Napkins - when you're out, if you’re given one, use it. Why?
1. Once it’s been put out for you, it’s going to be washed afterwards. I’m not putting it back in the “armoire”.
2. Check your glassware halfway through the evening. I bet it’s rimmed with greasy debris. Not a good look for those sitting next to you. Dab you mouth occasionally, with aforementioned napkin.
At table, what do you do with it?
When you sit down, claim your space. Take your napkin. It might be across the centre of the place setting, it might be to the left hand side, even under your fork. A few years ago, heaven forbid, it might even have been folded into a fan and placed in your wine glass! Whatever, “take” your napkin, make it yours and place it to the left of your setting.
When you are about to start eating, place your napkin, folded in half on your lap. Unless you need to leave the table, that’s where it stays for the whole meal.
If you need to get up, place your napkin, loosely folded on the seat of your chair from where you will retrieve it when you come back to table.
When you leave, never fold your napkin. NEVER. It suggests you think it might be reused. Place it, even toss it, even with a little crumpled distain, like a used dishcloth, on the table where you were sitting.
You may be a little tidy person who doesn’t want to leave a mess. Nonetheless, never fold a napkin at the end of the meal (unless you’re going to use it again – more of that later).
These napkins are all "pre-loved", some from markets, some from junk shops, some from overseas web sites. If I need a lift between chores, I sit and trawl through one of my favourite sites. They ship and are very dependable www.lelingedejadis.net/
Here, clockwise from top LH corner...
Chinese ecru linen (47cm sq / 18" sq), heavily embroidered (and probably not intended to be ironed by the "lady of the house").
Linen from antique shop in France, monogrammed AC in red cross stitch.
Green & white linen, (52cm sq / 20" sq), Australian c.1960 Adelaide Antique Market
Linen (ecru and becoming whiter with each wash) (60cm x 75cm / 20" x 30"), monogrammed HF from an antique fair in the Parc Monceau.
Linen from antique shop in Montpellier, (60cm x 75cm / 20" x 30"), monogrammed HB entwined with a pair of dragonflies.
Size is an indication of their age, of changing economies and of their formality. (Generally, pre-WWI are around a whopping 85cm x 75cm / , 33" x 30" the larger, the older.)