Contract not renewed.
Covid, not a fit, not quite the experience needed. All good reasons.
But still, a brutal moment in one's life. Particularly when it's not the first time.
I cried. I soul-searched. Chatted with Margot :)
And finally admitted that what I really want to do is this. For real. Real real.
Doing something as a side hustle is sensible. But it also means you live with an itch to do more that you can't scratch. Dreams that you don't let yourself get carried away with. Ambition that has to be down-scaled. And in my case SO MANY IDEAS that have nowhere to go.
I'm shy. Afraid my ideas aren't good enough. But here's me showing up and doing it anyway.
I'm all in.
With the awesome Margot beside me. How lucky am I?
And just as I make this decision - a bloody miracle happens. We had put out an ad for volunteers (thanks Escape the City!) to help us for a little while as we ramp up for Xmas. And we ended up with four totally amazing collaborators on our journey. Not one, four. Each one has already had a big impact on our thoughts and actions.
And their belief in helps my belief.
Expect to see so much more from us. Clearer, stronger and more creative.
And so much more collaborative with likeminded people.
Because we want to change the way the world wraps. And we can't do it alone.
All of us can do it, choose to waste less, be more thoughtful about how we give. All we need is creativity.
I can't wait to see how people make this challenge their own and create new, beautiful traditions.
This picture? Me, showing up. BTW - I'm Natasja.
Have you ever panic bought a last-minute gift before arriving at a birthday party, dinner party, Secret Santa day at work? Our bet is you’re not alone. Picture the mad dash to the nearest shop to grab a bottle, some chocolates and a gift bag to make it look like you’ve had this planned for weeks. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be handing over the bag thinking, “Why did I just spend money on a gift bag that will end up in the bin and can’t be recycled?”
While we can’t guarantee to help you get more organised in the gift buying department, the beauty of fabric wrapping is you can keep a gorgeous, reusable wrap in your bag for occasions just like this. So, even if it’s just a bottle of wine, it’ll be a conversation-starting bottle of wine.
But what’s the etiquette? Do you ask for the wrap back? We often hear, “but it’s too pretty to give away!” See our stack of vintage scarves as confirmation of this. Well, the good news is that, traditionally in Japan, furoshiki are returned to the gift giver, with thanks. We do also believe that the wrap can form part of the gift if you are willing to part ways.
Our ideas for introducing furoshiki to your family and friends
If you’re really keen to get your wraps back for future use, why not use your best calligraphy skills to write a little note on a recycled gift tag or piece of card that you can pop in the parcel with some instructions. We’ve seen tick boxes, like our handwritten version below, work really well. It’s a polite way to let the recipient know what you’d like them to do with the fabric wrap next.
Include some wrapping instructions with your gift. We’ve got a handy illustration on our How to Wrap page that you could print. It’ll help prevent wraps sitting in a drawer once you’ve gifted it. It’s a great way to instil some inspiration in your friends and family’s minds.
Our wraps tend to be conversation starters. Fabric wraps aren’t the norm yet (hey, trendsetter), so when you hand over your beautifully wrapped present, it’s a great chance to explain why you’ve used eco wrapping paper and what the traditional Japanese etiquette is. We tend to find that once people see our wraps, they’re converted. Boom, a new tradition is born!
Challenge the recipient to keep the wrap and see how many uses they can get out of it. Inspire them with ideas of head scarves, furoshiki bags, lunchbox wraps - the list is endless. Make sure you show us your creative skills by tagging us on Instagram.
Why not suggest that your recipient wraps your next birthday gift in it and returns it to you ;) It’s a sure-fire way of making sure you get a gift next year, hey?
What are your ideas on furoshiki etiquette and starting new, more eco-friendly giving traditions?
A staple of our eco-conscious lifestyle and a beloved part of British life is under threat. Charity shops.
And I really want to talk about it, incite people to do something about it.
Because they are not just an important part of more eco-friendly living, they fund hugely important charitable work that is now under threat. The British Heart Foundation has just commented that they are likely to have to cut HALF of their research programmes. They are the biggest research body that aims to prevent and improve the no. 1 cause of death in the UK - heart and cardiovascular disease. Less funding literally means less work on saving lives. And this is just a small cameo of the whole picture.
