Learning Paper Quilling: A Beginner’s Project & Tips

Learning Paper Quilling: A Beginner’s Project & Tips main article image
Posted on July 9, 2021 by Kate Wilson

As you may have seen in my most recent article, I’ve been learning new crafts. I’ve dabbled in a little bit of everything over the years, but paper quilling is something that I’ve always wanted to try but never had the time.

What is Paper Quilling?

Paper quilling is the art of manipulating and assembling small strips of paper into detailed designs, commonly used for greeting cards, jewelry, and more. You can buy paper quilling strips pre-cut or cut them yourselves. There are also paper quilling tools that are helpful, such as the slotted quilling tool, shape sizers, and husking boards, which are small boards with removable pegs that allow you to create custom shapes.

The History of Paper Quilling

Paper quilling originated in the 15th century and was believed to have been created by struggling churches to decorate religious objects to save money. Once the paper quilling was painted, it could easily pass for wrought iron or carved ivory, two details which were very expensive. Paper quilling saw a resurgence of popularity in the 18th century and was deemed as being a “proper” pastime for young ladies and ladies of leisure, as it didn’t require too much physical effort.  Following the 18th century, the popularity of paper quilling waned, but is seeing more interest in recent years.

Learning about Paper Quilling

Before I started my first project, I wanted to look at other quilling projects people had done to get an idea of what they look like. Of course, there are many great tutorials online, and they all vary in detail and complexity. Luckily for me, The Artistry has some great articles about paper quilling. Here are my favorites:

My First Project

Since this was my first time doing a paper quilling project, I decided to stick with something simple, and just make a flower to attach to a greeting card that I plan to send to my grandma. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A blank greeting card (I cut mine out on my Cricut, but you can find blank greeting cards at most craft or office supply stores)
  • Pre-cut paper quilling strips
  • Paper craft glue
  • A quilling circle sizer
  • A slotted paper quilling tool

For my greeting card, I made one with a green patterned background, because my grandmother’s favorite color is green. I went with a standard A7 (5×7 inches) size card. For my pre-cut quilling strips, I purchased those via a kit on Amazon. You can cut your own strips, but it’s easier to use precut strips to make sure they’re straight and even. The glue that I prefer using is the Elmer’s Craft Bond Paper Craft Glue Gel, because it dries clear and doesn’t drip or run. And finally, the slotted quilling tool was part of the previously mentioned quilling kit I had purchased off of Amazon. If you don’t have one, you can use a toothpick or bamboo skewer to wrap your paper around.

Here’s how I made my flower:

  • For the center of the flower, I used a yellow paper strip. I placed the end in the slotted quilling tool, and slowly coiled the paper around the tool until I reached the end. I wanted a tight coil for this piece, so I carefully glued the end of the paper down and placed it on the table to dry.

  • For the flower petals, I chose blue paper strips. I made six petals, each one in a teardrop shape. To make a teardrop shape, you’ll want to place the end of your paper strip in the slotted quilling tool, and carefully coil the paper around the tool until you reach the end. Remove this from the tool carefully, and place in your circle sizer. This allows the coil of paper to expand to the size of the circle you’ve chosen. Carefully pick it up, and glue down the end. Once you’ve glued the end, hold the center of the paper coil between your forefinger and your thumb on your non-dominant hand (for me, this is my left hand). Pull the middle of the circle back as far as it can go with your non-dominant hand and use your dominant hand to pull the other side of the circle into a point. How pointy you make it is up to you – it could be more rounded, or it could be a sharp point.

  • For the stem and leaves of the flower, I used green paper quilling strips. The stem is simply a piece of a strip cut to the length I wanted – about two and a half inches. The leaves are similar to the flower petals, but instead of making only one end pointed, you make both ends pointed by squeezing the circle on either side to elongate it.

Watch the video on the first part of the project

Assembling the Card

Once I had my paper quilling shapes made and they had dried, I set out to assemble the card. Using my Elmer’s Craft Bond Paper Craft Glue Gel, I glued the yellow center of the flower to the middle of my card. Then, I glued the strip of green paper right below it, so it would look like the stem was coming from the center. After that, I glued my petals around the center of the flower. I went with six petals, but you can use an odd number of petals if you prefer. Finally, I glued my paper quilling leaf shapes onto the flower stem. I made sure to let my card dry for at least 15-20 minutes before I moved it, but as with most adhesives, the longer time you wait, the better. Here’s how it turned out:

Isn’t it cute? I just know my grandmother will love it, and it will be a nice addition to the pictures I send her every few months.

Watch the video on the second part of the project

Final Thoughts & Tips

So, for a beginner, I feel that this project was pretty easy – maybe too easy. I wanted to choose something that I could enjoy but also complete relatively quickly. From a beginner’s perspective, the best tips I can give you are:

  • Take your time. You’ll want to make sure you’re slowly coiling the paper around the quilling tool and not going too fast.
  • Don’t be discouraged if your shapes don’t all look the same – you can’t expect them to come out perfectly uniform after the first try. With practice, you’ll be able to make them more consistently uniform.
  • Watch and read tutorials! It’s what they’re there for.
  • And most importantly, have fun.

Have you ever tried paper quilling before? What do you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

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