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what is quilling

What Is Quilling and What You Need To Know To Get Started

You’ve probably seen those long strips of coloured paper in craft stores and wondered what are they used for. They are the main supply for quilling! But… what is quilling?!

You’ve probably heard of quilling before, or maybe you’ve seen the final product: beautiful paper designs, similar to origami.

What is Quilling?

Quilling is the art of rolling, shaping and glueing strips of paper into decorative items.

It’s a crafting activity also known as paper filigree.

flowers quilling

Is Quilling Difficult?

Depends.

Since you buy the stips of paper, it can be quite easy.

Rolling the paper might be tricky at the beginning, but with some practice, you’ll nail it soon enough.

Quilling is not difficult, but I would say it can be quite time-consuming. If you go for a super complex design, you’ll have to roll and glue a lot before you can actually start building your design.

What Tools You Will Need

Since it’s the art or rolling paper, the first thing you will need is paper, obviously.

Quilling Paper

The good news is that quilling paper can be bought from the craft store, pre-cut.

The regular, most used quilling paper is 3 mm wide.

It comes in other widths too. Beginners might find a 6 mm wide strips easier to handle. While for kids the even wider version (12 mm) will be more suited.

You can buy quilling paper in sets. They usually come in different colours or hues. So there is a lot of variety to choose from.

The one thing I recommend is to stick to a single quilling paper brand. Even though the standard width is 3 mm, and a lot of brands will say they sell 3 mm wide quilling paper, but you will see that the size is different from brand to brand. You’ll see that the final design will look weird if the paper is not the same width. Also, if you want a really long strip, from different colours, having different widths will turn into a nightmare.

Quilling Needles

There are two types of quilling needles:

  • slotted quilling needles
  • quilling needle

slotted quilling needle looks like a crochet needle, with a slot at the top end. The slot is used to hold the paper, while you twist the needle to roll the paper strip. This type of needle is a little thicker and you might end with some extra space in the middle of the coil.

slotted quilling needle

Slotted Quilling Needle

quilling needle is used the same way as the slotted quilling needle, but since it’s thinner, it will give you grip-free centres to the coils.

If you want to take up quilling, I recommend choosing the slotted needle: it’s easier to use and the grip left it’s not too big.

Glue

There are brands that sell “quilling glue”, but honestly, you don’t have to bother buying it.

You need a regular glue that dries clear. You don’t even need a special applicator, you can use the end of the quilling needle or a toothpick to apply the glue.

Other Tools

The tools I mentioned above are the must-haves. Without paper, glue and needle, you won’t be able to create the coils and eventually the designs.

Of course, the quilling supplies can get quite crazy.

My friend and I tried an automatic slotted needle, that was supposed to help you roll coils faster. It was a complete failure.

Besides the crazy battery supplied slotted needle, there are other tools more useful, that can help you create perfect coils.

quilling circle sizer

Quilling Circle Sizer

Here are other tools that are not mandatory, but might be super handy:

  • quilling forms – they help you shape the coils
  • needle forms – you can create super small coils with them
  • quilling moulds – they make the paper glide downward, giving the coil a 3D effect
  • circular ruler –  they look like a ruler with holes in it. They help you create coils of the same size
  • tweezers – are useful handling the coils without squishing or damaging their shape
  • all types of scissors – you can fringe, crumple and chop paper stips
  • quilling guides – similar to the circular ruler, they help to roll same sized coils
  • quilling comb – you can create intricately laced loops

I found the tweezers and circular ruler quite useful.

Main Steps of Quilling

As I mentioned a couple of times already, quilling is not difficult, but it can turn time-consuming. The three steps below are easy, but you’ll have to repeat them quite a few times to get a final design.

1. Rolling

For this step you will need:

  • quilling paper strips
  • slotted needle
  • circle sizers or quilling guide (optional, but handy)

Start by inserting one end of the paper strip in the slot of the quilling needle. Then start twisting the needle with one hand, while the other guides the paper strip.

what is quilling

This might be quite frustrating at the beginning, but with a little practice, you’ll get the hang of it.

Quick Tip: don’t roll too tight. Depending on how tight you roll the paper, the coils will be looser or tighter. Some designs need tighter coils, while others need lighter ones.

After you finish rolling the paper stip, you can place it in a circle sizer appropriate to your needs. In this way, you will end up with same-sized coils.

2. Shaping & Glueing

After the coils have sat in the circular ruler, use a pair of tweezers to pick them up.

Using a thick needle – or a toothpick – add a tiny bit of glue where the paper strip ends and glue it to the body of the coil.

Now you have a perfectly round coil.

You probably know already that quilling designs are not made out of round, plain coils. They have different shapes. The main shapes you can get from a coil are:

  • teardrop (one pointy end)
  • petal (both ends are pointy)
  • rectangle (four pointy corners)
  • triangle (three pointy corners)
  • diamond (four pointy corners)

The coils can be shaped by pinching them.

You can use the area where you glued earlier as a guide. Always pinch where you glued the paper strip.

3. Glueing

Now that all the coils are rolled, glued and shaped, it’s time to glue them together to form a design.

You have to add a bit of glue to the sides and gently press them together without damaging the coil’s shape.

I recommend having a picture with the desired design. It is difficult to create a design from scratch when you’re just starting. Even the most ‘professional’ quilling artists use templates.

Final Touches

You can add varnish to the final design. The varnish will protect the paper from getting wet and it will make it stronger, so the design will last longer. If you want a stronger structure you can use thicker paper, but keep in mind it will be harder to roll.

Example

For the above design, we used a tealight as a mould. We added 13 green coils. After all the rolling and shaping was done, we glued them together around the tealight.

We made another 13 smaller, red coils and we glued them on top of the green ones.

And because Adina loves everything sparkle, we added some shiny details as well.

This design is super easy to make, so it’s great for beginners.


That’s pretty much it about quilling. It can be time-consuming, but it can turn out very relaxing as well. Once you get the hang of the rolling technique, everything is much easier.

The great thing about quilling is that you can make pretty much everything: jewellery, cards, Christmas decorations, home decor items, paintings and so on. Your creativity is the limit honestly.

Have you ever tried quilling? Would you like to see some quilling DIY projects around? Let me know in the comments below! Don’t forget to check the other DIY projects around here.

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