Every year we trash enough gift wrap to wrap around the world multiple times, and a good chunk of it is not even recyclable. What a waste!
So why not make your own fabric gift wrap inspired by furoshiki, a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth you can use as reusable gift wrap or a bag. It's an easy sewing project for beginners.
A reusable fabric gift wrap is a great way to reduce waste around the holidays.
What size furoshiki do I need?
If you have a specific gift you are working with, then the diagonal of the cloth needs to be around three times the length of the gift. A little bigger is good too. You can use a square piece of cloth, a tea towel, or a square scarf to make an educated guess to determine the finished size you need.
Furoshiki sizes and what they wrap
- 45 x 45 cm / 17,7"x 17,7": a small notebook, small item.
- 50 x 50cm / 19,7" x 19,7": a small notebook, tissue box, lunch box.
- 68 x 68 cm / 26.7"x 26.7": a book, wine bottle, lunch box.
- 90 x 90 cm / 35,4" x 35,4": two wine bottles, use as a shopping bag, multiple books.
- 100 x 100 cm 39,4" x 39,4": wrap a pillow, use as a shopping bag.
Source: Musibi website and FUROSHIKI: and the Japanese art of gift wrapping by Tomoko Kakita
Since I want to use up my fabric stash, I try to use the entire width or length of the fabric as efficiently as possible. Reducing waste was also a factor for me when determining the size.
Add seam allowance
Don't forget to add a seam allowance on top of those finished sizes. So if you were to go for a 1cm (3/8") seam allowance you need to double it for the double fold hem for example:
- cut 47 x 47 cm to get a finished size of 45 x 45 cm
- cut 18,5" x 18.5"to get a finished size of 17.7" x 17.7"
I recently made one that I adorned with a pink sun print. It's quite small 39,5 x 39,5 cm which is about the smallest I would go, but this was the largest I could fit under the glass I have for sun printing. It does fit an A6-sized booklet though and small gift like a bar of soap.
I used a square piece of fabric that I finished with a double fold hem around the edges and mitered corners for a nice detail on the tips.
You can find the mitered corner explained on the blog; here for narrow seam allowances and here for wider seam allowances. If you have a rolled hem presser foot, that would be a great option, but I have never mastered it even after hours of trying so I'll just keep to a double fold hem.
What fabric can you use for reusable fabric gift wraps?
I've had the best success with fairly lightweight fabrics. The fabric with the sun print is a 138 gsm calico. I've also used a cotton voile, viscose, and I've made a larger size with a thicker fabric. Just experiment and use what you already have. A silk scarf, linen napkin, tea towel can all be used as a fabric gift wrap too.
Who gets to keeps the furoshiki?
In Japan the tradition is to give the furoshiki back to the gift giver, but I like to give them as part of the gift. Since I'm able to sew and many of my friends don't It makes me happy to share something handmade with them.
However I do ask if they want it since, the main reasons for me to make the reusable fabric wrap is to reuse it so if they're not going to use it then I'll happily take it home.
So far I've mentioned fabric and measurements, but of course, there is so much more to it than that. There is history and tradition connected to it. All though all around the world cloth was used to wrap items, in Japan, it evolved from utility into an art and tradition.
For some inspiration here are a few links I've used for information and inspiration and furoshiki wrapping techniques.
FUROSHIKI: and the Japanese art of gift wrapping by Tomoko Kakita This book contains a brief history of furoshiki and different gift wrapping techniques explained in diagrams. If you find the illustrations hard to follow, you can also watch a short video explainng each technique.
- A short introduction to furoshiki with some examples, history and a demonstration by Tomoko Osawa https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2A9YXkbU-6c&t=2s
- A demonstration for 3 different Furoshiki wrapping techniques
For more on the history and tradition, you can check out the website by Musubi which is a Japanese company that makes furoshiki (since 1937) with amazing prints.