Tutorial: Butterfly block

Please scroll down, down, down to see the update using 5″ charm squares.

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!


I know that other clever quilters have already adapted the butterfly block to be 5″ charm-square-friendly. I thought I’d get on board and update my tutorial as well. These butterfly blocks leave more background visible while the originals leave a smaller sliver of it around the butterflies. As I mentioned, these butterflies are less wasteful than the larger blocks! Bonus! I will be adding this to the original tutorial and this update may make more sense in the context of the original. So, let’s begin!

First, cut all of your charm squares in half so that you have two pieces –– 2 1/2″ x 5″:

For each block, cut two 3 1/2″ squares of background:

For each block, you will also need one 1 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ strip for butterfly body (sorry, no pic).

Layer the 3 1/2″ background squares (right sides together or wrong sides together, doesn’t matter) and make an angled cut approx. 1″ in from the bottom right edge and top left edge like so:

Cut so that you have four (mine are still layered) background pieces:

Lay out your butterfly blocks as shown (this just helps me keep track of which direction the background needs to go):

Sew the backgrounds to the butterfly wings (mine have the narrowest part of the background at the corner of the butterfly wing, background extends approx. 1/2″ beyond butterfly wing fabric):

Trim the butterfly wing fabric even with the background seams and press toward the butterfly wings.

Next, trim the background/butterfly wing unit. First trim the background so that it measures 2 1/2″ wide (same width as the butterfly wing). Then trim the background so that this unit is 5 1/2″ long — leaving approx. 1/2″ of background on either side of the widest part of the butterfly wing.

The butterfly wing/background units should measure 2 1/2″ x 5 1/2″.

See, a lot less waste than the original method:

Finally, sew the 1 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ butterfly body between the wings. Press seams toward butterfly body.

Lather, rinse, repeat for more and more butterflies!




  1. I finished my butterfly quilt! Now that my quilting pals have seen the finished quilt… I’ve got everybody here addicted to making them too. Love you simple designa and the tutorial was so easy to follow. Thank you!

  2. Kelly said

    Just made a butterfly quilt and referred to your blog as the inspiration. I love it!

  3. What a cute idea! A great tutorial!

  4. Lei said

    I just wanted to thank you so much for the wonderful tutorial. It was easy to follow and I have just had the best time with this block. I have made a few coasters using your tutorial, and hopefully within the next month I plan on starting a quilt using your tutorial. Have a great weekend!

  5. mandylifeboats said

    i wonder about putting a strip of selvege in the middle of the butterfly.

  6. Deb said

    I love these butterflies!! I have a large stash of charm squares…I think it would be fun to make many, many butterflies….:)

    Thanks for the tutorial!


  7. Love these! But need help…I am a little spatially challenged and keep ending up with wing + background sections that are smaller than the required 2 1/2″ x 5 1/2″…there must be a trick to placing the background triangles onto the wing pieces before sewing, can someone advise me?

  8. Judith said

    Thanks for this great tutorial!
    I used the charm squares update to make a pillow 🙂


  9. Ivy said

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! 🙂

  10. Ivy said

    Btw, I love Quilter’s Rule rulers, too! 🙂

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