Monday, November 19, 2012

Napkin Folding and Other Obsessions

I’ve been obsessing this week, and that’s not good. I can’t even concentrate on what to serve for Thanksgiving because I can’t decide what the table should look like.

Of course, it’s my own fault. In addition to my wedding china and the good china I inherited from my grandmother, I’m sort of a dish junkie, with sets of plates I inherited from my mother and plates I just couldn’t resist from catalogues or estate sales here and there. These random sets of plates – wood, pottery, glass, porcelain – weren’t expensive, which is how I convince myself that buying them is a good idea. And while I’m not necessarily a napkin junkie, I do think I may have more than my share. Also of glasses. These are just little weaknesses I have.

So I started experimenting. Here’s my first pass. I found the garland at Party City, and – on the theory that everything looks better with some glitter – I picked up gold glitter hair spray and used the entire can on the leaves. The candles are artichoke shapes – more fun than pumpkins, and better color. And I stuck in some cool water glasses I bought in Italy this fall. I like using these napkins on a large scale on the plates.

But that was just playing, as we’ll have five for dinner, and I only have four of those ochre plates and the water glasses. Ah, well.  So I went for a simpler setting, using pottery that I have plenty of, with different candles and my standard wine glasses. It seemed nice, but in the end not fallish enough. This is another fun way to do napkins: just roll them all the way across on the diagonal, then tie them into a single knot.

In search of inspiration, I went outside, where I noticed that the possomhaw holly was covered with bright red berries and hadn’t yet lost its leaves. I cut off a couple of big branches and – after much struggle and a fair amount of cursing – managed to get them stable in a big glass bowl that I then filled with cranberries. It’s gorgeous on my dining room table, so I set it with my wedding china and alternating dark and light green napkins, with beaded napkin rings. Added an assortment of large foil leaves I had in my workroom, and I think this will do nicely.

In the middle of all this table arranging, my cousin called and said she’d love some napkin-folding ideas, so here goes.

The most basic technique is just to fold them in half and roll them, then tie them with some cool ribbon. The ribbon I’ve used here is copper, and was almost nothing at Michael’s, since all their Thanksgiving stuff is now on deep discount. I had some sweet-gum tree spurs (from a fall stroll in NJ years ago) that I spray-painted gold, and have tucked one into each knot. By the way, it’s a good idea to always have spray paint on hand, in gold and silver and copper – you can never tell when it’ll come in handy, or what you might want to paint. I once spray-painted the trim for some curtains.

Here’s a fun folding technique that produces a nice fan effect that stands up. Start by laying the napkin out flat and making two soft pleats – like a Roman shade. Here’s the first:

And here’s the second:

Then working in the direction perpendicular to those folds, pleat the entire napkin like an accordion.

 Stuff the thinner end of the accordion fold into either a glass or a napkin ring.

Here’s a fold that adds a bit of formality, and works really well with a napkin that’s got a strip of color along one edge. Start by folding the top and bottom to meet in the center.

Then fold each end toward the center.

Fold the right end over to reach about 2 inches from the left.

Do the same thing again with the new right end. I like laying this style of fold on the plate.


Now that you’re a pro at napkin folding, here’s one that resembles the Sydney Opera House. This is an elegant shape, but only works with a dinner-sized napkin, and is best with napkins that have some stiffness to them. Start by folding the napkin in fourths, like so:

With the corners of the napkin pointing toward you, fold the napkin in half along the diagonal, to form a triangle with the corners pointing away from you.

Turn the left and right ends of the triangle down, so that the folds meet in the center and the napkin shape resembles a kite.

Tuck the bottom parts of the kite underneath and, with one hand pinching the bottoms together, lift the napkin corners – which are now a the top of the kite shape – to stand up individually. Set the folded napkin on the plate.

 So here's how my kitchen looked at the end of this activity. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

1 comment:

  1. Loved the napkin folding lesson. You are a great inspiration. We will miss you again this year. You are welcome any time you are in New Jersey for Thanksgiving.