Applique Butterfly

Easy step by step instructions on how to make a beautiful butterfly supported by preparation and stitching video clips. Add this beautiful machine appliqued butterfly to any quilt.

Learn to add a creative touch to any quilt with this beautiful butterfly pattern

Add this creative butterfly to any project. Attach it to a quilt, a tote, a book cover, a sweater or a pocket. It is lots of fun and easy to adapt so you can make as many as you like.

What you will Need

Small amounts of the following items:

  • Fusible Webbing
  • Stabilizer - approximately 8" square
  • Fabric Scraps - 6" square of the main color and small amounts of contrasting colors
  • Machine embroidery threads in various colors - one thread to match the main butterfly color and other bright contrasting threads. You may include metallic threads.
  • Sewing machine and equipment.

Templates are provided in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. If you do not have version 9 of Adobe® Reader™ installed on your computer, click here for instructions on downloading this free utility.

When you print the templates ensure you have ‘Page Scaling’ set to ‘none’. You will find this option on the print screen. If this is not set, your templates will not be the right size. Click here for the PDF file


Trace the butterfly from the template provided onto fusible webbing. Include all inner lines.

Cut out roughly and then press to the wrong side of your main fabric.

tracing butterfly linesTrace all lines onto fusible

Trace colored sections for wings onto fusible webbing and press to the wrong side of contrast fabrics.

Cut out all sections. Transfer any inner lines through to right side of fabric using a quilter’s pencil/marker.

Remove paper from colored sections and press onto main butterfly.


draw lines onto right side of fabric

transfer all lines to right side of fabric

butterfly ready
Do you have difficulty removing the backing paper?

Tip: Use a pin to score the backing paper. This will make a rough edge that lifts up slightly from the webbing, thus making it easier to get a grip on the paper.

scored edge

Score paper with a pin

Lastly, remove paper from butterfly and press onto the center of the stabilizer.

You may like to view the video I made showing this preparation procedure. It can be seen here:

Learning Free-Motion

I suggest you read through the instructions before beginning and then practice on some scrap fabric pressed onto stabilizer. Even the best free-motion machinist should do some warm-up practice before beginning any project to ensure the stitching is correct. Ensure your practice sample is made using the same fabrics as your project, and use the same thread you intend on using. This is important to get your tension correct.

Settings and Foot

Make sure your machine is set for straight stitching. The length does not matter since that will be determined by the speed of your machine and how quickly you feed your fabric through the machine.

Put your darning foot or free motion foot onto your machine. This foot varies with different machines but is generally circular or oval in shape. Use an open-toed darning foot if you have one as this will give you more visibility.

If you do not have a darning foot, a spring needle may be used instead.

Lower or cover your feed dogs. If you are unsure how to do this, refer to your machine manual.

Some quilters prefer to sew with their feed dogs up. If you are going to do this, you must turn your stitch length to 0.

Bernina darning foot

Bernina darning foot

Janome darning foot

Janome darning foot


Place your practice sample under the foot and lower the presser foot. Notice how the sample can be moved around easily under the foot, even when it is lowered. This allows you to maneuver your work in any direction. You will be able to sew sideways, backward or at any angle without twisting the fabric.

Important: It is essential that you lower your presser foot so tension disks engage. If you forget, loops and thread nests will form on the back of your work. It is easy to forget because the foot does not sit flat on the sewing machine bed. Just as importantly, you should always make sure the presser foot is in the up position when threading your machine otherwise, the thread does not engage into the disks properly.

Drop the needle down into the sample, then bring it up again. Pull gently on the top thread to bring the bobbin thread to the surface of the fabric. Use a stiletto or long pin to catch the bobbin thread loop, pulling the end through to the top. Do this whenever you begin free motion stitching to avoid a thread nest on the back.

bobbin thread up to top

Pull bobbin thread up

Hold the two thread ends firmly, but not so tightly that you put tension on the needle. Do a few stitches very close together. This locks off the ends. Later these can be clipped off close to the surface. At the end of your stitching, sew a few more stitches close together as you did at the beginning, to lock off your threads.

