I arranged to look like a spiderweb, because, as you know, I am crazy and I love to wrap gifts.
But wait, there’s more!
Just for fun, I tried my hand at narrating the process of furoshiki on a gift for my indulgent husband’s birthday in a little video, which I give you here in its world-premiere:
Surely as I get better at this I will have more thoughts to share, notably: what will the experience for the gift-receiver be like when he receives his furoshiki-d birthday gift?
But all-in-all, I feel armed to have a ton of fun wrapping gifts in a more sustainable fashion this year!
Let me know if you try this!!!!!!!!