You probably came after seeing the butterfly tunic on Pinterest and I’m so glad you’re interested in making your own. The great part is that its easier than you think and I’ll walk you through it.
Through this post I’ll show you
- How to prepare the butterfly
- Tips for choosing a tunic (and the pattern I used)
- How to fit it to your model
Sometimes your creations take on a life of their own–that was absolutely the case with the butterfly top.
When I was asked to take a Square by Design square (available only at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores) and turn it into something fun, I thought about how I could make it really special.
The butterfly was meant to flit and fly. I couldn’t really see it coming to life as a pillow or wall hanging, but if I were to put it on a little girl, that butterfly could soar. And it really does.
Sewn to a simple, elegant muslin tunic, the butterfly shines. It’s eye-catching and beautiful, especially since you don’t really expect it from the front. But turn around, and the butterfly top stops people in their tracks.
Choosing a Shirt or Tunic
Put this tunic on a little girl, and she won’t stop moving. Saige danced, and flapped, and transformed into a graceful little thing flitting around the house for hours. And every time she floated past, it put a smile on my face and part of that was pairing the butterfly with the right tunic.
This design is really versatile, and you can add the butterfly to a purchased top or tunic if you want. Whether you want to make or buy your tunic, here are the features to look for:
- A lower back so your tunic isn’t peeking out above the butterfly
- No back closures
- A neutral color, preferably white or ivory. I used this natural muslin and love it.
- Cap sleeve (or sleeveless) since the butterfly wing creates a little cap sleeve and you don’t want sleeve hanging out
I made my butterfly top using the McKenzie Tunic from Shwin Designs. I chose this pattern because it had the things listed above plus a square neckline and box pleats that I could manipulate to mimic wings. Your tunic doesn’t need these additional features, but it’s something to think about.
Here’s the front of the McKenzie tunic before adding the butterfly, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it–its the perfect pattern for this project.
So grab a Square by Design butterfly and your shirt or tunic, and let’s get started!
- Carefully cut around the butterfly, leaving a little bit of the background. Once cut, the edges will want to fray a lot, so try not to handle it too much. I cut off the head, but left the body with the wings–I’ll show you why in a bit.
- Using black thread, stitch a tight zigzag all around the cut edges to keep them from fraying. NOTE: I tried this with my serger, and don’t really recommend it because of the details and curves. I ended up fixing it with my sewing machine.
- Put the tunic on your model, and start pinning your butterfly. Start by pinning the lower wings under the arms lined up with the side seams then work your way up the butterfly, pinning as you go. (For fitting tips, see the next page.)
- Pin the tips of the upper wings over the shoulders–they’ll create a bit of a cap sleeve when they’re wrapped. You’ll notice you have a big gap on the top of the shoulders at this point, so pinch and pin the excess so it lays flat to the shoulder.
- Now that you know where everything goes, lightly mark where the front wings are and unpin them from the front. Create shoulder darts by taking the pinched excess on top of the shoulders and flipping the excess inside out so the right sides are together and sew a wedge from the edge in as far as your excess goes. It will look like this when you’re done and will create a curved shoulder/sleeve.
- Take the butterfly’s body, and wrap it around itself and tack it in place on the back side of the butterfly. You could choose to leave the body and sew it in place alternatively.
- Press your darts well, then sew your butterfly to your top/tunic along the butterfly edges and the tunic’s neckline.
Fitting the Butterfly Top
Since you’ll be starting with a tunic that fits, that part will already fit. This top was approximately a 5T (ready to wear sizing) and the butterfly fit perfectly. Since you may be making a different size, here’s my recommendation:
- You will be wrapping the butterfly around the tunic a little more, so instead of starting to pin from the side seams, I’d start from the center and smooth the butterfly around so you know how much further you’ll need to wrap the lower wings.
- You’ll need larger darts and will have more of a cap sleeve and wing showing in the front.
- You will be wrapping the butterfly around the tunic a little less, so instead of starting to pin from the side seams, I’d start from the center and smooth the butterfly around your model so you know how far the lower wings will extend to the side. Depending on size, there will be a gap between the lower wing and the side seam.
- You’ll need smaller darts and you won’t have as much sleeve or wing showing in front.
TIP: You can find the Square by Design fabrics in the home decor section at most Jo-Ann stores. If you can’t find them in your store (not all locations carry them) you can always find them online here.
This idea would be perfect for a Halloween costume or (like at our house) any time at all.
I hope you try the butterfly top for yourself–its an easy way to make a beautiful creation that you’ll love!
This is Gorgeous! I have 2 girls who would love this. I’ll have to pick up the fabric. I really love what you did with it!
Thanks, Kristie–I hope you get a chance to make one for your girls–they’d love it!
This is so brilliant! Love it!
Thank you so much, Jen!
This is truly fabulous. Genius! And so beautiful!
Thank you! I’m so glad I let the ideas mull and bounced them off my mama because it turned out way better than I could have imagined.
This is absolutely gorgeous! My daughter would love wearing it, too—I can just see her flying around the playground in it.
Thank you, Catherine! She wore it in public the other day, and she just danced the whole time. It was also fun to hear people comment on it since it’s so unique.
