A revolution has been happening in paper quilling. Designs made from rolled paper strips are becoming more sophisticated, inspiring people to try this beautiful form of paper art. At the forefront of this movement is Ann Martin, author of The Art of Quilling Paper Jewelry: Techniques & Projects for Metallic Earrings & Pendants from Interweave. Ann also has a project in the November/December 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine; “Circle ‘Round the Sun Pendant” shows how to create a lovely sunburst pendant that’s as light as air. In this guest post, Ann offers some great tips for quilling jewelry for beginners. ~ Jeannine
The first time my eyes landed on colorful, on-edge paper designs in a magazine, I was instantly transfixed and set off on a mission to learn all I could about this rolling, folding and shaping technique called quilling. Fifteen years later, I still find graceful coils and scrolls appealing.
After making dozens of projects, including cards, framed designs, ornaments, and wedding invitations, I began to focus on quilling jewelry. Yes, paper is a perfectly suitable material for necklaces and earrings! It’s surprisingly strong when rolled, and completed pieces can be further strengthened with fixative.
Working with narrow strips of paper (the standard width is 1/8″, or 3mm) can be intimidating, so I’m here to offer my best tips to ensure that your quilled jewelry project will be as beautiful as you’re envisioning it.
Quilling is an inexpensive hobby. In fact, ordinary printer paper and craft glue are all that are needed to try it out. Then, enjoy choosing from a wide variety of paper strips. You’ll find every color of the rainbow along with specialty metallic-edge paper, pearlized, graduated shades, and more.
To get a feel for how to coil paper for quilling jewelry, cut strips from a sheet of paper and roll one at a time between your thumb and index finger. With practice, the pressure you apply will become even, so that each relaxed coil will be about the same size. Notice I haven’t mentioned a tool yet—some quillers don’t use one! They rely only on their fingers. Most, though, choose to work with a needle tool or slotted tool.
I recommend trying both needle and slotted tools to determine your preference. The standard slotted tool is the easiest to use because the slot grasps the end of the strip and provides rolling leverage. However, its disadvantage is that the coil center will have a crimp; certainly not the end of the world. The needle tool takes longer to master, but the result will be a coil with a perfectly round center. A super-fine slotted tool is my favorite, as it produces a tiny crimp.
Any type of glue that is suitable for paper will be fine for quilling, and you’ll be surprised at how little is needed. My gluing method of choice is to put a dab of clear gel adhesive on a plastic container lid. I prefer gel instead of white glue because it doesn’t develop a skin when exposed to air. Dipping into the glue with the tip of a paper piercing tool or ball-head pin ensures I don’t use too much.
Many quillers use a fine-tip squeeze bottle to apply glue. To prevent the glue from clogging the tip while working, position it upside down in a votive candleholder or shot glass lined with a dampened paper towel. A damp cloth for cleaning sticky fingers is handy, too.
When the individual quilled shapes are completed, arrange them with tweezers on an overturned Styrofoam™ tray or cork board, and glue them together one at a time. You may want to use pins to hold the shapes in position until the glue is dry. Turn the piece over to apply reinforcing dots of glue at the joins, and brush on a light coating of fixative, if desired.
Lastly, attach findings to the pieces. A pair of flat-nose jewelry pliers makes opening and closing jump rings a breeze, allowing you to slip on earring wires or a necklace chain.
Ann Martin’s newest book, The Art of Quilling Paper Jewelry, contains 20 gift-worthy necklace and earring projects. Ann’s popular blog, All Things Paper, features remarkable paper artisans from around the world, in addition to her own designs. Learn more about Ann and her work at allthingspaper.net.
All art by Ann Martin. Jewelry images by George Boe from The Art of Quilling Paper Jewelry by Ann Martin. Other photos by Ann Martin.
Paper art can take many forms; check out this tutorial for making mixed-media flowers out of paper fabric, from Diana Trout!