A few weeks back, I received an advance copy of Julia Watkins new book, Simply Living Well (inspired by her Instagram and blog of the same name.) It’s a “guide to creating a natural, low-waste home,” and I felt instantly inspired to make a pot of bone broth, plant some herbs, and rid my kitchen of all plastic baggies. The beautiful, zen-like photos accompanying every project make the idea of living low-waste feel like total #goals — but then, Julia breaks it all down into easy, practical steps that actually got me excited to dive in.

That was then, this is now. And by now, I mean week 3 of sheltering at home for many of us around the nation as we wait for the COVID-19 pandemic to stop spreading. As I’ve settled into my life at home that includes work, housework, parenting, my first stab at homeschooling — this book felt more relevant than ever. Like so many others, I’m doing my best to make our home a safe, sacred space: one that nurtures our family, promotes good health, and doesn’t require me to go out and buy new things. Plus, the acts of making, coking, and cleaning are proving to be therapeutic during this time of so much uncertainty.

I’m also looking for little ways to bring joy into the lives of the people I care about, even while we’re social distancing. Our parents, neighbors, friends… what are little acts of kindness that will lighten and brighten others’ days during this time?

I asked Julia if I could share a couple projects from her book to inspire beautiful giving, using items that you may have on hand (or can easily have shipped to your house.) First up, she’s sharing a genius way to wrap up baked goods, handmade bath salts, jars of jam, or really anything using the Japanese art of wrapping using a piece of cloth, called Furoshiki. How fun would it be to use this technique to wrap up some bottles of wine and gift to a few delighted neighbors?

Read on for her step-by-step instructions, and scroll to the bottom for two other projects that are perfect for making, wrapping up using this technique, and giving to friends and neighbors.

Furoshiki is the Japanese art of wrapping and transporting objects.

Not only does it offer a versatile and waste-free alternative to using disposable bags for carrying food, bottles, and other necessities, it’s also a simple and sustainable way to wrap a gift. All that’s needed is a square piece of cloth with finished edges. Beyond that, furoshiki cloths come in a wide range of sizes, materials, and patterns and can be tied in myriad ways using simple knots and folds. They’re easy to make, but perhaps what I love most about furoshiki cloths is that depending on what you need to wrap, you may be able to repurpose fabric scraps, old sheets, and other “knottable” fabric available in your personal fabric stash or local secondhand shop. To make a furoshiki cloth, simply cut your fabric into a square (the most popular size is 17” x 17”), finish the edges with your sewing machine or a pair of pinking shears, iron the finished cloth, and tie it according to one of the techniques below.

MAKING AND TYING FUROSHIKI CLOTHS

Basic wrap

1. Place object in the center of the furoshiki cloth.
2. Bring two opposite corners of the square to the center and tie in a knot.
3. Bring the remaining two opposite corners to the center and tie them in a knot above the first knot.

Bottle wrap

1. Stand a bottle in the center of the furoshiki cloth.
2. Bring two opposite corners of the square together above the bottle and tie a knot with the long ends.
3. Twist the long ends and then tie them in another knot above the first knot, to create a handle.
4. Tie the remaining two opposite corners in a knot at the front of the bottle.

Handbag (pouch) wrap

1. Place the objects in the center of the furoshiki cloth.
2. Bring two corners on the same side together and tie them in a knot.
3. Bring the other two corners together and tie them in a knot.
4. Bring the two handles together to create a pouch that can be carried like a small handbag.

And two other bonus DIY projects for Julia that are perfect for practicing this wrapping technique:

A nourishing DIY oatmeal face scrub

This jar full of relaxing homemade herbal bath salts

I can’t think of anything I’d rather receive right now…

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Photography

Julia Watkins