Quilling & Culture

Paper filigree, paper quilling and quillwork are all terms used to describe the art of rolling thin strips of paper into intricate designs. There is uncertainty when paper filigree first began; however, most sources credit French and Italian nuns in the 17th century. Strips of paper from the gilded edges of books were rolled and used to decorate book covers and framed religious images. Paper filigree often imitated metal filigree, which are delicate and complicated designs made of fine gold or silver wire. Paper filigree became popular in 18th century England, where the technique was used to create framed pieces of art as well as decorate a wide variety of items including tea caddies, work baskets, fire screens, wine coasters, purses, cabinets, and cribbage boards.

Paper filigree was taught along with needlework as a “proper pastime” for young ladies. The 18th century New Lady Magazine described paper filigree as “the art which affords an amusement to the female mind capable of the most pleasing and extensive variety.” The art spread to the American colonies in the 18th century where it was commonly called paper quilling or quillwork, although the reason for this name is uncertain. Some sources suggest that goose quills or porcupine quills were used as needle tools to roll the paper. In recent years, quilling has seen a resurgence of popularity to create wedding invitations, greeting cards and jewelry. Modern artisans have a greater variety of materials and papers to choose from but the basic tools and techniques remain the same.

Join us at the Galt Museum and Archives on Thursday January 21 from 7-9pm. Galt volunteer and quilling artist Linda Koffman will teach the basics of paper quilling and you will create a beautiful greeting card or pair of earrings. Admission fees apply, which include supplies and access to exhibits. Registration not required.