Table Napkin Folding

Napery, or the art of napkin folding, is actually quite similar to origami, the ancient Japanese paper-folding art. The main difference, of course, is that napery employs cloth dinner napkins instead of colored paper. Still, the basic principles are the same.

Artistically folded napkins add an elegant and decorative accent to any table. Although table napkin folding may appear difficult, many creative designs are really quite simple to execute.

Many traditional napkin folding designs have grown popular over the years, particularly for fancy restaurants, catered banquets, formal weddings, official dinners and special occasions. The most commonly used napkin folding designs include the arrow, the basic square silverware pouch, the basic triangle silverware pouch, the bird of paradise, the bishop's miter, the bunny, the candle, the cardinal's hat, the clown's hat, the crown, the diamond, the goblet fan, the ice cream cone, Lady Windermere's fan, the necktie, the peace lily, the pocket, the pyramid, the rose, the rosebud, the sail and the standing fan. Instructions for all of these may be found online and in hospitality resource publications.

Meanwhile, several original patterns are included here, along with simple step-by-step instructions. Gather your table linens and try these original fancy and festive napkin folding designs for your own dining table for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Passover, Easter, a birthday party, or any other special occasion dinner.

Napkin Folding Designs: The Double Spire
The double spire is a simple-but-striking design. Try the double spire for a dramatic dinner table setting that does not detract from a fancy centerpiece or block socialization across the dining table.

What to do:

  1. Place a clean cloth napkin on a table, counter or other flat surface.
  2. Tuck one corner around a pencil, and begin rolling the napkin all the way to the opposite corner.
  3. Carefully remove the pencil.
  4. Fold the entire rolled napkin in half and tuck it into an empty goblet or stemmed water glass, with the two spires pointing upward.
  5. Arrange a double spire napkin in a stemmed glass or goblet at each place setting at your dinner table.


The Eagle's Wing
This design is easy to pull off, while offering a lovely, understated accent for a festive or formal dining table.

What to do:

  1. Lay out a clean cloth napkin on a table, counter or other flat surface.
  2. Fold the napkin neatly in half, widthwise.
  3. Fold the napkin in half lengthwise to form a small square.
  4. Rotate the folded cloth napkin so that the four open corners face you.
  5. Fold the top layer of the napkin in half so that the open corner touches the top corner of the napkin.
  6. Fold the next layer the same way, stopping a bit below the earlier one.
  7. Repeat the process with the remaining two napkin layers to form a staggered layer of feathered edges.
  8. Space these edges as evenly as you can to create a wing-like effect.
  9. One at a time, take the pointed left and right sides of your folded napkin and tuck them underneath to form an overall diamond-shaped arrangement.
  10. Lay the entire eagle's wing folded napkin on decorative plates or in the center of each place setting on your dining table.


The Pirate Hat
The pirate hat offers a much more casual napkin folding design, which is ideal for a birthday celebration, bachelor party, retirement recognition dinner or another informal occasion. It is an adaptation of a traditional birthday party hat, usually constructed from recycled newspapers.

What to do:

  1. Spread out a clean cloth dinner napkin on a table, counter or other flat surface.
  2. Fold the napkin in half, from top to bottom.
  3. Place the napkin fold at the top, running horizontally in front of you.
  4. Fold each of the top corners down toward the bottom center of the napkin. This will form a large triangle with the top pointing away from you.
  5. Lift the top layer of the bottom edge and fold it forward to cover the bottom of the triangle.
  6. Flip the entire napkin over carefully. Lift the top layer of the second bottom edge and fold it up over the bottom of the triangle.
  7. The two bottom edges will have formed the brim of the pirate hat.
  8. Lay the pirate hat napkin flat on a decorative plate, place it in the middle of a place setting, or stand it up on display. Repeat the process for each place setting at the dining table.


The art of napkin folding is greatly simplified by the use of clean, crisply starched cloth dinner napkins. Be sure to wash and dry table linens thoroughly before ironing them. Trim off any loose or stray threads so that your cloth dinner napkins will appear fresh and new.

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