Butterfly block tutorial

So wrapped up am I in butterfly mania. Since I first saw this wonderful block on Sarah’s blog (did you know she works at MO? I can only plead that I was struck dumb by the butterflies and did not realize this), I asked if she would mind if I posted a tutorial. She wants everyone to have a good time too (thanks, Sarah!), so here is how I made these slightly wonky blocks.

For each 6″ finished block, you’ll need:

• 2 – 3 1/8″ x 6 1/2″ butterfly wings
• 4 – 2 1/2″ x 4 1/4″ background pieces (in this case, black)
• 1 – 1 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ butterfly body piece

Take one butterfly wing right side up and angle across it one background piece (right side down):

This can be a gentle angle or as “severe” as 45 degrees. I like a bit of wonkiness to my blocks, so I made sure to vary this angle ever so slightly each time.

Make sure the background seam allowance extends approximately evenly beyond the butterfly wing fabric:

Using 1/4″ seam allowance, stitch the background piece to the butterfly wing:

Repeat with second butterfly wing:

Lay a second background piece (right side down) on a butterfly wing — angle the background in the other direction as shown:

Using 1/4″ seam allowance, stitch in place and repeat with second butterfly wing fabric:

Trim butterfly wing fabric even with background fabric as shown:

Press background fabric out (I haven’t sewn any blocks together to be able to advise whether to press the seam allowance toward the background or toward the butterfly wing fabric — I’m thinking it will be better to press the seam allowance toward the butterfly wing to help decrease bulk later on).

Lay a 6 1/2″ ruler on top of one butterfly/background section making sure to center the ruler so that you have approximately equal widths of background showing at the top (in this photo):


Trim the wing/background section to be 6 1/2″ wide:

Now it’s time to trim the inside and outside of the block section.

First, lay a ruler so that it is even with the raw edge of the INSIDE of the butterfly wing as shown — the inside shows a narrower band of wing and wider pieces of background:

Trim the background fabric even with the butterfly wing fabric:

Next, lay the ruler so that the ruler’s 3″ mark is even with the edge you just trimmed. You’ll have a little bit of wing fabric to trim off too, but it will result in a nice, even, clean edge:

Now it’s time to add the butterfly body to the wing/background sections. Stitch using 1/4″ seam and press seam allowances toward the center.


This approach is a little wasteful when it comes to background:

Sarah said that Kathy (the Queen of Rulers) recommended the Nifty Notions Bias Triangle and Nifty Notions Half Rectangle rulers for these blocks. I am certain that there would be little if any background waste if you use these rulers. I am flying by the seat of my wasteful pants but I may order these rulers for future reference.

Because I have a feeling there is going to be future reference…

Now, do you see butterflies? Or do you see spools? Mary Jo mentioned that these are referred to as spools. I dug out issue 76 of Quiltmania to see Yoko Goto’s Spools of Thread and Flowers quilt — same block. Then Mary Jo let me borrow an old issue of Quilts Japan (no. 9 from 1999) that has this block in a special section on spool quilts. What fantastic examples there are!

This one has no center strip:

I like this little cutie pie:

Cute examples on these bags:

I don’t know if you can see it, but there are four of these wonky little blocks inside each more traditional spool:

Don’t you love that?

Finally, I like the layout of this quilt too:

So, maybe I am making spools? Kind of a butterfly meets klosjes meets Japanese quilt goodness by way of Australia? Whatever the name, it’s an international love affair.

Off you go. Have fun. Hope this is helpful! I’d love to see what you make. Thanks again to Sarah for the inspiration!



  1. wonderful tute and I love all of the mag inspiration, too! Pretty much all wonky piecing results in fabric waste unfortunately, but it’s so much fun!!

  2. MichelleB said

    Ah, wonderful! The pictures are always a big help.

    I have to say, I don’t see spools. But then, I didn’t see butterflies either. I just saw a cool looking block. 🙂

  3. Melinda said

    Thanks for showing us how to make these. I like your quilt a lot.

  4. Carla said

    Congratulations on the wonderful tutorial, Amy. I am definitely going to give it a whirl! Thanks a bunch.

  5. Doris said

    International Love Fest, indeed! Great eye candy, thanks, Amy!

  6. Anita said

    Love all those supplemental photos of spool blocks! Thanks for sharing! You never cease to inspire me. Oh how I wish I had at least 10 more hours in the day to sit and sew with abandon!

  7. Thank you so much for the tutorial. Makes complete sense to me. It looks to me like your suggested rulers work perfectly well for the project.
    I went over to Choccybangels and she had 270 blocks at 4 1/2″ square. I think your blocks at a bigger size will show more fabric and make the quilt go together faster.
    Your version looks more like a butterfly. The others are different and do look like spools. But, I like yours the best, especially with the black background. I will be giving these a try very soon!! Great way to use up scraps.

