Napkin Folding

rose folded napkin

Dinner Napkin Folding 101

These napkin folds are easy and can be used for dinner parties, buffets,  Sunday family dinner, or whenever you're in the mood to make your table "special".  If you want to learn more, beyond these basic folds, please see resources for a couple of very useful books.

Prepare Napkins For Folding

First, always, always wash new napkins before use.   Fabrics have finishes applied to them that help facilitate the manufacturing process.  These finishes should be removed before use.   Make sure to launder according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Starch Or No Starch?

I find a light starch helps give the folded napkins a nice, crisp appearance.  If  you don't want to starch you can just spray each napkin with water, then iron.  I purchase liquid starch. Using a clean, empty plastic spray bottle  I add about 1 to 2 tablespoons of starch per 2-3 cups of water.  Swirl that around in the bottle to mix.  Spray each napkin lightly before ironing.  Don't over starch or the napkins will be abrasive.


All napkins should be ironed before you attempt folding.  In most cases wrinkles or creases in the napkin will detract from the end result.

Rose Napkin Fold

rose folded napkinThis is probably my favorite fold.  I use large white cotton napkins with a hand-painted thin gold border for a very striking result.  Here is how to do the fold:

Use a large, square napkin.

Fold all 4 points to the center of the opened napkin.

Fold all 4 points to the center again.

Turn the napkin over; holding the folds in place as you turn.

Fold the points to the center one more time. 

Hold a finger firmly at the center and unfold four petals from underneath each corner.

Now pull out 4 more petals from between each petal.

Carefully pull out 4 more petals for a total of 12 points.

Place on dinner plate.

Buffet Napkin Fold

buffet folded napkinThis makes a nice presentation for a buffet style meal.
Fold the napkin twice to form a square

  1. Hold the napkin in a diamond shape.
  2. Take the top flaps and roll halfway down the napkin.
  3. Fold the right and lift points at the sides under.
  4. Place silverware in the pocket.


Knot Napkin Fold

knot folded napkinA very simple fold that looks nice on or above a plate.  You can also use this fold for a buffet table.

  1. Start with an open napkin and fold into a triangle with the point at the bottom.
  2. Roll up from the bottom.
  3. Knot in the center.
  4. Looks pretty on a plate or use for buffet style meals.


Butterfly Napkin Fold

butterfly folded napkin

This fold can stand up or lay flat on a plate.  You can also tuck a little place card in the front or slide in some colorful leaves or berries for a festive fall table.

  1. Fold an open napkin into a triangle.
  2. Take the left corner and fold up to the center.
  3. Take the right corner and fold up to the center creating a diamond.
  4. Turn the napkin over keeping the loose points at the top then fold upward leaving a margin at the top to form a triangle.
  5. Tuck the left corner into the right.
  6. Stand the napkin up and turn it around then turn the petals down.


Candlestick Napkin Fold

candlestick folded napkin

This works well when you don't want to put the napkin on the plate and you have limited table space.

  1. Start by folding your napkin into a triangle.
  2. Make an 1 1/2" hem at the bottom edge of the triangle.
  3. Begin rolling from the bottom point. 
  4. Leave a 1" at the end and tuck it into the hem at the bottom to secure the fold.

We placed our candlestick fold in a tall Pilsner glass for a pretty presentation.

Napkin Selection Tips

Here are a few more tips on selecting the correct napkin/fold.

  • Size Matters - Make sure you select the correct size napkin to fit your plate -  Not all napkins are square but most follds rely upon a square napkin. Napkins average  in size from 18" to 21".  Try a test fold to insure the finished napkin fits on your plate and provides the desired result.
  • Get Ahead - Fold the napkins the night before.  Although the napkins don't take a long time to fold best results are achieved when you can take your time.  "Finger press" each fold as you go along and you'll be rewarded by picture perfect napkins.
  • Prints Or Plain Fabric - Carefully select napkins with print or other detail as the results can be stunning or real duds.  "Hemstitching" can add very pretty detail to edges of the rose fold.  Also, multi-colored napkins can be very pretty on all folds as well.  Sometimes you may find that a "busy pattern" detracts from the finished fold.
  • Be A Square -  Most napkin folds rely on "square shapes" so be sure to select square napkins.  
  • White Or Color - White is elegant, formal, simple and goes with anything.  Patterns tend to be less formal (some jacquards for example can be quite elegant).  The napkin can become the focal point of your table but for an understated effect go monochromatic and match the napkin color with your plate.

Books On Napkin Folding

napkin folding

Napkins with a Twist: Fabulous Folds with Flair for Every Occasion

napkin folding

Victoria Elegant Napkin Folding: Creative Ideas for a Beautiful Table

More Napkin Folding Videos


Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.