Fabric Butterfly Tutorial

By Jen McGuire

I was very excited to create a butterfly to donate to the Holocaust Museum Houston Butterfly Project. As of this time last year they had already received over 400,000 butterflies. Houston is not very far from my home in Austin, Texas so I am seriously considering a trip to see this amazing exhibit when it opens in 2012.

I recently moved into a new place and my craft stuff, sadly was the last to get unpacked. This project was the first I attempted in my new craft space. At first I felt like my craft mojo just wasn’t flowing. I did everything backwards and in the most difficult way possible. I didn’t start out with a very clear vision of what I was hoping to accomplish. I should have sorted through my stash more, pulled some swatches and sketched it out first, but instead I just went for it.

Happily, in the end I really like the finished project. Here is how I made it:


  • Fabric–I used new heavy weight cotton for the background and a heavier weight fabric from a thrifted dust ruffle. I had originally planned on doing a collage and using lots of fabric scraps but I really liked the pattern of the ruffle and thought it made a nice butterfly.
  • Embroidery floss, needle–Optional, however I found the no-glitter rule to be very hard so I felt like I had to spruce up my butterfly where I could, and I’m really into embroidery right now so it finds it’s way into everything I make now.
  • Freezer paper or embroidery hoop: I decided last minute to use embroidery on my finished butterfly so I used freezer paper to stabilize my fabric enough to embroider without a hoop. If you think ahead, a hoop would be easier.
  • Pellon Wonder Under Extra Strong Paper-Backed Fusible Web
  • Scissors, pinking shears
  • Iron, board and pressing cloth: Trust me, you need a pressing cloth so that the gummy fusible web doesn’t get on your iron or board and to ensure that your fabric doesn’t scorch.
  • Ruler

How To:

Measure your background fabric to make sure to stay within the proper guidelines (no larger than 8″x10″) then cut with pinking shears to the proper size. I wanted to keep things fairly simple but other options would be to sew or serge the edges instead. But, I really like the way a pinked edge looks. My butterfly is roughly 8″x9″.
Draw your desired butterfly shape. I am a fan of symmetry but have a hard time creating it so I drew the left side, cut it out and folded it over to trace the right side. I chose a simple outline but the possibilites are endless, I originally thought a butterfly on a flower would be nice but I wanted it to be bold so I skipped the flower.
Trace the butterfly onto the fusible web, iron onto a piece of fabric big enough to accomodate it, then cut the butterfly shape out of the fabric and iron onto the main fabric following the manufacturer’s directions.
I drew two words: “love” and “hope” above and below my butterfly. This is optional, you can stop after applying the butterfly if you do not wish to add embroidery.
If embroidering, either iron on a stabilizer (such as freezer paper) or put the fabric into a hoop.
After I embroidered the words I did a freehand outline around the butterfly using floss that matched the darkest color in the fabric, but again, the possibilities are endless.
Tear the freezer paper away from the back of the fabric. I gave my finished project a quick press on both the front and back. I know many stitchers do not iron the front of their projects so they do not flatten the stitches but I thought it made this project look a bit crisper.
That’s it! Let me know what you think about my butterfly and be sure to send me a link if you choose to donate a butterfly to the museum.
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