Monday, June 18, 2012

The Art of Paper Quilling

Paper quilling, also known as paper filagree is an art which uses strips of paper in which you roll, form into shapes and glue in place. During the Renaissance, quilling was used to decorate religious items and books. In the 18th century and Victorian Era, "gentlewomen" practiced this art as it was considered appropriate for their dainty natures. Women would completely cover jewelry boxes, frames, tea caddies and any other items of interest with these paper decorations.

Periodicals would print patterns for paper filagree work. The designs shown above were published in 1786 by New Ladies Magazine. 

The Bronte Sisters were known to delight in this pastime. Jane Austen was also familiar with this art form. She introduced filagree into a scene in Sense and Sensibility (chapter 23) when Elinor was eager for the opportunity to converse with Lucy Steele about their mutual acquaintance. Paper quilling provided the solution.

"I am glad," said Lady Middleton to Lucy, "you are not going to finish poor little Annamaria's basket this evening; for I am sure it must hurt your eyes to work filigree by candlelight. And we will make the dear little love some amends for her disappointment to-morrow, and then I hope she will not much mind it." 
This hint was enough, Lucy recollected herself instantly and replied, "Indeed you are very much mistaken, Lady Middleton; I am only waiting to know whether you can make your party without me, or I should have been at my filigree already. I would not disappoint the little angel for all the world: and if you want me at the card-table now, I am resolved to finish the basket after supper."
"You are very good, I hope it won't hurt your eyes-- will you ring the bell for some working candles? My poor little girl would be sadly disappointed, I know, if the basket was not finished tomorrow, for though I told her it certainly would not, I am sure she depends upon having it done."
Lucy directly drew her work table near her and reseated herself with an alacrity and cheerfulness which seemed to infer that she could taste no greater delight than in making a filigree basket for a spoilt child. 
"Perhaps," continued Elinor, "if I should happen to cut out, I may be of some use to Miss Lucy Steele, in rolling her papers for her…" 

Summer is a great opportunity to teach new skills. This is excellent employment for young ladies as it is inexpensive and indulges their minds in creativity. Plain note cards and frames could be embellished using this method. My daughter was able to fashion her own filagree tool using a cast off piece of metal. Strips of scrap paper are the only other accessory needed for the beginner.

If we want our maidens to embrace being a keeper at home, we should instruct them in economical and wholesome amusements. Arts and crafts nurture industry in the home. Our daughter's will never know idleness when equipped with many interesting hobbies. Many young women today complain of loneliness when first married and I am convinced that these types of projects provide a "Proverbs 31" alternative by encouraging them to "worketh willingly with her hands." (Proverbs 31:13b) 

You will find many other lovely ideas in the art of homemaking for young ladies here:

"The Keepers at Home handbook for young ladies is perfect for girls 7 through 16. The handbook is designed to teach and prepare girls to become godly, competent keepers of the home, Christian wives, and mothers. It includes Bible reading, Bible memory, extensive skills for practical living, and creative handiwork. Give your daughter the skills she needs to succeed at the calling God has given her." ~ From the Publisher


  1. I used to Quill all the time, but haven't in years. Thanks for the reminder to get my supplies out. :)

    1. How neat! This is a new "thing" to me as I never realized it existed until of late :) Then I was curious at how it all started and here we are… Thanks for sharing.

  2. I love this post! I prefer buying children things that require imagination...arts and crafts items - or even Legos that inspire creativity.

    What lovely work - I have never heard of filigree...but it's something I'd love to learn Thank you for this post. Hopping over from Homemaking Blog Hop - A Little R & R

    1. I agree completely with your preferred purchases! Items that nurture thought, creativity and ingenuity! Thanks for sharing :)


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