furoshiki

Furoshiki are the large cloth squares traditionally used to wrap and carry anything in Japan. They are often used for the small gifts, omiyage, presented to people as a gesture of courtesy or respect when you visit them.

In my travels across eBay (don't ask), I found this tremendously appealing book on furoshiki-tying (too late to buy it), and the seller reproduces a number of illustrations in the listing. You don't need to know any Japanese to follow the pictures which show ingenious and beautiful ways to wrap: a melon, two bottles of wine, or a mailing tube, among other possibilities. The fabric colors and combinations are beautiful - well worth checking out.

If you are interested in fabric and Japanese design, you may also want to look for Omiyage: Handmade Gifts from Fabric in the Japanese Tradition, by Kumiko Sudo, a book about creating tiny bags and pouches for the presentation of small gifts. Scraps of silk or cotton and a little patience and you can create unexpectedly beautiful evening bags. The color and design combinations alone make this worth a second look - even if you don't plan to do any sewing. (Found via Currently, Erica Mulherin's blog.)

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