Christmas wrapping cloths, inspired by an Asian tradition

Christmas wrapping cloths made and phtogoraphed by Nicky Balmer
Christmas wrapping cloths made and photographed by Nicky Balmer

December is here and Christmas starts announcing its approach with sprigs of sparkly neon tinsel and piles of fake snow in air conditioned department stores.   I love shiny things and generally run at Christmas full tilt, unplanned, slightly hysterical and usually exhausted by the time the big day arrives.

Every year I vow to be just a little more thoughtful but often don’t succeed.  This year I will start by trying to avoid the enormous mounds of wasted wrapping paper.  Realistically I usually only finish wrapping presents at about midnight anyway and the paper will be ripped off again by about 5.30am.

To reduce that paper waste I have spent my week sewing fabric bags to re use each year.   I used fabric stockpiled from post Christmas discount tables and have recycled old calico eco bags.

At first I felt a little odd making these bags but then I remembered the tradition of Japanese and Korean wrapping cloths.

2007/103/1 Kimono and wrapping cloth (furoshiki), womens, resist dyed and embroidered, crepe / silk / metallic thread, maker unknown, Japan, 1900-1948
2007/103/1 Kimono and wrapping cloth (furoshiki), womens, resist dyed and embroidered, crepe / silk / metallic thread, maker unknown, Japan, 1900-1948. Collection: Powerhouse Museum

The Powerhouse Museum collection holds a wrapping cloth from Japan.  Called a ‘furoshiki’ in Japanese it is of indigo crepe fabric decorated with a bough of cream flowers. This furoshiki has spent the last 50 protecting a lovely kimono that was given by a wealthy Japanese family as a leaving gift to an Australian who was part of the occupying forces in Japan after the Second World War.

How lovely to think about this gift, so thoughtfully given and so lovingly kept.  The kimono was stored so carefully all these years with the wrapping cloth a special part of the object.

Bowl, 'Bowls', jjoeumipsa (inlay), mild stee l / silver / gold / bronze, designed and made by Joungmee Do, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1998
Detail of ‘Bowls’, jjoeumipsa (inlay), mild stee l / silver / gold / bronze, designed and made by Joungmee Do, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1998

The design of the rice bowl pictured above is inspired by the traditional Korean textile patterns, such as those used in Joseon dynasty ‘bojagi’ (wrapping cloths). Traditionally these cloths were pieced together from left over scraps of fabric.

I hope my bags will become a new tradition for our family and they become part of my children’s memories of childhood

Written by Nicky Balmer, registrar

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