The Japanese tenugui (手ぬぐい) are beautiful cotton wall-hangings, printed with a Japanese design to brighten up your home. The first syllable ‘te’ (手), of ‘tenugui’ means ‘hand’ in Japanese, and ‘nugui’ comes from the verb ‘to wipe’.
Traditionally, tenugui were used as hand towel, but unlike Western towels that are made from looped cotton that is fluffy, tenugui are thinly woven and gauzy, making them the ideal medium on which to print artwork.
The long sides are finished with selvage, which prevents them from fraying. The short sides are simply cut and so part of the aesthetic is the slightly unfinished edge. The loose threads are a part of the tenugui’s appeal, and it is a mark of their authenticity.
There are all sorts of uses for tenugui – as well as wall-hangings they make lovely table runners. And just like furoshiki, they can be folded and tied to create gift-wrapping, bottle wraps, and small bags. Pleating the fabric can create beautiful and interesting decorations too.