Quilling, or filigree work, is the result of rolling or coiling thin strips of paper into delicate-looking shapes and using these pieces to form a design. This art form is very old and is traceable to the 15th century and possibly as early as the 13th or 14th century. It is believed that quilled items were used by French and Italian nuns and monks to decorate religious objects in order to simulate more costly handiworks such as carved ivory or wrought iron.
Filigree work became popular in England in the 18th century and was taught along with needlework as a “proper pastime” for fashionable young ladies. Boarding schools of that age often featured “filigree” among the subjects taught. The 18th cen-tury New Lady Magazine described filigree as “the art which affords an amusement to the female mind capable of the most pleasing and extensive variety.” Signatures, dates and school names were often pen-ciled in on the back of surviving pieces. Tea caddies, cribbage boards, wine coasters, work baskets, obe-lisks, urns and even pieces of furniture were com-monly enhanced with filigree work.