Quilling Paper Widths – What’s With the Different Widths?
When I first decided to try quilling, I hit the web for project ideas before I ever really considered what I’d need for supplies. It was only when I was faced with too many choices that I realized it wasn’t as simple as it seemed. Well, it’s not difficult, but I thought going into it that I’d go to a website and click on Paper and I’d see paper. Little did I know I would have to select between several different widths of paper. So… I messaged my cousin Kat of Kat’s Creations and asked her what width to choose. She told me that she always uses 1/8″ strips. Okay, problem solved!
I ordered a little of every color in 1/8″ width strips. I tried a few projects and was instantly hooked. It wasn’t until a few months later that I realized that certain projects might have more potential with a thicker width paper.
The reason for this change in creative direction was brought about when I tried creating monograms. 1/8″ is great for tiny, fine, detailed work that you want to look lacy and dainty and in some cases, highly compressed. But my first monogram attempt didn’t have the same bold beauty of the ones I saw on Pinterest and Google Images. It was pretty (for a first try) and I got a bunch of Oooohs and Ahhhhs when I posted it on Facebook. But I just couldn’t help but feel that something was missing. It didn’t look robust or dense or substantial. It was thin and flimsy and the shadows were narrow. It was also incredibly — I mean INCREDIBLY — difficult to glue the outline down. In fact, on my first monogram I didn’t glue the outline down directly, I created it on a foam board then transferred it to a background. That wasn’t the best tactic it turns out, but it was very early on and I had no idea what I was doing.
After a few people had inquired about my monograms, I decided that I would try out some 1/4″ paper. I felt guilty ordering in all those beautiful rainbow shades since I’d just refilled my stock of 1/8″ paper recently. But I couldn’t just buy one color because who wants a monotone monogram?
Anyways, I had originally intended to use the 1/4″ paper to outline with but after I saw how nicely it shaped and glued down and stayed in place and how gorgeous the shadows were and how bold it was standing up there so high off the paper, I was sold. Permanently. Or at least 85% of the time. Maybe 90%.
And that’s what this blog post is meant to tackle. What is the difference between the two primary widths: 1/8″ and 1/4″? The answer isn’t as plain as it would seem. There are far greater differences than just the width of the paper and the differences will make or break your project. Here’s how.
Difference #1 – Curl Holding Capacity
When you take an entire 1/8″ strip and coil it and then release it to form a loose coil, you’ll notice that it can open up pretty wide if you don’t stop it at some point. This is because there are fewer fibers to take the shape of the spiral which results in a looser coil upon release. This is particularly so for longer strips of paper, and less so for shorter ones.
If you take the same length 1/4″ strip and coil it and then release it to form a loose coil, you will notice that the coil holds tighter and opens up more slowly and less than the 1/8″ strips. Again, the longer the strip the looser the coil, the shorter the tighter, just like with the 1/8″ strips.
This is important because if you are going for a lacy, loose, look, the 1/4″ strips don’t provide this as readily. And because the shorter the 1/4″ strips hardly open up at all, you may have to help them open to form certain types of tailed scrolls.
Do you notice how in the pictures above the 1/8″ paper has a looser spiral? And how the 1/4″ paper has a tighter inner-spiral? That’s a visual of how the two different widths hold their shape.
Difference #2 – Compressibility
I think I made that word up because it appears with a red underline. What I mean by this is the extent to which you can compress the strip and the resulting shape that it makes.
With 1/8″ paper, you can compress it almost into a flat line depending on the length of your initial coil. This allows you to create “brushstrokes” with your quills. You can create fine lines with hardly any central bulge. For those astronomy buffs out there, think of looking at a galaxy from edge on. The 1/8″ paper allows you to squish it into a thin line without producing a huge central bulge.
The 1/4″ paper doesn’t allow this. Because of the thickness and rigidity of this width paper, you will find that no matter how hard you try, your thin lines look more like narrow diamonds. The central bulge is always larger and more apparent. It’s hard to make brushlike quills with this size paper.
This last image really illustrates how different the two strips widths look. On the left, the 1/8″ paper shows a lot of the background through the spaces in the coils. This results in an airy, lighter look. It’s even more apparent when looking directly down at it, since at that angle, there are few shadows to fill in the background areas.
And, in contrast, do you see how the 1/4″ paper on the right looks more filled in? It’s not just because it’s deeper paper, it’s because at an angle, there is more paper to see, therefore less background showing through. It’s more substantial and more of the color both reflects onto the underlying paper as well as stronger shadows appear.
I think that there is a good reason to have both widths of paper on hand. 1/4″ paper is easier to use and makes better outlines. If you are trying to define a shape or want big, bold, shadowy areas on your quilling, this is the width to try first. If you are making delicate items that require compression or a lacy feel, try the 1/8″. It’s not as easy to use at first, but you will probably like the look of your finished product.