Grip your fabric between your fingers and thumb. Tip: You may find Quilter's gloves useful to make gripping easier.

Run your machine at a medium to fast pace, moving your fabric underneath the needle. The stitch length is determined by the speed of your machine and the movement of your hands as you guide the fabric through the machine. The quicker the machine goes compared to your hand movement, the smaller the stitches will be. If you run your machine slowly and move the fabric quickly, your stitches will be too large and curves will become jagged.

Note: You do not have to run your machine at the highest speed, just stitch as fast as you can comfortably. Remember, you need to be in control of your machine, not have your machine in control of you.

I have a video of this procedure to help you see what it looks like in action.

It can be seen here: Free-motion Video Clip

Note: this video will open up a new window and is located on my blog. To view it, click the play button arrow on the second picture

free motion practice

left stitching with small stitches has smooth curves; right stitching is jagged – stitches are too large

Now start stitching by making a curved line. Stitch for several inches then remove your sample and check your stitches. Do you need to adjust the tension? Remember, your top thread needs to go down into the layers and your bobbin thread should not be visible on the top. It is fine if you see small dots of top thread underneath, but ensure your stitches do not form small loops, particularly when going around tight curves.

tension differences
tension loops

If you see loops like this on the back, it means the thread is not in the tension disks properly. Remove your top thread and re-thread your machine, ensuring the presser foot is in the up position.

If you see anything more than a small peak of top thread showing on the bottom or small loops are forming on the curves as shown in the picture above, then you will need to turn the tension knob to a higher number to tighten top thread. If you see bobbin thread on the top, your top tension is too tight. Reduce this by turning the tension knob to a lower number. Always check your manual if you are unfamiliar with the tension knob.

If you are unable to adjust your tension so no bobbin thread shows on the top, yet your stitches are formed correctly, use the same color thread on the bobbin as used on the top.

If you have the "Needle-down" option on your machine, select it so the needle stops in the down position.

Whenever you need to re-position your hands or change your hand grip on your fabric, always stop your machine first with the needle down into the fabric. Once the needle has come to a complete stop, you can re-position your hands.

Practice by stitching straight lines, curves, different shapes and even letters of the alphabet. Try stitching sideway and backward motions without turning your fabric. I am sure you will see a noticeable improvement between your early stitches and your current stitches. Keep practicing until you feel confident, remembering to stay relaxed.

free motion closeup

Stitching Butterfly

Use free-motion techniques to stitch the butterfly as follows.

Use black thread to stitch in veins on the colored section of the top wings.

Using the same thread, stitch colored sections on lower wings by stitching small circles over the top of the colored section. Stitch each circle 2-3 times.

Stitch veins on top wings

Stitch veins on top wings

Stitch circular motions on lower wings

Stitch circular motions on lower wings

Use a contrast thread or thread to match the colored area of the wing, to stitch circles along the outer edge of top wings.

Edge stitch the colored area of the top wings with matching thread

Add circles along top wing

Add circles along top wing

Use a second contrast thread or metallic thread to stitch lines and circles on lower wings.

Tip: When using metallic thread, you may need to use a metallic or top stitching needle and stitch a little slower to prevent the thread from breaking.

Use this thread again to add some outlining stitching on the top wings.

Add metallic thread to finish off

Add metallic thread to finish off

Attaching Butterfly

Trim any excess stabilizer back to the edge of the butterfly.

Press butterfly onto fusible webbing using a Teflon sheet or pressing sheet. Cut away any excess fusible.

Press Butterfly onto the project.

Using matching thread, edge stitch butterfly in place. Stitch again close to raw edges.

Stitch around the body of the butterfly and embroider antennae above the head.


Attach the butterfly and add antennae

Here is a video showing the stitching:

This Butterfly was originally designed for the quilt pattern Array of Color

Happy Quilting!
Ruth Blanchet
Textile artist & teacher

About the Author: Ruth Blanchet is a well-known quilter from New Zealand, is a teacher and designer with over 30 years of experience in the quilt making industry. She is the founder of the “Academy of Quilting”, an online quilting school and has published countless quilt patterns which can be viewed here on our website.

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