Such a fun idea, I love it!
Stunning! Beautiful work. Thank you for sharing your idea 🙂
Thank you Daniela!
Wow! I would never have thought to do that, but it looks gorgeous. I can imagine that she must feel beautiful in it too. Nice work!
Thank you Sara. She really does feel beautiful in it, and I think that might be my favorite part–that she feels transformed.
Beautiful:) and I love the tunic to go with it, perfect:)
Thank you, Vicky.I can’t believe how much I love it.
This is just gorgeous!
Thank you Jessi–it’s really been fun for her to wear.
Amazing! I love love LOVE everything about your butterfly!
Thank you Elisa!
Ok, this is beautiful, but where can you find the butterfly piece again… Please explain more
Thank you .
Thank you! The butterfly comes from a Square by Design panel you can find in the Home Decor fabric section at Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts. Hope that helps!
I love this! I would totally wear it myself!!
I would too–if only the butterfly came in bigger sizes!
OH MY GOSH!!!! My daughter would love this!! Good thing her birthday is coming up soon… totally going to make it for her! Is it machine washable? How does the butterfly hold up in the wash?
And can you explain a little bit more about the darts? I’ve been sewing for a long time but never done darts and I’m very intimidated. What do you mean by “sew a wedge”? Thank you!!!
Hi Leah! Thanks for your comments–I hope I can answer all your questions. I have put the butterfly through the wash once and it looks pretty good, but it would be better hand washed (which is what I’ll do going forward). So for the darts, look at the part you pinch and you’ll see that it is bigger toward the neck and then tapers down the closer you get to the shoulder like a wedge. When sewing, take the part you pinched on the outside and turn it to the inside–you’ll see that the stitching will create a wedge shape.… Read more »
This is so pretty; I love it!
Thank you so much, Katie!
Wow! I just love this! You did such a great job making it fit so well.
Thank you so much, Kim!
How clever! What a gorgeous top! I would ♡ to try this. It’s going on my “to do” list;)
Thank you so much, Kim! Please share if you do!
Do you have a tutorial for her felt hair clips? They are sooooo cute!!
Hi Beth, I don’t right now, but I should make one–they’re not hard to create! Thanks for the suggestion.
This is so beautiful! I am working on one right now. I’m using the same tunic pattern, but my daughter requested it in black. I am wondering if you pre-washed the butterfly. I’m afraid it might ruin it, but every clothing item is better if I can put it in the washer!! Thanks for sharing this amazing tutorial!
Hi Jessica! I’m so glad you’re making one! If you plan to wash your finished item, I’d definitely wash the butterfly as well. I’ve been washing mine and although the butterfly is starting to show wear, if you used a delicate cycle it would be better. Just a thought.
Lisa, thank you for your quick and helpful response!
Stunning! My daughter would LOVE this…now to hunt down the butterfly (I’ve never seen this at my Joann’s). I love her hair clippies too! Can you point me in the right direction? Did you make them?
Wow! I am not a girlie girl and have, for now, resisted doing too much girlie with my baby girl, but this would be worth it. It is cute without screaming princess, and sweet and sophisticated. I love it. Nice work!
Wow wow n wow again me n my daughter are both flutterby fans! I live in Sri Lanka and the fabric panel is so over my budget. I’m trying to recreate the butterfly using fabric paint. We’ve got this really beautiful black and blue one visiting us regularly. Hope my dress will be at least half as pretty as yours. Thanks for sharing.
Aww, thank you for such a sweet compliment. I hope yours turns out beautifully! The black and blue sounds gorgeous.
The butterfly is 50% off (as I type – Oct 23, 2015) at Jo-Ann Fabrics.
Where can I find this tunic dress/top pattern? I really have tried to find it. . ..
Hi Jan, sorry for the late response. You can find the Tunic pattern here: http://shwindesigns.bigcartel.com/product/mckenzie-tunic
no worries – thank you
you should sell these. I love this, but can’st sew a stitch. I would def. buy one though!!!
Thank you Julia! I’ve thought about it before, but just don’t have the time to sell right now. 🙂
Hi, I’ ve acquired all that I need to make your butterfly dress, and will prewash everything. Am very anxious about how the butterfly washes however. I see from comment section that you made yours up a few years ago…in hindsight, any suggestions regarding washing instructions? As you suggested warm on delicate cycle?
[…] To create this wonderful sewing craft project. […]
I finally found the butterfly but the manufacturer says Do not was or dry clean! Have it professionally cleaned. or spot clean with water free agent. and the cost was $34.99 online. on sale at Joannes for half off.
My granddaughter would love this but I can’t seem to find the butterfly anywhere. Any ideas ?? I’m in Canada
Hi Lisa, This is such a lovely top for a little girl, what a clever idea! I have started making two of them for my granddaughters. Unfortunately I can’t fit them on the girls personally as they live 200 miles away. I have a question: Did you stitch the butterfly to the tunic all the way around the back neckline, or just at the centre, shoulders and where the lower wings meet the side seams? It’s difficult to see from the photos. I am making my own butterflies as the panel you used is not available in the UK. I… Read more »