Butterflies Are Free

I think butterflies in the air are such a beautiful summer sight.

I love to see these winged creatures floating effortlessly on top of a warm breeze.

Butterflies are free and have never looked better when created out of embroidery.

I think you’ll enjoy seeing them come to life in the form of embroidery.


There are so many designs available that lend themselves to this fun and elegant applique technique.

Throughout this post, I’ll share a range of applique projects as well as some examples of how these pretty appliques can be used.

First, let’s start with the how-to. You’ll need a sheer fabric like an organza, tulle or another light netting. This kind of fabric comes in lots of beautiful colors and you can pick it up at most fabric stores.

Blog victorian organza

You will also need some water-soluble stabilizer. Stabilizer holds fabric in place in an embroidery hoop while the design is stitching out. It can be completely washed out. Stabilizer can be found at most sewing shoppes and it typically comes in a roll like in the photo below.

Make sure you always store your water-soluble stabilizer in air-tight plastic so it won’t be affected by moisture in the air over time.


Of course you’ll need a great thread color. You can always mix up your thread shades for a more colorful look on your project. Since I used a pale pink tulle for this illustration, I just kept it simple with a matching pink blush embroidery thread.


When setting up your embroidery hoop for the project, sandwich your netting fabric between two equal sizes of water soluble stabilizer. Place all three layers into your embroidery hoop.

Remember, netting in the center and stabilizer on top and bottom.


You must select an embroidery design that has a continuous stitch like the butterfly pattern above or the flower and leaf pattern in the photo below.

The flower/leaf design is completely stitched-out here and you’ll notice that no part of the design is separate from any other part of the design. That’s a critical factor in creating a successful embroidered applique.


The no stitch-separation rule is important because once the design is stitched out, all the embroidery stitches must connect at some point in order to stay in tact.

If even a small stitch element is not connected to the overall design, you will lose that element after rinsing the stabilizer out because it will not be attached to the rest of the embroidered design.


The stabilizer completely dissolves in water. After rinsing all the stabilizer out of the project, you’re left with a beautiful design stitched onto netting.

You can see the design stays attached to the netting because all the stitches connect in some way.


Press the damp appliques flat with a paper towel and set aside to dry completely. Later, just trim the excess netting from the design for a perfect embroidered applique.


The butterfly design at the top of this post and the flower and leaf design are both from an embroidery collection by Jenny Haskins called Victorian Lace.

You may remember I used some of Jennie Haskins’ fabulous rose designs for the messenger bag project I posted not long ago.

Jenny has a corresponding book called Victorian Spendor, which is filled with tons of beautiful examples of beautiful projects and suggestions on how these embroidery designs can be used.


While on the subject of this book, allow me to digress a bit. This book originally came with a very tight binding which made it difficult to keep the pages open while I was studying certain projects and designs.

I took the book to a local office supply store and had the hard binding replaced with a spiral one. Books like this are so much easier to use when you can leave the pages flat and open.

I’ll bet you can think of a lot of crafts books in your personal library which could use a spiral binding.


I also had a few clear pocket-folders inserted into the spiral and placed in the back of the book. This is a great way to store accompanying patterns, templates and various work notes.

This spiral binding is inexpensive, does not affect the integrity of the written material and it really does make for a much more user-friendly reference book.


Meanwhile, getting back to embroidery, here’s a look at another flower arrangement that I appliqued.

This design was purchased through an on-line embroidery company called Zundt Designs which offers fantastic downloadable designs at reasonable prices.


I attached this yellow floral applique to a cute little green-white polka dot child’s purse that I made. The purse along with the adorable tulip-border jumper in the photo below was featured in one of my posts last year called Tiptoe Through the Tulips.

You may also recognize the little girl in this photo from a more recent post. She was the cover girl for a scrapbook layout that I created for Memory Makers magazine a few months ago.


Here are some little heart-shaped flowers that were also very quick and easy to stitch out.

When you have a small design like this you can place multiple designs on one hoop and stitch out several appliques during the same hooping session.

These heart designs are from a collection that is part of an embroidery quilt project called the Bernina Latte Quilt.


