Furoshiki--the Japanese art of folding cloth

When it comes to wrapping a package, especially for a gift, most everyone hopes to create something pleasing to the eye. A wrapping tells a lot about how special the receiver is and even more about the giver.

Bright-colored paper and handmade bows conceal each surprise. So painstakingly wrapped and so hurriedly torn open, wrappings can rarely be used a second time.

In recent years, recycling or "green" alternatives have become more of a daily routine all around the U.S. And many Old World traditions such as decorative cloth gift sacks and squares of cloth wrappings, closed with a knot, are again taking hold.

For centuries, men and women in Japan carried clothing, books, gifts and other belongings in cloth-wrapped parcels. Artsy wraps even enclosed lunch boxes and spread as a placemat during the meal. Japanese furoshiki, as it's known, is a traditional wrapping cloth ranging from hand sized to that of a bed sheet.

With renewed interest in reducing waste and protecting our environment, furoshiki adds a fun and practicality to gifts as it encourages the wrapping's reuse.

Featuring this creative style for residents of the South Hills, Mt. Lebanon Public Library plans a program at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 23.

Furoshiki: The Art, Tradition and History of Folding Cloth and Wrapping Gifts and Treasures will be presented by Rosaly Roffman, poet and professor emeritus of Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Participants hoping to learn more about this Japanese tradition should bring a box or bottle and a square of lightweight cloth. Tablecloths or fabric remnants large enough to cover their items are good choices. Silk or polyester is recommended since both are thin and easy to knot.

"In Japan I've seen small items and even heavy machinery wrapped in furoshiki," said Rosaly.
In addition to her demonstration, Rosaly will read a few of her poems and speak on Japanese history and culture.

To continue the furoshiki trend, register for the program by calling 412-531-1912.


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