Tuesday 18 October 2016

Curve Pieced Butterfly Block - Free Pattern and Tutorial

I've already confessed my love of curve piecing and desire to spread the word many times on this blog, so to help those who are willing try it I put together a tutorial for a really simple curve pieced block.

I think it would be great for beginners as all the curved seams are really gentle (unlike the traditional Drunkard's Path which was my first exposure to piecing curves ;)) Those already acquainted with curve piecing technique can skip the tutorial and just download the pattern. I would be thrilled to see somebody make the block, so please share in the comments!

I tried it out in this quilt, Fly Up, Fly Down, which received some very kind feedback.

And I'm going to play with it again as it seems to offer lots of possibilities in various styles.

Please click here to download the PDF file with the curve-pieced butterfly pattern (two 8'' squares)

You'll need:
  • about 1/8 yard of the background fabric
  • about 1/8 yard of the butterfly fabric (or two pieces of coordinating fabrics)
  • freezer paper
  • pencil or fabric marker
  • pins, scissors for paper and fabric and piecing thread
The process:

Trace the pattern to the dull side of freezer paper, remembering the alignment marks and the part numbers. The butterfly consists of two 8'' squares which are mirror images of each other. In the pdf I included both, but you can always mirror a pattern by tracing it to the shiny side of freezer paper rather than the dull one.

Cut the pattern carefully along the lines and iron the pattern pieces to the wrong side of your background and wing fabrics. Remember to leave half-inch gaps between the pieces for two 1/4'' seam allowances. It's easier to work on both wings at once to be able to chain-piece the parts.

Trace the outlines of the freezer paper parts on the fabric, again remembering the alignment marks (I use a usual lead pencil on all but the darkest of fabrics, you can use your preferred marker or pen). Cut out the fabric pieces eyeballing your 1/4'' seam allowances as best you can.

With sharp scissors make small cuts in the seam allowances on concave (valley) lines, about 1'' apart and not reaching the pencil line. No need to do anything with convex (mountain) or straight lines.

Put together parts 1A+2A and 1B+2B of both wings, check that the alignment marks come together.

Pull off the freezer paper from parts 1A and 2A, place part 2A on the table right side up and then place part 1A on top of it, gently easing the edge to match the convex edge beneath it. Tip to remember - you always place the "valley" on top of the "mountain" and do all of your manipulations with it, the "mountain" stays put and doesn't need special attention, whereas the "valley" stretches and folds and can be easily shifted here and there (the bias cut of the fabric and our notches make it pliable).

Pin the two pieces together. To check the alignment, insert your pin right into the intersection of the outline and the alignment mark

and turn the everything over to see if the pin has emerged from the mark on the other side, if not shift the pieces until it does.

Then hold the pieces together and pin as usual. Check all the alignment marks and corners in this way until your four pairs are pinned together.

Stitch along the pencil line, always keeping the "valley" part on top, so that you can control it and not allow it to pinch under the needle. Stitch slowly, gently aligning the fabric edges as you go, the curves are very gentle, so there is little opportunity for the fabric to pinch. Turn the pieces over to check if the stitching follows the pencil line on the other side as well - just a bit off is not a problem, however if it went too far off, you'd better re-stitch. There shouldn't be a problem if your seam allowances are uniform.

Gently press the seams to one side - in this case I found it more convenient to press to the background.

Attach parts 3A and 3B to their corresponding units in the same way - put the "valley" on top of the "mountain", check the alignment and stitch. Press the seams towards the background.

Now it's time to join the upper and the lower wings in the same way. Remember that the seams between the wings and the background must come against the corresponding alignment marks

Press the seams upwards.
The last thing left is joining the two halves - align all the seams as you do in straight line piecing and stitch.

Press the seam open or to one side, depending on your further assembly plans.

I'm not trimming this block yet, because I normally do it when all the blocks are ready. It's alone so far, but I think it's destined for a fun baby quilt - one of the things I love about curve piecing is that it allows you to create interesting shapes without the rigidity of fused appliqué and delicateness of hand appliqué, just good old piecing and the quilt can be washed and handled as much as necessary!

I do hope I made myself clear, if you have any questions or notice any errors please let me know. I would be happy if this tutorial helps somebody to try out and enjoy curve piecing.

Check out my hydrangea flower block designed to go together with this butterfly (it measures 8'' square, just as half of the butterfly.

I used the block from the photos along with three other butterflies for a simple little baby quilt. Check it out.

Linking up to Tips and Tutorials Tuesday at Quilting Jetgirl
Linky Tuesday at Freemotion by the River
Fabric Tuesday at Quilt Story
Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts


  1. Great tutorial and I love the quilting you did on the butterflies!

  2. I've downloaded the pattern and I'm looking forward to trying it out. I'll bookmark the page too so I can read your tips.

  3. fabulous. very beautiful and great tutorial

  4. It's lovely. I will try that sometime :)

  5. I agree that learning to sew gentle curves is a very smart idea. The butterfly block is lovely and thank you so much for sharing and linking up!

  6. Would love to try the sunflower, will you be posting a pattern or can I buy a pattern?

  7. Very nice tutorial. Thank you for sharing the details. I've not used freezer paper this way before. By the way, what kind of pins are you using? I have some similar Bohin ones that I use for applique, but yours look longer. Thank you.


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