Furoshiki 風呂敷 | Sustainable Gift Wrapping

Dec 15, 2020 | Blog

Christmas has arrived and amid all the early morning excitement, presents are opened, admired and enjoyed.  Eventually, however, the wrapping paper needs to be picked up, stuffed into bags and tossed out with the garbage… Or does it? 

What if the gifts were wrapped in beautiful fabric which can be used for years to come? No more buying rolls of expensive paper only to see it tossed out with the trash.

After the gifts are opened, the fabric would be lovingly folded and saved for the next gift giving opportunity. If this sounds likes a welcomed idea, then make your next celebration sustainable by adopting the Japanese tradition of Furoshiki 風呂敷.

My daughter and I lived in Kobe, Japan for four years and one of my first memories is buying something simple at a department store and being handed an exquisitely wrapped package. I quickly apologized, explaining it wasn’t a gift, and I didn’t need special gift wrapping. The saleslady looked at me perplexed as she told me it wasn’t gift wrapped. This was my introduction to the Japanese way of approaching life with an artistic flair. Packages are creatively wrapped to show their importance, rather than tossing purchases into a plastic bag. When gifts or packages are wrapped in fabric, the Japanese term is furoshiki.

Furoshiki is the art of wrapping gifts or packages in fabric. I’ve always been surprised this approach to gift wrapping isn’t more widely embraced as it is extremely simple and effortless.  Furoshiki is simply a square of cloth which is tied around a gift or package.  This fabric is used over and over which creates a sustainable approach to gift giving, eliminating the process of sending bags of paper to the landfills.

Furoshiki dates back to the ancient use of public baths in Japan. Visitors would wrap their clothes in a cloth while bathing. Over time, the cloths were used to wrap and carry purchases as well as transport food and bento boxes filled with prepared meals. A bento box wrapped with a cloth creates an easy way to carry a package, but also provides a table cloth and napkin to use during the meal.

Furoshiki cloths are traditionally square and have finished edges, rather than rough cut edges. The edges can be hemmed or two pieces of cloth sewn together. Any fabric can be used, but those that are pliable and easy to fold work best. Cotton is often used as it is easy to clean and affordable, but furoshiki can be found in all fabric choices. Beautiful choices ranging from $10.00 – $20.00 can be found on Amazon.  Here are two choices that I thought were quite pretty.  Both are affiliate links that will take you to the sales page. 

How To Fold Furoskiki

Whether you purchase a furoshiki cloth or hem your own square of cloth, the folding process is simple.  Place your gift in the middle of the square. Fold one corner over the gift, and then the opposite corner. Bring the other two corners into the middle and tie in a knot or bow. Tuck in greenery, flowers, cards, name tags, etc., as you like.

Cloth Gift Bags

Similar to furoshiki is the use of cloth bags. Although the bag approach involves more sewing or preparation, this is another beautiful and sustainable option for gift giving or day to day use.  Cloth bags are a great beginner sewing project that provides a  productive way to use fabric scraps. Create a pocket at the top for a drawstring, sew the three sides together and you have a reusable gift bag.  Here’s a link to the Karin Jordan Studio website that provides an easy to follow tutorial on sewing gift bags.

If sewing your own bags isn’t possible, these are photo links to affordable bags for purchase on Amazon.

Feeling inspired?  Here are three other creative ways to present a gift where the wrapping is a reusable part of the gift!

  • Use a pillow case as a gift bag tied with a large bow. After opening the gift, the pillow case can be used for years to come. Holiday pillow cases are a fun gift for children.
  • Use tea towels or kitchen towels to wrap food gifts.
  • Wrap small gifts in socks with a bow.


Share more sustainable gift wrap ideas below in the comments!


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1 Comment

  1. Molly M

    Thank you for these ideas!! I love that you can keep passing the fabric on lovingly after you have been given it. This was really fun to read!


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