Paper quilling or filigree is an old papercraft with an ancient history. It utilizes cutting strips of paper, coiling it with the aid of a quill or long metal tool (such as a hat pin or long needle), forming and gluing the coiled bits into various patterns and to decorate objects. Paper filigree originally replicated the art of silver or metal filigree. Monks and nuns practiced this artform during the Renaissance for the decoration of books and religious objects. It was considerable cheaper to use paper rather than silver to decorate these items. It was thought also that they used the gilded edges of books, however, this is not probable as books during this time frame would have been extremely costly to just cut up. Books during this time was usually altered by painting over and written over.
In the 18th century, artistocratic women would fill their days with such hobbies as embroidery or filigree, which was considered “high bred”, not too taxing, and nothing intellectual but because of the expense of paper, this was only practiced by the very wealthy. Paper quilling was then brought to the American Colonies. It was taught and practiced by the young women. Museums carry many samples of these works.
The craft almost certainly died but was revived in the late 60’s and 70’s for decoration of cards, scrapbooking, and other paper arts. Credit goes to Margaret Carlson of Missouri who originally was restoring antique pieces when she became intrigued with the craft itself. Gini Antonie also is credited for the naming (standardizing) of the shapes. The craft has changed considerably as it is no longer a hobby for the upper echelon of society. Rather, it is a craft for the masses due to the inexpensive cost of the materials. It can be found in all parts of the world.
These days, one can find the paper already pre-cut and also full kits ready to use for crafters who do not want to plan out the materials. Internet use also changed the craft and made it more accessible with patterns available for free, online. The pre-cut paper strips can be found in sizes of 1/8”, 1/4" and 3/8 inch. They are also available in both solids and graduated colors. Acid-free papers are also available for those scrapbookers wanting to decorate their pages for future generations.
Quilling guilds all over the world promote the art of quilling, with many artists creating different variations of quilling: three dimensional quilling, quilled jewelry, miniature, and free-standing. Ready made pieces are sold online with many of the companies based in Asia. Many artists sell their art via Etsy.