Many style-conscious gift-givers are draping their packages with fabric instead of paper. This is hardly a new concept: Cloth is used to wrap gifts in Japan, where, it is said, giving a gift is likened to wrapping one's heart. A centuries-old Japanese technique of wrapping and tying gifts with square pieces of cloth called furoshiki -- has been adopted here.

"Cloth wrap is not only unique and elegant, but much better for the environment," says Dolores Hakun, whose Furoshiki-style gift wrap, called Angel Cloth, is available at Greetings & Readings.

Try an exquisite cloth that can be reused as an accessory or exchanged within the family as a keepsake. Large handkerchiefs, bandannas or scarves work just as well for smaller gifts. Or make your own by finishing off the edges of any square piece of drapable cloth.

At G Street Fabrics in Rockville, Judy Ford Hogan, author of "Fabric Into Flowers" (EPM Publications), teaches classes on gift-wrapping with fabric. Her students turn ordinary fabric goods into holly and flower shapes and ribbon.

Professional gift-wrapper Robin Cohen, who leads national trade seminars on creative packaging, suggests wrapping gifts with the taffeta lining used in sewing.

"You get a lot of mileage out of it because it is so inexpensive per yard and comes very wide," she says. She also recommends tulle, which comes in many colors and can be sculpted around odd shapes or used for trim or bag filler.

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