Folding paper towels and napkins can transform an ordinary table setting into something special.
With just a few simple folds, you can create beautiful designs that will impress your guests.
Overview of Paper Towel Folding
Paper towel folding, also known as paper towel origami, is the art of folding paper towels into decorative shapes and figures. It is similar to origami, but using thicker, softer paper towels and napkins instead of thin origami paper. Paper towels can be folded into shapes like hearts, flowers, animals, containers, and more.
Folding paper towels serves both decorative and functional purposes:
- Decorative folding creates elegant napkin designs for special occasions and holidays. Folded paper towels can be used as table centerpieces, place card holders, napkin rings, etc.
- Functional folding allows paper towels to be reused, taking up less space in the trash can. Folded paper towels also dry faster than loosely crumpled ones.
With some basic folds like the accordion, envelope, or fan folds, you can easily turn humble paper towels into works of art. The key is using square paper towels, starch, and some practice.
Key Takeaway: Paper towel folding transforms everyday paper towels into beautiful decorations and functional folded objects using origami-style folding techniques.
Paper towel folding requires just a few supplies:
- Paper towels – It’s best to use new, unused square paper towels. Look for good quality, thick paper towels that are lint-free. The thicker the paper towel, the better it will hold its shape when folded.
- Starch – To help the folds stay crisp, starching the paper towels prior to folding makes a big difference. Look for spray starches that contain sizing, which helps strengthen the fibers.
- Practice surface – Fold your paper towels on a clean, flat surface like a table or countertop. Hard surfaces are better than soft ones that allow towels to move around.
- Decorative accessories (optional) – Ribbons, buttons, flowers, and other embellishments can be used to decorate finished folded towels.
Having the right paper towels and spray starch is key to creating crisp folds that stay put. Avoid thin paper towels that easily tear and unravel.
Basic Folds and Techniques
Mastering a few basic folds is all you need to create gorgeous paper towel art. Here are some easy folds and techniques to practice:
The Accordion Fold
This creates a decorative fan or concertina shape.
- Fold the paper towel in half lengthwise. Unfold.
- Starting at one end, fold 2-3 inch sections back and forth in an accordion pattern.
- For a fan, fold the paper towel in half widthwise to secure the accordion pleats in place. For a concertina, leave as is.
The Triangle Fold
Triangles add interesting geometry and structure.
- Fold the paper towel diagonally to form a triangle.
- Fold the triangle in half into a smaller triangle.
- Continue folding into a smaller triangle if desired.
- Fold the outer points of the triangle inwards and flatten.
The Envelope Fold
This folded pocket is perfect for holding small gifts or notes.
- Fold the paper towel diagonally in both directions to form a cross shape.
- Fold the top point down and the bottom point up to make a rectangular center.
- Fold the left and right points into the center.
- Flip over and fold up the bottom edge to create the pocket opening.
The Roll Fold
Rolling creates round shapes like flowers and candles.
- Fold the paper towel into a long strip.
- Roll the strip tightly into a cylindrical shape.
- Pinch together or secure with tape.
The Fan Fold
Fanning sheets creates ruffles and texture.
- Fold the paper towel into accordion pleats.
- Hold the center firmly and pull the ends apart to fan out the folds.
- You can also fan out rolled paper towels.
Creative Folding Ideas and Instructions
Here are some fun and festive paper towel folding ideas to try:
Flowers are a beautiful decoration for any occasion. To create a paper towel flower:
- Fold a square diagonally twice to create a cross shape.
- Bring each corner to the center so the points meet.
- Flip over and fold corners into the center again.
- Hold down the center, pull each corner up to create petals.
For a rose, roll a paper strip into a spiral and pinch the center. For a tulip, fold the towel into a cone instead of a spiral. For leaves, fold a long strip into a zigzag.
The classic heart shape adds romance to any event. To fold a heart:
- Fold a rectangular paper towel in half lengthwise.
- Starting at one end, roll up both sides to meet in the middle.
- Gently press the rolls together to shape into a heart curve.
- Secure the loose corners inside the rolls or with tape.