You can see how I used these heart-shaped appliques in the photo below. This is one of the many quilt blocks from my Bernina Latte Quilt project.

I’ve been working on the various blocks for this Bernina quilt, off-and-on for what seems like forever.


I’ll share the entire quilt here when I finish it, but I would like to give you a closer look at this particular quilt block. It has a wonderful series of pearl buttons arranged on a center grid. The lines were created using a technique called cording pintucking.

Cording pintucking requires a special pintuck presser foot which attaches to your sewing machine. You can call your sewing machine manufacturer or check with your local sewing shoppe to find a pintuck foot to fit your machine.

I’ll walk you through a pintucking project in a future post but you can see a quick on-line video demonstration of the technique now, if you click here.


OK, I diverted a bit. Getting back to appliques, here’s another example.

These triangular scroll appliques were small enough to stitch them all out in one hooping.

That’s such a time-saver.

Blog applique multiple

The photo below shows how these appliques work as a bathroom towel embellishment.

These towels were featured in my post last year entitled, “throw in the towel“.

The towel set was a gift to my mom. If you’d like to see the entire “throw in the towel” post, just click here.

Blog yellow towel wide2

Want more butterflies?

How about some butterflies in flight?

I can think of lots of great places where these little butterflies could be used.


Small appliques like this are perfect for scrapbooking and card-making projects.

There’s no rule that says embroidered appliques must be attached to apparel.

Appliques can go wherever you want them to.

Blog butterflies scrap

A small staple along the body of these butterflies works fine for the attachment to the scrapbook page.

I think the little pink and yellow butterflies add a perfectly sweet and whimsical touch to the layout

Blog butterflies small

Wouldn’t a series of these larger embroidered butterfly appliques look nice on a lightweight pale-colored evening shawl?

I would probably leave the antennae unattached and loose on the shawl for a bit of free-floating whimsy.


Finally, here’s how I ultimately used the flower and leaf designs that were shown in the original applique tutorial.

It’s easy to dress up a pretty-but-plain pink linen shell with the addition of embroidered applique.

I love this soft, delicate look for summer, don’t you?

If this tank looks familiar, that’s because I featured it in a previous tutorial on making fabric covered coat hangers.


Another benefit of embroidered applique is that you can place the design perfectly (and perhaps precariously) onto apparel.

Notice in the photo below that the tips of the embroidery extend slightly beyond the neckline.

I could not have achieved the same “beyond-the-neckline” design placement by embroidering directly onto this blouse, so applique was a perfect way to successfully put the embroidery exactly where I wanted it.


It’s a good idea to use “invisible” thread in your sewing machine when stitching soft-colored applique like this onto apparel.

Invisible thread resembles thin clear twine, and spools are available at most sewing shoppes.

Blog butterflies thread

You can still use a neutral-colored regular thread in the bobbin, but as the name suggests, invisible thread will make your applique front attachment totally naked to the eye.


I think you can see the beauty and wonderful versatility of embroidered appliques.

The possibilities are truly endless and the results can be so elegant.

I covered quite a bit in this butterflies are free post and I hope there’s a little something for everyone.

I think I’ll end this post here-and go in search of real butterflies.

Thanks for stopping by.

See  you back here next time. 

  • Donna Davis

    I’m making a latte quilt and I’ve tried to find the extra designs that wasn’t in the book cd. could you tell me how to order one. thanks

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Hi Donna, I downloaded them more than a decade ago but I’ll do some research this weekend and see if I can find them. Do you remember the specific names of the ones you’re looking for?

  • Anonymous

    I like your work. It is really very impressive and great work. I am so impressed by that. Thanks for sharing it. It such a very attractive and useful work.

  • Anonymous

    What an excellent work are show here. I really like that tutorial. I want to bring these in my home and i really excited for make it.

  • Sheree

    You make it sound so easy Lisa!! Love these and LOVE the new blog banner—gorgeous!

  • Shashi Kumar

    Just amazing. Its just like to visit the haven of creativity. What a stunning design you have I am from India and really I’m very happy to see this. Specially your thought is nice and your vision is clear. Very few people I found having this type of thinking and interest so just I want to say ‘mind blowing’ Keep it up.

