Introduction: Sew a Butterfly

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Butterflies evolved from moths; the first moths existed in the Jurassic age 19 million years ago. There are currently over 18,500 species worldwide except Antarctica. Butterflies
are insects. This means they have six legs, a set of antennae, and three parts to their body (the head, thorax, and abdomen).

Butterflies start out looking very different in life. They begin as an egg, then they grow into a caterpillar, then cocoon into a pupa, and emerge as we know them. The process between being a caterpillar and a butterfly is called metamorphosis. First the caterpillar makes a cocoon and then seals itself inside. Then they release special chemicals that liquefy the caterpillar’s body and change its cells into that of a butterfly.

Why are butterfly patterns different?

Butterflies primarily use their wing patterns to ward off predators in the wild. Certain colors and patterns will look like poison, or more dangerous things like birds which would often feast on other insects that would see a butterfly as prey. A butterfly’s chemical make-up also determine what colors it will have and separates they different species of butterflies that exist today.


    • Craft Felt – You will need at least two different colors or more depending on the complexity of your design.
    • Embroidery or sewing thread – Embroidery thread is thicker and more colorful but regular sewing thread can be used.
    • Pipe cleaner – Any color but at least one full or half sized pipe cleaner is needed per butterfly.
    • Needle – Depending on which thread you are using you can use larger needles for embroidery thread and smaller for sewing thread.
    • Basic printer paper – This is if you wish to print off the
      butterfly shape template and then use the rest of the sheet to plan out your pattern design.
    • Glue – You will need a liquid glue of some kind, white craft glue, and sewing glue would be suggested. This can be used to secure your thread on the back when you begin and end a stitch.
    • Scissors - Fabric scissors work best on the felt. For paper cutting a normal pair of scissors


    • Needle threader – If you have a hard time threading your needle for hand stitching you may need a needle threader to make the process easier.

    Step 1: Cut the Butterfly Shape

    Print out the provided template.

    Cut along dotted lines. There is a second copy on the sheet just in case you need it. Be sure to not use your fabric scissors on the paper it will make them dull a lot faster!

    Take a sheet of felt and fold it in half.

    While folded lay your template on top so that the middle of the butterfly shape is against the fold. This way you will be making a copy on the other side and have a whole butterfly shape when you are done.

    Carefully cut around the half butterfly shape. Once it’s cut out open to reveal your whole butterfly.

    If you already plan to do a front and back for your butterfly you can cut out a second full shape now with the rest of your felt sheet.

    Step 2: Create the Antennae

    Fold your pipe cleaner in half.

    While folded twist at least half of the pipe cleaner together to make the body. Then leave some length at the two tops to twist in a slight curl.

    Place your pipe cleaner in the center of the butterfly shape.

    Thread your needle, a double thickness of thread works best. Pull it all the way through so you have the same length of thread on both sized of the threaded needle and make a knot..

    With your threaded needle start from the back of your butterfly and push upwards so the needle comes out close to the body. Then push your needle down on the other side of the body. Continue to stitch this way several times going back up and down along the pipe cleaner.

    When you have secured the body to the butterfly shape knot your thread so it won’t come undone.

    Step 3: Create the Pattern

    With your other felt and scraps design shapes that you can repeat on both sides. Feel free to prototype shapes with your leftover printer paper before you cut your felt.

    You want to have identical shapes on each side be sure to cut two out of the same shape then flip one over so they will be copies of each other. If you are planning on making a front and back be sure to make double of everything so you would need 4 of all shapes.

    Step 4: Sew Pattern Shapes to Butterfly Shape

    Thread your needle with your desired thread color and knot the end with a double knot. A single thickness for your thread is best for this kind of hand sewing unlike when you attached the body.

    Start from the back and push upwards bringing the needed to the topside of your butterfly wing right next to where you want your shape to be. Now push your needle down so that it is just inside your pattern shape. Continue to do this around each shape you wish to attach and then knot your thread on the backside of the wings like you did with the antennas.

    If you are uncomfortable sewing feel free to use your glue to secure the pattern shapes to the wings. But this is an excellent occasion to practice your sewing.

    Step 5: Higher Difficulty Patterning

    Now that you are starting to be comfortable making a repeated pattern you can add more complex items to your design. For instance beads with a large enough hole to go over your needle work great.

    You can also make patterns by simply adding stitches like those center lines making small bursts of orange.

    As extra security for your stitches adding a little glue to each knot is an excellent idea.

    Step 6: Making a Front & Back

    For those who want the back of the butterfly to also be as beautiful as the front you could have been making a copy at the same time. If you haven't don't worry just go back to Step 1 and start again but skip Step 2.

    When you have your completed butterfly without the body attached use a Blanket Stitch along all the sides to attach the two felt wings together. Make sure that the design is facing outwards and your two sides that have the stitching are facing each other.

    For a great instructional video for a blanket stitch Red Ted Art has an excellent tutorial:

    When you get to the end of your blanket stitch tie a knot at the connection between your last stitch and the first one you made as shown. As always a small amount of glue on that last knot will help make it secure for long term playing.

    Step 7: Use Other Materials

    Don't have felt? Want to make butterflies of other materials?

    You could try making larger butterfly shapes. Do this by enlarging the template or making your own butterfly wing shapes. With larger wings you can make more complex designs.

    If you are tired of felt try looking for other materials you have around the house. Craft foam could be used and the patterns glued on. If your family has a Circuit or other vinyl cutter you may have sheets of vinyl around. Ask your adult if you can use any of their scraps. You can attach the vinyl to the butterfly shape like stickers onto card stock paper.

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