Start with washed, dried and ironed napkins.

Decorative Napkin Folding Techniques

by Lorna Hordos

Decorative napkin folding is like origami for the dining room table. A special table setting with paper or fabric serviettes folded into visually attractive shapes makes your guests and family feel important. Some designs require tricky folds, and knowing a tip or two helps. Other folds are fairly kid-friendly, so you can get your family involved. Practice on disposable paper napkins.

1. Napkin Pockets

Pocket designs are possibly some of the simplest napkin-folding techniques. These napkins will have the kids scrambling to help set the table or at least slip the cutlery in the cute bed-like slots. A simple pocket fold starts with a square napkin with the right and left sides folded to meet in the middle, forming a rectangle. Fold the bottom one-third of the rectangle onto itself twice. Turn over the napkin, keeping the thirds at the bottom, and then bring each side together to meet in the middle. When you turn the napkin back over, it has a pocket-like fold.

2. Hearts

Hearts represent love, so heart-shaped napkins suit many celebrations -- birthdays, Family Day, Grandparent’s Day and, of course, Valentine's Day. Use napkins in the expected red or pink colors, or opt for a decorative paisley, plaid or polka-dot-print fabric. Basically, you’ll fold a square napkin in half to form a rectangle, and in half again to form a narrower rectangle. Hold down the center point of the rectangle with a finger, and fold one end over to form an “L.” Mirror this fold with the other end. You have made a shape that resembles a “pointy” heart. The final folds make the heart’s top points appear more rounded. Use the flap down the center to tuck in a wrapped candy, place card or love note, if you wish.

3. Tall Designs

Napkin folds that result in a tall design, such as a candle, fan, peak or pyramid and a cardinal's hat, look impressive when standing on a plate or in a glass. The candle fold is among the easiest: Fold the napkin into a triangle, and flip up an inch or so of the fold so that the napkin resembles a rimmed hat. Roll the napkin starting at one end of the "rim" and working to the other. The fan fold consists of a napkin folded in half, and then folded lengthwise accordion-style. Fold up an inch or two of one end to create bulk inside a glass. Spread open the fan pleats.

4. Tips for Complicated Folds

The trickiest of napkin folds often include designs that resemble animals or flowers such as the rose, bird of paradise, bunny, orchid, peacock and butterfly folds. To make the learning process less complicated, make the creases visible using spray starch and an iron as you work. Let the napkin cool before proceeding, especially if you have young helpers. The kids may enjoy the bunny napkin fold, which starts with a napkin folded in half twice to form a narrow rectangle. Hold down the center point of the rectangle with a finger, and fold one end over to form an “L.” Mirror this fold with the other end. Bring each bottom corner up to the center point, so the napkin is diamond shaped. Hold down the diamond's bottom point and bring the side points together at the center, forming a kite shape. Fold the top of the kite under to create a triangle. Fold the triangle's upper points one on top of the other, and tuck the upper fold into the pocket-like crease of the lower fold -- this is the back of the bunny's head. You'll notice that the triangle's lower point is split in two -- these the bunny's ears. Turn the napkin over, stand the bunny upright, and adjust the "ears" and "face." And heed the advice you likely give your kids -- "practice makes perfect."

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