Bryhanna Greenough wraps up the holidays with furoshiki. (Click image to visit Japan’s Environment Ministry website on furoshiki)

Japanese culture is a wrapping culture. Traditional dress involves wrapping layers of fabric about the torso and holding it fast with an obi. Sushi, which is essentially food wrapped in food, is another great example. And for Joy Hendry, who has written an entire book on the subject, even time and space can be wrapped. For her, the delights of a Zen garden unfold as one walks along the path.
These days, Japan’s infatuation with wrapping is having severe ecological consequences. To encourage more environmentally sustainable behavior, the Japanese government is calling on its citizens to stop using so much packaging, dammit! 
The coolest part is the Minister of Environment published a guide to teach people how to use a single piece of fabric to do everything from haul your groceries, pack your school books, or even wrap a gift. 

At first glance, the 14 different folding patterns look like origami instructions, but trust me, they’re not as complicated, and they require no sewing, no string, and no pins. All you need is a square piece of fabric.
Some of the patterns make transport easy for rectangular and square shaped objects, and others are designed with a wine bottle or cylindrical shape in mind. Or with the “watermelon carry wrap” you can show off your skills and wrap up something round.
I’ve already practiced these techniques on all sorts of things around the apartment, including the kitten (kidding!)
To start, I dug through the drawer for a silk scarf and I wrapped an exquisite wine bottle. Then I tied a pair of beer bottles into a portable bundle, which even had a little finger ring to carry it. Some brightly patterned crepe-y type cottons looked pretty hot wrapped around a few books.
In my blind excitement, I even cut apart an old tablecloth to test on some largish boxes.
I really like the fabric wrap and doing it is fun.  So, to shake things up a bit, this year I’m try it on Christmas presents. 
For Christmas presents (and beyond), here’s my advice:
To begin, you’ll need to hunt down some fabric. At this time of year, fabric stores will most certainly carry fabric in holiday motifs ranging from the understated hollies to the hell-Christmas gaudy. A quilter’s quarter would be lovely for a very small gift.
At a largish thrift store you could find less particular fabric, or tablecloths, dress scarves, or even curtains, all of which can be salvaged for the cause.
Some types of fabric will work better than others, depending on the dimensions of the object you are wrapping and the wrapping technique. Overall I’d say the safest choice would be a woven fabric with a fairly tight weave, but not too bulky. Take a good look at the diagram provided to estimate the amount of fabric needed. For each of the techniques, you need to fabric in a square.
If the fabric is wrinkly and can stand heat, a little flash with an iron might wake it up. Also, if you want a fabric that is crispier and more like paper, a little bit of spray starch could help, although I probably wouldn’t bother.
None of the wrapping designs require anything beyond knots to secure them, but some fabric ribbons could add a little bit more stability and a decorative touch. You can go to town and make a crafty fabric bow or pompom or something, but really, these designs are simple and quite elegant on their own.
If you give someone a gift wrapped in fabric, print out and include a sheet with the folding instructions so they can do it themselves.

Message enclosed:


Making it work.

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28 February 2008

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