Quilling It! How to Choose the Perfect Paper or Cut Your Own

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Quilling is all about paper, so it's weird that we don't get more excited about picking just the right type of paper. It's so easy to get caught up in planning our quilling projects that the paper practically has to scream, "Yoohoo, what about meeee?"

There's a reason we put off the paper decision: We're spoiled. We know that when it's time to pick out our quilling paper we can choose from hundreds of colors, tons of creative finishes, all kinds of gilded-edged papers and a gazillion other pre-cut options.

But pre-cut quilling strips aren't always the best choice for a particular project. That's why it pays to figure out a paper strategy in advance.

Let's say you come across an amazing hand-dyed paper that you're dying to use in your next quilling project — but it's not available in pre-cut strips. Or maybe you run out of black strips and need only three more to finish. In times like these, it's useful to know how to cut your own strips, and what types of paper actually work well for quilling projects (as well as which kinds don't).

Picking out a type of paper that will work for your quilling project can actually be trickier than cutting it yourself. When you buy paper from quilling suppliers, they do the choosing for you. When you go your own way, the paper selection is up to you. So let's start off with tips on how to choose the best paper, before we get into how to cut it.

Choosing the Weight

The weight of the paper (i.e. the thickness) has a huge impact not only on how the finished project looks, but also on how easy it is to make. Commercial strips usually come in writing weight, text weight or card stock. Play around with all those options, so you can feel comfortable when it's time to make a paper selection on your own.

Writing Weight

Writing weight paper (about 20 pounds) is the lightest kind. It's similar in thickness to the paper you'd typically use in your printer, and it's useful for more traditional or delicate quilling. It tends to tear easily if you ask too much of it.

Text Weight

This paper is heavier (around 60 to 80 pounds) and is usually best for modern quilling projects like jewelry. A heavier paper like this kind can stand up to stretching and extra manipulation. But if you're going for a traditional quilling look, it's better to stick with a lighter weight.

Card Stock

This weight category is typically used for quilling typography projects and outlining in mosaics. It varies from 60-pound bristol weight up to 110-pound cover stock or higher. When working with card stock, remember that the heavier the weight, the less quilling-friendly the paper will be. You can still coil and roll up bristol weight card stock with a quilling tool, but cover stock is too thick to fit into a tool and would crack when rolled. Still, the heavier weights are an excellent choice for straight and gently curved lines.

Selecting a Finish

There's no end to the varieties of paper out there, in pretty much any finish you can imagine. But not all finishes work well for quilling projects, so it's best to know what you're getting into.

Metallic Paper

Metallic paper definitely looks fantastic, and most kinds are available in a heavier text weight. But while metallic paper is easy to cut at home, the glossy finish isn't as easy to glue; you'll need a bit more drying time, not to mention patience.

One-Sided Paper

If you've ever walked down the scrapbook aisle of your local craft store, you've probably been tempted to quill with some of the fabulous paper there. One-sided paper, for instance, can be an excellent choice for some projects, but remember that in quilling, it's only the edge of the paper that shows. Since one-sided paper is usually printed or backed on white, it's not so ideal for coils, but it does work well for outlining a shape.

Specialty Paper

Specialty papers can be lots of fun to use, but some are better than others for cutting at home. The paper in the image above, made from genuine cherry wood, is beautiful but a little tough to cut. Consider the specific qualities of the paper you're planning to use when you're choosing your cutting surface and tools — because safety first!

Vat-Dyed Colored Paper

Fact: Vat-dyed paper is the easiest to cut, the easiest to quill and the easiest to find at your local store. Colored paper can be wonderful for most quilling projects. Just be sure to choose acid-free, colorfast paper. After all, quilling is a time-consuming project, and you want your masterpieces to last!

Finding the Correct Length

One last thing to consider before stepping into the studio is the length of your paper. The standard 8.5-by-11-inch size is ubiquitous in stores, but most quilling patterns use strips that are 17 inches or longer. If you can find the larger size, you'll have a slightly easier time following a pattern. If not, don't sweat it. A little glue is all you need to get the right length.

How to Make Your Own Quilling Paper

Now that you've picked out the right paper for your project, you're ready to cut your own quilling strips.

What You Need

  • Self-healing mat or appropriate cutting surface
  • Ruler or yard stick
  • Craft knife or rotary cutter
  • Paper of choice

1. Square Up Your Edges

Using the ruler on your self-healing mat, square up the edges on the left-hand side of your paper sheet.

2. Trim Away the Excess

Use your yard stick to square up the opposite side of your paper. Sheets are almost never cut to perfection, so you'll need to trim off the excess before you start cutting. A rotary cutter can be safer than a utility knife, but use whichever one you prefer.

3. Line it Up

Holding your paper securely in place, move your yard stick to the left. The preset markings on the self-healing mat will give you the width you want when you cut.

4. Cut Your Strip

If you're cutting with a rotary tool, you might find it easiest to begin at the bottom and move upward. With a utility knife, the opposite can be true. Whichever tool you're using, lean heavily into the yard stick with your body weight and hand to avoid slipping as you cut.

And there's your self-cut quilling paper! Now that you know how to make your own, repeat this process to create as many strips as you need. 'Cause that's how you roll.

Images via Little Circles

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Quilling It! How to Choose the Perfect Paper or Cut Your Own