Furoshiki: The Japanese wrapping technique

Furoshiki (風呂敷) is a piece of fabric that the Japanese have been using for centuries. It is a wrapping cloth that represents the care of handling an object and the appreciation towards the person who receives it.

Errand wrapping (Otsukai Tsutsumi)

If you don’t own a Furoshiki you can use any piece of square/rectangular fabric. For best results though, conventional Furoshiki has slightly longer height than width. You can wrap anything you like, considering the object is about 1/3 the diagonal length of your cloth.

Red: two vertical knots (Yotsu Musubi), blue: bottle wrapping (Bin Tsutsumi), green: ribbon wrapping (RibonTsutsumi)

The key to a successful wrapping lies in mastering the knot (ma-musubi); besides it’s beauty, it never gets undone but is really easy to untie when you want to. Have a look at this tutorial made by Ecoshiki in the UK, where this technique is explained at length.

Two-book wrapping (Hon Tsutsumi)

I hope these examples help appreciate the enormous versatility and sensitivity of the Furoshiki. Remarcably, it is intended to adapt to the object and not the other way around like a normal bag does, so this allows a single object to reinvent itself, to be treasured and used over and over.

Shopping bag style                                                          All photos by: tete-a-tete copyright 2012

A bit of Furoshiki knowledge:

They are made of kimono fabric, by cutting the fabric rolls and sewing the edges. This is why the height is slightly larger than the width. Modern Furoshiki comes in various materials like silk, rayon, cotton, nylon, polyester or recycled fabrics and are available in different sizes. The smallest ones are often used to wrap envelopes, medium ones to wrap things like books, bottles or gifts and the large ones to use as tablecloths or to wrap clothes and futons.

Each design and material has been thoroughly planned. Every Furoshiki is meant to look beautiful when spread flat and when wrapping something. When used, the motifs often match the seasons and the colours should be chosen carefully according to the occasion, e.g. bright ones for celebrations, sober ones for funerals etc. Some patterns have special meanings, the most common ones send messages of good luck, harmony, happiness or long life.

The following photos are beautiful examples of the Furoshiki in Japanese culture. They are portions of a folding screen from the Edo period (1603-1868) that rests on the Tokyo National Museum:

'The Four Elegant Pastimes: Music, Go Game, Calligraphy and Painting' by Kaiho Yusho (1533-1615)

‘The Four Elegant Pastimes: Music, Go Game, Calligraphy and Painting’ by Kaiho Yusho (1533-1615)

'The Four Elegant Pastimes: Music, Go Game, Calligraphy and Painting' by Kaiho Yusho (1533-1615)

‘The Four Elegant Pastimes: Music, Go Game, Calligraphy and Painting’ by Kaiho Yusho (1533-1615)

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If you would like more information and maybe use this technique to wrap this year’s Christmas presents, have a look at this illustrated guide by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment:

Find the link to the  original source here: ‘How to use Furoshiki’

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2 responses to “Furoshiki: The Japanese wrapping technique

  1. Pingback: Hand painted Japanese lantern | T E T S U K U R I·

  2. Pingback: Top 5: DIY Cadeaupapier | SRSCK·

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