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What is Paper Quilling – History and Guide for Beginners

What is Paper Quilling

Paper quilling is one of the simplest and cheapest crafts out there. As a beginner, learning how to roll these little strips of paper into dazzling works of art is a great choice, as you’ll be able to proudly display intricate artwork without much practice.

Making art by quilling paper is easy, fun, and relaxing. Rolling the little strips of paper into intricate designs is meditative, and the end result is a gorgeous work of paper art that will look striking in your home, on a birthday card, in your scrapbook, and so much more.

History of paper quilling

Paper quilling is sometimes known by another name – paper filigree. It is the art of rolling paper. Most sources believe paper quilling began either in China or Egypt. 

It’s more recent historical use is best seen during the Renaissance period. French and Italian monks and nuns used paper filigree or paper quilling to decorate religious texts. They used the trimmings from gilded book pages to create their artwork. 

In 18th century Europe, quilling was a very popular pastime for female nobles, as it was a leisurely activity that was thought to require little intellectual ability to master and enjoy. Obviously, we don’t quite agree with the characterization here, but it’s always interesting to see how popular trends were thought of throughout history.

If you think you might like to follow in the footsteps of French nuns and English “ladies of leisure”, read on to see how you can quickly immerse yourself in the fabulous world of paper quilling!

Paper quilling materials for beginners

To start your journey into becoming a master paper quiller, you’ll want to pick up a paper quilling kit. These kits will contain everything you need to make paper quilling crafts. 

Paper Quilling Kit

  • Glue – with thin precision tip
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Quilling needle(s)
  • Slotted tool
  • Pre-cut paper strips

The needles and tools make it easier for you to roll the paper, while the glue is there to secure your finished rolls. Tweezers will help you guide your rolls onto your background. 

Quilling paper

“Quilling paper” can refer either to the act of rolling those thin strips of paper up – or to the papers themselves. 

Advanced quillers will typically cut their own strips instead of relying on pre-cut strips. Beginners are encouraged to use what comes in the kit to give them a familiarity for what quilling paper should be. 

Paper quilling glue

When you’re immersed in a paper quilling craft, you will have two uses for glue: gluing your quilled shapes together and gluing those shapes to your background.

White glue is the type most often used by quillers, but many will opt for tacky glue or even hot glue, as well! It all depends on what kind of surface you’re adhering your quilled paper. 

No matter what the project, it’s very important that your chosen glue dries with a clear finish. No one likes to see glue on their beautiful quilled paper art! This is also why you squeeze glue from a needle nose or thin-tipped bottle directly onto the shapes, never on the background. Precision is key!

Paper quilling technique for beginners – Basic paper quilling shapes

There are many videos online of different techniques you can use to roll your paper, but essentially, you want to wrap the paper around itself into a tight spiral, gently loosening the coil by pinching while tapping the center, then glue the end down so you’re left with a perfect spiral of paper. 

That coil can then be folded or shaped into designs that will end up as part of a larger design. All designs begin with a basic, semi-loose coil. 


Fold once on the outermost layer of the paper coil, creating a seam. Using the same motion you used to loosen up your tight coil, coax the center of the coil away from the seam. This will create the paper quilling teardrop shape. 

Curved teardrop

You can turn a teardrop into a curved teardrop by using your paper quilling needle to give a little bend near the seam. 


This paper quilling shape looks like an eye, and you create it by creating two seams, one on either side of the shape. The ends can then be curved, as with the teardrop, if you like.

Square or Diamond 

A square is made by creating four seams. For a diamond, pinch more tightly, creating a thinner shape. 

Paper quilling designs

Now that’s all well and good, but you’re probably wondering what you should do next with all these little shapes you had so much fun rolling. Well, the beauty of paper quilling is not in the coils but in the big picture. Coils are just one part of a whole, gorgeous work of art.

There are several kinds of designs that lend themselves very well to use in paper quilling projects, but remember that these suggestions are meant to get your creativity flowing. You can use paper quilling to make literally any design you can think of! 

Paper quilling flowers 

Paper quilling can be used to make gorgeous floral designs. Combine teardrops and simple spirals to create vining leaves and beautiful bouquets. Using the un-quilled strips, create window boxes and flower cart market stands to fill with diamonds and teardrops in every available color. They will all look simply gorgeous expressed through this paper craft. 

Paper quilling animals 

Take an un-coiled quilling paper and use it as an outline, then fill it with beautiful spirals to create whimsical animals, like owls for a child’s bedroom or turkeys for Thanksgiving invitations. Flamingos and peacocks will look doubly striking, and you’ll be able to show off so many vibrant colors. Fill them with whatever paper quilling shapes you like best. 

Paper quilling monogram art

A classic decoration for any home, turning your initials into beautiful, intricate paper quilling artwork will have guests bending to pick up their jaws when you host your next gathering. 

It’s also a nod to the history of paper quilling, creating intricate letters that look like they belong on the cover of a classical novel. Don’t just wow your guests with your talent – wow them with knowledge!

Fun uses for paper quilling art

Your designs can be used to adorn all kinds of surfaces, create one-of-a-kind decorations and gifts, even wear it as jewelry! Now that you’ve mastered a few basic shapes and learned about some ideas for what to craft, the only limit is your imagination.

Pre-roll paper quills and let children enjoy creating their own, unique designs with them. Use a black construction paper background and let them imagine galaxies, or have them help you with a scrapbook that chronicles their life so far. 

Use paper quilling as a bonding event for your bridesmaids and cheaply create beautiful decorations for your wedding day. Designs could incorporate flowers, hearts, doves, wedding bells, elaborate paper quilling cakes, and more. Quilled paper can be adhered to place cards, menus, signs for the card table, and so much more. 

Host a ladies’ night at your house and invite them to try paper quilling while you all watch a movie! One of the great things about paper quilling is it doesn’t require your full attention, so you can enjoy working on a project while talking with friends, enjoying a show, or munching on some charcuterie. 

If you like any of these ideas or have tried them, please let us know in the comments! Feel free to share all of the amazing things you’ve done with paper quilling.

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