What is quilling?

One of my favorite questions when someone sees my art for the first time is, “how do you do that?”

So what is quilling, anyway?

Paper quilling or paper filigree (for its similarity to filigree metalwork), is the art of rolling long, very narrow strips of paper tightly around a thin tool, forming the resulting spirals into a multitude of shapes, and then gluing those shapes into a pattern.


Who even comes up with this stuff?

Some of the earliest preserved pieces of antique quilling date back to the 16th century, when thrifty nuns would trim the gilded edges from the pages of old books and reuse them to decorate new books, documents and other religious artifacts. Over time, quilling became popular with young ladies of a certain social status – it was viewed as an appropriately genteel pastime on par with needlework or lacemaking. Quilling fell back into obscurity with the evolution of women as part of the working class, but has found new life in the past 30 years or so. Quilling is most often affixed to a flat surface, but modern quillers also use the techniques to make freestanding 3D objects, hanging ornaments, and jewelry.

Plumeria necklace and earrings

I’d never have the patience for that!

It’s true, quilling can certainly be time intensive: an average mosaic takes me between 30 and 50 hours to complete, and I know artists who enjoy extremely complex projects that run into the hundreds of hours! However, not every project needs to take a month or more to complete – once you master the basic shapes and techniques, you can create lovely one of a kind art that is as simple or complex as you like.

Do you have a quilling question I didn’t answer? Post it in the comments or contact me!

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