Furoshiki: The Traditional Japanese Method for Wrapping Gifts Using a Scarf or Cloth

Japanese Fabric
CC0 / Unsplash / Annie Spratt

A furoshiki is a waste-free way to wrap gifts or transport items, popular in Japan. We’ll show you how easy it is to make a reusable gift wrap or a bag out of a simple scarf or cloth.

Japanese people have been using simple pieces of fabric to wrap goods for many centuries. The word furoshiki itself means ‘bath sheet’ or ‘bath towel’ in Japanese: When public baths became common in Japan, people often stowed their clothes in a furoshiki while bathing. Soon, a simple square of fabric or a scarf were used to wrap up and carry other things, too.

This practice has continued into the present day. A furoshiki, and the knotting techniques associated with it, is a lovely way to wrap gifts. It looks beautiful – and the recipient gets a fetching new scarf in addition to their actual gift! It’s also a form of precycling, helping you avoid unnecessary waste from wrapping paper and tape.

You can buy a furoshiki online (e.g. this Japanese-made cotton furoshiki on Amazon**). However, to save resources, you can also use any (more or less square) piece of pretty fabric you might have at home.

Furoshiki Wrapping: Tips for Square Gifts

Furoshiki Wrapping Book
A simple furoshiki wrap can be used to gift-wrap all kinds of things – here are some tips for a flat, square package. (Utopia / Leonie Barghorn)

Furoshiki wrapping cloths usually measure between 15 and 35 inches square. The folding technique explained below is best suited for flat gifts which are rectangular or square. If the gift you’re wrapping is any larger than 6 inches a side, it’s best to use a larger piece of fabric.

  1. Flatten out the furoshiki face down on your work surface. Place the gift diagonally on top, so that its corners face the midpoints of the wrap’s edges.
  1. Tie two opposing corners of the furoshiki over the gift with a double knot.
Scarf Gift Wrap Two
Begin by knotting together the opposing sets of corners. (Utopia / Leonie Barghorn)

3. Tie the other two corners together in the same way. Straighten out the ends and edges of the furoshiki.

Gift Wrap Step Three
Finish up your furoshiki by straightening the edges and the ends of the knots. (Utopia / Leonie Barghorn)

Tip: The gift will look especially decorative if you tie some hand-picked flowers or grasses under the knot!

Handmade Japanese Handbags

Handmade Handbag
It’s so simple to make a traditional furoshiki bag out of a scarf, wrap, or any piece of fabric! (Utopia / Leonie Barghorn)

Depending on the size of your furoshiki, you can make anything from a full-size tote bag to a cute little handbag. Depending on how big you want it to be, you can use a larger or smaller scarf or wrap.

  1. Begin as you did with the gift, spreading out the furoshiki wrapping cloth face down on your work surface.
  1. Tie knots in all four corners of the furoshiki. All your knots should be the same distance from the corners. The closer the knots are to the corners, the shorter the handles of your bag will be. On the other hand, this will make the bag itself larger and more spacious.
Handmade Handbag Step Two
To keep your furoshiki neat and symmetrical, make sure the knots are evenly spaced. (Utopia / Leonie Barghorn)
  1. Tie both pairs of neighboring (not opposing) corners together at their tips. Voilà – or jian jian! – your furoshiki bag is ready!
Handmade Handbag Step Three
Make your bag’s handles by tying together the corners of your wrap or scarf. (Utopia / Leonie Barghorn)

This article was translated from English to German by Will Tayler. You can read the original here.

** Links to retailers are partially affiliate links: If you buy here, you actively support Utopia.org because we get a small portion of the proceeds.

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