Quilling for Greeting Cards

Quilling dates back to some time between the 14th and 16th centuries CE. It's a fine and delicate papercraft consisting of strips of paper decoratively rolled and combined to form an image. The name comes from the fact that the quill of a bird's feather was used to wind the paper on. Quilling is also known as paper filigree and reflects the nature of its look to that of fine lacework or that done by jewelers. In addition to its use on greeting cards, quilling can also be found on gift boxes, hats, or as artwork itself.

quilling paperWhat you need

Paper - The most common size for quilling is 1/8" wide (also known as 3mm). One way is to use a paper shredder but it's hard to find one that cuts 1/8". Another way is to use a paper trimmer. If you're thinking about using scissors, you'd be better off buying pre-cut paper strips. They're inexpensive and you are always assured uniform width.

Another consideration is the weight of the paper strips. Most common card stock is too heavy. You need a relatively light paper to ensure smooth curling. That's another reason to buy ready-made strips, plus they come in lengths usually appropriate for quilling.

Quilling tool - The tools come two ways: slotted or not slotted. The non-slotted tool is usually called a quilling needle. The slotted tool is a little easier to learn with. The needle is preferred by many for the small center hole it produces. They're inexpensive, but you can also use a hat pin or a round toothpick.

Glue - You want a glue that dries clear, dries rather quickly, and holds well. Here are three suggestions: 1) Zig Memory System 2-way glue pen; 2) Yes glue; 3) Scrappy Glue. All three are acid-free.

quilling boardTweezers - Precise placement when assembling your pieces is very difficult with just your fingers.

Template - Not necessary but a big help if you need to make a bunch of pieces a uniform size, such as petals of a flower. To use, simply place the paper roll in one of the desired holes and let uncoil to the perfect size. Templates come either with or without a cork work board.

Cork work board - Used for assembling designs - straight pins with plastic heads hold items in place while pieces are arranged and then glued together to make the finished design.

How it's done

Quilling is one of those things that is simple but not easy. In other words, you most likely will need to spend some time practicing. Have patience and realize that you're going to go through a fair amount of paper to get the results you want.

Using a slotted tool - Hold the tool in one hand and with the other hand, slide the paper into the slot so that the end of the paper is not sticking out beyond the slot. Turn the tool to wind the paper onto the tool in a nice, tight roll. Once all the paper is wound onto the tool, carefully remove the roll of paper. Tear a little bit off the end of the paper, then glue the torn end to the roll and hold until the glue grabs. The reason for tearing is that a torn end blends better than a cut end. What you have just made is known as a "tight roll."

Using a quilling needle (non-slotted) - Hold the needle in one hand. Wet the tip of the paper with your mouth (this makes the end of the paper curl around the needle easier and neater). Using the thumb and index finger of the other hand, roll the paper onto the needle. The thumb and index finger motion is similar to unscrewing the cap off a tube of toothpaste.

Loose roll - The loose roll is the most commonly used type. It forms the starting point for most other shapes. Make by starting with a tight roll as above, but after removing from the tool, allow to unwind by placing on the table and letting go. Then glue into place.

quilling marquisequilling teardropTeardrop - (left) pinch the roll on one side. The teardrop is good for flower petals.


Marquise - (right) pinch the roll on two sides.

quilling squarequilling triangleTriangle - (left) push in equally on three sides at once, far enough to create nice sharp corners.


Square - (right) start by making a marquise, then turn it 90° and do it again.

quilling scrollScroll - (left) Make a loose roll halfway along the strip of paper then turn it around and do it again from the opposite side.

quilling heartHeart - (right) fold the strip of paper in half then make a loose roll from one end stopping short of the halfway crease. Now do the same for the opposite side making you roll in the opposite direction.

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