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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Quilling for the blind?

I had a very interesting phone call the other day from one of my quilling friends. She had been contacted by an agency that works with the blind; they wanted to know if she would teach a quilling class. She wanted to know if I knew any blind quillers. I do know a couple of legally blind quillers who are able to quill using the magnifier closed circuit TV devise (I am not sure of the actual name of these devises; I know they are very helpful for those who are not completely blind) I am writing this blog in the hopes that some of you may have some other ideas, or may know someone who works with the blind. I suggested she might want to talk to someone who works with the blind, possibly one of the schools for the blind.I know they teach other handwork and thought some of those techniques might be applied to quilling. We brainstormed on the phone for a while . . . here are some of the thoughts we had.

Making some of the various shapes and then letting the student “feel” the shapes is a possible way of demonstrating the kinds of shapes that can be made. It would seem to me that finger rolling would be the best way to go rather than trying to “thread “a slotted tool. I am also thinking that starting with wider strips might make sense since the pieces would be larger and perhaps easier to handle. Of course you wouldn’t be able to “show” this technique, but by feeling a straight strip, and then explaining that the strip should be run over the fingernail to “soften” it and start it curling. Once the curl at the tip is started, it is fairly simple to continue to roll the strip into a loose coil. I would suggest using a fine tip glue bottle to glue the end of the strip down so the glue can be placed exactly where it is needed. (I find the glue bottle less messy than working with a toothpick and spot of glue). Once rolled and glued it would be fairly simple to pinch the coil into the desired shape.

Then we have the issue of colors etc. Many sighted quiller store their strips in the original packaging, If the packages were marked in Braille it would be helpful in keeping colors organized. My thought would be to put finished shapes into something like the cups of a styrofoam egg carton. The edges of the cups could be marked in Braille with the color and shapes. Another option would be to store shapes in small strips in the plastic chests used to store nuts and bolts etc. That is how I store my quilled flowers, small strips and extra shapes. I do organize them by color and either have a small strip of the color or the name of the color taped to the front of the drawer, again this could be marked in Braille. As I think about it, I think the chests might work better than the egg carton idea; they wouldn’t get knocked over or tipped as easily.
When it comes to actual designs, I am kind of stumped. Perhaps letting the students feel some different designs would give them some ideas. Arranging pieces would be determined by feeling the shapes. These were just a few of my thoughts. I think a blind quiller would have to be much better organized than I am. (No piles of bits of strips and shapes like there are on my work table) It is a challenging question. I would love to hear your thoughts and will be happy to share them in a future post. You can comment on the blog or email me directly at


craftylyra said...

This is a very interesting thing to think about! In my limited experience with people who are blind, if they are proficient in braille, then their kinesthetic awareness and small muscle movements tend to be quite good (if not better than those who are sighted). Threading a slotted tool might not be that difficult and the tool would give them a constant guide for the coiling process (making it easier just like it is for sighted quillers). I say this because I find that I don't have to watch when I use the tool, but I do when I do it freehand or with a needle. I don't know if a long handled or short handled tool would be more appropriate (I find that it depends on hand size and moisture, personally). I think the best way to experiment would be with a group of blind crafters and see what works best for them. What a great endeavor this is! Thanks for blogging about it!

craftylyra said...

One other suggestion in regard to gluing. How about a Quickie Glue pen (from Sakura)? It gives a little more flexibility than a fine tip glue bottle and you can feel the nib when your finger is on the other side of the paper. I'm eager to hear what other ideas people have.

Monica-FC said...

I am going blind and had to be retaught to thread a hand needle just to sew my hubbys socks. I was taught to thread it by feel as you can feel where the self-threading needle is. maybe by them feeling the difference of the slotted tool and then being able to put the paper onto it they can do it. it will take practice though. I have had alot to learn since still going blind and that includes cooking and everything else but this should be easy as it is all by feel with the tool. with the magnifers ,those with very little sight and can use them are better to use the magnifer with the slotted tool. I quill and have a good light near me just so i can see the tool and I have those magnifers also.

Alysn: said...

As craftylyra has said, I believe the slotted tool would actually be the easiest. I started on that and then moved to a regular needle, but have never done much with straight hand rolling as I found it to be too difficult. Yet I can easily see myself using a slotted tool with my eyes closed.

As regards the crafting of the final objects, while a blind person could probably feel the nuances of how a regularly sized quilled flower is put together, you could probably also make much larger one with strips cut from oaktag so they could feel the finer points of construction in a larger format. Actually, it might also help them to feel what a shaped piece might look like, inner spirals and all, if you had a few larger shapes made up in the same fashion.

Anonymous said...

You will find that a visually impaired person can be very stubborn when they want to learn something. They will come up with some very educational ways of doing things.

Anonymous said...

I think you have a brilliant idea. There is a blind school not far from my home. I am not blind, but do have difficulty seeing. I make my rolls by hand rolling and by slotted tool. The slot in the tool is too small for me to see accurately so I have always threaded the paper in by touch. ;)

Linda said...

I find the suggestions for quilling for the blind useful; and for now I still have use of one eye so I still see oh so many things; however my problem is concentration as when something is shown to me my head just goes outside the box and boom, I am creating. I have a hard time to do like others but than again, my life and myself is not like others; my mind is always busy. I like using things that would store hardware nuts/bolts very useful for quilling and I also like to handroll like my mom did when I was a little girl. I also find it useful that my one good eye works for both; however sometimes it tires too easily but for quilling I find it useful. I think that as long as your mind can entertain the idea of what is expected, the rest will follow. Happy Quilling.