Cloth napkins are considered a treat for some households, and they’re often found on the table just at the holidays.

Fabric napkins come in a variety of sizes, from cocktail size (about 12 inches by 12 inches) to a more formal dinner size (24 inches by 24 inches) and all sizes in between. They’re most practical when made in a washable natural-fiber fabric (cotton and linen) treated to release stains, but special-occasion versions may be made from a synthetic or metallic-blend cloth.

Napkins are available in both solid colors and prints, as well as novelty weaves, depending on the occasion and the table decor. Solid colors tend to show stains quicker and necessitate more frequent washings than prints that blend with food related colors.

One of the fun features of cloth napkins is their ability to take on new personae with some creative folding tricks, and the Thanksgiving holiday is a fine time to give this method a try. Guests will delight in seeing some imaginative shapes for this utilitarian tool. Whether it’s a traditional turkey formed with two napkins, or a small pouch filled with some flowers or some extra treats, napkin-play is sure to delight.

The larger the napkin, the easier it is to be creative with folding tricks, so look for dinner-size versions. With some folds, both sides of the napkin can show, so take that into account when selecting patterned or novelty versions, or look for double-sided napkin options.

Another option if the underside of the napkin is clearly the “wrong” side — fold two together as one for bi-color fun (and some extra body).

Two things you’ll definitely need before starting your folding adventures are some spray starch and an iron. The starch adds body to the napkin fabric and helps it to hold its shape in the new configuration, especially intricate folds, or those that require the napkin to stand above the plate or glass. The iron is used to apply the starch and to press in firm folds needed for stand-up appeal. It also helps remove wrinkles in the napkins before you start your creative folding adventure. All napkins should be starched firmly before beginning to fold, unless they’re made from sturdy damask or linen.

So, grab a napkin and practice folding before the big holiday dinner arrives.

— Reporter: gwizdesigns@

How to fold


This gobbler requires two napkins — one for the body and one for the feathers. The napkins do not have to match each other. If the napkin you choose for the body doesn’t have much crispness, insert a piece of aluminum foil inside the folds to help the bird keep its shape. Note: The feathered portion can be used separately from the turkey as a fan-fold napkin.

1. Begin with an unfolded starched napkin for the body. Fold both upper corners to the center so edges meet.

2. Make a second fold so edges meet in the middle.

3. Make a third fold so edges meet in the middle, so the napkin forms a narrow bird shape.

4. Fold the napkin to shape a body, and then fold the narrow tip to create a beak.

5. The turkey portion should look like this.

6. To make the feathers, use a second napkin. Fold it in half to make a long rectangle.

7. Fold the second napkin accordion-style along the length, leaving about 3 inches unfolded at one end.

8. Turn the napkin over so the pleated portion faces down, and fold in half.

9. Fold and tuck the unfolded portion into the center of the accordion-folded section.

10. Place the feathers behind the neck and body of the turkey portion.

— Instructions adapted from


This napkin creation can hold all sorts of holiday treats, appetizers (like bread sticks or nuts) or even seasonal flowers (use with a votive holder filled with a little water), but if you expect guests to actually unfold and use the pouch napkin, offer a to-go container to stow their treats. A second napkin for use is also appropriate. Note that both sides of the napkin show with this fold, and it’s best suited to lunch- or cocktail-size napkins.

1. Begin with a starched napkin open flat. Fold the napkin diagonally.

2. Fold the straight folded edge halfway to the point.

3. Fold the top corner down, and then the lower corner up.

4. Separate the extended points and fold down over the lapped corners — one to the front and one to the back.

5. Tie with a ribbon and add a fall trinket, if desired.


This fun fold is ideal if you’re placing the cutlery into the napkin pockets, set either on the plate or beside it. Note that both sides of the napkin show with this fold.

1. Fold the napkin into quarters.

2. Fold back each corner layer separately at a diagonal, tucking corners inside.

3. With the angled sides face down, fold back about one-third of the napkin width from each side.

4. Tuck a piece of silverware into each pocket.


Perhaps the simplest of all napkin folds, this one looks stunning both with firmly starched fabric napkins and with those that are softer and more drapable. You can also add a napkin ring for more interest or color.

1. Begin with the napkin flat. Accordion fold it from the bottom to the top, making each fold ¾ to 1 inch deep. Press the folds if you want a crisp look.

2. Fold the pleated napkin in half and insert it into a goblet, folding under about 1 inch at the lower edge to keep the pleats secured.

3. Unfold the pleats into a fan, and interlock the two inner edges if needed to keep the shape.