Arts | NW Life

That's a Wrap: Portland Company Offers Furoshiki

OPB | Dec. 7, 2012 7:15 a.m.

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“It was one specific Christmas when I had stayed up really late on Christmas Eve wrapping all the presents and then less than 24 hours later, I was crawling around in the living room putting the same wrapping papers in a big Hefty bag,” says Deb Abele. “It just seemed so ridiculous.”

Along with her sister Annie Abele, Deb is co-owner of Lulu Wraps, a small, two-year-old Portland company which makes and sells furoshiki.

“Furoshiki” is a Japanese term for a piece of cloth, usually square or close to square, that can be used to wrap gifts and clothes, carry items such as groceries or books, or store and protect materials.

“I remembered a book that I read once about people in ancient times giving gifts wrapped in cloth,” recalls Deb. “I like to sew and I have all kinds of fabrics and I started researching about that. I had been looking for a green business that would be kind of small, interesting and somewhat creative.”

Literally translated as “bath spread” in English, it is believed that furoshiki was originally used as a bath mat by Japanese feudal lords during the Muromachi period (1336-1573). Eventually, commoners started using furoshiki to carry their clothes and toiletries when they went to public bathhouses during the Edo period (1603-1868).

Throughout the years, the Japanese people have used furoshiki to wrap and carry things such as gifts, clothes and more, though the trend’s popularity has fluctuated. Today, furoshiki appears to be making a comeback in Japan, perhaps in part inspired by the sustainability movement. For example, the use of furoshiki has been promoted by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment.

Deb and Annie Abele of Lulu Wraps

Deb and Annie Abele of Lulu Wraps

Ifanyi Bell / OPB

Here in Portland, Deb and Annie enjoy introducing their customers to the sustainable qualities of furoshiki. “It’s very green because you can reuse it endlessly as opposed to plastic bags or wrapping papers you would throw away. You can use the same thing for many purposes,” Deb explains.

Lulu Wraps offers a variety of furoshiki of different sizes, patterns and materials including organic cotton, hemp, silk combinations and more. Deb and Annie find furoshiki especially useful during the busy gift-giving season.

“It’s so easy to wrap gifts with fabric that you just tied up and you’re done,” says Annie. “There is no looking for the scissors or right kind of tape, folding and trying to get it to the right size. So easy and quick.”

Furoshiki can be used to wrap items of many shapes and sizes, and over the years various wrapping instructions and techniques have been developed. In the future, Deb and Annie hope to offer workshops on how to wrap with furoshiki. In the meantime, watch the video above to see how they use their furoshiki to wrap some common items.

Go See It!

  • Lulu Wraps will be at the Christmas Holiday Art & Craft Show in Lake Oswego
  • Sunday, December 9, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Lakewood Center for the Arts, 368 S. State St., Lake Oswego

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