Based on traditional Japanese furoshiki, illustrator Jenn Playford has started a line of cloth gift wraps printed with her own designs. I first heard about Furochic through CraftStylish, where they hosted a giveaway.

I had just begun The Gifted Blog and was excited to see an alternative to wrapping with paper. I didn’t win, but Jenn graciously followed up with me to send some samples. Thank you, Jenn!

Of course you can wrap gifts with any kind of fabric, but I appreciate the creative license she has been able to take with these in printing them with her own graphics. My only complaint is that her appealing designs don’t show up quite as crisply as I would like on the fabric.

Jenn also recently published a book titled Wrapagami, which shows how to execute a variety of wrapping techniques with a simple square piece of cloth.

Today I gave a Furochic a try on a fine bottle of cabernet we happened to have in the pantry.

Using the pictures on the Furochic label as a guide (similar to these), I wrapped the bottle in the cloth. My first try was not so cute. I went back to tighten up the fabric and make the knots a little crisper. Voila!

I like the little handle embellishment on the top. My husband saw the bottle and said, “Whoa. That looks crazy. Like something from Dr. Seuss.”

The Furochic are a nice, generous size and can be used to wrap even odd-shaped gifts. To pass on the generosity, I’m happy to announce a giveaway of this Cherry Blossom Furochic!

To enter, leave a comment before 8pm Friday (PST) telling us the gift you imagine wrapping in it. The lucky winner will receive the Furochic pictured below, which includes a length of grosgrain ribbon and coordinating gift tag.

Good luck!


Inspired By: Church Potlucks

September 16, 2009

This Inspired By post is part of a mini-series on the things and people that inspire my gift wrapping. Inspiration can strike at any time! For more, click the “Inspired By” link at the bottom of this post.

The last “Inspired By” post was about my hunt for vintage scarves to use for gift wrapping. There’s too much good stuff to say about these scarves! This post is about what else inspires their use in my life.

I grew up a part of a predominantly Japanese-American, Presbyterian church. Although I didn’t always see this growing up, it is a vibrant and very nurturing spiritual community. And besides loving God, each other, and the world beyond the church, my home church throws a mean potluck!

Now, if you recall potlucks from your early adult years, chances are that three people brought chips and salsa, and maybe one other person just brought chips.

But my home church’s potlucks are, no exaggeration, feasts. Chicken wings, sushi rice, a crockpot of chili, Spam musubi, fruit platters, chow mein, rice krispie treats, rainbow0-layered Jello, Auntie Julianne’s famous sour cream twist cookies, etc, etc, etc… For some excellent photographs, please click here for images taken by talented family friend Jordan Nicholson.

But what does this have to do with gift wrapping? Well, often times, church ladies will put plastic wrap over their potluck dish, then wrap it in a furoshiki for transport. Originally used to hold one’s personal items at the Japanese public bathhouse, these versatile square cloths came to be used to hold merchants’ wares, boxed lunches, gifts, and more. It holds everything together and provides a little knotted handle, to boot!

courtesy Kraig Donald, CC-BY-SA-3.0

So, it was time to test out a scarf-wrapped gift, furoshiki style! I picked my scarf of choice. I liked this one for its unusual pattern and ample size.

I spread it out and placed a gift box on the diagonal. I took opposite corners and tied a square knot in the center of the box, then repeated with the remaining two corners. I tucked the ends of the first knot beneath the gathers, and, voila!

So cool! I was a bit afraid the feather pattern would be too bizarre for most people’s tastes. I was pleased to see how nice it looked gathered around the box.

This idea can be used for a traditional gift – or, you could riff on the church potluck idea to present a dinner host with a plate of cookies. The scarf will gift-wrap the food as well as protect it from slipping off the plate.

Since this was just a trial run, I look forward to the next present when I can actually use this idea!

This Inspired By post is the first of a mini-series on the things and people that inspire my gift wrapping. Inspiration can strike at any time!

Ideas for gift wrapping can pop up in unexpected places. The June/July issue of ReadyMade had a feature on a “remixed” picnic. The article featured different takes on the traditional potato salad, sandwiches, fruit salad, etc. For me, more exciting than the homegrown microgreen salad was the beautiful presentation of these picnic foods.