Saving charity shops = saving lives.
Saving charity shops = supporting more vulnerable people in our communities.
Saving charity shops = enabling a circular economy that helps the planet.
Saving charity shops = saving an important community hub for people of all walks of life.
This all hit home reading an article by YouGov about the challenges facing charity shops after lockdown ends. The end of lockdown is in no way a return back to normal...and after many months of closure there is a huge income gap to fill.
Essentially - they are likely to have less stock, less traffic to sell it and many of their favourite volunteers and customers won't be comfortable returning.
Many charities are turning to postal or street-side techniques for pick up. But it's not going to be enough.
Now I know the fashion-revolution crowd are incredibly creative and hard working. I wonder if we can't get together with people from the charity retail sector and together trial some innovative ways to help charity shops get on their feet?
Here's a few good initiatives that are already happening. Please do share any other examples you might see.
How can you help?
Right now - if you need something, take a moment to see if you can buy it via your favourite charity's eBay store. Consider, if you could volunteer at your local store - even once a month will help. Raise awareness of how vulnerable these beloved stores are.
Consider - how could you and your community help? Could we hold more pop-up open-air charity markets for example?
How could we help?
We're going to try and do our part to re-use more clothing in our wraps - all from charity sources. Watch this space.
Eco-friendly fabric. Nowadays there is eco-friendly everything, so it shouldn't be a problem right?
Well, yes and no.
For some time we have been looking for the best fabrics to use for our wraps. Meanwhile we do the best we can, even if we know it's not perfect. Here are some of the considerations we have been thinking about:
- Is the material eco-friendly itself? For example is it organic, is it recycled materials such as recycled polyester? Can we upcycle fabric products?
- Is it made ethically? Where was it made and what are the conditions there? Do we believe what the supplier is saying?
- Has it come from far away? What is the environmental footprint?
- Will it work as gift wrap? For example does it fold nicely, feel good, is not too transparent?
- Will it be distinct in the market?
But then you get into the practicalities of also trying to create a sustainable business, which adds the other layers of consideration:
- Can we make products at a price people will actually pay? This seriously scraps most eco-friendly fabric
- Can we source it in an incremental way that means we don't need to over-invest in one particular colour or pattern? This seriously scraps a bunch of other eco-friendly options.
- Can we make it in a cost-effective and repeatable way? For a long time we have considered if we could use waste clothing to make wraps, and this consideration makes that tricky.
Here are some excellent sources we have found to help inform and direct us in our search for the ideal eco-friendly fabrics so far:
How To Choose The Most Eco-Friendly Fabric For Your Garment - by the most excellent Common Objective, who are working to help make fashion more sustainable
A guide to Sustainable Fabrics - by Good on You
A wealth of information on sourcing more sustainable textiles - by the Textile Exchange
Excellent opportunities to learn and connect with others about sustainable and fair fashion - Fashion Revolution
The hunt for eco-friendly fabric is rarely straightforward, and always involves weighing different considerations. This statement from Common Objectives really rings true:
"80% of a product’s environmental footprint is decided at the design stage"
Our solution so far has been to add vintage scarves to our range and to source locally from markets minimise the environmental footprint in terms of travel miles and to phase out the synthetics we use in our wraps. We're delighted we have now found eco-friendly satin ribbons. Behind the scenes we are working hard to achieve our nirvana - a totally zero waste wrap.
For now, by our calculation, the average household uses around 4 rolls of gift wrap a year, so in just two years of "good wrapping" be it with fabric gift wrapping or creative upcycling, you will save 40m of wrapping paper. In the UK we use around 8,000 tonnes of paper for gift wrapping. Each of those tonnes = 6 mature trees, making it about 50,000 trees used every year just for gift wrapping. Imagine the difference if we all started doing good wrapping? If just 1 in 5 of us made a different choice we could save 10,000 trees.
Covid. It's an awful thing affecting so many people in many ways.
