Quilled Paper Designs


Imaginary Landscape with QuillingQuilling, also known as paper fil­i­gree, is an art form that involves rolling and glu­ing thin strips of paper into var­i­ous shapes and arrang­ing them to form designs. Quilled paper designs can be very sim­ple or as com­plex as you have the dex­ter­ity and patience for!

The art of quilling dates back to the Renais­sance when French and Ital­ian monks and nuns would use quills (the shaft of a feather) to roll thin strips of paper into ornate designs. They would then used these to dec­o­rate book cov­ers and other items, often imi­tat­ing designs they saw in iron­work. Quilling later became pop­u­lar in Amer­ica dur­ing Colo­nial times.

Today, you can find quilled paper art on wed­ding invi­ta­tions, greet­ing cards, jew­elry, orna­ments, and even gallery walls. Quilling has become pop­u­lar world­wide, thanks to the com­mon, inex­pen­sive mate­ri­als used to do it.  All you need is paper, glue, and some­thing to roll the paper around. Even though quilled designs are made from hum­ble mate­ri­als, there’s no limit when it comes to the elab­o­rate designs you can create!

Quilling is tra­di­tion­ally done with 1/8″ paper strips which can be pur­chased pre­cut and ready to use. You can also make your own 1/4″ strips using a paper shred­der. Begin­ning artists will have an eas­ier time with wider strips, so I like to start my younger stu­dents out with 1/2″ strips (which I cut on a paper trim­mer) until they get the hang of it.

Most of the exam­ples you see here are designs from the inspir­ing book, Twirled Paper by Jacque­line Lee from Klutz Press. As with all Klutz kits, it comes com­plete with every­thing you need to make the designs they show you, includ­ing col­or­ful paper strips, a “twirling shaft”, and even jig­gle eyes and glue! And as always, their pho­tos and instruc­tions are super clear and easy to follow.

You will Need:

  • Paper strips
  • Q-tip, with the ends cut off  (You can pur­chase a spe­cial tool with a slit at the end for rolling your paper strips, but it really isn’t necessary.)
  • scis­sors (or sim­ply tear the strips to the lengths you want)
  • glue (I like YES! Paste, but any white craft glue will work)
  • tooth­pick for apply­ing small amounts of glue
  • for inspi­ra­tion, check out these Google images!


Fol­low these sim­ple steps to learn the basic shapes for quilling… then com­bine them to cre­ate fun designs of your own!

1. Cut the ends off your Q-tip and use it to roll one of your paper strips into a tight coil. (I find that rolling towards me is eas­i­est, but that’s just per­sonal preference.) 

2. Apply a small amount of glue to the end and press it down for a few sec­onds (I’m using YES! Paste here).

3. Now pull out your Q-tip “quill” — you have just com­pleted your first tight coil.

4. Roll another coil the same way, but when you get to the end, pull out your quill and release your grip just a lit­tle so your coil begins to expand. You can let it expand a lot or just a lit­tle.… it’s up to you. A small amount of glue will hold it in place at the size you want. We’ll call this a loose coil.

5. Now make two more loose coils. Pinch one of them on one side to form a teardrop shape. Pinch the other one on two oppos­ing sides to form an eye shape.

6. To make a grace­ful “S” curve, roll a strip halfway and release it. Then roll the other end of the strip halfway in the oppo­site direc­tion and release again.

7. A heart shape is made by first fold­ing your paper strip in half. Then roll each end in toward the mid­dle, releas­ing when you get to the size your want your heart shape to be.

8. After mak­ing each of these basic shapes, it’s easy to make tri­an­gles, squares, and more.

9. Finally, use small amounts of glue to assem­ble your shapes into all kinds of fun designs.


Quilled fish

Build­ing a com­pli­cated design with quilling can take some patience! It’s a good idea to start with a small project like a greet­ing card. This way stu­dents can learn new skills and expe­ri­ence suc­cess with­out feel­ing frus­trated by a project that takes too long to complete.


7 Responses to Quilled Paper Designs

  1. Charlene September 3, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    Impres­sive! What grade level? What were your objec­tives or ele­ments cov­ered in this lesson?

    • Cheryl Trowbridge September 3, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

      Char­lene, the exam­ples here are prob­a­bly best for mid­dle school, although younger stu­dents can do fine with these depend­ing on their fine motor skill devel­op­ment… and patience! I always work in some art his­tory and cul­ture, and have stu­dents describe how the ele­ments of art and prin­ci­ples of design are used in their designs.

  2. Emily Stanley December 12, 2013 at 6:05 am #

    I really like these designs because i am doing an Avatar theme in my art class at school and this has really helped me with ideas. Thank You!!

  3. Emily Stanley December 12, 2013 at 6:07 am #

    thank you for mak­ing this web­site as i am doing a project in Art at school and this has really helped with ideas. Thank You!

  4. Brittany April 29, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

    This looks like a great way for chil­dren to use their imag­i­na­tion in cre­at­ing their own per­sonal quilled paper cre­ation! I have never heard of this before, so I look for­ward to doing this with my students.

  5. khushma vora August 21, 2014 at 5:21 am #

    gr8 site.. love this site for ur dif­fer­ent ideas in any type of art..
    i love paper quilling.. n my kid too..
    so its very helpful..

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