10 Creative Ways to Fold Napkins for Every Occasion

published Oct 10, 2023
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Place Setting with herbs
Credit: Sarah Crowley

Nothing elevates a set table like an elegantly folded napkin, regardless of how casual or formal the event is. A napkin — especially a cloth napkin — provides a neat (and, of course, functional!) finishing touch for each place setting. There are lots of ways to fold a napkin; some expert, others very simple. You can opt for a basic fold that allows you to tuck silverware neatly into it, or an elaborate, occasion-specific fold like a bunny on Easter or a turkey for Thanksgiving. 

Here, we’re sharing 10 of our favorite napkin folds, along with tutorials for how to copy the looks you’ll see here. We also consulted Lisa Richey, a renowned etiquette expert and founder of the American Academy of Etiquette, to get the 411 on napkin etiquette (because who really knows what to do with a napkin, once you get it unfolded?). Here’s everything you need to know.

Where Does a Napkin Belong? 

When setting the table, whether for a casual event or something more formal, the napkin should always be on the left of the plate, according to Richey. “In situations where the table is a bit overcrowded, it’s okay to place the napkin on the center of the plate. This can also be an attractive option if you’re doing an intricate napkin fold, or something that’s specific to a holiday.” 

Dos and Don’ts of Napkin Etiquette

As you’re prepping for your next event, there’s likely little room to worry about things like napkins. That said, a bit of etiquette can go a long way toward making you feel more confident at gatherings. Here, Richey shares a few simple rules you should follow when it comes to using your napkin at the dinner table. 


  • Place your napkin in your lap once you sit down. 
  • Unfold your napkin under the table before placing it on your lap. 
  • Place the fold (the long, straight side) of your napkin toward your waist. “This allows you to easily pick up the corner of the napkin and use that to wipe your mouth,” says Richey. 


  • Place your used napkin back on the table again until the very end of the meal, when you’ll place it back on the left-hand side of your plate. 
  • Use your napkin as a washcloth; it’s meant to be used only for wiping your mouth.
  • Tuck your napkin into your shirt. Just, no. 
  • Place your napkin over your entire plate. When in doubt, simply place it on the table to the left of your plate. 

10 Fun Ways to Fold a Napkin

Below are some of our (and TikTok’s!) favorite ways to fold napkins in order to elevate your table. For the most part, these folds can be done with either cloth or paper napkins. Which to choose? “It’s a personal choice,” Richey says. “But in general, it’s easier to fold cloth napkins, using a natural fiber like cotton or linen if you want to do more intricate folds. Cloth napkins are great because they tend to hold more meaning and emotional connection than paper napkins. And, of course, they’re much more eco-friendly as well.” 

1. Basic Pocket Fold

The basic pocket fold is where it all begins. This super-simple fold is suitable for any occasion, and allows you to use any color or style of napkin, and dress it up as much or as little as you’d like. For example, this one from @david_stark_design holds a card stating what each diner is thankful for. 

How to make the basic pocket fold: 

  1. Lay a large square napkin out flat.
  2. Fold the bottom two inches of the napkin up.
  3. Now, fold the bottom 4 to 5 inches of the napkin up (including the previous fold).
  4. Flip the napkin over.
  5. Fold the top of the napkin down to about halfway.
  6. Fold the left and right sides into the midline of the napkin.
  7. Fold the napkin in half.
  8. (Optional) Press with an iron.
  9. (Optional) Turn the napkin over and insert a card, flower or other decoration of your choice.

2. Simple Fold

Perhaps the easiest way to fold a napkin is to simply fold it into a simple rectangle. A close second to a simple flat triangle fold when it comes to setting a casual dining table, this fold lends itself to lots of decorations, like a sprig of holly, a flower, or even a place card. Tie a small ribbon or a piece of twine for an added touch. 

How to make the simple fold:

  1. Lay a square napkin out flat.
  2. Fold the left side to the middle of the napkin.
  3. Fold the right side to the middle of the napkin.
  4. Turn the napkin over.
  5. (Optional) Secure with string.

3. Triple Layer Fold

The ever-so-elegant triple fold is one of our favorite ways to fold a napkin, not only because it’s pretty but because it’s so versatile. It’s perfect at home on a Saturday night with close family, but it’s just as apropos for a black-tie wedding. 

How to make the triple layer fold:

  1. Lay a large, square napkin out flat.
  2. Fold it in half.
  3. Fold it in half again.
  4. Take the top layer and fold it down to the bottom of the napkin, to make a triangle shape with just the top layer.
  5. Take the middle layer and do the same, tucking it into the triangle you’ve just made with the top layer.
  6. Take the bottom layer and do the same, tucking it into the triangle you’ve just made with the middle layer.
  7. Turn the napkin over.
  8. Fold it into a rectangle, then turn it over again.
  9. Place a knife in the back layer, a fork in the middle layer, and a spoon in the top layer. The silverware should be staggered from top right to bottom left.

4. Rose Fold

This elegant rose fold is a beautiful addition to a table that’s set for tea time, date night, Valentine’s Day, or any occasion (or non-occasion) in between.

