How to Make Butterflies From Hankies for a Quilt

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Vintage handkerchiefs, or hankies, are available in a variety of color combinations and often feature interesting patterns, such as intricate florals. These hankies are passed down from relatives or friends or collected from thrift shops, antique stores or estate sales. One way to display your hankies without cutting them is by folding them into abstract butterflies which may be appliqued onto quilt blocks. Basic sewing supplies and skills are all you need to turn your hanky collection into a unique butterfly quilt.

Things You'll Need

  • Handkerchiefs
  • Iron
  • Pins
  • Background fabric squares in desired sizes
  • Needle
  • Thread in desired color
  • Embroidery floss in desired colors (optional)

Fold a handkerchief in half diagonally. If the edges of the handkerchief don't line up evenly, use the uneven side as the back of your butterfly. Press the handkerchief in this shape using a warm iron.

Insert a pin in the center of the fold. Marking this center point makes it easier to make an even fold in the next step. The triangles on either side of the pin will make up the wings of the butterfly.

Fold one of the triangles approximately three-quarters of the way over the other triangle. This should give the appearance of the side profile of a butterfly. If the edges of the handkerchief didn't line up evenly, fold the triangle under in this way instead of over.

Pin the butterfly onto a square of background fabric. The background fabric may be any color and size you choose.

Applique the butterfly to the background fabric by hand.

Embellish butterfly squares as desired. Embellishments may include embroidering antennae, legs or other common butterfly features onto the square or adding blanket stitching around the butterfly.

Repeat Steps 1 through 6 until you have created the desired number of squares for your quilt. Assemble quilt squares as desired.

Tips & Warnings

  • Iron vintage handkerchiefs on a low setting to avoid damaging the fragile fabric.

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