Everything You Need to Know About Tools & Materials for Quilling Paper Jewelry Designs
If you’re looking to dip your toe into quilling paper jewelry, you may be wondering if you need any special tools or materials. The answer is yes and no. Many tools you probably already have on hand, but there are a few things you may want to pick up to make this beautiful art form that much easier.
Author Ann Martin goes into great detail in her book, The Art of Quilling Paper Jewelry, introducing and explaining the materials and tools used in quilled jewelry projects. Let’s take a peek inside the pages of this must-have reference to see what she recommends.
QUILLING MATERIALS & TOOLS
Simple (and simply beautiful) strips of quilling paper, a short list of tools (many of which you probably have on hand), and a bit of patience are all you will need to get started making your own show stopping jewelry.
Quilling paper is readily available as precut strips, and some colors can be purchased in sheet form. In general, quilling paper is a bit thicker and softer to the touch than regular printer paper. The weight of the strips featured in The Art of Quilling Paper Jewelry, for example, is generally 100 or 120 gsm (grams per square meter). In comparison, printer paper weighs 80 to 90 gsm, while cardstock is 170 gsm and higher.
Whatever type of quilling strips you use, expect them to be accurately cut with a width that is exactly the same from end to end. If using archival supplies is important to you, buy strips that are labeled acid-free. Some paper brands are slightly heavier than others, and some colors are heavier within a single brand. Each type handles slightly differently, but all are cut with the grain to ensure smooth rolling. Quilling strips are usually reasonably priced, and it is fun to experiment with different brands to determine your favorites. Since I began quilling fifteen years ago, I have used many different types of strips from online suppliers in the United States and the United Kingdom. All have proven to be high-quality strips that are evenly cut and richly colored.
Metallic Quilling Strips
All of the projects in The Art of Quilling Paper Jewelry call for standard 1⁄8″ (3 mm) wide strips with a gold, silver, or copper edge to give each piece the look of fine jewelry. While 1⁄8″ (3 mm) may sound impossibly narrow, fear not! With practice, your fingers will grow accustomed to handling it fairly quickly.
The pendant and earring designs in my book are predominately made with metallic-edge black or ivory papers, but there is no need to limit yourself to just two choices. Metallic-edge papers can be ordered in a wide range of colors from at least three online retailers in the United States who import them from England. The British paper comes in packages of thirty 1⁄8″ x 17″ (3 mm x 43 cm) strips, which is enough to make several pieces of jewelry. (Note: The length of your quilling strip will directly affect the finished size of your quilled shapes.) Additionally, Dutch metallic-edge strips measuring 1⁄8″ x 19.” (3 mm x 49.5 cm) are also available through a U.S. supplier and come twenty-five to a package.
If you want the look of metallic edge strips but prefer a more subtle shine, try A Touch of Gold and A Touch of Silver quilling paper. This type of American made metallic-edge strip is available in single color packages of fifty 1⁄8″ x 24″ (3 mm x 61 cm) strips, as well as packs of 100 multicolor 1⁄8″ x 20–24″ (3 mm x 51–61 cm) strips.
(Additional details on working with colorful quilling strips and paper sheets can be found in The Art of Quilling Paper Jewelry.)
With this tool, a strip is rolled around a needle. It takes a bit of extra effort to learn to quill with a needle tool, but the advantage is that it produces a coil with a tiny, perfectly round center. The disadvantage is that it takes more time to learn to quill with a needle tool, but with practice, you can become a pro at rolling smooth, even coils.
Needle Tool Substitutes
Any slim, sturdy wire can take the place of a needle tool. In fact, my first quilling tool was a cake tester, a stiff wire that is inserted into a cake to see if the batter is baked all the way through. A cocktail stick (round toothpick), a doll-making or upholstery needle, or even a corsage or hatpin can be substituted as well. Of course, a true needle tool with a handle will be more comfortable to grip, but these stand-ins will give you the opportunity to try your hand at needle-tool rolling.
With the easy-to-use slotted tool, a paper strip is slid into a slot that immediately grips the end, allowing for the smooth rotation of the tool with a relaxed hand. The trade-off is that the slot leaves a small crimp in the center of the coil. It’s certainly not the end of the world, but sometimes a crimp is frowned upon by quilling purists. That said, I have yet to meet anyone who upon seeing a piece of slotted-tool jewelry for the first time is dismayed by the coil crimps. Instead, they are too busy exclaiming they can’t believe the beautiful object is made of paper! I suggest learning to quill with both tools to determine your preference.
