Paper Filigree

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Paper filigree or quilling is a paper craft that consists in rolling thin strips of paper with the help of a needle point tool to form basic shapes that are glued together creating all different kinds of figurines simulating metal filigree.

Paper quilling can be used to do a great variety of designs such as flowers and animals that are used to ornate scrapbooks, greeting cards and pictures; figurines like Christmas ornaments, Nativity scenes and jewelry.

Quilled Flowers

The history of paper quilling is very difficult to pin down. Speculation about the earliest paper quillers and their material sources abound because there is no definitive evidence. Probably paper quilling dates back to the same time paper was invented in China.

The earliest piece of preserved paper quilling was created in the 1600's but there are references to pre-17th Century works.

Tradition holds that the art form began in monasteries, abbeys and convents. In the Medieval and Renaissance periods religious houses worked preserving knowledge so they had access to paper, vellum and parchment.

When a page was trimmed for a scroll, a manuscript or a book the scraps were probably saved rather than discarded because paper was very precious in those times.

Most sources maintain that early work was used on reliquaries, icons and niches in churches and chapels.

In England on the Victorian era, noble ladies crafted paper quilling to decorate tea boxes and in that time the craft was exported to the American colonies where some sources claim that it got the "quilling" name because goose quills were used to make the filigree.

In the next years quilling production dwindled and was almost forgotten until the 1970's when interest revived and quilling techniques spread around the world.

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Vintage quilling
1700's paper filigree picture frame

Paper Quilling Tools
Thanks to the great popularity of paper quilling there is no need to cut the paper strips as different colors and sizes are available on specialized shops and specific tools have been created to make the paper rolling easier. There are two kinds of quilling tools:
  • Slotted Quilling Tool
  • The tool's end has a small slot into which the end of a paper strip is inserted. This slot holds the paper in place as the user turns the quilling tool to wind the paper strip.

  • Needle Quilling Tool
  • The end is smooth and pointed like a needle. The paper is wrapped around this end and the tool is rolled until the paper is wound around it

Also needed to do quilling is a white glue that dries clear, tweezers and pins.

Quilling tools kit

Quilling tools kit

Quilling Artistic Expressions
Many consider quilling only a hobby but several artists recognize the expressive potential of paper filigree and achieve an amazing degree of skill and delicacy in their designs.

Quilling artwork

In Mexico paper quilling has given artisans an excellent medium to express their creativity and talent and it is used to make Christmas ornaments, nativity scenes, pictures, and jewelry such as pendants and earrings.

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