  • [email protected] Peas

    wow! Those are truly beautiful. I have some free standing lace designs. I just didn’t know how to make them. Thanks for showing me how. Now if onl I can get the courage to try it out!

  • Sabina

    I am just overwhelmed by all those beautiful photos!! Your talent abounds!!

  • Michelle

    Has HGTV come a calling yet??? 🙂
    Just Fabulous!

  • sue b

    Those butterflies are amazing!

  • Mireille

    this is really só pretty!!!! Thank you for sharing this!

  • gena

    Lisa, I love the new look of your blog! And these are stunning embroidery projects, as always. I am totally inspired.

  • rhoda

    Lisa, thanks for coming by & chiming in on the yardsale comforter…everyone says to go for it & I probably will…eventually.
    You do beautiful work & your photos are stunning.

  • DebraK

    Such beautiful designs! You have a lovely inspiring blog. Thanks for sharing your talent, DebraK

  • Jennifer Paganellli

    Lisa you have been a busy bee love the new header and all the great projects you go girl!!all my best, Jennifer

  • Jen R

    Wow, what a cool project! I wish I had one of those new fangled machines 😉 Thanks for sharing! I love your new blog header! Jen R

  • Keisha

    wow, you always amaze me!!!

  • Renee

    I left you an award on my blog. Stop by and collect it.

  • jessjess

    I am loving the free butterflies. I cant wait until i get my new sewing machine that i can try some of that! love the new blog header~!

  • Stämnningsfullt

    Oh, so beautiful!

  • Du Buh Du Designs

    Not only do you show such beautiful things you are so generous in sharing tips. And like you said there is something here for everyone:)
    p.s. love your banner!

  • sockiepuppetsmom

    Oh my goodness that is all SO beautiful! I have an embroidery machine but I have yet to use it for making lacey appliques. BTW… I love the new banner for your blog!

  • denice

    I don’t have an embroidery machine, but your posts are so full of ideas and information that can be incorporated in other ways. Thanks!

  • Niesz Vintage Home

    Oh Lisa! I’m amazed!
    Those appliques are so beautiful and delicate.
    And the blue quilt block with the floral hearts…stunning, really stunning.
    oh man, I SO want an embroidery machine!
    Kimberly 🙂

  • tea time and roses

    Hello Lisa!
    Oh my what a beautiful post! Thank you so much for sharing this most lovely tutorial! I just love butterflies, there is something so magical about them! By the way, I love your new banner…just beautiful!

  • All Things Lovely

    What a truly wonderful idea! I love your new blog header as well, so gorgeous. 🙂

  • Natasha Burns

    Hi Lisa,
    Thanks for stopping by again – yeah those drawers are fabulous aren’t they?! Unfortunately they are vintage – they once held papers and documents and each drawer didn’t have sides or a back, so my dad even built each side of the drawer for me, so i could use them – and i painted the whole thing white and put back the original tab/pulls. It houses some of my papers, ribbons, glues and beads. Craft supplies in the lounge room! ox

  • Tina Cockburn

    There is just no end to your talents, my friend! You are so amazing.
    I also wanted to let you know I bought two “jelly rolls” and two patterns and I hope to add quilting to my (every growing) list of hobbies. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • jen davis

    Love your new blog header and this amazing post (as usual!)…especially loving the butterfly appliques. Thanks for always putting so much thought into your posts, they are lovely to read!

  • Nanette

    Lisa you are so incredibly talented.

  • stephanie

    i am very impressed by this! was this done on a sewing machine? i like the special touch it gives to your layout.

  • Geeta

    That’s AMAZING Lisa!
    You are the Goddess of embroidery!
    You need to get yourself a book deal:)
    Hugs, Geeta

  • Geeta

    That’s AMAZING Lisa!
    You are the Goddess of embroidery!
    You need to get yourself a book deal:)
    Hugs, Geeta

  • Ravenhill

    You are amazing! I know I have said it before but this post really has impressed me! You make so many beautiful things. Really love the butterflies!

  • Anna M.

    WOW! I am so impressed! You are so talented…what beautiful work you do! Thanks for the tutorial…and for making it look like I could give it a try! =)

  • traci

    hi lisa – beautiful work once again. i love the new blog banner!

