How to Fold Paper Napkins

Beth Asaff
Folded paper napkins

If you want to make a statement at your dinner table, consider trying napkin origami. This variation of traditional origami uses basic folds to make designs from napkins. In most cases people use cloth napkins for their projects, but you can also create the following models with paper napkins if you prefer.

Four Paper Napkin Folds

Most paper napkins come already folded into smaller squares. To get the best looks, either open up the napkins ahead of time and press them between heavy books to remove some of the creases, or consider using a high-quality paper towel in a square shape in place of a paper napkin.

Utensil Pocket

Utensil pocket napkin

This easy fold makes a handy pocket to tuck the utensils inside. Using it is a great way to save space if you're decorating your table with several elements for a holiday or party.

Instructions

  1. Lay a square napkin on the table in front of you.
  2. Fold it in half horizontally and arrange it to lay lengthwise left to right.
  3. Fold it in half again, this time folding from right to left. This will put the fold on the right, with the napkin layers open on the left.
  4. Take the upper left corner of the top layer of the napkin and fold it down diagonally to the bottom right corner.
    Folding napkin left to right corner
  5. Turn the napkin over.
  6. Fold the left side of the napkin about one third of the way in toward the middle.
    Folding on back side
  7. Fold the right side of the napkin in towards the middle as well, as if you're folding a letter to be placed in an envelope.
  8. Turn the napkin back over and slide the utensils into the pocket.

Rosebud Fold

Rosebud folded napkin

This charming fold stands up straight on the plate, looking like a tightly folded rosebud. Due to the types of folds you need to make with this shape, consider using a very stiff, heavy paper napkin, not one with any kind of cotton blend.

Instructions

  1. Lay the napkin out in front of you so it forms a diamond shape, point facing up.
  2. Fold the bottom point up to meet the top, making a triangle.
  3. Take the bottom right corner and fold it up to meet the top corner. .
  4. Take the bottom left corner and fold it up to the meet the top corner.
    Rosebud fold in toward top
  5. Turn the napkin over and position it so it remains in a diamond shape.
  6. Fold the bottom point about three quarters of the way up.
    Bringing bottom point up
  7. Turn the napkin over.
  8. Take the two ends and gently bend them in toward one another.
  9. Tuck the point on the right into the fold on the left to hold them together.
  10. Stand the napkin on its end.

Ice Cream Cone Fold

Ice cream cone napkin fold

This is a slightly fancier cone fold when laying the napkin on a plate. It works well with pre-folded napkins, because the initial folds form along the lines where the napkin is already folded.

Instructions

  1. Lay an unfolded napkin out in front of you - pre-folded napkins can skip to step 3.
  2. Fold the napkin in half, then fold it in half again to form a smaller square.
  3. Turn the napkin to form a diamond shape with the openings on top.
  4. Separate out the top layer of the napkin and fold it in half inwards, so the point tucks down inside itself.
  5. Separate out the next layer in the napkin, and fold it inward so that about an inch of folded napkin pokes up above the first folded layer, and tuck the point inside the napkin.
  6. Repeat with the third layer.
    Ice cream cone fold tucking
  7. Turn the napkin over.
  8. Fold the left and right corners in toward the middle.
    Folding edges back
  9. Flip the napkin back over to display.

Napkin Ring Fan Fold

Fan napkin ring fold

If you plan on using napkin rings to help dress up the table, this easy fan fold will make the most of your napkin display. Oversized or cotton-blend paper napkins work well in this fold.

Instructions

  1. Lay the napkin out flat in front of you.
  2. Fold it in half horizontally and crease it. Open it up again so the crease shows. If you are using pre-folded napkins, turn the unfolded napkin so the natural midline crease runs left to right.
  3. Accordion-pleat the napkin up to the crease, making sure the crease ends with the final fold, which will give you perfectly aligned ends. Depending on the size of your napkin, you may have to adjust the size of the pleats. For most dinner-sized napkins, a one-inch pleat works best.
  4. Continue accordion-pleating the napkin until you reach the end.
    Folding pleats in half
  5. Fold the pleated napkin in half.
  6. Slip a napkin ring onto the bottom folded end so the loose ends are free to move on the other side.
    Ring on one end
  7. Lay the napkin down and open the accordion out to either side, which will make the napkin cascade up and out of the ring like a water fountain.

Tips for Paper Napkin Folding

When learning how to fold paper napkins, it's helpful to consider the following tips:

  • Remember that most napkin origami projects are intended to be used with cloth napkins. If you want to fold paper napkins, it's best to choose napkins with a stiff texture. Many larger party supply stores now sell these types of napkins for occasions where people want the formality of cloth, but the convenience of a disposable product.
  • Napkins are generally sold in three different sizes: beverage, luncheon, and dinner napkins. Most beverage and luncheon napkins will be too small to make accurate folds; dinner napkins work best.
  • Although cloth napkins are easy to fold and unfold, paper napkins will show any unnecessary creases. It's best to make sure you have a few extras on hand to practice with before your party.
  • Many paper napkins do not come in perfect squares. To fold evenly, you may need to make one side larger or smaller than the other as you fold.
  • Children love origami, so consider keeping copies of your napkin folding instructions readily available if you will have young guests at the table so they can learn how to create them.

Impress Your Guests

Just because you're using paper napkins doesn't mean you can't have an impressive table. Fold your napkins using any of these techniques to help your place settings really shine.

How to Fold Paper Napkins