Quilling Makes a Comeback

Reader Contribution by Lois Hoffman
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Recently, I was with my friend Chris at a quilt shop and was marveling at all the new designs. She is an accomplished quilter; I am not but I do admire the work that goes into making them.

When we were ready to leave, I saw a few examples that looked like no quilting I have ever seen. No wonder, I must really need new glasses because the beautiful patterns were examples of quilling, not quilting.

Quilling has nothing to do with quilting, nor does it have anything to do with the quills of hedgehogs or porcupines, as the name would suggest. Instead, quilling is an art form that involves the use of paper strips that are rolled, shaped and glued together to create decorative designs. It is also known as paper filigree and dates back hundreds of years.

During the Renaissance, nuns and monks would roll gold-gilded paper remnants that were trimmed during the bookmaking process and use them to decorate religious objects. This art form was much more economical than using gold filigree, which is a delicate form of jewelry medal work that is constructed of tiny beads or twisted threads made of gold or silver. Quilling became the pastime of the 18th and 19th century for young ladies in England who would decorate tea caddies, pieces of furniture and other items with paper filigree.

This art form crossed the Atlantic with the colonists who added quilling to candle sconces and other items for home decoration. Of all the items where quilling is used, it is probably best known for bringing personality to homemade cards.

Photo by Getty Images/Oksana_S.

It is regaining popularity because you do not need to invest in expensive supplies in order to engage in this art. All that is really needed are strips of lightweight paper, glue and a tool to roll the paper.

Quilling got its name because, originally, the paper would be rolled onto feathers. Today, specialty tools can be purchased or you can use toothpicks, needles, awls, bamboo skewers or any other round and cylindrical-shaped items.

Essentially, the object is to fully roll the strip of paper around the tool to produce a coil. After the paper is fully coiled, it is allowed to relax enough so that it slips off the tool.

A tiny drop of glue is then applied to the end to secure it and keep the coil intact. This is the basic design.

If you purchase your tools, there are two specific types from which to choose. A slotted tool is the easiest to use because it has a slot to start the strip of paper in, much like threading a sewing needle. The downside to this type of tool is that it leaves a tiny crimp in the center of the coil where it was held in the slot.

The needle tool is harder to master because there is no slot to hold the piece of paper but the finished coil will have a perfectly round center. Many folks start with the slotted tool and move to the needle type after they are more experienced.

The paper strips can also be purchased at arts and craft stores or strips can be cut at home on a paper cutter. Some of the packages contain certain colors and enough material to finish certain designs.

Practice strips can be cut from old computer paper, construction paper or any other types of paper that you have on hand. The standard size for these strips is 1/8 in width and 21-1/4 inches in length.

By pinching and adjusting the tension of the basic paper coil, different quilled shapes are made. Some of the more basic ones are tear drops, curved tear drops, s-scrolls, heart scrolls and squares. Coils of various colors are shaped into these designs and then glued onto objects to create exquisite designs like butterflies, peacocks, angels and just about any design you want to use.

Patterns can be purchased that will give exact instructions on the size of quilling paper needed, the colors and step-by-step instructions how to create certain designs. Many folks also like to come up with their own patterns and create custom designs.

Although quilling is usually done on cards, the sky is really the limit as to what can be decorated. Jars, wall art, lamp shades, Bible and book covers and jewelry boxes are just some of the items.

Quilling has even been fashioned into ear rings and other costume jewelry. Quilled mosaics have been created with floral patterns and paper lace is sometimes made from quilling.

With the recent popularity of scrapbooking, quilling has found its way into the pages of that art as well as on wedding invitations and birth announcements. Often, this art form is combined with die cutting, rubber stamping, painted pictures and other crafts to make unique, one-of-a-kind items.

Although the original process has remained the same over the years, quilling designs and specialty supplies have become more intricate. Spirals that have been precariously folded are pasted so that they form three dimensional figures. Combing quilling is a technique used in making costume jewelry where paper strips are braided through the tines in a comb.

Quilling is even becoming popular for use in therapy sessions. It is being touted as a mode of relaxation and as a way to help kids develop motor skills.

Just like quilting, quilling is something that I admire… from afar. When I listed the supplies needed, I inadvertently forgot to mention patience.

It is a tedious and time-consuming craft. However, if you have the patience to indulge in this art form, the rewards are beautiful designs that can hold their own against other intricate art.

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