While the ancient Greeks and Romans used cloths to wipe their mouths when eating, modern napkins evolved over several centuries. They began as large communal towels, but by the 18th century had developed into the small individual napkins known today. As napkins appeared in Europe, the art of paper folding, or origami, developed in Japan. The two merged into a single art form during the Victorian era when Europeans, enamoured by the exotic designs of the East, incorporated the complicated folding patterns into their table settings.
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Basic Origami Folds
There are hundreds of origami designs, but classic styles create a beautiful appearance with only a few basic steps. The pyramid design, a simple triangular pattern, is most popular. Try the simple fan fold, in which a napkin ring serves as the base for the fan. An arrow fold requires no starch, as it is a free-flowing fold.
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Pocket folds are both functional and creative. Instead of laying the silverware directly on top of the napkin or the table, create a pouch to hold the silverware. You can make the pocket as simple or as intricate as you like. Well-known designs include the basic pocket, fancy pocket and the diamond pocket. In the diamond design, the bottom of the pocket forms a point rather than the squared bottom of the basic and fancy pouches.
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Folds that allow the napkin to stand upright on the table or plate often appear in formal settings. The most common standing fold, other than the basic pyramid, is the standing fan fold. Instead of using a ring at the base of the napkin, the table or plate serves as its base. Other designs include the rosebud, bishop's hat, and crown folds, as well as the sail napkin and bird of paradise.
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Placing folded napkins in a water or wine goblet adds dimension and height to an ordinary place setting. A goblet can hold the basic fan fold, as well as more complex designs. A fleur-de-lis fold adds French flair, while a lily design complements any sophisticated table. A candle fan fold, while more time-consuming to create, suits those who prefer unusual arrangements.