I simply adore linen napkins. They set a beautiful table and make any meal or occasion just a little more special. There was a time (prior to paper napkins) when they were commonplace at most tables.
Napkin rings were not only decorative, but also functional. During the nineteenth century, silversmiths created napkin rings that were engraved with a name or specific number for each family member. After meals, the napkins were returned to the proper ring and only laundered about once a week.
Unfortunately, today cloth napkins seem to be reserved for special occasions. However, there is a silver lining: Because fewer people use them, you can find gorgeous—and reasonably priced—linen napkins at antique shops and estate sales. I enjoy collecting the ones with the beautiful and detailed monograms of yesteryear.
If you are not into antiques, the selections and price ranges of modern linen napkins are endless. Monogramming is affordable and adds a very nice touch. Work with your local monogram shop to design something that’s befitting the style of your home.
Below are some of the most common questions that people have asked about the proper use of napkins.
When do I remove the napkin from the table?
If you are having dinner at someone’s home, you should wait until the hostess is seated and places her napkin in her lap. This is her signal to her guests that the meal has begun.
If you are dining in a restaurant or in a casual setting, you should place the napkin in your lap as soon as you are seated. At some nice restaurants, the waiter may assist you by unfolding and placing the napkin in your lap.
How should I place the napkin in my lap?
It should be partially unfolded with only one crease in the middle. The centerfold crease should be placed toward your body.
What do I do with the napkin when I leave the table during the meal?
Years ago, the rule was to place the napkin in your chair if you excused yourself during the meal. This placement was a signal to the wait staff that you would be returning. However, it is now acceptable to gently fold the napkin and place it to the left of your plate.
How often do I use my napkin?
You should use your napkin as often as you feel the need, but only to blot and never to wipe!
Try to keep the napkin as clean as possible. Do not wipe your lipstick on the napkin and only dab at the corners of your mouth. The napkin should not be used to wipe your nose or face. Also, the napkin should not be used to clean your silverware.
What do I do with my napkin when I am finished with the meal?
If the plate has already been removed, loosely fold and place it in the center of the place setting. Otherwise, just lay it gently to the left of your plate. The loose folds should cover any stains that may have occurred while you were dining.
Below are a few examples of table settings with different ideas for folding napkins.
A napkin can add a special touch to a simple place setting and notice how a white-on-white monogram pops off a busy patterned dinner plate.
A fold that really accentuates the monogram. The dark linen color is perfect for autumn. I use this napkin every Thanksgiving.
Because this place setting is a little more involved, I chose to simply fold the napkin and place it to the left.
The napkin ring at this place setting enhances the plate and the napkin.
Now, go rummage through your drawers, visit your local linen or antique shop and find the perfect napkins for you and your lifestyle. Cloth napkins set a beautiful table and make your family and friends feel so special.