Quilling FAQ

I answer frequently asked questions...

I've just started to quill. What is the best brand of paper to use?
Computer printer paper cut into narrow (1/8 inch or 3mm) strips will be fine for practice. When you're ready for true quilling paper, it's easiest to order it online because you'll find a much better selection than in craft stores. U.S. quilling suppliers are very good and carry U.S. brands such as Paplin, Lake City and Quilled Creations, and the UK's J.J. Quilling Designs. Paper is quite inexpensive, but you might want to sign up for mailing lists as sales are offered periodically. All ship internationally as well.

I can't seem to get the hang of quilling. How long does it take to learn? 
Quilling is one of those things people think should come very easily just because the supplies are so simple. Rolling paper begins to feel completely natural after a couple of hours of practice. Not bad for a hobby that may last a lifetime! Feeling all thumbs at first, I had to keep telling myself that if other people could do it, so could I - it's only paper and glue after all.

What type of quilling paper works best?
There are many beautiful options... plain colors, pearlized, metallic, vellum, parchment, gilded-on-edge, and graduated colors are just some of the choices. Each type handles slightly differently, but all roll smoothly. Quilling paper is a bit heavier, but softer than computer paper. Strips are available in several widths ranging from narrow (about 1/16 inch) to 1 inch and most are packaged in multi-color packs, as well as single colors.

What quilling tool do you use?
My favorite tool has an ultra-fine slot... the center crimp that results from the slot is barely noticeable. You can read more about it here. I use a standard slotted tool to make folded roses and when I want coils with round, crimpless centers, I use a needle tool. All suppliers sell a variety of tools; you're sure to find one that works for you. If you want to get started immediately while waiting for your tool to arrive, use a stiff wire... my first tool was a muffin tester from my kitchen drawer!

quilling-tools
 left to right: needle tool, ultra-fine slotted tool, slotted tool

What type of glue do you recommend and how do you apply it? 
My favorite is a clear gel adhesive because it doesn't develop a surface skin compared to white craft glue. It has no odor and, like good quality quilling paper, is acid-free. My method of applying glue to a coil is to put a dab on a plastic lid, then pick up just a very small amount with the tip of a paper piercing tool, cocktail stick, or T-pin. Some prefer to use an ultra-fine tip glue applicator.

How do you know what size to make loose coils? I see patterns that say to use a three inch strip rolled into a loose coil. I have a circle sizer, but don’t know what length should go into what hole. Is there a standard?
Ah, the age old question... there isn't a standard. The circle sizer helps to make coils a consistent size. Your three inch strip may make a slightly different size coil than another quiller's three inch strip - it just depends on how tightly you roll the paper. The important thing is to roll with even tension and your work will have a nice uniformity.

Don't your hands cramp when you quill?
I'm happy to say the answer is no. It can happen if one holds a tool too tightly and/or works for a long time without pause. Let's face it, any type of repetitive motion can lead to injury. Consciously keep a relaxed grip on the tool and stretch your hands and fingers occasionally. You might want to tape padding around the handle for comfort. It's a puzzle to me why companies don't routinely design all tools with ergonomically correct handles.

How do you do on-edge quilled lettering?
Quilled lettering has become very popular - no surprise, as it lends itself beautifully to monograms and quotes! You'll find many tips on blogs: here, here, and here, for example.

Where can I buy card stock weight quilling paper to do lettering? I can't seem to find quilling paper that is thicker than regular paper.
True quilling paper is not as heavy as card stock which generally doesn't roll smoothly. If you are planning to do a curved strip, on-edge design (as for lettering) try inexpensive - in other words, very thin - card stock.

What I prefer to use for lettering are two regular strips of quilling paper that I've glued together. Between the double thickness and glue, the paper becomes quite sturdy but still rolls smoothly. Keep a damp cloth handy and run it down both sides of the strip to wipe away excess glue as soon as you've stuck them together. Then put the strip aside and wait until the glue is completely dry before rolling it.

What do you use to coat your finished quilling?
I generally don't apply a fixative because I like the natural look of paper. Some fixatives result in a plastic-like finish and the application may cause coil centers to swell. If I've made a framed piece, the glass protects it. If you are concerned about excessive humidity, brushable Liquitex Varnish is good and is available in Gloss or Matte finish.

How do you store your quilling paper?
There are probably as many answers to this question as there are quillers. The main things to remember... store your strips in a dry, dust-free place and away from direct sunlight. It's helpful to keep colors labeled by brand name/number in the same clear bags in which they arrive. Do I do that? Well, I have good intentions, but often wind up with a collection of loose strips that looks like this:

quilling-strips

It's oddly satisfying to quill a tidy project after starting with such a jumble, but I also enjoy working with strips that are still attached at the ends, fresh out of the package.

quilling-project-underway

How do you mail a quilled card?
Place your card between two sheets of cardboard and then in an envelope. If you use a bubble wrap mailer thinking it will provide enough protection, the card may bend - tragedy - so at least slide one sheet of cardboard behind it. My Quilling Nest sells ingenious mailers for quilling. The sturdy cardboard is scored and folds to make a boxelope. I usually place a layer of bubble wrap over the front of a card as extra protection when using one.

How do you take photos of your work?
I'm glad you think my photos are worthy of asking for my advice...they are pretty much trial and error. I use a Canon PowerShot, not fancy, but I like it. I almost never use flash and often use macro. I also use the timer so the camera doesn't jiggle. I shoot in natural light - cloudy, but bright days are best - usually on a table near a window. Low, angled shots show the dimensional quality of quilling. When I look at the shots on my computer, I save the ones that seem best and then use Picmonkey to improve and resize them. Pixlr Editor is also very good. Don't be afraid to post large photos of your work... people will find your images more appealing when they don't have to squint or imagine. You'll find excellent photo tutorials on Etsy and many blogs share photography advice too.

What books do you recommend?
Thank you for asking! My book All Things Paper: 20 Unique Projects from Leading Paper Crafters, Artists, and Designers (June 2013) includes several quilled jewelry and frameable projects. Creative Paper Quilling: Wall Art, Jewelry, Cards & More (January 2014) is a compilation of designs from a number of American and Canadian quillers.


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