We came across this brilliant method to make your own face mask using a scarf or furoshiki and wanted to share it. It is very easy and there is no sewing required. You need a square scarf (ideally cotton) or even a square of spare fabric and some elastic. We used a cotton bandana around 45cm square and some rubber bands we had handy.
We hope you're doing OK and this no sew face mask tutorial helps as you go about your days.
Love & wishes for your good health from both of us.
Note, this is a re-post of an article we wrote for The Vendeur, a site for the seriously stylish with a social conscience.
Wrapping. Unless you are a serious ‘uber-wrapper’ (you know who you are), our research shows that wrapping tends to be the last thing we think about when it comes to gift giving. The fact that every Christmas Britons use the equivalent of 50,000 trees just in wrapping paper however has given us pause.
In the past it may have meant neat corners, pleats and a fancy bow. We think that good wrapping should be about - is it good for the planet? A reused newspaper wrap with bold stars scrawled across it? Good wrapping. Slightly crumpled last year’s wrapping still sporting a shred of tape? Good wrapping!
Being more eco seems to be a step-by-step thing if you are anything like us. For those looking to step towards a more eco-friendly Christmas here’s some suggestions on how you can get zero-waste and delight friends and family with your creative ideas.
Experiences, not things
Increasingly people are valuing experiences over physical gifts. Appreciating less rather than more. Ironically as it is ever easier to buy and receive things, we value them less. With a bit of forethought, what experience could you give a friend that you know would be most meaningful to them? And how could you give it to them in a way that is zero-waste?
“There is a fundamental shift in...values towards experiences over things that bring happiness and well-being...The trend extends beyond just young people, to every age bracket and socioeconomic class.” Euromonitor
Thoughtfulness is love
We got curious about the best gifts people have ever received. Thank you Oprah and Quora and the many givers we’ve spoken with. It was resoundingly clear that what people valued was not the size of their present mountain (albeit we didn’t interview children), it was those gifts that showed someone really ‘got’ someone else and what mattered to them. Less, but more.
My, this is where we have heard the most stories. Some families have made it a tradition and a family challenge to see who can wrap without tape and re-use wrapping paper as many times as possible. A grandma or an uncle taught by post war austerity who was always thoughtful of gifts and wrapping and had a special dresser drawer filled with wrap to be used again.
Here are some thought starters for reuse to make your gift wrap more eco-friendly.
Upcycle upcycle upcycle
Here’s a challenge - what could you use in your recycling bin to wrap a gift right now? Probably more than you think if you paint it, stick some scrap fabric or unused clothing fabric to it or even post-it wrap it!
We wanted to share some of the most common examples of upcycled wrapping we have stumbled upon. All of them work well on their own or even better with some personalised drawing, words or stamps to give some added wow. Or simply a sprig of Rosemary or winter foliage tied on with string.
More fabulous upcycling ideas can be found at Upcycle That, Remodelaholic and Confessions of a Refashionista and Reduce, reuse, renew.
The gift wrap itself is reusable
Getting non-traditional you can use baskets, reusable storage containers, glass jars, cute tins and bento boxes. One of my favourite stories is from a fabulous eco-wrapper who for the men in her life used variously T-shirts and socks as wrapping.
Our favourite is clearly reusable fabric gift wrap. Inspired by the Japanese art of Furoshiki, reusable fabric gift wrap is increasingly well known and available. One of the most commonly known examples is Lush for their bold and lovely reusable knot wraps. They have been using them for over 10 years!
Available in the UK in classic Japanese styles from the likes of Zusetzu or the stunningly modern and timeless Link Collective, there are many to choose from on The Fabric Wrapping Co. and Etsy.
Alternatively, here are some affordable and eco-friendly ideas for sourcing or making your own furoshiki or wrapping scarves.
A final brief note on recycling. Many still don’t realise that wrapping paper or cards with foil, glitter or fancy embellishments so steering away from these options is a great first step. All that glitters is sadly not always recyclable.
We hope that’s given you some inspiration to get creative and zero-waste this Christmas and join us as we re-think and share the message of good wrapping.
The traditional furoshiki wrapping cloth sizes are 50cm (19 inches) and 70cm (27 inches). These sizes are the traditional hard-working all-rounders that can be used to create a carry bag, wrap gifts or used as a bento wrap for your lunch.
