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Napkin Knowledge

Etiquette was important
A silver setting placed on the flat folded triangular shaped napkin in the dining room of Virden pioneer Home Museum.

Napkin folding and etiquette are not something all of us practice during our meals. Historically, napkin etiquette and artful napkin folds have been traced back to the 1600s. The 18th century though was marked as the golden age for napkins. It was due to more complex fold designs and the establishment of special napkin folding classes directed to butlers.  

Three commonly used napkin folds include the square, the triangle and rolled. The rolled napkin is held in place by an item known as a napkin ring. Some experts find these folds are the best as they are easier to unfold. Although, there is something about a beautiful napkin design that can make a table setting look more elegant and sophisticated. There are several complex napkin folds, but today I will teach you how to fold a Fan Fold. 

To fold your napkin into a fan, first, you fold it into a horizontal rectangle. Next, fold an inch of the right side facing you, and then repeat. Fold the napkin like an accordion and stop three to four inches from the end. Flip the napkin over (so the fold is on the bottom) and fold the napkin in half by going lengthwise and away from you. Take the top left corner of the non-accordion side, place it at the bottom right side and tuck it into the accordion folds. Finally, pick up the napkin by pinching the triangle you just made and stand it up. Once you let go of your triangle, you should have a beautiful fan. 

Proper napkin placement is not a universal etiquette rule. For example, the napkin placement before the meal differs in Europe (the right) and North America (the left). Some napkins, like the Fan type, get placed on the plates. Once a guest arrives at the table, it's proper for them to grab their napkin and put it on their lap. However, this can only occur when all guests have been seated. During the meal, it is proper to keep your napkin clean as possible while keeping your face just as clean. The trick is to dab your mouth with your napkin rather than wiping. 

When leaving the table temporarily, one must place their napkin folded in the original placement on the left or right side. It is a faux pas to have the used side visible, so fold it accordingly. It is acceptable to place it on the seat of your chair as well. Finally, at the end of the meal, you must put it back in its original position according to the proper regional rules mentioned previously. One can place it on your empty plate as well. 

Now you know some tips and tricks on napkin etiquette and folding. Fancy galas and events may not be something you are used to, but know you can wow anybody with your napkin knowledge.  

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