Paper quilling is believed to have originated in either China or Egypt, possibly dating back to around 105 A.D. Also known as paper filigree because of the fine, scrolling effect of the rolled-up paper strips, quilling was a pastime taught to young ladies in the 18th and 19th centuries, along with embroidery and needlepoint.
The most basic shape used in quilling is the loose roll, and from this you can create many other shapes, such as diamonds, squares, teardrops and hearts. Once the loose roll has been learnt, it's relatively easy to shape and pinch the quilled paper into other shapes. Quilling paper is usually bought in strips, ready for rolling, but there is no reason why you shouldn't create your own papers by cutting narrow strips of coloured craft paper.
Animals and Nature
Small animals such as mice, chicks and rabbits are good quilling subjects as they have rounded body shapes. Butterflies, flowers and birds are similarly suitable, with flowers being the easiest as stylised representations of flowers are acceptable to most people. Learn how to make quilled ovals and circles and lay them down on the backing paper as the petals. Use unrolled strips of paper as flower stems and grasses. Teardrop shapes in green are ideal as leaves.
You can quill the alphabet by making basic rolled shapes and pinching them to form letters to spell out Christmas greetings on the front of cards. Mix quilling with rubber stamping by adding a couple of green, glittered, quilled Christmas trees beside a stamped snowman. Christmas wreaths are made up from marquise shapes glued into a circle, with tightly rolled red pegs forming berries. Both designs could be used on greeting cards or gift tags.
Don't limit quilled designs to flat pictures on greeting cards. Make an angel by layering and gluing rolled circles on top of each other. Make the bottom circle larger than the other, gradually reducing the circle size up to the shoulders. Stand a roll on its side to create a head, then glue on loose coils to represent hair. You can make trees in a similar way, by layering up triangles.
Create Your Own Designs
With a basic outline drawing it's possible to design your own quilled patterns. Get inspiration for design layouts and ideas from colouring books that use bold, simple lines for basic shapes. Study each drawn shape to determine which quilled shape will fit it, then build up the quilled version of the picture for a greeting card or even a quilled picture to hang on the wall.
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