Wrapping paper creates a lot of waste, and glossy finishes and glittery details mean much of it can’t be recycled. Even recyclable paper might use ink in its design that needs to be removed in the recycling process, so isn’t necessarily as environmentally friendly as you might think. Thankfully, there are alternatives, including making your own wrap from fabric, which can then be reused again and again.
Traditional Japanese wrapping
One method is furoshiki, a centuries-old Japanese craft. Furoshiki are square cloths used for decoration and carrying objects, as well as for wrapping. They range from simple to mind-bogglingly complex, involving many cloths and accessories.
Furoshiki have probably been used in Japan since at least the 8th century, but only became known by their current name around the Edo period (1603-1868). This is because people used them to carry items to bathhouses and keep their clothes bundled together while they washed (‘furo’ means ‘bath’).
Finding your fabric
Almost any kind of fabric can be used, as long as it’s not too stretchy. This means you can start with things you already own, such as an old shirt you no longer wear. Instead of throwing it out, you could cut out squares of fabric to use as furoshiki (but make sure the shirt’s clean first!). Unwanted headscarves are also great, or you could find fabrics in charity and vintage shops
How to get wrapping
You can easily wrap objects like books, boxes and candles. But as fabric is much more forgiving than paper, unusually shaped items become a fun challenge rather than a frustrating exercise as you tear another corner by accident.
The art of knotting
The only thing you really need to master before you get started is the ma-musubi knot, which is the same as a reef knot in rope tying. It’s a double knot, in which you tie right over left then left over right (or vice versa, see below).
This creates a stronger knot that’s less likely to accidentally become untied. Other than that, you can do whatever you like, although there are plenty of guides online and in print to give you some inspiration.
Simple furoshiki wraps
With furoshiki, the only real limit is your imagination, but here are some simple, classic wraps to get you started
- Place the cloth on a flat surface. If it’s patterned on only one side, make sure that’s on the bottom. Place the book right in the centre of the fabric, at a diagonal to the edges of the cloth. Take one corner of the furoshiki and fold it over the book, tucking it underneath the far side if it reaches that far. Now repeat this with the opposite corner. Bring the two remaining corners together and tie a ma-musubi knot (see below), as flat against the book as possible.
- Fold your furoshiki in half, so it’s shaped like a triangle. If it’s patterned on only one side, make sure that’s on the inside of the triangle. Tie off the two folder corners with single knots, then flip the triangle inside out so these knots are hidden inside the bag. Tie the remaining two corners together in a ma-musubi knot (see below) to form a handle.
The ma-musubi knot
- After preparing your furoshiki wrap, loosely tie the corners or ends of the fabric as shown here, leaving room for adjustment until you are happy with the overall presentation of your gift.
Original words: Rebecca Hallett
Illustrations: Jen Boehler