Tools of the Trade
I receive a lot of inquiries about what I use for tools and accessories when I quill. When I first started quilling, my answer was very different than it is now. As my skill level has grown, so have the number of “essential” implements in my toolbox. I’ve decided to do a tutorial series for those interested in adventuring down the path of what I prefer to call “creative quilling.” I make the distinction between regular quilling and creative quilling because to me there is a huge difference between buying a pattern from Quilled Creations and making the cartoonish-looking figures, than taking quilling to the next level and producing art. So I guess in a nutshell, creative quilling to me is an art that has risen far above craft.
For general quilling projects I use the following tools:
- Drawing Board
- Press and Quilt Cutting Board
- Straight Edge
- 140lb Watercolor Paper
- Painters Tape
- Elmer’s Glue
- Needle-nose Bottle
- Blush Brush or Similar Paintbrush
- Fine-Tipped Tweezers
- Slotted Quilling Tool
- Scissors (thread snipping type)
- Papermate Mechanical Pencil
- #2/#2.5 Round Paintbrushes
- Portable Brush Washer
- Exacto Knife
You can pick up a drawing board at a local art shop or Dickblick.com/Amazon.com for around $20. Mine is about 22×22 and a good size for most projects. I like the drawing board because it has a thin, hard, flat surface and is large enough for me to rest my tools on.
This one on Dickblick.com is the perfect size and a good price.
Press and Quilt Cutting Board
I like to be able to measure out my paper and cut it down to size before I tape it onto my drawing board. For this I use a quilting mat that I’ve had for years. It has a self-healing surface with measurements on it so you can measure and cut at the same time. I use this in conjunction with my Straight Edge and Exacto Knife. Once my paper is cut, I transfer it to my Drawing Board and tape it down.
140lb Watercolor Paper
I’ve written about this topic before but will reiterate it because it seems so vitally important to me. 140lb or higher watercolor paper gives me three essential characteristics that card stock doesn’t.
- It doesn’t warp
- It holds up better over time
- It allows me to correct errors without ruining the entire piece
I’ve tried every single type of glue that I can get my hands on and the one consistent issue with them all is that if you use more than just a hint of glue on your quills, you will cause your paper to warp. That’s because the water in the glue loosens the fibers in the paper and they give way to pressure or reconfigure themselves. Nothing is worse than getting half-way through a commissioned piece and discovering that you have a warp that keeps creeping no matter what you do. I am a heavy glue user and would rather pay more for paper than ration how much I put on each quill. Watercolor paper solves this – but I do prefer the 140lb or higher paper. I’ve tried lower ones and they don’t hold up as well.
Watercolor paper also isn’t affected by humidity. I live in Maine and during the summer month’s I noticed that some of the first few quillings I made were beginning to warp. There was nothing to cause this other than the humidity in the air. I didn’t like the thought that I might have sold someone something and it was slowly becoming distorted each humid day.
Lastly, with watercolor paper, you can fix “most” errors. On cardstock, if you glue something down, it’s nearly impossible to remove it and start fresh on that area. If you try to unglue a quill, you’ll just end up ruining the paper. With watercolor paper, as long as you’re careful, you can apply water to a glued-down quill and slowly work it off with a small paintbrush. Once the paper has dried again, it’s usually like new.
I use Painters Tape to hold down the edges of my artwork. Some of my pieces take over a week to create and this increases the chances of the paper edges curling up or getting damaged or shifting, or whatever could happen. Murphy’s Law of the unfinished piece. If something can go wrong, it will. This helps keep everything in the correct place, gives me a guideline for where the mat is going to fall, and protects the edges from everything.
I also use Painter’s Tape for glue. I will take a small strip and tack it onto my drawing board, then dob some glue on it. Because I usually glue my quills with a paintbrush, it’s kind of like a palette for glue.
I’ve used about every kind of glue imaginable in an attempt to find the perfect glue for quilling and I keep coming back to Elmer’s. It’s the only glue that satisfies all of my criteria. It dries fast, it doesn’t dry shiny, it’s water-based, it’s inexpensive.
I don’t want to see any glue when I’m done with a project. I especially don’t want to see a shiny rim around the outlines of my monograms. When I place the outline strip for monograms, I paint the bottom edge of the quilling strip onto the background paper. Elmer’s is the only glue that completely disappears when I do this. Every other one will leave a shiny residue that says “Hey, customer, look! I’m glued here! See me? I’m shiny!” And that’s exactly what I want to avoid. I want my monograms (and other pieces) to look like the paper is bonded to the background with no evidence of what is bonding it.
Elmer’s Glue, being water-based, allows me to remove it if I mess something up. I said earlier that i use watercolor paper and the two work wonderfully together. If I mess up, all I have to do is apply small amounts of water with a paintbrush to the bottom of the offending quill and with gentle sweeps of the brush, can get it to lift up without damaging the paper.
Needle-Nosed Glue Bottle
This type of bottle is wonderful for applying directly onto quills or, in my preference, keeping glue use to a minimum by allowing me to dispense small amount for use as I need it. It keeps the glue liquid and doesn’t clog. I wish I’d tried this out sooner because I used to dump out glue, use a little bit of it and the rest would dry up. This way I can only squeeze out small amounts onto my painter’s tape glue palette at a time. Quilled Creations has one here, but you can get these most anywhere.
Blush Brush or a Similar Paintbrush
You might not have seen this on any other quilling tutorial before, but to me this is essential. I will never quill without it! Why?
When I quill, I find that no matter how hard I try to keep my surface area free of debris, stuff lands on it anyways. I’ve had eyelashes appear, little flakes of dried glue, dust, you name it. And in the past, I’ve gently used the side of my hand or fingers or other implements to remove it. This has resulted on numerous occasions of creating a mess. Something always happens to ruin a nice open area of the background. Using the blush brush or in my case, a very fluffy, soft-bristled paintbrush, removed all the debris without running the chance of grinding it into my paper or transferring something else from my hand onto it.
I wash my hands constantly while quilling, but it doesn’t always mean they don’t pick up something from my couch or computer or other tools. The soft-bristled brush is gentle and will sweep away most anything.
The Holy Trio of Tools
I’m not separating these into separate sections because they are all used together. I use Quilled Creations tools (scissors, tweezers, slotted tool). Their slotted tool has a soft-grip barrel and is the perfect size. The tweezers have the finest point of any that I’ve used and allow me to do very intricate work. The scissors are tiny and fit well into tight spaces. The only thing I will say is that I always have two sets of tweezers on hand because the tip is so incredibly fine, if you drop them, they will bend.
I like to paint the bottoms of my quills with glue so I can get full coverage and precise placement. I use small round paintbrushes for this. The ones I like the best are Round #2 and Round #2 1/2. Anything larger than the #2 1/2 and I don’t feel like I have the dexterity I need. The #2 is perfect for gluing down the edges of outlines and keeps the amount of glue in check. The #2 1/2 is great for covering larger areas of the bottoms of quills for gluing-down.
Because I use watercolor paper, I can also use these brushes to remove any inadvertent glue spots and flecks from both the background and the tops of the quills. Nothing is worse than placing a quill and realizing you had glue on your finger and it left behind an ugly white fingerprint impression. The brushes clean this up at the end.
Portable Brush Washer
I have this really cute little portable brush washer that I keep my brushes in while I’m working. I just bought it last week and it has been wonderful. It has two separate sections and is lidded. It’s “almost” spillproof, too. I like the small size and the fact that it lets me continuously swap out brushes without having them dry on my drawing board.
This one on Amazon.com is around $9.00, but I picked mine up at a local art supply shop for only $3.49.