Crafts Home >
A Basic Introduction To Quilling
Quilling is an
ancient art form, believed to have been originally developed by
nuns and monks in the Middle Ages, rolling off-cuts of paper from
illuminated manuscripts around duck quills to form scroll shapes,
hence the name ‘quilling’. These were then shaped and sometimes
gilded, and used to decorate religious items, with much the same
effect as filigree metalwork.
has developed to incorporate many individual styles, from the
traditional to the modern, and quillers often use other types of
materials in their work, including my own at
To Begin You will need:
• Strips of
paper of varying widths. The standard width in the UK is 3mm
(in inches: one eighth) for most items, 1.5mm for fine narrow
work, and 6mm, 9mm, or even 12mm for folded roses and fringed
You can buy quilling strips from hobby and craft shops, but to
start off with you only really need ‘scrappy’ stuff to practice
with, so I’d recommend using scrap paper put through a shredder:
they tend to give 3mm wide strips. The edges can be a bit ‘fuzzy’
with un-detached paper scraps, but they’re good enough to practice
rolling the strips at first.
• PVA glue. It’s easiest to use if it comes in a bottle
with a nozzle, but if you can’t get one like that you can pour
some out into a container for use.
• Tweezers. Although eyebrow tweezers will do if you can’t
find anything else it’s best if you get ones that come to a narrow
point, as fine as possible, without any ridged surface that could
crumple the paper. A good craft shop should stock something like
• Sharp scissors: they’re handy for trimming ends of
strips, fringing flowers etc.
• A flat surface to work on, preferably plastic or
• A quilling
tool. It can make learning how to roll the paper easier when
you start, which is good, although it also makes large spaces in
the centre of your roll, which can make it look less delicate.
• A cocktail stick. Use this to transfer glue from the pool
poured out to the end of your strip that needs gluing.
pictures are made from a few basic shapes, all very simple to make
one you’ve got the hang of rolling the paper, so we’ll start with
do without a tool: select a strip of paper, any length, but
preferably 3mm to start off with as it’s slightly easier to
control than 1.5mm or 6mm. I scrape the end of the paper with my
nail to start it curling a little bit, then squish the end into
the tiniest fold I can, and try to begin a roll between thumb and
index finger. Run the pad of your thumb up the side of your index
finger with the paper between them, and this should make the paper
curl up as it moves to the top. When you roll it to the middle
knuckle of your index finger, grab it with the tweezers around the
outside edge of the roll. This will keep it secure until you can
put it back between your thumb and forefinger and keep on rolling
it up again. Roll until you come to the end of the strip.
To do with a
tool: put the end of your strip into the slot on the tool
(apparently dampening the end can make it more likely to stay in
the slot) and roll!
There’s no rule
that says you have to try and do the roll exactly as I (try) to
describe it above: if you find a simple way to roll the strip,
then that’s the way to do it for you! Everyone discovers a
technique that works best for him or her, so experiment with
different ways of starting off the roll…
figured out how to start the roll off, you’ll find you have a
tightly rolled circle of paper (unless it slipped and uncoiled
when you were rolling, which means you’ll have an open circle)
This is a tight roll (also called a grape roll), and it can be
glued at this point and used as the basis for 3D designs. If you
let go of this tight roll (or it slipped as you wound it), it’ll
unwind itself and gradually relax into its uncoiled size. If you
glue this, it’s a loose roll. So, now onto gluing…
Holding the loose
roll in your hand, wipe the end of the strip against the glue
nozzle or dip the cocktail stick into your pool of glue, and dab
the glue onto the ripped end of the strip. If you feel the circle
has unrolled too much pull the loose end of the strip to tighten
it up, and press the glued side of the strip against the body of
the roll, using the tweezers to get in between the coils and press
the end down tightly without kinking the circle. This should give
you a circular shape, with the unrolled coils looping in the
centre into a curl.
To glue the tight
roll, just don’t let go of it to let it unroll, and glue the end
against the tightly rolled body. From the basic circle in its
loose and tight forms we make all the other shapes.
Easy to make, it’s just the basic strip rolled up and glued!
Support the central coil with a fingertip, and find the point
where the strip is glued to the body of the roll. When you find
it, take your thumb and index finger of the hand not supporting
the coil, and pinch the sides, making the glued edge the point of
the pinch. This will kink the loops of the coil and create a
teardrop shape. It’s not essential to make the glued bit the tip
of the point, but it can help to keep the sides looking smoother
as the tiny ‘bump’ of the glue won’t show as much.
From the teardrop shape, pinch the end opposite the tip, making a
shape with two pointed ends.
From a diamond, pinch two points in the smooth sides, in the same
way as making the diamond shape originally. This should give a
shape with the four points roughly equal in distance from each
These are some of
the main shapes. You’ll find that you’ll start needing other
shapes eventually, but they can be easily adapted from these
basics. A few other basic shapes are illustrated here.
Most things can be made through quilling, you just need to be able
to ‘visualise’ the shapes that things are made up out of, e.g.
circles, teardrops, squares etc. A simple piece to make using
these shapes is a duckling.
Click Here for Quilled Duckling Instructions
So, there you go,
a quick run-through of the basics of quilling. I hope you decide
to have a go, it’s very easy to pick up, and there’s so many ways
to develop and experiment with those simple little strips of