Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Butterfly specimen art

I have a piece of artwork underway for the girl's room.  It's way too complicated, and as a consequence is going no where fast.  I feel sad for her that the only things hanging on her wall are a group of five blank canvases (for the aforementioned artwork) and a clock.  So, rather than actually make progress on the first project, I've completed a quick fix in the last couple of days:

I'm the first to acknowledge that this is certainly not an original idea.  In fact, it wasn't an original idea when I made something similar for my niece about 5 years ago.  But I love it just the same.  It is also simple, and I thought I'd share my process with you, just in case you're inspired to do something similar.

Butterfly print fabric
Iron on interfacing
Thick card for the background

I started out with some offcuts of the  'Illuminating Spring' (by Stephanie Marrot for Wilmington Prints)  butterfly fabric I used in this skirt (I have more left over, so they'll make another appearance at some point).  I then ironed some non-woven iron-on interfacing on the back.  I'd suggest using the stiffest that you have.  As my fabric was an odd size, I used a sheet of baking paper over it to stop the excess interfacing sticking to the iron or the ironing board.

I then cut out full butterflies (there were some on the fabric with their wings folded, and I didn't use these), and by sheer luck my offcuts yielded 37 butterflies.  I needed 36 for my project.  I used nail scissors for the cutting, as they allowed the precision I needed.  I wasn't too fussed if there was a small amount of background fabric left around each, and I also elected to cut off the antennae.

I then placed the butterflies in an arrangement that I was happy with, with the aim being to distribute the coloured ones throughout the frames.  The hard bit then was to work out what the spacing should be and how to line them up on the background.

Somewhere around about here I cut my thick card into squares the right size to fit inside my frames.  You need something with enough strength to take the weight of your butterflies without sagging over time.

I decided that I wanted to top of the wings to line up, rather than the bodies, and found that my quilting ruler was the best help for this.  Just be careful to learn from my mistake, and account for the width of any matt when placing the butterflies - I had to remove these three and start again, as I was too close to the top of my backing board!  Also, I found it easier to work upside down and to start with the bottom row, that way my ruler wasn't sitting on butterflies I'd already glued in place.

Now, fold your first butterfly in half, right sides together, so that your fold is along the body.  Then apply hot glue to the wrong side of the body (ie. the outside of the fold).  Press on to your background cardboard in the desired location, trying to keep the butterfly as folded as possible, but also making sure that the glue isn't attaching the two wings to each other.  You'll need to work pretty fast, as the glue cools and sets quite quickly.

Repeat for the rest of your butterflies.

When the glue has cooled and set you can squeeze the wings together a bit more if you like.  You can also pull off any glue threads that may be floating around.

Now you can frame them.  I used frames with double mounts, and the butterflies sat up from the backing cardboard enough to make a shadow, but the glass did flatten them more than I expected.  You could use a box frame if you wanted a more pronounced fold in the butterflies.

PS.  See that red butterfly in the middle?  It was really annoying me, as I attached it too low and the one below it too high.  I used a scalpel and carefully cut them off the background, then re-glued them in place.  Whilst you need to work quickly with the glue, mistakes can be rectified!

PPS.  My butterfly fabric has a cream background, but the fabric that I used for my niece had a black background, and the butterflies looked quite different from the fabric itself once they were cut out and mounted on off-white card.  Look at the colour of the butterflies, rather than the colour of the fabric when you're choosing a fabric for this project.

PPS.  There are more butterfly art & craft ideas in my 'artwork I could try myself' Pinterest board...

Oh, and the Girl is more than happy to have something to look at on her walls at last:


  1. I love it. Thanks for the 'how to'. So effective. Cx

  2. I love it - thanks for sharing...
    Oh, and i have some pants in that butterfly fabric : )

  3. Oh wow, these are gorgeous! My girls would love them too. I so want me some butterfly fabric now!

  4. This is such a good idea. I would have never thought of this! I love it.


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