  8. I hadn’t thought about them being butterflies when I saw the blocks on another blog, but I see them now.

  9. Stephanie said

    I love the quilt in the last photo.

  10. Jennifer said

    Love it! Thanks for sharing!

    Jennifer 🙂

  11. Mary Jo said

    Thanks for the tutorial Amy. I’m going to have to try some of these blocks. Your ^” block seems much more reasonable than Sarah’s small block.

  12. Mary Jo said

    Oops That ^ was supposed to be a 6!

  13. Jackie said

    I definitely agree with Nedra, your version totally looks like butterflies. I think it is all in the fabric choice. The tutorial is wonderful, now you have me wanting to make one or maybe a few butterflies. Thank you!

  14. Sarah said

    Well done Amy! The rulers definitely reduce wastage….but I know your on a roll!

    I feel all inspired to revisit that unfinished project that got sidelined during a recent house move.

    Thanks for the re-inspiration (is that even a word?) Amy.

  15. auntiepami said

    Amy, I have a new ruler for you. I’ll email you. This is the cutest block. I can see all sorts of solids for backgrounds. Wouldn’t that be fun? (I have 2 long hair cats, so black quilts in my house soon become grey & tabby.)

  16. Oh, my! That block looks like a lot of fun!

  17. Janet said

    I love youtr tutorial, you make it look like easy peasy fun. The quilts in the Japanese books are very drool worthy. Was there some sort of formula you used to work out the sizes of the pieces?

  18. Marit said

    Thank you for a great tutorial! These blocks have really caught my eye…
    ; )
    I loved to see the additional pictures, that last japanese quilt has a really sweet layout! So glad Sarah is happy to share with us!

  19. pratima said

    Oh, thank you so much Amy for this wonderful tutorial and so many fabulous ideas… it’s hard to pick a favorite among them… I’m swooning over each one : )

  20. AnnieO said

    Amy, you are torturing me with all these new projects that immediately I think I must also make. Help! my list is already too long!

    But awesome butterflies. Really.

  21. Cathy said

    Fabulous butterflies (i’m sure they are not spools!), and the tute is great. I didn’t know Sarah worked at MO, hopefully I will meet her when I visit there early July, yay! Inspiring wings xo

  22. nanette said

    You’re killing me. I want to stop the presses, and make these. Holy Cow they are fantastic. Wonky? I don’t see it, I just see beautiful.

  23. Irene said

    I tried your tutorial and it worked out great! Now another quilt I need to make. The pics you added were so beautiful. Lots of ideas to ponder.

  24. lyn lindsay said

    Love your butterflies meet klosjes, just gorgeous and the quilt has an old look, in the most complimentary way, a very hard thing to achieve.
    I feel like my sewing room door at present has ‘banned’ written on it, or is it winter here in so called ‘sunny’ Brisbane- its overcast and I’m finishing off my washing in the drier, so I think my problem is that I want the quilt purely to sit under with a book and cup of tea – ah now I know my problem but can I say you don’t have my problem as I look at your glorious work, yes! its quilt envy.
    Thanks for your blog a feast for my eyes.


  25. belinda said

    DARN IT…..I guess I’m just gonna have to lay down what I’m doing and GO FOR THIS ONE….it is soooo cute it is hurting me!!!! WOW….which design do I choose??????

  26. snoozerider said

    Great tutorial – definitely on my list of blocks to try. Love your blog, Viv x

  27. Naomi Vela said

    Butterflies or spools, they’re cute as. Thanks for sharing. Hugs Naomi

  28. DYING over your butterfly tute, block, quilt… everything! You always have me wanting to run for my fabric cupboards!!!

  29. Nancy said

    Love all the delicious fabrics and the tuts are great! Plus, I really love the doodling-on-the-fabric idea!

  30. Carla said

    Amy, I used your great tutorial to make blocks for a Bee I am participating in with the KCMQG. Thanks for sharing….it was easy to follow and turned out well. I am thinking about using it for another Bee as well! Here’s the link:


  31. Michele said

    I can’t believe I never left a comment on this post. I refer to it often. I made more of your fun butterfly blocks today. Thank you so much for such a wonderful tutorial. I hope you know how much the blog world appreciates such clear direction and inspiration.

  32. jmbmommy said

    I just died after looking at that last quilt… it is so fantastic…

    how do you find such wonder? Thanks, I think that I must quilt!

  33. http://nikkisquiltingprojects.blogspot.com/2010/12/baby-quilt-for-parthena-unveiled-at.html

    Just wanted to share my latest butterfly quilt with you. I love it and so does everyone else! Thanks for the great tutorial!

  34. Beverly said

    I love this quilt and it is a grand way to use up scraps.

  35. Wendy said

    Thank you very much for sharing this pattern. Love it

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: