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Asian Studies Program
Asian Studies Program Virtual Friendship Quilt Project


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  Asian Studies Virtual Friendship Quilt Block
Block contributed by Carolyn Ledford
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Embroidered furoshiki from Japan

Story of the block

The fabric swatches that I lent for the web site are known as furoshiki. What I copied and pasted below is a complete meaning of the wrapping cloth. Today they are often wrapped in a box and given to you as the gift. However, as you read below, they have a long history in Japanese culture.

Each of mine was a gift from a friend.

Furoshiki is a square piece of traditional Japanese wrapping cloth that was used to transport clothes, gifts, or other goods. Ancient furoshiki was made of natural materials, but Modern furoshiki can be made of a variety of cloth, including silk, cotton, rayon, and nylon.

The “furoshiki” name means “bath spread.”

The origins of the furoshiki date back to the Nara period (710–794 AD). It was used to wrap clothes at the Shosoin (a structure at the Todai temple in Nara, Japan).

In the Heian period (794-1185 AD), furoshiki was known as hirazutsumi, or a “flat folded bundle.”

In the Muromachi period (1338-1573), Shogun Ashikaga built a great bathhouse. It was a kind of steam bath with straw mats, wood, or cloth on the floor. The invited feudal lords used silk cloth that had been printed with their family crests to hold their clothes. These were used in order to keep each lord’s clothes separate and as a mat, after they finished bathing.

In Edo period (1603-1868) as public bathhouses became popular, the furoshiki was used for spreading on the floor while undressing and for wrapping bathing articles and clothes to carry.

During this period, furoshiki became wildly popular among all social classes. When cities developed, merchants used the furoshiki more and more to transport goods. Their merit was that they could wrap and carry any type of shape of goods.

Today, the furoshiki has been replaced by modern bags and has lost its popularity as an everyday item. It seems to be making a comeback though, and is very often given as a gift.

The furoshiki is an essential tool in daily life, often used instead of a bag, or for storing articles, or for other domestic uses. It is not only used for wrapping but also as a tablecloth, a wall decoration, a fashion accessory, a wine bottle holder or drapes, etc.