What better way to celebrate the season of giving than with a beautifully hand-wrapped gift? When the wrapping on the outside is just as thoughtful as the gift on the inside, it’s easy to see why we’re skipping the gift wrap this year and going with an eco-friendly option. Furoshiki, both a style of gift wrapping and traditional Japanese wrapping cloth, dates back to the Nara period and was first used to protect valuable goods. Today, with the help of maker River Takada-Capel, we’re showing you six furoshiki techniques you can use this holiday season and beyond.
River: My earliest memories of using furoshiki dates back to my mom, Kazuko, wrapping up my lunch in napkins instead of sending me to school with a brown paper bag lunch. Unwrapping my lunch was such a delight since I knew it was a gift from my mom and usually held a delicious sandwich inside. As I got older and traveled to Japan annually to visit my family, I took note of how culturally embedded gift giving is — never show up empty handed! Beautifully wrapped gifts can be found in every corner of the country. That chestnut roasting stand on the corner, it has carefully chosen ribbon to tie your bag of this delicious smelling treat. Every train station and department store is stocked with branded wrapping paper and gold stickers to make any last minute gift look special. Even bookstores wrap paper around the covers of books upon purchase so you can read your guilty pleasures on the train in secret.
To this day I love a wrapped gift that might look like a handmade tote bag, reused brown paper grocery bag or a vintage scarf furoshiki. I even use furoshiki to wrap up things in my suitcase when I travel. That silk scarf I might wear on my trip? I’ll use it to wrap up my t-shirts. It doubles to keep my luggage organized while I hide my delicates from airport security. I hope you get inspired by this zero-waste gift wrapping tutorial, but I also hope this inspires you to use your beloved fabrics in everyday life.
Getting Familiar with Furoshiki
If you’re new to furokshiki, these helpful tips are a great place to start.
- Cut your fabric appropriately for your gift size. Not sure what size to use? Experiment with a bandana, napkin or muslin fabric to help you decide how much coverage you need.
- The weight of your fabric will influence how neat your ties and wraps will look. We used a wide range of fabrics in this post to give you a better idea. Celosia Velvet™ is great for a no-tie wrap held closed with a ribbon or bias tape. Chiffon is elegant, lightweight, and sheer — perfect to wrap a big, soft pillow.
- Don’t have a box? Don’t worry about it! There are so many options to add personality to your gift that no one will notice it didn’t come in a box. We wrapped a ceramic mug with the lush Velvet for extra padding so no box or extra bubble wrap was necessary!
- Incorporate your wrap into your gift! Use a baby blanket to wrap a baby gift. Use a swatch to wrap a sweet pair of earrings. Use un-sewn fabric for your crafty friends’ gifts so they can make something out of it later- like a pillow!
You can accomplish a lot with just wrapping and tying. In these tutorials, we’ve incorporated some twisting to add handles and specific folds to get different wrapping styles. Don’t be shy about trying a few different methods to see what works for your gift and fabric. Ready to get wrapping?
Part 1: Prepping Your Fabric for Furoshiki
Before we get started wrapping our presents, we must first prep our fabric! Lucky for you, there are a few no-sew options if you’re in a hurry to wrap a last-minute gift. Measuring, pinning and ironing all have their respected places in sewing, but when I am trying to whip up a furoshiki wrap for a gift, I have a few shortcuts I like to take to save time. Watch the videos below to find out what they are.
No-Sew Finishing Methods
Cut off the selvage with pinking shears and square it off with ruler.
Cut off the selvage with fabric scissors, fold the fabric in half diagonally to make a triangle and then cut the remaining two sides.
Using an existing scarf or bandana (20″ x 20″) as a template, line up the template on a 45º angle. Cut two sides of your Chiffon fabric on the bias*. Once you’ve cut half of the fabric, fold it in half and cut the other two sides.
*Cutting on the bias prevents the fabric from fraying.
Hemmed Finishing Methods: Woven Fabrics
Snip and Rip
Make a 1’ snip with a sharp pair of fabric scissors close to the unprinted selvage on the grain of your fabric and then rip the unprinted selvage off. Finger press or press with an iron ½”, repeat and hem the edges with a straight stitch or zig-zag stitch.
Half Triangle Block
Using two different woven cotton fabrics, cut out two triangles of fabric — use your first triangle as a template to make the second triangle. Lay right sides together, pin the diagonal size and zig-zag stitch the diagonal side.
