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  • Writer's pictureSew Retro

DIY Furoshiki and learn how to sew a flat felled seam

Sustainable and reusable fabric wraps are the perfect way to use up left-over bits of fabric from your sewing projects, inspired by the ancient Japanese art of Furoshiki. A long-lasting and eco alternative to wrapping paper, this simple square of fabric can be exchanged, treasured and reused year after year.

After using it to decorate a special gift, it could then be used as a hair scarf, wall hanging simple, hand towel or even to transport your lunch.

The word refers both to the craft and to the cloth itself.

Traditional measurements for the Furoshiki 45 x 45cm (17 x 17 inches) and 70 x 70cm (28 x 28 inches). The only requirement is that the cloth must be square. You can fully customize the look; everything from the pattern of the fabric to its thickness and size can be selected by the gift-giver.

In the spirit of using as much of your scraps of fabric as possible, and mindful that you may have lots of smallish bits of fabric this tutorial shows you how to join your left over fabric, using a flat felled seam to create larger pieces of fabric to make the Furoshiki.

The brief history of the Furoshiki below, explains that it is one large piece of cloth, not a patchwork of cloth.

Furoshiki originated in Japan around 710 B.C. during the Nara period. During this time, cloth that an object was wrapped in was referred to as tsutsumi, meaning “package” or “present.” It was primarily used to wrap important goods and treasures found in Japanese temples. During the Heian period, which lasted from 794 to 1185, the cloth was called koromo utsumi, and it was mostly used to wrap clothing.

The name furoshiki was applied during the Muromachi period, which lasted from 1136 to 1573. It is believed the Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, a Shogun during this era, installed a large bathhouse in his residence and invited feudal lords to stay and use the facility. These guests would wrap their kimonos in furoshiki cloth while they bathed as to not confuse them with others’. Often, the cloths were adorned with family crests and emblems as further indications of who they belonged to. Many stood on the fabrics while drying after bathing, hence the translation of the word to “bath spread.”

Furoshiki was soon popular with all members of society, as bathhouses became the designated area to wash, relax, and socialize. It wasn’t long before the custom spread to other avenues such as wrapping books, gifts, and merchandise.

In 2006, Japanese Minister of the Environment Yuriko Koike promoted furoshiki cloth in an effort to increase environmental awareness and reduce the use of plastic. It is during this period that the spread and contemporary practices accelerated in use. Today, it is commonly used by Japanese schoolchildren to carry bento boxes, and by gift-givers around the world as an environmentally friendly way to wrap gifts.

Instructions for making a Furoshiki from one piece of cloth.

You will need fabric scraps or bigger pieces of fabric leftover from previous projects.

Ruler, tape measure, chalk, scissors, sewing machine and matching thread.

RS = Right side of the fabric................................WS = Wrong side of the fabric.

1. Cut your fabric to 46cm x 46cm.

2. With the RS of the fabric facing you turn the raw edge in for 0.5cm press into place, repeat on the remaining 3 raw edges.

3. Turn the edge you have just folded again as shown and press, if need hold in place with a few pins, repeat on the remaining 3 seams.

4. Thread the sewing machine with matching thread, and using a straight stitch, machine the folded edges into place. Press.

Instructions for making a Furoshiki from more than one pieces of cloth using a felled seam.

1. Lay the pieces of fabric you have on the table, and check that when they are sewn together, they will make a square. You can cut to size after you have sewn the fabric sections together.

2. *With the WS facing, pin, the fabric together as shown.

3. Using at least a 1.5cm ( to 2 – 2.5cm makes it much easier to handle) seam allowance machine stitch the seams together.

4. Press the seam flat and open.

5. Trim one side of the seam at least in half as shown.

6. Fold the remaining wider seam under as shown, after you have sewn, you , will be left with an invisible and flat seam on both side of the fabric. Machine stitch into place. Press*.

The image above shows you the front and back of the seam.

7. Repeat from * to * until you have made a square that is big enough to wrap your chosen item.

8. Using a tape measure and a rule cut you fabric into a square.

9. Now follow the instructions from number 2 to number 4 for making a Furoshiki from one piece of fabric.

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