Quilling, also known as paper filigree, paper rolling and paper scrolling involves rolling narrow strips of paper into shapes that make up part of a larger design. Typical quilling shapes resemble leaves, coils, and flower petals, inspired by Ancient Egyptian and Roman wire filigree.

While some sources speculate that quilling originated in Ancient Egypt, others connect the craft with the invention of paper in China around 105 AD. In any case, the first known quillers were members of cloistered religious orders in Europe during the Middle Ages who used individual bird quills as a rolling tools. Later on, 15th-century nuns collected gilt-edged parchment that fell off bibles to quill decorative designs for medallions. With the wider availability of paper, French and Italian nuns achieved more intricate work in the 16th-and 17th-centuries, decorating relics and religious images with quilling as ornamnetation. Walls and altars of poorer churches displayed these icons and backgrounds quilled with gilded or silvered paper, mostly indistinguishable from genuine gold or silver filigree work.

In the late 18th- through 19th-centuries, quilling spread to the American colonies and England as some boarding schools advertised, listing "Quill-Work" among offered courses. Upper class ladies quilled for panels and coats-of-arms and eventually tea caddies, workboxes, screens, cabinetry, and frames embellished with foil, mica, or flaked nacre. Quilling's popularity extended to women's magazines of the time, which featured paper filigree patterns in each issue. For unclear reasons, quilling’s popularity faded during the late 1800s and failed to make a resurgence until the 1950s, sometimes deccorating paper greeting cards or adorning framed documents. Without preservation, quilling is just as fragile and fleeting as other paper crafts.

Sources:
History. http://www.customquillingbydenise.com/page2.html.
Malinda Johnston. The History of Quilling. http://www.fascinating-folds.com/paperarts/quillhistory.htm
Art and History. http://www.sbm.osb.org/artisans/marold/.

Quill"ing (?), n. (a)

A band of linen, muslin, or the like, fluted, folded, or plaited so as somewhat to resemble a row of quills.

(b)

One of the rounded plaits or flutings of such a band.

 

© Webster 1913.

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