The History of Quilling

Quilling is deeply rooted in world history, popularly believed to have come into being in China, after the discovery of papermaking. Members of spiritual communities were the first inventors and users of the quilling process. Gradually, this enjoyable art form spread to other countries and eventually became an important part of the common persons’ life.

Quillings’ main concept involves the use of a hatpin, rolling fingers, or quilling tools to roll paper into desired shapes. Multiple shapes are rolled individually and then connected to one another to construct a final shape or design. Finishing touches are then made to add to the beauty of the piece and to secure it in place. These finishing touches might include using acid free matte board or shadow box framing.

Now that you’re aware of the origin and some aspects of quilling, let’s explore some details of quilling history.

Research has established that a form of quilling metals was performed as early as the mid-4th and 5th centuries. Gold and silver wires were applied to pillars, vases and other objects and jewelry was also fashioned using this technique. By the 13th century this form of metal quilling had become well-known and was practiced world wide.

The conversion from metal to paper use probably occurred as materials became scarce, or were unavailable to the lay person wanting to create pieces. Metal quilling was commonly referred to as metal filigree, and as the technique incorporated the use of paper, was commonly referred to as paper filigree. Early use of paper filigree was primarily confined to religious groups promoting their beliefs and embellishing sacred messages. The shift to the common folk practicing this art brought the term ‘quilling’ into regular use. Paper quilling implemented many techniques similar to jewelry styles, utilizing strips of paper, free rolls and edging. In the 17th and 18th centuries, quilling art expanded to tea caddies, coat of arms designs and photo frames.

There are few facts, but many stories, attributed to the origins of quilling. Some say it was developed in ancient times, not long after making paper was discovered. Others claim paper quilling was born in the 13th century when nuns were unable to purchase metal filigree due to its’ high cost. Still others believe that quilling began in the Americas. And yet, further evidence points to quilling being used in the Mediterranean region. With so many conflicting claims, no one can say for certain where quilling originated, but clearly it carries a truly international history.

Books of the Victorian Age and quilled pieces of that time indicate that proper young women practiced quilling to decorate furniture or purses and to create jewelry. Similar to the artwork of handicrafts, it has found difficultly surviving in present day times and its’ popularity has decreased. However, perhaps one day, it will regain its’ lost glory as an ancient art, practiced for centuries, since the technique can be used throughout the world for nearly limitless purposes.