How to make the rose fold:

  1. Lay a large square napkin out flat.
  2. Fold it diagonally to form a triangle.
  3. Starting at the long end, roll it up about halfway.
  4. Turn napkin sideways and roll, stopping about 2-3 inches from the end.
  5. Take the tail end and tuck into the roll you just made.
  6. Flip and arrange the tails to look like leaves.

5. Fan Fold

This stunning and simple fold is a classic, one you might recognize from the last fancy restaurant you went to. Impress your guests or family members with this show-stopping fold that surprisingly comes together quite quickly. 

How to make the fan fold:

  1. Lay a square napkin out flat.
  2. Fold it  in half.
  3. Make a one-inch fold.
  4. Fold it under and over three times, leaving some space at the end.
  5. Flip it over and fold it in half.
  6. Fold the base into a triangle, tucking it in the center.
  7. Stand it up and open up the fan.

6. Angel Fold

Here’s a great way to tie a holiday dinner table in with your angel-topped Christmas tree. If you do a simple accordion fold, you can make this angel napkin fold using the easy-to-follow instructions. (Note: This fold does require you to make a cut, so it’s best reserved for a paper napkin.)

How to make the angel fold:

  1. Lay a large square napkin out flat.
  2. Fold in half.
  3. Unfold napkin, then fold the entire napkin accordion-style until you have one thin strip.
  4. Fan out both sides.
  5. Find the middle of one of the fanned sides and make a cut about half-way down the length of the napkin.
  6. Fan out and bend the napkin so either side of the cut forms the arms and the rest of the napkin forms the body.
  7. Place a piece of wrapped chocolate between the arms to make the head.
  8. (Optional) Wrap a piece of ribbon or twine to make the waist.

7. Witch’s Hat Fold

Throwing a spooky Halloween party this fall? Don’t forget to set a terrifying table! Make it happen with this super-cute witch’s hat napkin fold. 

How to make the witch’s hat fold:

  1. Lay a square napkin out flat.
  2. Fold it into a triangle.
  3. Take one end of the triangle and fold it to the other end to make a smaller triangle.
  4. Flip the napkin over and place it on the table with the point at the top.
  5. Fold each triangle into the midline of the napkin so each side is identical.
  6. Fold the bottom of each side outward to form the points of the witch’s hat.
  7. (Optional) Place a seasonal decoration (like a plastic spider, tiny pumpkin, or other trinket) in the middle of the fold to hold it together.

8. Pumpkin Fold

Perfect for any fall event, not to mention Halloween or Thanksgiving, this cute little napkin pumpkin is much easier than it looks! 

How to make the pumpkin fold:

  1. Lay a large square napkin out flat.
  2. Place a napkin ring in the center of the napkin.
  3. Pull the napkin through about an inch.
  4. Take the edges of the napkin and tuck them up into the napkin ring until you have a pumpkin shape.
  5. Flip it over and add a “stem”.

9. Christmas Tree Fold

No holiday tablescape is complete without a napkin shaped like a Christmas tree. Opt for a deep green cloth napkin for a traditional look, go glam with gold, or choose a less traditional color like teal or pink. Whatever matches your holiday decor is a win with this simple tree fold. 

How to make the Christmas tree fold:

  1. Lay a large square napkin out flat.
  2. Fold once and then again to form a small square.
  3. Take the open end of the napkin, where you should now have four layers of fabric.
  4. Fold each upward into a layered triangle.
  5. Flip napkin over.
  6. Fold right and left edges over to the midline of the napkin.
  7. Flip napkin again and you should have the shape of a tree, with a point at the top.
  8. For each layer, tuck the bottom point of the triangle under to form a straight edge.
  9. Finally, tuck the bottom of the napkin up to form the base of the tree.

10. Bunny Fold

The perfect addition to a beautiful spring spread or Easter affair, this adorable bunny napkin fold works well with a crisp, white napkin. Bonus points if it has a pretty edge or border! Of all the ways to fold a napkin, the bunny is a bit more advanced than some of the other, more basic folds (we highly recommend referencing the tutorial below), but yields amazing results that are totally worth the practice! 

How to make the bunny fold:

  1. Lay a square napkin out flat.
  2. Fold it to make a rectangle.
  3. Fold the rectangle in half to make a thin rectangle.
  4. Fold the thin rectangle in half lengthwise and crease to get a midline.
  5. With the edge facing away from you, fold each top outside corner down along the midline (this will form something that sort of resembles an arrow).
  6. Take the bottom outside corners (the bottom of the “arrow”) and fold them up to the center of the napkin along the midline (the napkin should now form a perfect square).
  7. Fold both halves together to meet in the center of the napkin.
  8. Flip napkin over (you should now have a diamond shape).
  9. Flip up the bottom point to the center of the napkin.
  10. Flip the napkin over. The left and right corners should now be sticking up. 
  11. Tuck the corner of one “ear” into the pocket created by the other.
  12. Form into a rabbit by spreading the base out to make it sit upright, and adjusting the ears.