  • Sasha Farina

    have i told you lately how awesome I think you are? *sigh* so glad to have found you Lisa!

  • Rhonda

    What great instruction and demos. My little group and I are experimenting with various threads and stabilizers. Most of us now have embroidery machines and we communicate via a chat-room while stitching.

  • claudia freitas

    Your embroidery butterflies are wonderful. It really gives the idea of being in a garden.

  • Janet (Shabbyfufu)

    What a beautiful post Lisa! You work wonders with sewing, and it’s good to see the old art of embroidery being continued on in a contemporary fashion.

  • Melissa (Missy)

    You are doing beautiful things with all of your ME appliques! Beautiful job Lisa. Good idea using it with scrapbooking and cards as well.

  • SewDelish

    Thanks for such a great tutorial. The butterflies are lovely. Never thought of making them for scrapbooking!

  • Maggie

    WOW!!!! This is the most beautiful embroidery I have ever seen. I would love to try my hand at this but I have a feeling that it takes a lot more to produce the amazing thing you do, than just having a good embroidery machine. Your work is stunning!!!

  • Cora

    Those butterflies are gorgeous. What a creative accent for scrap booking. Of course, I love the appliqué on the purse.

  • Cora

    Those butterflies are gorgeous. What a creative accent for scrap booking. Of course, I love the appliqué on the purse.

  • Kaja

    Lovely! The scrapbooking butterflies are, by God, one of the most creative and wonderful things I’ve seen for a very long time!
    But, jeez! I have managed to resist almost all things that people have made with their embrodery mashines, but now… I really do NEEED to have one now… Just have to figure out where to find the money!!
    Thanks! I think…. 😉

  • Elena

    Gosh Lisa, you are SO talented. You inspire me so much to learn more. I have all the desire but none of the expertise. I’ve got to get cracking. Thank you.

  • Donna

    Lovely work. Your blog is a pleasure to read.

  • Natasha Burns

    Hi Lisa,
    Gorgeous butterflies, I love how they are so alive!!!
    Thanks for letting me know about my butterfly photo – I was testing the hosting on flickr and seeing if my pic still worked if i set it to private, and needed someone to email and tell me if it worked or not so you helped me like you would not believe! LOL! thank you! I will go fix it now.

  • Staci

    Lisa, I love your new blog header! The butterflies are beautiful!!

  • Stephanie

    So many beautiful things! Thank you for sharing. I especially love your butterflies.

  • Shell

    I love the butterflies. So beautiful. I also love the new heading. It’s wonderful.

  • berta

    How beautiful! What kind of embroidery machine do you have? Love all the uses for the embroidery designs you created, TFS =)

  • adrienne

    Lisa how beautiful!!!! You are such a very, very talented lady!!! Love the new banner btw!

  • cindy

    You always do such gorgeous work! I wish I took advantage of my embroidery features. Thanks for sharing all of your wonderful ideas and techniques!

  • Nikki Brey

    You are the best that is all I can say. You win my craftest person ever award.

  • Shelley Jo Michel

    What an absolutely gorgeous post! It made me drool with delight. 🙂

  • Lynn @ theVintageNest

    Beautiful blogger, beautiful blog and beautiful butterflies. Thank you for that tutorial. It was fun to read. Now you must come to my house to look for butterflies. Yesterday I bet there were 20 or more butterflies on my butterfly bushes. Have a super great weekend Lisa. ~ Lynn

  • Terriaw

    Gorgeous embroidery! I especially love those large butterflies. Everything is so elegant and professional looking.

  • Karla

    Oh Lisa – the appliques are all so amazing and stunning and that quilt block! My jaw is still on the floor – so gorgeous! I never would have thought to have the book rebound – what a great idea!

  • Helz

    Machine Embroidery has never really been *My Thing… until I read your Victorian Butterflies Post that is !!! So Pretty Lisa.

  • Adla

    Lisa, how I wish I could work the sewing machine the way you do. These embroidered appliques are stunning..love the towels you made your mum 🙂
    chat soon,Adla

  • Francine

    Lisa your posts like this always make me want to run out to buy an embroidery machine! Very lovely work!

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