What Is Paper Quilling?

By Joanne Thomas

Quilling is an art form in which thin strips of paper are rolled, sculpted and glued together to make ornate and delicate looking patterns. The coils of paper can be used to decorate objects, arranged on a background to be framed, or sculpted into three dimensional pieces.

The Name "Quilling"

Quilling is also known as paper filigree, paper-rolling and paper-scrolling.

There are two different explanations given for the name quilling. Some say it comes from the use of a quill as a tool to roll the paper strips into coils, while others contend that the coils of paper created resemble rows of quills.

Uses for Quilling

Popular shapes created from paper coils include flowers, leaves, ornate scrolls and abstract patterns.

Quilling can be used to create art pieces by gluing a design of unlimited colors and patterns onto a flat cardboard background. Beyond this, quilling is used to decorate items such as picture frames, coasters, jewelry and trinket boxes, invitations and greetings cards.

Quillers can purchase boxes, cabinets and other items with recessed surfaces especially designed to be decorated with quilling.

In addition to gluing paper coils to a background, quilling can involve sculpting and gluing coils together to create free standing three dimensional objects.

History of Quilling

Quilling is a very old art form that can be traced back as far as the 15th century. It was used in France and Italy by nuns to decorate religious paraphernalia, with gilded paper used to emulate more expensive gold and silver filigree and iron or ivory carvings.

Quilling is considered by some to have roots in Ancient Egypt where thin metal strips were used for decoration.

Quilling was taught to upper class ladies in England during the 18th century. It was considered an innocent pastime for young ladies.

Quilling was brought to North America by early settlers.

Modern Quilling

Although originally a pastime limited to upper class ladies, in modern times quilling is popular with people from all over the world and from every class. It is a fairly inexpensive hobby as there are very few tools required to enjoy the art of quilling.

Although the basic requirements for quilling are strips of paper, glue and something round like a toothpick to coil the paper around, there are now many tools available to aid the modern quiller, such special templates and combs.

Quilling has seen a recent resurgence in popularity with the development of scrap-booking as a hobby. Quilling is complimentary to scrap-booking as just one of many ways to decorate pages with paper.

Fun Fact

Quilling was a hobby of the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen, who mentions the art in her novel “Sense and Sensibility”.

About the Author

A writer of diverse interests, Joanne Thomas has penned pieces about road trips for Hyundai, children's craft projects for Disney and wine cocktails for Robert Mondavi. She has lived on three continents and currently resides in Los Angeles, where she is co-owner and editor of a weekly newspaper. Thomas holds a BSc in politics from the University of Bristol, England.