Furoshiki & Tenugui: Life-sized origami lifehack
Ultimate versatility and multi-functionality can come from a product that has the simplest form. Furoshiki and tenugui are traditional Japanese items that are basically rectangular or square pieces of cloth. But their application is almost unlimited as they can transform into many things, responding to the needs and skills of their users to make most of them
Furoshiki are a traditional Japanese cloth product that typically comes in a simple square shape. In the past, people used them as a versatile/flexible wrapper to carry belongings, or to make nice/formally looking packages for gifts or deliveries.
But after Japan started Westernization at the end of 19th century, bags (such as leather travel suitcases or handbags) became popular to carry things. Then after WWII, wrapping paper became widely available for gifts and deliveries. As its role became significantly reduced, it almost seemed as if furoshiki was going to die. But today, people are starting to re-discover its value as a well-designed, sustainable, flexible and versatile product.
Today, furoshiki is often described as a sustainable and cool-looking alternative to wrap gifts in lieu of wrapping paper which is usually discarded after a single use. Use furoshiki instead, advocates say because you can amaze your friends by craftily wrapping your gifts no matter what size or shape they are (since furoshiki offer beautiful design and are flexible), and then letting your friends know that they can reuse them once gifts are opened. Nothing will be wasted.
But it’s not practical in reality. You cannot keep buying furoshiki every time you send a gift when they can cost at least $10 each (high quality ones can be very pretty expensive). As a matter of fact, furoshiki was never supposed to be given as part of the gift: in traditional Japanese practice, it was meant to return home with the gift sender. You hand-deliver a gift, open the wrapping in front of the recipients, and then take it home with you. This style of gift sending is not convenient in today’s busy environment, plus it would be awkward to do so when there is no mutual understanding of such social protocols.
But gift wrapping is not the only thing furoshiki can do, so let’s review some other applications; that’s where its versatility comes into play. You will be amazed how one piece of cloth can make your life easier.
Leave a couple of furoshiki in your suitcase or bag when you travel, and they will really help when you return with more stuff than you’d expected.
It’s like origami. You can fold/knot a piece of furoshiki to make a bag or backpack. It requires a little practice, but that’s part of the fun in exploring its potential.
You can use furoshiki to decorate your room while organizing clutter. Cute small bags are also eye-catching for a window display.
Tenugui means hand towel, and is made from very loosely woven cotton cloth. Whereas furoshiki is often designed to be used in public (hence it is focused on elegant design and textural quality), tenugui is a towel mostly used inside the house. They are made light so that you can wash and dry them frequently and easily. Since many of them come in attractive designs, you can use them brand-new to improve the aesthetics of your living environment, and then ultimately, use as them a towel or washcloth. Unlike furoshiki, their hems are unfinished: it’s okay to treat them casually.
Tenugui comes in different shapes and sizes, but most popular ones are rectangular (about 33 x 90 cm). Since they are relatively inexpensive (a couple of dollars apiece), you could enjoy a variety of patterns, colors and designs. Enjoy all kinds of design adventures from traditional Japanese to modern comic art.
When brand-new, it would be best to hang them on the wall as interior decoration.
You can use them as placemats or napkins to celebrate the season, as many tenugui feature seasonal items in design.
Tenugui is also used extensively for cleaning as it was originally a towel/washcloth.
They are also softly woven these days so they are perfect as a body towel.
Additionally, people traditionally used tenugui as a bandana to cover their hair from dust or as a sweat band during the cleaning.
Lastly, you don’t necessarily have to buy finished products called furoshiki or tenugui. You can make them on your own from unfinished textiles.