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 some projects I prefer a rigid art board to work on. Not only does it help provide stability but the large surface area and portability make it easy to move from room to room or location to location. I actually have a couple of these on hand so that I can have more than one project going at a time. I use drawing boards for projects that I build directly onto the background. For projects where I use pins, I have another type of work board that I prefer.
You can pick up a drawing board at a local art shop or Dickblick.com/Amazon.com for around $20. Mine is about 22 x 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.
Why are these polystyrene boards so amazing? Because they are light, cheap, reusable, and they allow you to sink pins down into them far enough that you can use your pins to create really amazing results. It's great for monogram work when you want to use pins to keep your lines straight and flat. It's good for quilling onto a sheet protector for projects where you are using a template to work on top of.
Because the foam is compressed, once you pull your pins out, it basically self-heals. You can find this type of material at a lumber mill or Home Depot/Lowe's type store. I recommend getting the 2" thick foam so you have plenty of depth for your pins. One sheet will create numerous work boards and they are reasonably priced at around $15-20 per sheet.
After a few years of trial and error, I've come to the conclusion that in order to mount artwork, you need to have a really good background. I have experimented on just about everything and my pick for the best archival quality, bright white, rigid, warp-proof background is the fiber-infused artboard from Dickblick.com. You simply cannot warp it even if you have an addiction to glue. It's rigid so even very heavy, layered pieces won't bow it when lifted from the sides. It stays bright white or bright black with no yellowing over time. Artboard or similar boards will work the best. Look for multimedia artboards, mounting boards, illustration boards, etc.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 original 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. Quilled Creations also has a fine-slotted quilling tool called the Savvy Slotted Tool. It is ergonomically designed and works like a dream. I have both of their tools because I find that I use each of them in different circumstances.
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.
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.