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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Quilling Without a Pattern

Quilling without a Pattern

Where do I get patterns for quilling? How can I quill without a pattern? These are frequently asked questions, especially for new quillers. Most people when they look at quilling for the first time are overwhelmed by its complexity. That’s because they are looking at a finished piece not the components that make up the piece. When I taught basic quilling classes, I would always bring in a piece with a quilled border and tell my students that by the end of the class, they would be able to duplicate the border. Then I teach them the basic shapes and go back to the border to show them each coil they have just learned. They are always astounded! The border they thought was so complex is now relatively simple. I don’t teach using patterns because I never wanted my students to feel limited to what the pattern calls for. After they have learned the basic shapes, I give them each a small mat board or card and encourage them to “do their thing”. It is fascinating to see how a group of ten students will come up with ten totally different ideas.

I do demonstrate how to quill using a pattern, but I have never enjoyed trying to make my quills “fit” on a pattern. If I use a pattern at all it is just a starting point, to give me ideas. I like having lots of quilling books around for the same reason. I can be sitting, having a cup of tea, and leafing through a quilling book and sometimes a technique or combination of colors just jumps out at me, and I think “Why didn’t I think of that!” It is easy to get in a rut, with or without patterns. My best friend was looking through the new 2008 Accord calendar and told me she could pick out all of my work without looking at the names. I asked her how. (She is not a quiller; how could I have a best friend who is NOT a quiller you ask? That’s another story.) She said she could pick my work out by the colors I use, and she’s right. When I think about it, I am drawn to softer more muted tones, when I look at my sample wall; that’s what I see. But I digress. When I took on the calendar project with Accord and started contacting quillers, some of them said they couldn’t participate because they couldn’t think of something original or small enough. I am just finishing up the work on the third calendar, the 2009, and what quillers told me this time, was how could they think up something that hadn’t already been done? But you can ask 10 people to make a Christmas tree, or an angel, or a poinsettia, and as long as you DON’T give them a pattern, you will end up with very different pieces. As we have again this year.

So how do you quill without a pattern? Well some like to get an outline drawing, the kind you find in coloring books or clip art collection and then just fill in the outline with marquises or teardrops, whatever fits. I prefer to get an actual picture, in color and then try to duplicate the color texture and feel with quilling strips. When I do birds or butterflies I may use wheatears to get the look of feathers and the lacey look of butterfly wings. I usually go to books like Audubon guides to make my pieces look as realistic as possible. It is trial and error sometimes to get the “feel” of the piece, and because of that I don’t write down instructions and make patterns for the pieces I do, but it works for me.

When I am working on small things like the calendar pieces, I often use stickers for my inspiration. I am a sticker nut! I buy those great big calendars at Staples or Office Max, write my appointments on them and then as the days go by, cover each day with a sticker appropriate for that month. You can’t even imagine how many snowman stickers I have for January. I also do some scrapbooking (actually what I am doing is our entire family’s life story in matching albums, scrapbook style) and I often use stickers there. When I found my Dad after 55 years of not knowing who or where he was, I made him a scrapbook/photo album of me, growing up. You know the kind of pictures, me with no teeth, a broken arm, graduating from high school etc, and lots of stickers. Oh yes, and lots of quilling strips, because I use them to border my pages, and use border punches on them to dress them up. My Dad treasures that book, it helps him get back some of the years we lost) but here I go digressing again! My stickers can be inspirational. In the 2009 calendar, I did a little black cat sitting in a pumpkin, a penguin on ice skates, an Irish teddy bear, a witches head, and a jack-o-lantern with a handle . . . all were ideas I got from stickers. For the witches face I used green tight rolls because I wanted her to have warts. I wanted the penguin to look chubby so I used a large loose coil for his tummy and head and crescents for his back and feet. That’s what I mean about playing with the shapes to get the “feel” you want.

When I am doing borders for things like wedding invitations or baby announcements I try to incorporate the theme on the announcement. I even did a quilled Mickey Mouse on an invitation that sported Mickey and Minnie, on a Korean wedding invitation I duplicated the flowers on the cover of the invite. If the announcement has sail boats or sea shells, I work them into the border. Last year I did a border around a poem a bridegroom had written for his bride. In it he likened her to the many wild flowers she loved and voila!, I had a new wildflower design. Try it! Try thinking outside of the box. Look around you; use the many quilling books in your library or in your town library to give you inspiration. It works!

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