Quilling or Paper Filigree in an Altered Book


Quilling, sometimes known as paper filigree, is a paper craft that involves making designs from shapes that have been made from curled, twisted, or fringed strips of paper. quilling in altered book

The tiny sample to the left did not scan well. However, the flowers and leaves are quilled, and are used to decorate the cover of a mini accordion book that I incorporated into an altered book. The accordion book opens up to display photographs.


Paper filigree dates back to the Renaissance period. Women made amazingly intricate and beautiful designs with this craft. I don't even want to think about how they cut their paper strips. Today, filigree is enjoying renewed popularity with arts and craft people on both sides of the ocean.

Basic Quilling Technique

This is difficult to describe, but remarkably simple to do.
  1. Take a narrow strip of paper, ranging in width from 1/8 inch to an inch. The length will depend on how large you want your finished shape to be. Try 6 inches for starters.
  2. Thread one narrow end of paper through your slotted quilling tool OR wrap the end tightly around a toothpick and hold in place.
  3. With the end in place, wind your paper round and round the tool until all paper is wound. You can wind loosely or tightly, depending on the look you are going for.
  4. When wound, pull your paper off the tool and set it free. It will loosen a lot or a little, depending on how tightly you wound it initially.
  5. Glue the loose end to the shape to hold it in place. Then, holding the shape between your thumb and forefinger, gently squish it into the shape you want - circle, oval, square, arc, etc.
  6. Make a number of shapes. Glue them to your project, forming the design that you have in mind. While working, I find it helpful to store the paper shapes in the empty cups of a bakery muffin container.
There are many variations on this technique, but the above gives you a general idea of how simple (although time consuming) paper filigree can be.


First, let's emphasize that you can do quilling using items found around your home. At the most basic, you will need paper that you can cut into strips, scissors, glue, and a toothpick or needle to use as a tool.

If you want to use ready-made supplies, purchasing some or all of these items will make life easier for you. Quilling supplies are available online at Joann.com and at www.CreateForLess.com

  1. Paper cut into strips. Card stock cut into long strips of 1/8 inch to 1 inch in width is typical. Pre-cut paper is available, or you can cut your own. Cutting your own assures perfect color co-ordination with other papers used in your project. On the down side, I find it difficult to cut my papers to the exact same widths. It's true that some designs call for papers of varying widths. However, using varying widths when not called for results in a messy project.

  2. Needle Tool or Slotted Quilling Tool. You wind your strips of paper into shapes using these needle-like tools. You can use a toothpick, pin, or other similar item instead, if you are so inclined. I use the slotted tool myself. One end of the paper slips through the slot, holding it in place while you wind your strip of paper around the tool.

  3. Glue. You need a strong, permanent glue to stick your shapes to your project.

  4. Fringing Tool. Fringing tools create perfectly fringed paper used for creating special effects. However, fringing tools are very costly. As an alternative, you can carefully measure and cut the fringes on the paper by hand, using ruler, pencil and scissors.

  5. Quilling Designer Board. This is a tool containing holes of various sizes and shapes. You place your shapes in these holes and allow them to unwind, therefore creating the exact size or shape you want. The boards are optional equipment. I have never used one but I definitely see their appeal.

  6. Quilling Workboard. A transparent, self-healing workboard. You place a pattern under the board and glue your design together directly over the pattern. Again, I have not used one, but for large projects, it would definitely beat the old "eyeball method" that I currently use.

  7. quilling in altered booksPatterns. Patterns of varying levels of difficulty are available in arts and crafts books and magazines, on the Internet, or you can make your own. I made the Christmas tags to the right using a pattern found in Australian Paper Arts Magazine. If you can find this magazine in your area, I totally recommend it. It is wonderful.

Filigree in an Altered Book

Quilled embellishments make excellent additions to an altered book. You are limited only by your imagination.

Books at Amazon

Quilling for Scrapbooks and Cards by Susan Lowman

The Book of Paper Quilling: Techniques and Projects for Filigree by Martha Ospina

Quilling: Techniques and Inspiration by Jane Jenkins

The Search Press Book of Traditional Papercrafts: Parchment Craft, Stencil Embossing, Paper Pricking, Quilling by Janet Wilson

Up to 75% off art and craft supplies!

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