How to Fold Cloth Napkins Four Different Ways

Folding cloth napkins into fancy shapes is a great way to add a decorative touch to any table setting. Not only do folded napkins look nice, but they can also be quite useful for holding utensils, keeping food contained, and even marking different guest’s places. With just a little practice, you can master several different folding techniques that will elevate your tablescape. Here we will walk through four easy yet elegant ways to fold cloth napkins.

Materials Needed

Before we get started folding, let’s first go over the supplies you will need:

  • Cloth napkins – The size and fabric are up to you, but larger napkins around 20 inches square will be easiest to work with. Cotton, linen, polyester, and cotton-linen blends all make good folding napkins.
  • Iron and ironing board (optional) – While not strictly necessary, ironing your napkins first will help create crisper, sharper folds.
  • Spray bottle with water (optional) – A light misting of water before ironing also helps set creases in the folds.

And that’s it! Now let’s dive into the four different folding techniques.

The Simple Fold

This basic folded napkin is a great starting point if you are new to napkin folding. The end result is a simple, clean rectangular shape.


  1. Begin with a pressed and smoothed cloth napkin laid flat in front of you on a table.
  2. Fold the napkin in half diagonally to form a triangle shape.
  3. Fold this triangle in half again so the pointed corners meet up.
  4. Bring the far pointed corner over to the two stacked pointed corners and fold down to create a narrow rectangle shape.
  5. Fold this rectangle in half one more time.
  6. The final folded napkin should have crisp, even folds with rectangular flaps.

The simple fold results in a basic but elegant presentation. Arrange a folded napkin like this at each place setting, or tie some silverware up in the folds. The napkin will easily unroll for guests to use.

The Bishop’s Hat Fold

For a more dramatic effect, try this innovated angled fold that creates a bishop’s hat shape. The peaked folds resemble the ceremonial headwear worn by bishops and other religious officials.


  1. Start with an ironed, flat cloth napkin in front of you. Fold it in half diagonally, then in half again the other way into a triangle shape.
  2. With the longest side of the triangle running left to right in front of you, fold the right pointed corner toward the center at a 60-degree angle.
  3. Repeat on the left side, folding the left corner into the center at a 60-degree angle.
  4. Flip over the napkin.
  5. Fold the right angled corner toward the center again at a 60-degree angle. Repeat on the left side.
  6. Flip back over to the front. You should have a rectangular napkin with two peaked, bishop’s hat-like folds.
  7. For extra shape, press down along the folds and corners with your fingers.

The bishop’s hat fold results in a more intricate, geometric-shaped napkin that pairs nicely with formal place settings. Try mixing and matching with the simple fold napkins.

The Rosette Fold

Fancy floral inspired napkin folds are perfect for weddings, bridal showers, or any occasion where you want to add a touch of romance to the table. The rosette fold creates gorgeous ruched flower-like texture.


  1. Take an ironed cloth napkin and fold it in half diagonally into a triangle.
  2. With the long edge of the triangle parallel to the table’s edge, fold the left corner of the napkin toward the center, just short of the middle.
  3. Repeat on the right corner, folding it toward the center but not quite meeting the left fold.
  4. Flip napkin over and repeat Steps 2 and 3.
  5. Flip back to front side. The napkin should now have two pointed “ears” of fabric hanging below four ruched upper folds that create a floral rosette shape.
  6. For extra shaping, press down gently on the rosette folds and pinch the ears together at the tips.

The rosette fold results in a romantic ruched flower shape perfect for weddings and bridal showers. For variety, try folding dinner and salad napkins in contrasting shapes like rosettes and simple folds.

The Crown Fold

For an elegant royal touch, the crown fold creates peaked shapes resembling the spikes on a king or queen’s crown. This technique does take some practice, but the impressive end result is worth it.


  1. Take a pressed cloth napkin and fold it in quarters like a square.
  2. Fold the left corner toward the center but not completely to the middle. Repeat on the right side.
  3. Now fold the top corner down toward the center, again not going all the way. Do the same with the bottom corner. You should have a rounded, crown-like shape.
  4. Carefully turn the napkin over while keeping the folds intact.
  5. On this underside, fold the left and right corners once more toward the middle, not quite meeting.
  6. Finally, fold the top and bottom corners again toward the center.
  7. Flip the napkin back over. The front should now have tightly packed, peaked folds resembling a royal crown.

The crown fold makes an impressive statement for formal dinners and holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas. For extra flair, use decorative napkin rings to hold the shapes.

Tips and Tricks

Now that you are familiar with four different napkin folding techniques, here are some helpful pointers to master the skill:

  • Starch or gently iron napkins before folding for crisper holds. A light mist of water can help set creases.
  • Take your time and fold methodically. Rushing can lead to uneven, messy folds.
  • Fold corners at even 60 or 45 degree angles for symmetry.
  • Press down on folds gently to “set” the shape.
  • Experiment with mixing and matching different folds at one table setting for visual interest.
  • Accent folded napkins with decorative elements like napkin rings, ribbons, flowers, or charger plates underneath.
  • Refold napkins between courses at formal meals to freshen up the table.
  • Practice each fold a few times with inexpensive paper towels or napkins to perfect the technique before moving on to fancy linens.

With a little practice, you’ll be able to create beautiful folded napkin arrangements in no time!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about folding cloth napkins:

What type of napkin should I use?

Cotton, linen, polyester, and cotton-linen blend napkins are all good choices. Go with fabric at least 1/16th of an inch thick with at least a 20×20 inch square size. The bigger the napkin, the easier it will be to create sharp folds.

Does the type of fold matter for formal or informal meals?

More intricate folds like the crown or bishop’s hat are better suited to formal place settings, while simpler folds work for casual meals. Mixing shapes can be a nice compromise.

How do I hold the napkin folds in place?

Using starch or ironing the napkins first will help hold the folds. Mist water on the creases to reinforce them. Decorative napkin rings are great for securing shape too.

Should napkins match or contrast with the tablecloth?

There are no set rules – matching napkins and a tablecloth creates a cohesive color story, while contrasting shades make the napkins stand out as a decorative focal point.

How far in advance can I fold napkins before an event?

Napkins can be folded a day or two early as long as they are stored properly laid flat to prevent wrinkling and indentations. Any longer than that risks losing the crisp folds.

What is the best way to fold napkins for utensils?

The simple fold with utensils tucked inside or the bishop’s hat shape both contain the flatware neatly. Make sure utensils are securely wrapped.

Can I iron linen or cotton napkins if they lose their folds?

Yes, you can gently iron folded linen or cotton napkins using a medium heat setting to help reset and crisp up the creases again. Avoid ironing delicate fabrics like silk.


Whether you are hosting a formal dinner party or just a casual family meal, folding your cloth napkins into one of these elegant shapes instantly elevates any tablescape. With just a pressed linen napkin and a few basic folds, you can create decorations that are both beautiful and functional for holding utensils and wiping hands. The four techniques we covered – the simple fold, bishop’s hat, rosette, and crown – offer a good variety of options ranging from quick and easy to more advanced. Don’t be afraid to experiment mixing different shapes and combine folding with other decorative accents like napkin rings and flowers for a truly special presentation. With a little practice, even beginning fold-ers can master these elegant napkin designs.

So next time you set the table, take a few extra minutes to artfully fold the napkins. Your guests are sure to be impressed by your skills and appreciate the decorative touch. Folding napkins by hand may be going out of fashion, but this lost art still has a place at any gracious table.