How to fold cloth napkins

Welcome to one of our favorite topics! Entire beautifully illustrated books have been written about napkin folding and tabletop design for those who want to explore the subject in depth. Today, however, we’re just going to assume that maybe you’re about to have dinner guests and hope to make your table look more interesting. We’re also assuming that you have ordinary cloth napkins and limited spare time. You’ve come to the right place!

Optional equipment: Iron and ironing board (in case you want to press the napkins before you fold them ... this is encouraged for best results, but we do not insist).

Unless you are planning to take photos of your table and enter them in competitions at Architectural Digest or Elle Décor, you may not want to labor over this activity for too long because the first thing your guests will do when they sit down is undo your work and put the napkins on their laps. The following styles provide maximum effect with minimal effort.

Style 1: Wine glass decoration

  1. Start with the napkin folded into a square, positioned on the table with the four free napkin corners closest to you.
  2. Fold the napkin in thirds with the two side corners overlapping in the center.
  3. Fold the bottom corner up toward the center.
  4. Holding all the edges in place, curl the flat lower edge of the napkin into a wine glass.

Style 2: Flatware holder

  1. Start with the napkin folded into a square, positioned on the table with the four free corners farthest from you.
  2. Fold the top two corners toward you so their points are at the center of the napkin.
  3. Fold the top two corners toward you once more to make a flap.
  4. Carefully turn the napkin over, keeping the same top-to-bottom orientation. Then fold the side corners of the napkin in to overlap at the center.
  5. Turn the napkin back over again and put flatware into the pocket created by the flap.

Style 3: Fan

This style requires napkin rings or some ribbon.

  1. Start with the napkin folded in half, positioned with the fold closest to you.
  2. Accordion-pleat the napkin lengthwise.
  3. Fold the pleated napkin in half with the open edges on top.
  4. Slide the napkin ring onto the folded section at the bottom, or tie ribbon around the folded section and make a bow, and then fan out the top.