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Thread: Making butterflys fly across a quilt.... for Gretchen e and others.....

  1. #1
    Super Member Sierra's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    northern California

    Making butterflys fly across a quilt.... for Gretchen e and others.....

    This is writen in response to Gretchen's enquiring about making butterflys for quilts........

    I am really into butterflys and have them on probably 50 quilts. One might say they are almost my “signature.” I have done some serious surfing to make sure the butterfly that went on a quilt could really be found in Yosemite, or in the Sonora Desert, etc. What I finally realized is that being close is plenty close...(blue is blue, etc.). Butterflys come in every imaginable shape and color, really they do!


    1a) All you need is a fabric with a print of a size that will look good on your butterfly.... say you have a pretty turquoise flowers print and you draw a wing (wing designs of REAL butterflys are really varied! so you can't go wrong!) and you make another (opposite) one to match. Use a dark or dull fabric to make the long body part (pointy at the bottom, rounded at the head).

    1b) OR cut out the entire butterfly all in one piece from your chosen fabric, being sure to add in the body area (which can be darkened or dulled using thread painting or simply wide zig zag to differentiate the body from the wings. I have even used stripes, dots and... anything with smallish details that makes a nice pattern for butterflys. Think of a child discovering that there are some kind of little critters, on his butterfly! Fun can be the key to success!

    2) Make a longish "body" to fit between the entire area where you will be sewing the wing on to it (add a bit more for head and tail; I make the head wider, almost round the the tail pointed). The body will be single sided; you may want to line it with a wee bit of extra batting to puff it up a little. Pin the body on your quilt (top and bottom only) where you want it, and then pin one wing slightly under the body and sew it down all around the wing (i.e. applique it on). I use a small tight zigzag but you might come up with something better and the do the same with the other wing. The color of thread you use might be a contrast (to add to the butterfly's coloring or it may be a color that matches the backing material you are putting it on. Once the wings are done you start at the body's bottom and sew up one side to the head and then KEEP GOING and make an antennae (they also can be in any direction; don't have to be the same). I make the end of the antennae larger. Repeat for the other side. I use a zig zag stitch with thread that matches the body.

    3a) If you can are using your chosen fabric you can use the chosen fabric to make the butterfly body by using a darkish/dull thread on the body fabric and doing a tightish zigzag stitch all around, outlining the darkish/dull body fabric, starting at the point of the tail and continue up PAST the head to create an antenna; then start at the tail again and go up the other side. I make the head wider, almost round, and the tail pointed. You may want to line it with a wee bit of extra batting to puff it up a little batting.

    3b) Applique around the wings and you have a flat butterfly that is what you want, where you want it! You can use a color thread that matches your butterfly or matches the background fabric, or something outrages that makes the butterfly pop out and come at you!


    4a) Years ago I started making "free-winged" butterflys, sometimes by matching two printed butterflys front and back (making 4 wings, 2 left and 2 right) but usually by taking another fabric (even silly things like tiny lady bugs on bright yellow or swirls, or colorful dots, or...), using medium stiff iron on double sided stick 'em permanent stiffing and putting it between each set of wings. Each “set” of wings need to be “appliqued” together; some nice stitch around the edges that is fairly tight If there is any chance this will get washed. Some of mine have been washed several times (front loader PLEASE) and the butterflys still look good (although on close inspection you can see they have been washed (I faint here at this terrible disclosure).

    4b) If you have printed fabric you want to use, again do #1a) above cutting out your butterfly wings, but do two of each side, since you will be able to see both the top and bottom of each wing, and be sure to bond them together with permanent 2-sided bonding material. If you use an already-printed butterfly be aware that they rarely come so that the wings match perfectly. You will have to sacrifice some “sameness”. Having said this, I do it all the time. When people look at the finished quilt they NEVER have said, “oh, but they don't match perfectly!”. That's why they are still my friends But really, no one LOOKS for errors (except the quilt police and who cares about them).

    4c) Your printed butterfly already has a body. Your next job is to decide exactly where you want it and pin the central body (perhaps w/some batting under it) onto the back ground. Then you sew up from the tippy bottom to the rounded antennae ends and your free-winged butterfly is attached; by the body only!

    4d) You may want to play with the wings a bit. Sometimes I put a single stitch in one or two places where the wing attaches to the body, if the wing seems wimpy, to hold it up a bit. That allows flat-out, or up-folded, or whatever you want for that particular butterfly. I have one butterfly on my last quilt with both wings up, as if it's resting. Do what fits each butterfly.

    Gretchen, You may or may not be really interested in all this information, but on Sunday morning I'm leaving for 3 months and I do love doing butterflys! Hope there is something in here for you, and for the other readers. I'd put some pictures up but I have a MacBook Pro and can't figure out how to do it. In late February, I think, there is an applique Queen/King quilt contest on QB and my Sonora Desert quilt has 5 butterflys on it, done free-winged. If the photo is good enough to zoom in on you can see what they look like. These are not small print, but cut-out from butterfly fabric. Sierra

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Western Wisconsin
    Thanks...this si a great tutorial!
    Penny aka PLS 1946

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Lots of information but for new quilters pictures would have been a great help. I love butterflys and was really looking forward to pictures showing examples.

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