For a framed heart, leave the center crease exposed rather than sealing the rolls together. Place a plate, candle, or photo in the center opening.
Cranes, swans, and chickens are easy to form with paper towels. To make:
- Fold paper into a triangle or cone shape for the body.
- Create the head by folding the tip and rounding edges.
- Make wings by folding and angling the sides.
- Tail feathers can be folded strips of paper.
Get creative with different bird shapes and use ribbon for legs or eyes.
Containers and Baskets
You can fold sturdy baskets to hold small items. To make:
- Roll a strip into a ring shape and glue or tape ends together.
- Cut vertical strips about an inch or two wide for the sides. Accordion fold them.
- Attach and bend the strips around the ring to form the container shape.
For handle options, fold paper strips into a loop or curl the rim of the container inwards to create finger holes.
Folded paper towels can become customized napkin rings. For a basic ring fold:
- Fold the paper towel into thirds widthwise.
- Roll up starting at one short end.
- Wrap the napkin around rolled paper towel and tuck inside the ring to secure.
Make it more decorative by folding an accordion pattern before rolling, or embellishing the ring with ribbon, buttons, or stickers.
Place Card Holders
Transform paper towels into functional place card holders:
- Fold into a four-point star shape.
- Flip over and fold up the bottom point.
- Fold star in half to close and place card inside bottom pocket.
You can also fold an envelope, pouch, or small box shape to hold place cards at each setting.
Folding Tips and Tricks
Here are some useful tips for getting the best results when folding paper towels:
- Use generous amounts of spray starch. Heavily starching the paper towels helps reinforce the fibers so shapes stay crisp and structured.
- Unfold pre-folded towels. Pre-folded paper towels won’t fold as sharply. Unfold them and re-fold into the desired shapes.
- Create sharp creases. Run your fingernail firmly across each fold line before unfolding to help create a clean crease.
- Work on a hard surface. Fold on a smooth countertop rather than a soft surface so the folds stay straight and firm.
- Secure folds if needed. A small piece of tape or a staple on the inside can hold intricate folds in place.
- Practice makes perfect! Don’t get frustrated if your first attempts don’t turn out. Paper towel origami takes some practice.
Take your time, keep the folds precise, starch generously, and your paper towel art will look stunning.
Key Takeaway: Heavily starching paper towels, unfolding pre-folded towels, and folding on hard surfaces helps create crisp origami shapes that hold their form.
Paper Towel Folding for Parties and Events
Beyond everyday use, creative paper towel folding really shines when decorating for special events and holidays. Here are some ways to use folded towels to embellish parties and events:
- Fold festive shapes like hearts for Valentine’s Day luncheons, bunnies for Easter brunches, or turkeys for Thanksgiving meals.
- Use coordinated designer paper towels and napkins to create a color palette that matches your event theme.
- Incorporate folded paper towels into table runners. Accordion fold colorful paper towels to make stripes down the table.
- Fold linens rather than paper for sturdier bowl or basket shapes to hold utensils, mints, and other items on buffet tables.
- Create wreaths, garlands, and tree shapes as part of holiday event decor.
- Fold whimsical animal shapes and tuck them into beverage glasses to identify guest drinks.
- Craft a bouquet of folded flower towels for the guest of honor at bridal and baby showers.
When creatively folded and incorporated into decor, humble paper towels can really elevate and bring to life all kinds of special events and gatherings.
Key Takeaway: Festive folded paper towel shapes work beautifully to embellish parties and events for holidays, showers, luncheons, and more.
Functional Paper Towel Folds
Besides purely decorative designs, folding paper towels in certain ways can also serve useful functions:
- Folding maximizes space – Paper towels folded into compact shapes rather than loosely crumpled take up much less space in wastebaskets and trash cans.
- Folded paper towels dry faster – The increased surface area of an intricately folded towel allows moisture to evaporate quickly. They dry faster than wadded up towels.
- Folded designs can be reused – Pretty folded paper towels can be hung up and enjoyed again rather than being tossed after one use.
- Folding makes removal easier – Pulling a folded paper towel from a stack or roll is easier than trying to extract a scrunched loose one.
