Bojagi in the USA
For centuries, Korean women have been using ornate pieces of cloth (which Koreans call pojagi or bojagi) to carry around personal items, clothes, bento boxes, valuables and gifts. In years past, these techniques had fallen out of favor as the 20th century brought a preference of using plastic bags to carry personal items, groceries, etc. and traditional cloth wrappings were dismissed as old-fashioned, stodgy and unsophisticated.
The Korean word bojagi has a dual meaning for both a wrapping cloth and as well as the traditional quilting technique used to make them. Bojagi were made from small salvaged scraps of cloth, which is more in tune with Korea’s frugal culture.
There’s a section in Bae Yong Joon’s book, Discovering the Beauty of Korea featuring and preserving this nearly lost art. He also devoted a segment of his fan trip to Japan in October 2009 to promoting bojagi’s unique place in Korean culture. He even walked down the catwalk showing off a bojagi purse, made by Korean designer Lee Hyo Jae.
The Chosun Ilbo wrote an article featuring the work of Patricia Lee, the CEO of Bobo Wrapping Scarf. Good Morning America, HGTV, and The Globe and Mail have all sang the praises of her “Made In The USA” bojagi. Ms. Lee, in the frugal “waste not, want not” spirit of bojagi, doesn’t use “virgin” material for her creations.
Instead, we scour the secondary markets in the United States for the best fabrics that already exist in the world, most of which are left over from huge designer manufacturing runs.
You don’t need to import fancy Japanese or Korean bojagi wraps to incorporate this wrapping technique into your gift-giving routine. Just find a square scarf in your closet, at least 21 inches square. For Muslim, Jewish or Christian women, old square head scarves will work well. If it was pretty enough to wrap around your head, it’s certainly pretty enough to wrap a nice gift (like a bottle or two of wine or olive oil), carry a packed lunch or a bring a new purchase home from the store.
There are websites and online videos showing numerous techniques to using furoshiki (the Japanese term for bojagi) folding techniques to carry wine bottles, boxes and other items in style. Patricia Lee’s book, The Wrapping Scarf Revolution, features over 24 different wrapping and bag ideas.