art geek retro geek

DIY – Furoshiki for Travel and Thrift

Today, I’m going to show you make a purse or bag without sewing, cutting, gluing, taping, or stapling.  This is the ultimate, minimalistic-travelers bag because it folds flat and can be re-used in different ways over and over again.  It is also an inexpensive way to update a wardrobe, or to use extra lovely cloth, or to wrap presents (even wine bottles) safely and securely.

In Japan, they use a special cloth for this called Furoshiki.  I just use pretty square scarves.

Kamal, from What Goes Around clothing in Costa Mesa, CA
Kamal’s a nice guy. Stop by and say hey.

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I picked up the scarf used in this tutorial at one of my favorite places to shop in Orange County– What Goes Around Clothing.  It’s a “thrift” store– focusing on brand-new and previously-loved name brand clothes and vintage finds.  The owner, Kamal, is welcoming and positive and the store is filled with unique trinkets including Star Wars posters, tiny knights, records, and lamps made from bottles.  All those things aside, though, I love the store because everything in there feels hand-picked for awesomeness.  If you happen to be a local, stop by and say hey, and check it out.

What Goes Around Clothing
2750 Harbor Blvd, Suite a-6,
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
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1. Start with a square piece of cloth.

I prefer my bags large enough to carry several books, so I make sure that the scarves I use are at least 30″ X 30″.  I also carry heavier things in my purses, specifically books– so I prefer tightly woven fabrics that are harder to rip.

I picked a shiny, slightly transparent one! Ooh, pretty.
I picked a shiny, slightly transparent one! Ooh, pretty.

2. Fold in half, triangle-way.

If your square piece of cloth happens to have a design on one side and not the other, be sure to fold it so that the not-designed part is face up, and the design part is in the sandwich.

If you're using a big cloth, like mine, it's good to have a big enough place to lie it down once it's triangle folded.
If you’re using a big cloth, like mine, it’s good to have a big enough place to lie it down once it’s triangle folded.

3. Knot off each triangle leg.

Make it so each knot is equidistant as possible from the original edge.

4. Turn your triangle-sandwich inside out, with the knotted edges on the inside.

You should now see the shape of a bag/purse.
You should now see the shape of a bag/purse.

5. Decide on your handle.

The nicest thing about this purse is that there are no real permanent decisions.  You can always go back and re-knot something.  There are some basic handle differences, and I’ll give them entirely fictional names here, just to distinguish and because I like naming things.


The Artful Dodger

For travelers, those walking unknown paths, and those carrying important goods. 
(Personally, visually, this is my least favorite of the folds, but it’s also the most useful.  It ends up opening up very easily to you if you know how to get in,– but to everyone else, the purse is basically on lockdown.  Click the pictures to zoom.)


The Samwise Gardner

For lovers of food, shoppers of farms, and collectors of precious wildflowers.
(Personally, visually, I love this fold, but I just can’t seem to rock it.  It’s light, and bohemian, and tucks right under your arm. Click the pictures to zoom.)


The Jo March

For readers and writers; for those with bohemian hearts and city lives .
(Personally, visually, this is my purse.  When it’s a tight fold, it’s professional enough to take to work and I can adjust the handle to match my outfits.  There’s less on-the-fly versatility with this fold, but it’s easier to tweak into a fashion accessory. Click the pictures to zoom.)

And that’s that! There’s a million other folds available.   In other words, a square piece of cloth should always be in your arsenal!

Other notes:

  • I thought this was perfectly timed for the Daily Post’s opposite day, since I’m not much of a DIY blogger. Partially because my photos are so bad and partially because I often miss steps.  Luckily, I’m quite good at answering questions, so if I confused you on a step, just let me know.
  • I’m not a fashion blogger either!  I’m sure a lot of you could turn these bag folds into something doubly fabulous.  Unfortunately, my ability to help you ends at the functional… so if you would like design ideas, or other thoughts on upcycling various items, please turn to some of my favorite “turn this into this” fashion bloggers– Lindy over at Changing Your Clothes, and The Remissionary.
  • Maybe it’s time to add a permanent site disclaimer to this regard, but I can’t be bribed or cajoled into writing something nice about someone.  What Goes Around got a spotlight because the place rocked my world, simple as that.
  • Also, these styles of bags are for men, too.  Even Mick Jagger carries one.


So, did you recognize all the characters that I named the bags after? Are you a furoshiki expert already? Do you like my shiny dress?


    1. Yay for shiny things! 🙂 I’m not great with patience either, haha! 🙂 Because I was pretty much required to learn this, I was able to overcome the patience-issue… and now I use it all the time. It’s a real time-saver once you learn how to do it. I use the same system to hold large quantities of things like laundry… or, when I’m crafting, I lay down a big square old sheet, and when I’m done, just furoshiki it up and toss it in my closet till I’m ready to play again. 🙂 Plus, I’m a purse-person, but I’m super specific about how I like the handles and lengths to be… this gives me a little control without filling up my closet.

