Zero Waste: Wrapping Gifts with Fabric

About 10 years ago, Matt’s mother decided to wrap all the Christmas gifts she was giving in fabric. A frugal, creative woman she didn’t enjoy, nor see the point, in wrapping a gift in beautiful paper only for it to be torn off and wasted, it seemed like a bit of an obscene luxury and careless of the environmental impact. For a few years already, Matt and I had been carefully unwrapping gifts so as to be able to reuse as much of the paper as possible, but admittedly it took a little fun out of the whole gift exchange. The fabric wrapped gifts she brought, on the other hand, were beautiful and appeared fancier than traditional paper wrapping and bows, and no extra special handling was needed to unwrap them. Win-win!

Photo not mine, view it and it’s source via my Pinterest board

A few years later, and I don’t remember how I came across it, I learned about the practice of Japanese fabric wrapping using a wrapping cloth known as Furoshiki. I’m certainly no expert in furoshiki, but  I can tell you that from the idea of furoshiki developed a set of wrapping techniques, where fabric is used to package things for transport or gift giving. It is said to have been developed out of a sense of waste consciousness and caring for the environment.

Since this time I’ve used fabric to wrap gifts when I have some on hand (otherwise I reuse paper).

If you ask Google you’ll find there are different techniques for boxes and bottles and other general shapes too. There are also lots of tutorials if you search ‘furoshiki’ on YouTube and I’ve pinned some favourites to my ‘ g i f t ‘ board on Pinterest.

Aside from gifts, there are also techniques for wrapping picnic lunches and meals for transport, where the fabric folding and wrapping comes out looking like a little basket. There are also folding techniques for shopping bags, flower bouquets and more. All this to say, if you want to wrap something in fabric as a gift or to travel with, then there is a furoshiki technique that can do the job. All you need is some scrap fabric (old sheets, scarves, silks, linens) to work with. No tape, no string, no glue. Although sometimes it’s fun to embellish the wrapping with a scrap of ribbon or yarn.

Photo not mine, view it and it’s source via my Pinterest board

Don’t be fooled by how pretty the furoshiki wrapping looks and assume it is complex. Every technique is simple and involves very basic folding and knotting. Gift wrapping in under 2 minutes — 1 minute for a pro.

This year I used some of Ro and Sen’s play silks from Sarah’s Silks to wrap gifts. The play silks we have are long rectangles, so I folded them over in thirds so I could work from approximately a square shape, but there is no great precision required in the size of the fabric relative to the size of the wrapped object, but generally a bigger piece of fabric is easier to work with. Using play silks to wrap gifts for children has the added bonus that the wrapping is a gift itself. Imagine a child unwraps a gift and is just as excited about the wrapping!

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Overall, gift wrapping with fabric is easier (and faster) than wrapping with paper as you don’t need tape, ribbon or scissors. In my experience, people react positively to fabric wrapping: children find it extra fancy and adults usually have an ‘aha’ moment, like “hey, what a great idea!” In addition, fabric wrapping is more economical, encourages reuse and repurposing, and is environmentally friendly. Win-win-win! Try it out and please share the idea!

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