The prop stylist laid the dishes out on a rainbow of casually-arranged scarves. Even the homemade Vietnamese sandwiches were wrapped in colorful ones (see left-hand side, below).

I was reminded of a gift I wrapped for G. for our anniversary last year. Looking for a quick way to wrap his bluetooth headset, I knotted a silk scarf from his grandma around it.

It is a beautiful and earth-friendly way to wrap smaller gifts. When we headed out to Iowa this summer, I resolved to hunt down more vintage scarves to use for gift wrapping.

When he heard I had gone thrifting on our vacation, a friend asked, “Is there something different about the Goodwills in Iowa?” Good question. I explained that when you thrift shop here in Southern California, you’re basically going to find a lot more Forever 21.

Especially where G.’s grandparents live, there is a greater population of seniors. This is reflected in what ends up at the thrift stores. While I can’t speak definitively, I would say that there is a higher likelihood of finding vintage stuff in Iowa than there is our immediate area.

My mother-in-law knew just where to take me, and I found some very cool scarves in Iowa City and across the state in Spencer. I can’t wait to use these for gifts!

In the next Inspired By post: a trial run of a scarf-wrapped gift!

Gift Wrapping Arsenal: Raffia

September 7, 2009

Gift Wrapping Arsenal is a mini-series on the items I personally find essential for gift wrapping. As you’ll see throughout my blog, there is an emphasis on versatility, thrift, and style! For more, click the “Gift Wrapping Arsenal” link at the bottom of this post.

My mom has been using raffia to wrap presents for as long as I can remember. When we took a trip to Southeast Asia in my teen years, she saw some weavers using a similar-looking material to make baskets. Thinking of future gifts, she bought several bunches of the long, brightly-dyed fibers to take home (yes, it took a while to convey she wanted to buy the raw materials, not the final products!). Unfortunately, the material was not raffia, and when we came home to a much less humid climate, the strands broke when bent.

All that to demonstrate our affinity for this wrapping material – my mom was willing to cart those strands through the countryside, through customs, and back to the States to adorn her gifts!

True raffia is made from the fibers of the raffia palm. It is flexible and straw-like, and looks great on presents!

Photo courtesy Emily of Little Window Shoppe

Raffia is extremely versatile. Its natural color goes with anything. Decoratively, it is gender-neutral (male readers, feel free to chime in on this one). Similar to fabric ribbon, it is very forgiving. You could probably tie and re-tie it a dozen times and it wouldn’t be worse for wear – very low-stress.

Raffia can be found dyed different colors if you prefer something brighter. There are also plastic and paper look-alikes, but I like the original best.

Here is a bar of soap my mom wrapped with a paper band and raffia. I think the rustic look of the raffia complements the hand-cut soap very nicely! As a bonus, raffia takes very kindly to travel (or shipping, if you’re planning on mailing a present). This gift survived being packed in a suitcase and taken on a plane trip. Doesn’t it still look great?

As much as I love gift wrapping, I am well aware that for many people it is a chore. When I got the idea for Gifted, a line of reusable gift wrap, I loved the thought of making things that both gift-wrap-lovers and -haters could enjoy. For lovers, it’s a fresh, handmade way to package a gift. For the haters, it’s as easy as throwing the present in a paper gift bag…but without the stigma of “oh, you just threw this into a paper gift bag”!

I found instructions for sewing drawstring bags and went to town.  The first batch are small, 6″x5″ ones perfect for a fancy bar of soap, mini journal, set of stationery, or other small gift (like a Leatherman multitool (see, who said this was a blog just for girls?)).

For weeks, I had an awesome rhythm of measuring, cutting, and sewing in the mornings while N. napped. Then I just ran out of steam. I was so close to finishing this little batch and I freaked out a little. I had in mind to sell these – but I was afraid of actually showing them to anyone!

It took a crafting get-together with a friend to get out my rut. Sitting at the dining room table, I began the final step of threading the drawstring ribbons through and knotting them.

It was a cool lesson in the power of doing something collectively. Anyone else up for making stuff together?