For an optional french seam, place the fabric wrong sides together, pin the bias cut edge (diagonal side) and stitch together with a straight stitch using a ⅛”-¼” seam allowance. Open up the fabric so the print side is facing up. Finger press the hem to one side. Flip fabric over, fold the fabric on the bias, right sides facing each other and pin in place. Stitch your fabric in place with a seam allowance that is at least twice as large as your original hem. Now you have finished edges on both the front and back of your fabric!
- Bias Ribbon: Recommended for woven fabric, cut your remnant fabric on the bias to create a lovely, no-sew ribbon that can be reused for bias tape.
- Focusing on zero waste gift giving this season? Use the unprinted, white selvage from Spoonflower yardage as a ribbon!
Part 2: Furoshiki Techniques
Method 1: Traditional Tie
- With the fabric laying on the table print side down, place the pillow diagonally on top of the fabric.
- Tuck in the edges and tie two ends together in the center of the top of the fabric.
Method 2: Side by Side Bow
This method is a traditional bento box fold.
- Lay out your gift on the diagonal of your fabric, print side down.
- Take two diagonal corners and start by tying them once toward one corner of your box.
- Take the remaining two corners and tie them together twice.
- Reach under the knot you just tied to take hold of the first tie you started with.
- Tie once again, right next to the other knot, so they sit side-by-side on top of your gift.
Pro tip: Tuck the corners of the excess fabric into the sides to make them look like little bows.
Method 3: Corner Tie
- Place the fabric right side down and place the box on an angle to the corners of the fabric.
- Fold one corner flap of fabric over your gift box or book.
- Fold the adjacent corner over your gift, folding and tucking the edge so it lines up neatly with the edge of your box. You should be left with the remaining two corners of fabric laying flat.
- Fold the straight edge of your fabric down flat two-three times, depending on the size of your fabric. The folded edge should cover up the corner of your gift.
- Twist the remaining fabric back, away from the front of your gift until the loose corners meet up. Take time to adjust your fabric as you prepare the tie.
- Holding your two twisted corners, bring them together over the corner of the gift and tie a knot.
- Tuck the edges of the tie under the fabric folds to make it look nice and tidy.
Method 4: Padded Wrap
This method is great for wrapping bottles or vases.
- Place your bottle of choice in the center of your fabric square. Bring two non-adjacent corners together and tie once or twice to keep these corners out of the way while you work on the rest of the wrap.
- Twist the loose corners around the bottle toward the front of the bottle so you can bring them around and tie in a knot. If you have extra fabric, wrap around your bottle twice and tie a small knot in the back. Now that we have the body secure we can move on to the handle.
- Working back to the top of the bottle where you tied the corners just once (re-tie if needed), twist the loose edges to make the handle. Twist the fabric, leaving two-three inches of the corner free to tie into the secure knot.
Method 5: Bag Bundle
This method is great for wrapping a bundle of fabric.
- Fold your fabric square into a triangle.
- Knot the two corners along the fold of your triangle.
- Open up your triangle so you are looking at the wrong side of the fabric.
- Place your fabric bundle in the middle and fold the knotted corners of your triangle over your gift item. These knotted corners will keep your fabric bundle or other gift from showing.
- Bring the remaining two corners together and tie them together twice to form a knot which becomes the handle of your bag. Feel free to make your “handle” as long or as short as you like.
Method 6: Basic Wrapping
Used for wrapping a book or flat box, good for fat quarter sized pieces of fabric.
- Place your pinked Velvet on the table, print side down.
- Lay your book or other present down diagonally on top of your fabric.
- Wrap your present like a regular gift, tucking in corners.
- Flip the gift so the folded edges are underneath and tie with a ribbon.
Have an oddly shaped gift like a handmade coffee mug or bundle of similar items like a baby hat, leggings and shoes? Try out these techniques for even more inspiration.
About the Guest Author
River Takada-Capel is a mixed media artist focusing in material re-use. She sources materials from deadstock warehouses, factories and flea markets to make a variety of products she sells online, at craft markets and independently owned stores. River also teaches textile based workshops like Indigo Dyeing, screen printing and sewing for all ages and levels. Listen to her interview on the Love to Sew Podcast all about teaching kids about sewing and find out when her next workshop is by signing up for her online newsletter. You can find River’s most up-to-date projects on her Instagram, where she also shares videos of her adorable cats.