Slotted Tool Choices
It is important to note that not all slotted tools are alike. The standard slotted tool is a strong workhorse, but it leaves a considerably larger crimp than a fine slotted tool. A Japanese superfine slotted tool has a very small slot and a shaft that rotates smoothly. The crimp it produces can barely be detected. Common sense will tell you to not overstress the fine prongs by rolling the paper so tightly that the crimp is torn off, a practice some quillers employ with success when using a standard slotted tool.
A tool called the Savvy Slotted Tool is similar in design to the Japanese tool, but it has an ergonomic handle and the slot produces a slightly larger crimp. A fourth type of slotted tool has an ultrafine slot that is not set close to the handle, making it difficult to gain rolling leverage. That said, if it is the only tool you have access to as a new quiller, you may learn to quill beautifully with it.
Note: Your choice of quilling tool will be most noticeable in the center of spirals. In the examples shown, you’ll see slotted tools leave a slight crimp in the paper end at the center of the spiral, which the needle tool spiral has no crimp.
(Additional details on using dowels to change coil shapes and common jewelry tools for quilling paper jewelry can be found in The Art of Quilling Paper Jewelry.)
GLUES & FIXATIVES
White Glue vs. Clear Glue
Ask ten quillers to name their glue of choice and you’ll likely get ten different answers. Elmer’s School Glue, Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue, and Sobo Premium Craft and Fabric Glue are names of white glues you’ll frequently hear. I prefer to use a clear glue, such as Martha Stewart Crafts All-Purpose Gel Adhesive. (Elmer’s Clear School Glue is another option.) Unlike white glue, clear glues do not quickly thicken and develop a skin when exposed to air on a glue palette.
Safety note: I always look for glues and fixatives that are nontoxic and free of fumes.
Acidic glues can discolor paper and cause it to become brittle over time, so I prefer to use glues that are acid-free. Martha Stewart Crafts All-Purpose Gel Adhesive is an example of an acid-free clear glue. Aleene’s makes an acid-free white Tacky Glue.
Adhering to Metal or Plastic
When gluing quilled pieces to a nonporous surface, such as metal or plastic, Crafter’s Pick The Ultimate is my adhesive of choice because it securely holds coils and scrolls in place, dries clear, and is durable and nontoxic. I prefer to place a small dollop of glue on a palette (a recycled plastic container lid works really well) and dip from it sparingly with the tip of a ball-head pin, paper-piercing tool, or T-pin. This way, I can easily control the amount of glue I use and keep my hand relaxed, because there is no squeezing motion as there is with a plastic bottle.
Truth be told, I rarely use a fixative on quilled jewelry. I prefer the look of natural paper rather than the plastic shine of glossy fixatives, not to mention there is always the chance that moisture in a spray or brush-on product will cause coil centers to swell. However, for an extra layer of protection, especially if you live in a warm, humid climate, you can apply a protective coating, such as Liquitex Professional Matte Varnish. (Apply a thin layer or two using a small paintbrush or repurposed makeup brush.) This type of varnish is nontoxic, virtually odor-free, and will not significantly change the look of quilling paper. I recommend applying it only to the back of a jewelry piece because it will dull the bright shine of metallic-edge paper.
If you’ve taken notes through this post you’ll know all you need to get started quilling paper jewelry is 1/8″ quilling paper, a needle or slotted quilling tool (though a tooth pick will work in a pinch!), and your choice of acid-free glue. I bet you have those in your jewelry studio already!
For more on quilling paper jewelry, read these other posts:
- The Art of Quilling Paper Jewelry: Understanding Essential Quilled Paper Shapes
- Designer Q & A: Meet Jewelry Designer Ann Martin, Author of The Art of Quilling Paper Jewelry
- On a Roll: Learn the Art of Quilling Paper Jewelry with Author Ann Martin plus a FREE Project
If you’re looking for professional quality quilling tools and any of the other quilling supplies shown here, Ann recommends the following resources:
JJ Quilling Design
Editorial Director, Books
Discover even more valuable quilling information inside the pages of The Art of Quilling Paper Jewelry!