Quilling, or paper filigree, is the art of rolling and gluing thin strips of paper into different shapes to create decorative designs. These beautiful three-dimensional embellishments can then be used to decorate anything from a card or invitation, to a picture frame or scrapbook page. While the technique for quilling is very simple, the design element is very complex, making it an ideal craft for both beginners and more advanced because it can be as intricate or as simple as required.
Although the craft is believed to have been practiced since ancient Egyptian and/or Grecian times, it was during the Renaissance that nuns and monks developed the art. They used paper strips instead of the original metal wires that their ancestors had used. The name quilling is said to be derive from the fact that the nuns and monks originally used goose quills as their paper-rolling tool.
Tools and Materials
You will only need basic tools and materials for paper quilling; paper strips, a rolling tool of some kind and some glue. Paper strips are cut into various widths for quilling. These are typically 1/8″ (.3 cm), 1/4″ (.6 cm), 1/2″ (1.3 cm), and 3/8″ (1.6 cm). The 1/8″ (.3 cm) width is the standard in quilling and used in many patterns. Papers today come in many colours, types and weights. You select the weight according to what you want your finished design to look like. Lightweight paper is best as card will not roll very easily. Although some people cut their own paper, there are a growing number of retailers that offer a variety of papers. Alternatively you can buy pre-cut strips of paper or even ready-made quilled shapes in some craft shops.
The strips will need to be coiled in some way. A toothpick, needle, pin, hat pin or even a finger can be used. Alternatively there are two types of specially designed tools for quilling. These are the ‘slotted’ tool and the ‘needle’ tool. Other tools that quillers use are glue (any white glue that dries clear), scissors, ruler and tweezers. You may choose to use wax paper or a clear sheet protector to protect your worksurface while you are working. Using a damp cloth or sponge will keep your fingers from getting sticky. Tweezers will enable you to pick up your quilled pieces and arrange them in your design.
The basic quilling shapes are made by taking strips of paper and rolling them into tight or loose coils. As you become more proficient, you will learn to use different combinations of techniques, such as curling, pinching and creasing to form the designs. These coils are then fashioned into various shapes. These shapes are grouped together to make any design or pattern that you can imagine.
Before you start you might want to dampen the end of a strip to allow the paper to roll around the needle easily. ‘Conditioning the paper’ means running a fingernail or quilling tool along the length of the paper to loosen the fibres and make it easier to shape. Now you can practice a few basic quilling shapes. Tight circles can be created by winding the paper strip around a quilling tool or other type of needle. Hold it tightly and glue the end of the strip to the roll that you just made. Take it off the needle and you should have a tight circle. To make a loose circle follow the same steps as before but before you glue the end, take the roll off the quilling tool and let it unwind a bit before gluing the end down.
After mastering simple coils, you can then move onto more elaborate scrolls, creating hearts, spirals and many more designs. Experiment with your own ideas and you can make anything from stars and moons, to flowers and fish. Arrange several shapes together to make a collage or picture.