What is quilling?

Quilling is a form of papercraft with ancient origins that allows you to make some beautiful paper sculptures and decorations. While it’s distinct from other papercraft disciplines like origami and cardmaking, because it uses similar materials and skills you can combine quilling projects with other papercrafting to create more elaborate and impressive results!

History

It is believed that quilling has its origins in ancient Egypt, but it first enters the concrete historical record in Europe in the 16th Century. Religious communities had both plentiful supplies of paper and the quills to wind it around that give the craft its name. Nuns would create intricate quilled designs to decorate religious artworks. In less prosperous communities, they would use gold or silver painted paper, and use quilling as a near seamless replacement for the filigree decorations used in richer areas.

During the Victorian age it was a popular pastime for wealthy women (who again, had access to the paper supplies the craft requires) and Jane Austen even mentions it in ‘Sense and Sensibility’.

The craft

The craft of quilling consists of rolling strips of paper to make delicate, ornate decorations. One strip of paper can be rolled into a simple design like a spiral, or a teardrop, and more ambitious designs can be created by gluing quilled strips together or attaching them to other papercrafts. You can also make more elaborate designs with a single strip by varying how tightly you make each roll, and by squeezing or pressing simple shapes to produce variations like diamonds and tulips – these make great decorations for cards, invitations and scrap books!

Tools

There are a few simple tools you’ll need to buy to get started with quilling.

  • Scissors

Cutting paper to size is important – although you can buy uniformly cut quilling paper from craft shops – so having a pair of sharp scissors that won’t leave ragged edges is a good place to start.

  • A quilling tool

There are two principle types of a quilling tool, which both secure the centre of the paper in place while you roll it. A slotted quilling tool is easier for beginners to use, but it does leave a noticeable crease in the middle of your finished quill. A needle quilling tool is a little harder to handle but leaves a cleaner finished product.

  • Tweezers

Useful for finishing delicate projects and positioning small details in a larger work, it’s wise to have a pair of dedicated crafting tweezers outside your vanity or bathroom cabinet.

  • Glue

Most quilling projects require finishing with glue – even just a small dab to secure the end of a strip of paper on a finished design. Regular PVA glue will be perfectly adequate for most of your projects, but you may wish to make sure you have some transparent glue for especially delicate finishes.

Quilling paper

You’ll need to buy specialist quilling paper. This comes in a wide variety of colours and is cut to regularly sized strips, but most importantly it’s heavier than standard printer paper. Quilling uses text weight paper, which makes it easier to roll without creasing and helps it retain the shape you curl it into.

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