      Ah the wonders of a piece of cloth!


  1. This is awesome Rara! Seriously, I’m pulling my scarfs off the walls and doing this tomorrow. I couldn’t see pictures for the Samwise Gardner (love the handle names, by the way :D), just letting you know in case it’s not me.

    I may never have to buy a purse again! And I love your dress too! 🙂


    1. Hurrah! I fixed it so you should be able to see them now, thank you for the heads up. 😀 Let me know how the purses come out… Dave always turns mine into something awesome by getting clever with the handles on the Jo March style, so I’m sure yours will be awesome too! 🙂


    1. It does! And, with this, you don’t have to completely commit to any design… which makes it good for people like me who change their mind all the time! 😀 Glad you enjoyed the tutorial!!


  2. I LOVE THIS IDEA! This is a great idea for when you think all you’re gonna need is your cell phone and then you pick up a pint of halfandhalf and your friend returns that pocket-poetry chapbook she lent you and your are using a walker and nowyouhaveallthisstuff….


    1. Exactly!! It’s such an easy thing to fold up in the back of your car and use as necessary. And smaller versions carry a lot of weight too… I have a scarf that is about 60% that size that fits in my pocket and still carries books. It’s the ultimate “Just in case” bag. 🙂


  3. Yes, no, yes, and I HAVE TO TRY THIS!! So convenient and improvisational…and so easy to store when you aren’t using it. Who could ask for more? Oh yeah, and they’re pretty too 🙂


    1. Yes, they are pretty! 😀 It’s also easy to use them with those bamboo circle handles you can buy at any craft store, but I didn’t have any on hand for the tutorial. It gives it an exotic eastern look. So glad you’re gonna give it a try! 😀


  4. Wow—now I know what to do with that cloth that my son’s girlfriend brought me back from her trip to Japan!!! Honestly I don’t know that I can rock this DIY but you did such a great job with the picture tutorial that I should be able to figure it out, right? Love the shiny dress, btw!


  5. Love it! Extremely useful and I love the idea you can always have a bag handy if you need. You can be survivalist and chic at the same time.


  6. I absolutely love this, can’t wait to try it out (have to dig into the cupboards, and if I find nothing, this is a brilliant excuse to buy a nice scarf or some nice fabric!). Love that dress and how well it goes with that blue scarf. I bet this makes you want to carry things all the time, whether you need to or not! 😉 Thank you for all this inspiration, Rara!


    1. You can use scrap fabric too! Like the bottoms of old dresses, or old bed sheets or curtains! If you’re crafty, hemming them first gives it a more professional look, but it can be quite bohemian to have it all over the place. 🙂 Just depends on what you can rock, I suppose. 😀 Thank you for reading and I hope you have fun with it! 🙂


    1. I do, but they require a little more craftiness. In my case, I’ll take 3 or 4, and line them up and very roughly sew them together. They end up making a square and then I use them just the same. Because the fold is what holds the weight in the bag, even with my very approximate stitching, it’s still sturdy. 🙂


  7. I like your shiny dress! But I would never be able to make anything wonderful like you did! Even though you make it sound so easy, I’m just not that crafty!


    1. It’s really not too bad if you start with a square. The only craft part comes in if you want to make a piece of fabric into a square, or custom do a handle. Otherwise, the Samwise Gardener is a breeze! 🙂


  8. I’m not crafty either, but I might try it. It’s a lovely way to use up material that you can’t bear to part with because it’s so pretty, but you have no use for. ps. my dear Rawr, ‘equalish’? Is that any way for a writer to write. 🙂


    1. Haha! 😀 I was wondering who’d be the first to call me out on my approximate, haphazard language. 🙂

      I often cut squares out of pillow cases that I can’t use (when sets come with more than 2), and save them for little picnic bags or miscellaneous things.


  9. That’s totally cool. I will have to try that. I’ve got a lot of scarves I no longer use as such, so this would give me something useful to do with them. What a great idea!


  10. That is so cool! What a fantastic little trick to have up your sleeve 🙂 I’m hoping you will also do a post soon on how to make shoes!


    1. I might! This went over better than I thought. I’m not really a DIY-blogger, so figuring out the best way to do step-by-steps was a bit of a struggle.

      What type of shoes are you most interested in?


      1. I thought it flowed really well and was easy for someone not crafty (me!) to understand!

        Maybe sandals or casual shoes? Summery shoes I think 🙂


  11. Thanks for the info, now I know, when packing to travel the universe I shall bring a towel AND a large square piece of fabric… I wonder if I could find a square towel???


  12. Very clever and stylish too, Rara. I’m not sure I’m talented enough to figure it out nor fashionable enough to pull it off. One has to have that sort of je ne sais quoi, huh?



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