Sunday, January 24, 2010

Quilling (Paper Filigree)

My very first quilling project (about 5 inches in diameter):

Many of you know that I write freelance for a couple of web sites. In the course of my research for an article, I discovered quilling, an art form using paper strips that are curled around a small metal tool and glued together to make pretty pictures.

The art form, according to some sources, dates back to almost the invention of paper itself. However, it was highly popular among "ladies" in American colonial times, both in North America and in Europe. Some say the name comes from the fact that goose quills were used as quilling tools, but they would have been too thick. My favorite source on the history of quilling says it just may be that the name derives from porcupine quills - the Native Americans, who used porcupine quills in their art and beading, might have given the idea to the colonial women.

For this snowflake, I found a free snowflake pattern by Denise of Custom Quilling Supplies - you can buy kits and patterns or find free ones. Or you can come up with your own. Most of the stuff I saw online by other people looked "craftsy" to me and didn't inspire. However, a photo of a quilled ring of keys made by Ann Martin took my breath away! I was so taken by it that I had to go out and get myself a tool and try it. So, a trip to Jo-Ann Fabric and a $6 quilling tool later, here's my first project.

Here a picture of the tool:

You can buy quilling paper, which is usually 1/8 inch thick, or you can cut it yourself. I couldn't find any at the craft store, so I cut it myself, which makes for a slightly sloppy appearance because I didn't get all the strips exactly the same width:

First you thread the end of a paper strip through the slot in the metal prong of the quilling tool:

Then you roll the tool until the paper is coiled up all the way around the metal prong. You can control the diameter of the coil by using different lengths of paper:

Then you pull the paper coil off the tool:

You can further control the diameter of the coil by loosening it a little or keeping it tight. Then you glue the end to the coil with a minute amount of Elmer's or craft glue on a toothpick:

Glued coil:

Next you shape the coil into whatever your pattern calls for. You can make a teardrop by pinching one side:

Or you can make an eye by pinching two sides:

You can make a heart by pinching three points and bending the coil around the quilling tool:

There are several other shapes you can make, such as crescents, using the pinching/wrapping/curling technique on the coils. However, I didn't need any of these for my pattern. I did need a couple of non-coil shapes, though. Here is an open V and an open heart that are used in the snowflake:

So, with six eyes, six V's, six open hearts and six coil hearts, I glued them together in a symmetrical configuration to make the snowflake. You have to use stick pins to hold the pieces in place until the glue dries. Then, because it likely has stuck to the paper under it, you realize you should have used wax paper underneath so that it's easier when you unstick the snowflake from the table!

I wish you could see my snowflake in person - even if it is amateurish, it is so beautiful and delicate! I am in awe of someone who is accomplished at this paper art. It's a very contemplative thing to do and I'm looking forward to more complex and intricate designs in the future. Maybe some day I'll even design my own pattern!

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At January 24, 2010 at 5:19 PM , Blogger Ann Martin said...

Hi, I'm thrilled you were inspired by my keys and am happy you've started to quill. You're already well on your way - your snowflake is very nicely done! They're hard to do as they need to be symmetrical, but you did a great job. I'm so glad you mentioned how quilling can be contemplative... I couldn't agree more. Have fun with it!

At January 25, 2010 at 2:18 AM , Blogger Custom Quilling said...

I'm so pleased you like my snowflake design!
There's loads of more free items like, patterns, shape charts and more... stop by to check them out.
By the way wonderful quilling with the snowflake!

Keep on Quillin',
Denise ~ Custom Quilling Supplies


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