Napkin Folding Techniques

Setting the table helps establish the right mood for a dinner party, brunch or romantic dinner. Just selecting table linens, place settings and centerpieces can be fun. Guests also appreciate a nice-looking table when they sit down to eat a festive meal. If you learn some easy and beautiful napkin folding techniques, you can make most any celebration casual, fanciful or elegant depending on the fold you choose.

Napkin folding techniques have been around for many generations. A 1923 book entitled Mrs. Beeton's Family Cookery Book contains illustrations of several folding methods. The art of napery was popular even in 1923. To this day, neatly and decoratively folded linen napkins can complete a table setting.

The Linen Selection
Select cloth napkins to match your decorating colors and the type of affair you are hosting. In terms of napkin size, the general rule of thumb is that you should choose 17" x 17" for lunch and 20" x 20" for dinner. The napkins should be made of tightly woven cotton or linen fabric. For the best results, and for the napkins to hold their shapes, folds and creases easier, lightly starch and iron the napkins before folding.

It is not recommended that you use paper napkins, although large formal paper napkins could be used if needed for a casual affair that you want to make a little more special. Creatively folded napkins always create a buzz among party guests, whether you use cloth or paper. However, keep in mind that the napkins are there to be used, so make sure that your guests don't have to treat your napkins like a Rubik's Cube. A simple, neat fold can be the most elegant.

Some Popular and Easy Folding Techniques
Hosts who enjoy origami will especially enjoy napkin folding for place settings. These and many more napkin folds can be found, with video accompaniment, on many Web sites. A list of instructional sites will be included at the end of this article, but here are the basics:

The Pyramid. You might see this fold in restaurants because it is easy to do, but the results are beautiful. Start with the napkin in front of you with the corners at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions. Fold the bottom (6 o'clock) corner up to meet the top corner. Bring in the left and right corners to meet the top corner. Turn the napkin over. Fold the napkin in half and pick it up to stand in a "v" shape.

The Fan. The fan is another popular restaurant napkin fold and is also easy to do. Start with the napkin in front of you in a square with the corners at the sides. Fold the napkin in half, bringing the right side to meet the left, resulting in a rectangle. Starting at the bottom, fold the napkin up in an accordion pleat 2/3 up the napkin. Fold the napkin in half, keeping the pleats on the outside. Fold the upper right corner diagonally down to the folded base of pleats and tuck in the edge. Place the napkin on the table with the central fold down, and release the pleats to form a fan.

The Goblet Fan. This fold is another easy restaurant favorite, and it looks elegant as the pleats form a fan coming out of the top of the wine or stemmed water glass. Start with the napkin in front of you in a square with the corners at the sides. Fold the napkin in half, bringing the right side to meet the left, resulting in a rectangle. Starting at the bottom, fold the napkin up in an accordion pleat all the way up the napkin. Fold the pleated napkin 1/3 up at the right (folded) side and put the folded part into the stemmed glass. Spread the part coming from the napkin into a fan.

Other Folding Techniques and Their Uses
It is much easier to learn more complex folds by watching a tutorial website. Here are some excellent Web site resources for step-by-step instructions with pictures and videos.

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