We figured hundreds of years of use is a pretty good indicator of useful sizes so we based our original range on these sizes. Through trial and error we landed on two most popular sizes - the medium (45 cm) and the small (30cm). We added ribbons as it just adds a beautiful finish to the gift and frankly a lovely feeling to the whole process of wrapping the gift.
The medium gift wrap can be used to wrap several books, a pot plant, a wine bottle (albeit our wine bottle bags are a simpler alternative) or a small box. The small is perfect for jewellery, accessories or a small box of chocolate.
For lunches we use cotton vintage scarves that around around the 50cm mark. They are the perfect size to go around a normal lunch box without being too bulky. And double as a zero-waste napkin too. It certainly makes it easy to find one's lunch box in the office-fridge melee too.
Here's some lovely examples of various sizes of furoshiki in use.
We're all about giving here, so here are seven plastic free gift ideas that you can start to use today, and throughout the rest of the year.
First up, a reminder to make sure that whatever you give, please do so using wrap that doesn't contain glitter or foil which cannot be recycled. Generally, if paper wrap passes the scrunch test, it's recyclable.
Now, for those plastic-free gift ideas
Our wraps build on traditional Japanese methods of cloth wrapping which started as both art and necessity. It is interesting to note that the tradition of using fabric to wrap started in a similar period but in different parts of the world.
Furoshiki, which means Japanese bath spread, derives from the traditional practice of using them to bundle clothes while at the sento or public baths. Arguably, the tradition dates back to the Nara period in the 8th century. Furoshiki's are also commonly used to wrap goods and gifts and almost anything. Their use declined with the introduction of plastic bags but they are still commonly used to wrap lunch boxes in Japan or bento, doubling as a table mat. They're enjoying a modern resurgence with new awareness of eco-friendly wrapping! There is a plethora of videos on the many different ways to use Furoshiki. Our faves include a simple and elegant how to wrap video from Marie Kondo, how to do a Furoshiki bunny wrap and this Furoshiki Ninja! Here at The Fabric Wrapping Co. we use vintage scarves for a totally zero waste and totally fabulous way of doing Furoshiki. I always keep one in my handbag as a quick and easy bag for purchases.
Tenugui are another Japanese fabric that are often used as a wrap, but also often used as a wash cloth or even a headband. Rectangular and with surprisingly raw edges, Tofogu writes an excellent article describing some of its history and modern uses.
There is a Korean tradition of using silk wrapping cloth called Bojagi (also known as bo) to give gifts, in weddings or in Buddhist rites. It is thought they first were used in the Three Kingdoms period to the 7th century. They range from finely embroidered masterpieces to more everyday wraps made from fabric scraps, which are known as chogak bo. These were used by commoners as food covers and for carrying goods. More recently they have been featured in exhibitions in fine galleries around the world, including these stunning examples at the V&A.
Beeswax wraps, Eygpt
Primarily used for the preservation of food, beeswax coated wraps originated in the seventh century when the Ancient Egyptians domesticated bee hives to harvest beeswax and honey.
Do you know of any other traditional cultures who used fabric to wrap? Whilst these are the most widely known, there must be examples in many cultures with their own textile traditions that are perhaps are not as well documented.
Not all wrapping paper is created equal. Equally recyclable that is, according to the BBC.
Although recycling does vary by borough, here are some top tips from the Recycling Association.
1. Say no to glitter. Yes, we too love shiny, but not at this price.
2. Wrapping paper with shiny silver or gold foil fails the recycling test also.
3. Skip the sellotape, or ensure you remove it all before putting paper in the recycling.
4. Scrunch it. If it stays scrunched it's recyclable according to Recycle Now.
5. If it's already recycled, it's a very good bet it can be again.
Next time you're shopping for wrapping paper, please skip the foil, glitter and sello and if in doubt, do the scrunch test!
Or even better - get resourceful and creative and see what you can use that already have on hand. We've heard some brilliant stories of people saving magazine articles relevant to family members to wrap. Using old family flight navigation maps and even T-shirts were also fab wraps!