How to Fold a Cloth Napkin
For that special occasion or family get-together, an elegantly folded cloth napkin can really enhance your table and add a touch of sophistication to your dining experience. And while some folds have a stunning origami quality, many designs are surprisingly easy to do.
So, if you are not sure how to fold napkins, then this blog is for you. We look at six of the best napkin folding ideas that will take your napkins as well as your table setting to a whole new level.
Folded cloth napkins take a dining table from the everyday to something rather special and can be used for decoration as well as something all-together more practical. Not only does it make your table look a delight, a napkin is also a table saver, perfect for protecting clothes from spills as well as mopping up crumbs and messes. And as they are made of cloth – typically linen or cotton – they are easy to wash and re-use, again and again.
The art of cloth napkin folding is actually hundreds of years old and reached its peak in the mid-18th Century, where elaborate napkin fold designs took center stage as the main table decoration in the form of almost sculpture-like designs. Today, with the easy use of paper napkins and more casual and informal dining, folded linen napkins are not so common and are mainly seen in restaurants and catered events or at special family occasions and seasonal holidays.
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But with the trend for interior design, fine dining and Instagram ready dinner tables, the art of napkin folding is making a comeback. And the creative side of turning a humble napkin into something extra special is fun to learn and is also a good way to keep children entertained.
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How to Fold a Cloth Napkin
With the table napkin folding technique taking inspiration from the Japanese paper-folding art of Origami, some napkin folds are intricate and rather complex while others are simple, effective and easy to do. Here are five classic cloth napkin fold designs to get you started:
Three-point napkin fold
This napkin fold is a classic that you’ll see on many restaurant tables and is really quick to fold as the design is left open, perfect to show off any intricate design on your best linen napkins. This fold works best on cotton or linen napkins and before you start folding, make sure your napkin has been ironed flat and is crease-free.
- Fold the napkin diagonally in half, with the middle point facing down
- Take the right corner of the napkin and fold over to the left, leaving roughly a one-inch space between the two points
- Take the right side of the napkin and fold over again towards the left, to create a necktie/diamond shape with the final third point. Smooth flat and lay on your place setting.
A versatile fold, the Bishop’s hat can be used standing up or laying down and is a popular style for restaurants as it works well with a range of napkins and material, starched if you can. To create this classic napkin all you need to do is:
- Fold your ironed napkin in half, diagonally, with the flat edge at the bottom
- Fold up the bottom right and left corners up to the top corner
- Now fold the top two corners back down on themselves and rotate the napkin so these two corners are at the top
- Take the bottom triangle and fold the tip up a third, then fold the bottom up another third, then fold once more so the flap covers the bottom of the top triangle portion of the napkin (it should now look like a triangle paper hat)
- Turn the napkin over and take the left- and right-hand corners and wrap around your fingers, tucking the righthand corner into the left-hand fold.
- Return to the front of the napkin and pull down the two top folds to create a bishop hat style. Stand it up on your place setting, or pop into a wine glass.
The standing fan works best with a stiffer napkin that can take a crease, so iron your napkin and starch if it isn’t stiff enough. Now:
- Fold the napkin in half to create a rectangle
- Starting at the short end, fold the napkin into even accordion style pleats, stopping about a third of the way.
- Fold the napkin in half lengthwise, with the half the pleats now on top
- Fold down the upper left corner of the unpleated section and tuck it behind the center pleat so that it forms a triangle.
- Release the pleated section so that they fan out
- Adjust the folds and the back triangle section so that the fan can stand upright.
The pocket or buffet pouch is a practical napkin fold that will also hold your cutlery for each place setting for a neat and attractive table setting. For best results, iron and starch your linen napkin first so that it is nice and rigid.
- Fold the napkin in half so the open end is towards you
- Now fold the napkin into quarters (you will have four layers) and then position the square so the open corner is top left
- Fold the top layer down diagonally to create a triangle (this is the pouch for the cutlery)
- Flip the napkin over and fold vertically into thirds, fold the right edge over the top of the left edge so all three sections are equal in size
- Turn the napkin back again to the front, and you will now have a diagonal pocket for your silverware. Lay the pocket next to your place setting.
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Fleur de Lys
Traditionally elegant, the Fleur de Lys is a stunningly simple way to add some napkin style to your table and will look gorgeous with patterned or more elaborate cloth. Take your ironed and crease-free napkin and:
- Fold in half with open edge upwards to create a rectangle
- Fold the two bottom corners up to the center line to create a triangle, point down
- Take the two top corners and fold back down to the point to create a diamond shape
- Flip out the two bottom corners so they are folded to the halfway diagonal line
- Now take a napkin ring, pinch the top point of the folded napkin and put through the ring until the ring bunches the napkin and the top three folds fan out to create the classic fleur de lys shape. Lovely and romantic dinner for two ready!