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Embrace hospitality with a folded napkin

| Saturday, Dec. 22, 2007

The roast is in the oven. Dessert is on the sideboard. The table is set. The glasses are polished.

The children are playing quietly, and you still have 20 minutes before the first guest arrives.

You have just enough time to add one last flourish to your holiday meal.

An elegantly folded napkin is a surprisingly simple way to make sure every guest at your holiday table feels as though he's sitting someplace special.

It shouldn't take more than a few minutes to complete a half-dozen or more of any of the five folding patterns that we've chosen.

Some, such as The Fan, are almost intuitive. Even the more complex Bishop's Hat is easy to turn out in volume after you've practiced the pattern. The Buffet Bundle comes in handy when you're serving buffet-style.

For those of you who still think cloth napkins are a little fussy, almost all of these patterns can be created with paper napkins as well.

Here are some tips to make your folding easy and pleasant:

• Although none of these folds is difficult, it's best to take a few minutes to practice a day or two before your dinner party.

• Folding is easier and designs look crisper when you're working with napkins that are truly square with perpendicular sides, not slanting toward parallelograms.

• Iron or steam wrinkles from napkins, taking care to create smooth squares.

• Patterns such as The Fan and The Circular Fan will work well with soft napkins. Others such as the Standing Fan and The Bishop's Hat will work better with napkins that hold their shape more firmly. To ensure crispness, use a little spray-on starch when ironing.

• Napkins printed with stripes, plaids or other designs work better with some designs than they do with others. Experiment to see which you find most pleasing.

• When working with napkins that have an obvious right and wrong side, be sure to establish which side should be facing upward when folding begins. You don't want to end up with a napkin that's been folded inside-out.

• If you don't have napkin rings, you can fashion them out of lengths of ribbon, metallic wrapping cords or other materials.

• Napkin folding can quickly turn into an addictive hobby. If you want to venture into additional or more complex folds, there's a multitude of books available at book stores and libraries.

You can also find additional information at these Web sites:

Robbie's Kitchen

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