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Choice of Napkin Material

Practical Constraints: All too often you are faced with a pile of napkins that just have to be folded: there may little choice of colors or patterns, and no choice of fabric. However, if you are planning in advance or purchasing napkins, it is helpful to know about some fabric properties.

Fabric we used: We created the napkins shown in the animations from a polyester tablecloth. The white cotton edge was used purely to provide a contrast for photography.

Shrinking: Natural fibers are prone to shrink, sometimes more in one axis than the other. Linen, cotton, hemp and wool are all liable to shrink. For example we found that even careful cold washing of linen caused asymmetrical shrinkage, i.e., more shrinkage in one axis than the other. This means that if you plan to use a complex design employing a precisely square napkin, it may be worth washing a test sample first. However, for most napkin folds, shrinkage is of little or no concern.

Resiliancy is the ability of a fabric to spring back to its original shape after being wrinkled, crushed, or distorted. This is often a disadvantage when folding a napkin. A fabric needs to both accept a fold but also have some natural stiffness to retain the design. Some authors recommend using an iron after each fold. However, we never used an iron on the polyester employed for our animations.

Wrinkling: Natural fabrics tend to show wrinkles more quickly. In the case of linen, even gently handling during folding may leave very obvious folds or creases.

Disclaimer: Any activity that involves ropes is potentially hazardous. Lives may be at risk - possibly your own. Considerable attention and effort have been made to ensure that these descriptions are accurate. However, many critical factors cannot be controlled, including: the choice of materials; the age, size, and condition of ropes; and the accuracy with which these descriptions have been followed. No responsibility is accepted for incidents arising from the use of this material.

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