Cloth napkins are eco-friendly, long lasting and a worthwhile investment for your party dollar. I've had mine for almost twelve years and continue to find fresh ways to make them new.
Show your guests that you're thinking about them—you anticipated their arrival and you wanted to make it fancy. That said, I really don't have time to craft tiny fabric pigs, men's underwear, or lotus flowers to hide your dinner roll.
Here are three quick and easy napkin folds that don't require starch, ironing, or more than 60 seconds.
The Double Diamond
Start with the napkin folded in half diagonally in a triangle shape.
Fold the bottom left point up to the top point. Repeat with the bottom right point.
Flip the napkin over, keeping the open corners furthest away from you. Fold the bottom point roughly a third of the way up the napkin
Now tuck the left and right sides of the napkin under the napkin.
Fold down the edge furthest from you by a third.
Fold up the edge nearest to you in the same manner so that the napkin makes a narrow rectangle that's one-third its original width.
Fold the left and right edges over about 2 inches to the center; adjust the size of this fold depending on the size of your napkin.
Bring the left side of the napkin across to the right, leaving the right hand band uncovered but its raw edge covered up.
Fold from the left side again, making sure that each "pocket" is the same width.
Smallish folds lend themselves to tucking recipe cards, place cards or Legos in to charm your dinner party guests.
The Lover's Knot
Start with the corners of the open napkin top and bottom in a diamond shape, fold the top point down to the bottom point.
Starting from the bottom, make even folds—like an accordion—up to the top edge.
With the first pleat facing away from you, fold the right point over the left one and tuck back through the loop you've created to make a loose knot.
Fiddle with it until the folds look casual enough for you.
About the author: Helen Jane Hearn writes about creative entertaining at helenjane.com. Founder of the national cheese club Cheesewhizzes, Helen Jane's bimonthly cheese potlucks have been called "Napa's Best Parties" by Food and Wine magazine (December 2009). During the day, she runs Maplevine, a design consultancy specializing in wineries.