Here's Your Crash Course on Quilling, the Renaissance Art Form That's Become a Cool New Craft

We're way into the new craze called quilling. "Craze" is an unlikely word to describe a craft that dates back to the Renaissance, but whatever — it's trending.

In case you don't know, quilling has nothing to do with hedgehogs or feather pens. It's a paper craft that involves rolling narrow strips of paper into unique 3D shapes. These little paper forms can then be used to decorate greeting cards, pictures, gift bags and boxes, or glued together to make mosaics, sculptures and other works of art.

And here's why we heart it so much: Quilling is creative, easy, fun, inexpensive and, once you get on a roll (ha), incredibly relaxing.

It's also pretty addicting — which is why we're giving you the deets on how to make dozens of different shapes. Pretty soon you'll want to be quilling and chilling all the time.

What You Need

  • A slotted quilling tool
  • Quilling glue in a needle-tip bottle
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Package of quilling paper strips — for beginners, I recommend ¼-inch wide (it's easy to grip and manipulate); once you've mastered the basic shapes, you may prefer narrower strips. Cut the strips 8½-inches long for this tutorial.

Open and Closed Coils

Simple circles are the basis for most other shapes you'll create.

1. Insert Paper Into the Tool

Insert a piece of quilling paper into the slot of your quilling tool; try to line up the edge of the paper with the edge of the slot as perfectly as you can. A slotted tool will naturally leave a small crimp in the center of your coil. If you'd like the crimp to be more visible, allow the paper to hang slightly over the edge.

2. Start Rollin'

Roll the tool with your dominant hand either towards your body or away from it (whichever feels most comfortable), while holding the strip taut with your other hand.

3. Glue It

For a closed coil: When you're almost done coiling, place a dab of glue near the end of the strip and roll to complete. You don't want it to expand after you remove it from the tool.

For an open coil: Finish the coil, then remove it from the tool and allow it to expand. Once it has fully expanded, add a dab of glue and press the strip down carefully to secure.


Make an open coil, then place it between the thumb and forefinger of your non-dominant hand. Arrange the inside coils evenly or however you'd like.

With your dominant hand, pinch the paper where you want the point to be to create a teardrop shape.

Teardrop Variations

Basic shapes can be manipulated to create even more shapes. The teardrop is an excellent example of this.

By slightly curving the teardrop around your thumb as you shape it, you can create a subtle shift in form without compromising the center coils. To exaggerate this effect, you can wrap the teardrop around your quilling tool or another cylindrical object.

For a more obvious curved shape throughout, press the shape around your quilling tool. From here, you can easily create a paisley shape.

You can curl the shape from the point to the base by rolling it between your fingers.

So many shapes!


First make a teardrop shape, then pinch the opposite end as well.

The final shape will be determined by how much you pinch or press the the coil together and where you place its center.

Play around with different placements and pressure to create lots of marquis versions.


First make a marquis shape, then turn the shape on its side and pinch a center peak with your fingers.


Start with a marquis, then wrap one end around the tip of your finger or a quilling tool.

Do the same to the other end but in the opposite direction. Looks pretty for a slug, doesn't it!

Square or Diamond

Create a marquis shape, then rotate it 90 degrees and pinch both sides again. This will create a diamond shape.

If you want to continue on to making a square, gently open up the shape between your fingers.

Square Variations

By playing around with how much of each corner you choose to pinch when creating your square, you can get very different results.

Above left: By applying pressure to the outside corners, you can create a square with a rounded center.

Above center: This was made by completely pressing the open coil together on one side, then opening it up and pinching just the corners on the opposite side.

Above right: This got its unique center by completely pressing down the coil on both turns. 

Yet another variation on the square: You can make these by applying pressure to the outside structure with your fingers or the stem of your quilling tool.


If you can make a square, you can make a rectangle. The difference is in how much you rotate the marquis shape before pinching additional angles.

Rotate it only slightly (rather than 90 degrees) before pinching and then open the shape to reveal the perfect rectangle.

Rectangle Variations

Alternately, you can create a quadrilateral shape by making your four corners at uneven intervals.

This shape is especially useful when you're making quilled paper mosaics and you need to fill in an odd space.


Start with an open coil, then pinch two corners while leaving the paper above them round. You can also do this by pressing an open coil onto a hard surface like a table and sliding your fingers down the sides carefully. Try both methods to see which suits you best.

Curving the straight edge of the shape will allow you to turn a semi-circle into more of a crescent moon shape.


Make a teardrop shape, then pinch two additional angles using either your fingers or the tabletop method.

Once again, try both to see what works best for you.

Triangle Variation

To create a shape that resembles a shark fin, press in two sides of your triangle and leave the third side flat.


Make a teardrop, then pull the center down towards the base and hold it in place with your fingers.

Using the long side of the slotted needle, press down deeply into the base.

Release the tool and smooth the curve out with your fingers to shape.


Beginning with a teardrop shape, hold the pointed end in your non-dominant hand and pinch the base end into a tight point.

Without letting go, slide your fingers down to meet the fingers of your opposite hand to create the side angles.


Once again, begin with a teardrop. Press in the base of the shape by using the point of your quilling tool to make a small indentation.

Release the tool and carefully press in each side of the heart to complete the center crease.

Pentagon and Star

To make a pentagon, first create an elongated semi-circle as shown above.

Pinch the center of the flat side using the same method you used when making the tulip shape; this is the peak of your pentagon.

Keeping the peak in the center, square off the bottom with two equal pinches on either side.

To turn the pentagon into a star, press in on each flat surface with your fingers or a quilling tool and then further refine each angle into peaks.

Holly Leaf

This shape is far and away the most difficult to create. For sanity's sake, you'll want to become comfortable making all of the other shapes before attempting this one!

Begin by making a marquis. Insert a set of tweezers into the shape; try to grip only about a third of the inside coil.

Keeping the grip with your tweezers, turn the marquis as needed and pinch a small point on either side of each peak.

You could also make the holly leaf by first making a square, adding a point to each end and then shaping all the angles into peaks. I find the tweezer method easier, but try both ways to see which gives you better results. 

Now that you've seen a bunch of shapes, imagine how you'd use them together to create designs. Welcome to the world of quilling!

Photos via Erin Curet

February 24, 2019
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Here's Your Crash Course on Quilling, the Renaissance Art Form That's Become a Cool New Craft