How to Fold a Napkin in 10 Beautiful Ways

folding napkin techniques
Alpha Smoot

A beautifully folded napkin sets the scene for a meal to remember. While the debate is out on whether the formal dinner table is a conventionality of the past, any hostess knows the inherent value of napkins. When your guests sit down to the table, they serve both a practical purpose—by tucking in utensils, displaying menu cards—and purely for decorative flair by completing the theme in the place setting.

Napkins can be customized to suit any celebration, any time of the year. One of our easiest ideas folds a napkin into a handsome bow tie. As another, fold your napkin into an envelope that contains anything you see fitting: a place card, the menu, or a parting favor to be cherished after the event is over. Consider seasonal holidays, too. For Easter brunch, prop up a floppy-eared bunny among the decorated eggs and spring flowers. At Thanksgiving, replicate the symbol of the feast: a turkey; you will accordion-fold and fan out one napkin into a stately-looking row of tail feathers. On Christmas Eve, fold a tiny Tannenbaum of your own with a green linen napkin and a paper-punched star that spells out your guest's name. They can even be personalized with embroidered handwriting, making it an heirloom for family gatherings in the years to come. Remember: It's a good idea to starch and iron your napkins prior to any folding; this helps them to retain their shape.

For these ideas and more, we present the step-by-step tutorials on a dozen ways to spiff up a plain napkin.

01 of 10

Bow Tie Napkin Fold

Pink bow place setting
Graham Pollack

Here, a pretty bow adds playfulness to the table. To make, spread a dinner napkin out, lying flat. Fold opposite sides in so they meet at the center. Then fold horizontally again at the center to form a narrow, ribbon-like shape. Next, fold short ends in so they meet at the center. Cinch in the middle with a ribbon in a coordinating color, and glue at back. Voila!

02 of 10

Angled Pocket Napkin Fold

napkin fold pocket
Alpha Smoot

This is easy as one, two, three! Start with a square dinner napkin and give it a three-way fold for an elegant angled pocket. It's handy for tucking flatware, a place card, or a printed menu.

03 of 10

Wrapped Napkin Fold

napkin fold wrapped
Alpha Smoot

Fold a napkin in thirds, wrap it around the plate, and tuck the ends under—you're done! Pair a botanical accent, like a faux or dried branch spray-painted gold, with an unfussy band.

04 of 10

Four-Leaf Clover Napkin Fold

st. patrick's day healthy lunch place setting
Debi Traub

Green isn't limited to shamrocks and leprechauns. At your epic spread, fold these four-leaf clover napkins.

05 of 10

Easter Bunny Napkin Fold

bunny ears napkins
Courtesy of Chelsea Cavanaugh

Some magicians pull rabbits out of hats; others conjure them from the linen closet. Do a little sleight of hand (with our how-to) and—presto, chango—you've whipped up a stylish Easter tabletop that lets guests know they're somebunny special. First, fold a napkin into thirds. Then, fold lower corners up to meet in center, creating a paper-airplane shape. Flip over the napkin so the seam faces the table. Fold in the outer edges to meet in the center. Place an egg on pointed tip, tie "ears" above it with ribbon, and nestle egg into place.

06 of 10

Carrot Napkin Fold

Martha's Easter brunch table
Ryan Liebe

At the table for Martha's Easter brunch, crepe-paper leaves sprout from napkins rolled to resemble purple carrots. To recreate the look, fold a square napkin in half, then in half again, forming a smaller square. Roll the napkin into a narrow cone and tuck in the ends. Use our template to cut out leaf shapes from green crepe paper. Roll and tuck them into open end.

07 of 10

Turkey Napkin Fold

folded turkey napkins with two candles on table
Manal Aman

For a Thanksgiving feast, this triple-napkin turkey with a fanning tail makes a bold statement from the moment your guests sit at the table.

08 of 10

Christmas Tree Napkin Fold

christmas tree napkin fold table setting with name tags
Shanna Sullivan

Make things merry at your holiday table with a tabletop tannenbaum. This one—with its upturned folds resembling evergreen boughs—is topped with a star "topper" that serves as the place card.

09 of 10

Dinner Roll Napkin Fold

dinner roll napkin
Johnny Miller

Some holiday parties require every serving dish you own—and then some. Improvise a bread basket with a large rectangular cloth napkin or dish towel, preferably starched linen (the stiffer the fabric, the better it will hold its shape). Lay the fabric horizontally on a table. Fold the longer side up, slightly more than halfway. Fold the top half down in the same way, so the two edges overlap by an inch. Turn it over, and fold the shorter sides in to meet. For extra security, pin in place. Flip over again, and place rolls or a sliced loaf into the opening.

10 of 10

Envelope Napkin Fold

Blue and White Letter Envelope Place Setting
Graham Pollack

Simple yet sophisticated, this design is perfect for sealing a printed menu, a party favor, or... who knows? It's up to you. Lift the flap secured with a wax seal featuring the family initial, and your guests are impressed with a hidden surprise. To fold a square napkin envelope-style, fold it into a triangle, tuck in both pointed ends twice, then tuck in the top flap.

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