- Folded towels stay cleaner – Properly folded towels avoid falling on dirty surfaces or catching dirt and germs.
Teaching kids to fold used paper towels neatly rather than jamming them into trash cans can make cleanup quicker and easier. The next time you grab a paper towel, take a few extra seconds to fold it in a functional way.
Paper Towel Folding Activities for Kids
Paper towel origami is a fun and creative craft that kids love. Here are some ways to teach paper folding skills to children:
- Have a paper towel folding race – see who can fold the fastest.
- Make a paper towel zoo – fold a different animal for each letter of the alphabet.
- Give folded paper flowers as gifts for caregivers.
- Fold functional shapes like trays, boxes, or bookmarks.
- Create a paper towel cityscape on a table with folded buildings.
- Teach basic folds like fans, spirals, and frogs. See what shapes they can invent.
- Form a paper towel chain by having kids fold accordions and attaching them.
- Fold paper towels into different shapes then practice “blind contour drawing” by tracing the folded shapes.
Paper towel origami develops fine motor skills, creativity, and problem-solving in kids. And it provides fun family bonding time and activities to engage children. Keep young ones entertained on a rainy day with a big stack of paper towels for folding.
Tips for Folding Paper Napkins
The techniques used to fold paper towels can also be applied to folding both paper and fabric napkins for table settings:
- Opt for square napkins which fold most easily into shapes.
- To reinforce thinner paper napkins, lightly starch before folding.
- Fold basic shapes like fans, rolls, spirals, or pockets to hold utensils.
- Make napkin rings by accordion folding colorful napkins and securing with ribbon.
- For fabric napkins, press folds with an iron so they stay put.
- Insert folded paper or cloth napkins inside woven or wire napkin rings.
- Fold dinner napkins into wide rectangles to place underneath dinner plates.
- Use contrasting napkins in different colors or patterns for visual interest.
Follow the same techniques on a smaller scale when folding napkins. With the right folding method and starch, paper and fabric cocktail napkins can become beautiful decorative accents.
Fun and Creative Paper Towel Folding Ideas
Here are even more fun paper towel designs to spark your creativity:
- Fold a paper towel into a child’s paper airplane or party hat for a whimsical effect.
- Create a paper towel top by folding a point and accordion sides.
- Fashion paper towel pom poms by wrapping paper strips around your fingers into bundles.
- Fold very long skinny triangles then bunch together to form a paper towel garland.
- Make a paper towel flower then use it as a “vase” to hold a real flower stem.
- Fold mini paper towel envelopes and place a piece of candy in each one as favors.
- Stack rings folded from paper towels into a tower for a modern art sculpture.
Let your imagination run wild! Half the fun is dreaming up new folded shapes and seeing if you can create them out of paper towels. With a little innovation, paper towels can be transformed into almost any decorative shape.
What types of paper towels work best for folding?
Thick, lint-free paper towels with a strong inner ply work best as they hold creases sharply and don’t tear easily. Avoid thin, loosely woven paper towels.
How do you keep folded paper towels from unfolding?
Generously starching paper towels before folding helps reinforce the fibers so shapes stay structured. Securing folds with staples or tape also helps.
What can you use instead of paper towels for folding?
Fabric napkins, handkerchiefs, lightweight placemats, or coffee filters can be folded using the same techniques. Avoid thinner tissues which tear too readily.
How do hotels and restaurants fold napkins and towels so neatly?
Commercial folding machines allow hotels and restaurants to quickly starch and fold linens by machine rather than by hand for uniform, crisp folds.
What are some quick and easy paper towel folds?
Some fast and simple folds are the fan fold (accordion pleats), the roll fold, and the triangle fold. You can make these shapes in under a minute.
The simple art of paper towel folding allows anyone to turn humble paper towels and napkins into beautiful works of art for their next party or everyday use. With a few fundamental origami folds and creative shape ideas, you can craft flowers, animals, decorations, or functional folded items.
While it does take some practice, paper towel origami is an inexpensive way to add a special decorative touch and useful folded objects to your home. Experiment with different designs and starch brands until you find a folding style that you enjoy.