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A History of Quilling

By Charles Hopkins Published 08/1/2007 | Hobbies

Quilling, or paper filigree, is an ancient art that is slowly being revived after almost dying out at the end of the 1800's. Many people still have not heard of it, but with the popularity of the Internet, it is being kept alive with Quiller's Guilds and others that enjoy paper crafts.

You might be asking what quilling is. You may have thought of porcupine quills or feathers. That is not exactly the right train of thought, but porcupine quills may have been used at one time as a tool in paper quilling.

Quilling is a paper craft, specifically the art of rolling thin strips of paper around a needle-like tool, then shaping those coils into intricate shapes and designs. The word quilling may have come from quillers using porcupine quills to wind the paper around. If you would like to see images of this beautiful art, look up "paper quilling" in Google or any other Search Engine. If you have never seen paper quilling before, prepare to be amazed at the intricate and beautiful designs you will see!

Quilling is thought to have begun in the sixteenth or seventeenth century, but may have been practiced long before. From the history and art that have been found, it is thought that the first quillers were nuns and monks. They used handmade paper or even cut off the edges of book pages and rolled the pieces of paper into ornate designs to embellish religious artifacts. Most quillwork now in museums date from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but evidence seems to suggest that quilling has existed for 500 years.

Quilling was most likely started to represent metal filigree, the art of shaping fine precious metal wires into open, intricate designs. As handmade paper became more widely available, quilling was a more economical way of achieving these lovely designs and was even gilded at times to more resemble metal filigree.

Quilling became more popular as paper became less expensive and more widely available in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As it became popular for decorative crafts, it was thought to be a suitable hobby for popular ladies and "ladies of leisure" in England. From there, the hobby was brought to the American Colonies and to New England. When the craft began to die out, a quilling kit was introduced in 1875 to help bring back the popularity of the craft.

Even though it still is not a widely known craft, it is still alive and well among paper craft enthusiasts. It is a simple craft to master, and a very highly enjoyable one! Take a look on eBay and you will see that there are a few artisans that still present beautiful and even humorous small pieces that can be used in scrapbooks, card making, and even wall hangings. Are you ready to give it a try?