Monday, January 12, 2015

The Captain's Butterfly

A long time ago, I belonged to a wonderful online group called Treadle On.  The moderator for that group is Captain Dick, a generous, helpful man with a quirky sense of humor.  He helped all of us fix up our old machines, and was a great inspiration with his quilting.
In 2002, the Captain started a block of the month.  He showed everyone how to make quilt blocks that would be interesting and fun to make, but not too difficult for those just starting to quilt.  One of the blocks was a pieced butterfly.

This is a block I made from the Captain's instructions.  I loved making the pieced butterflies.  They became a tied comforter for my youngest daughter in a time when we both needed some comfort.

In recent years, I've drifted away from Treadle On, but I still have the bumper sticker on my car (Treadle On:  Saving Our Sewing Heritage) and lots of warm memories of people I met because of Treadle On, both online and in person.

I thought of this block recently when I was making a few Christmas presents.  I try not to make very many things for Christmas, because I tend to get carried away and then stressed out when things don't get finished on time. I always think I'll work on presents all year long, but so far it hasn't happened.  Maybe this year?
I scaled down the Captain's pattern from 12 in. to 8 in. square, and made these pot holders for my Mom.  It helped that I had lots of bright colored scraps, especially some batiks I bought in a scrap bag at a quilt show.
Then I made this little quilt for the gift exchange at our quilt group's Christmas dinner.  We call it a brown bag exchange, because we each put a fat quarter in a brown bag, mix them up, and all choose one.  Then we make something with the fat quarter for the original person, and give it to her at the dinner.  It's hard to see here, but the fat quarter I had was a shiny black cotton with silver dots.  I used it for the butterfly bodies and the cornerstones.
The 8 in. size worked well for this little quilt, too.  I left off the antennae on this one.
I quilted it on my electric Pfaff, bound it, and wrapped it.  Unfortunately, I didn't end up going to the dinner.  My cousin's wife died, and I went out of town to the funeral.  I mailed the quilt to its new owner, and I think she likes it.
I think this would be a nice pattern to use for a charity quilt, especially made up in bright colors.

Since the Captain so freely shared this pattern years ago, I don't think he would mind if I shared my 8 in. size pattern with you.
To make one block:
1.  Make 2 half square triangles that measure 4 in. square when finished.  Use your favorite method.  I used the Easy Angle ruler, and cut two purple and two white triangles from 4.5 in. strips, then sewed them together in pairs.
2.  Make 2 half square triangles that measure 2 in. square when finished.  Use your favorite method.  I used the Easy Angle ruler, and cut two green and two white triangles from 2.5 in. strips, then sewed them together in pairs.
3.  Cut 3 black squares 1.5 in. x 1.5 in.
4.  Cut 2 green squares, 1.5 in. x 1.5 in.
5.  From background fabric (in this case, white), cut 1 2.5 in. square, 1 rectangle 3.5 in. x 4.5 in., and 1 rectangle 1.5 in. x 3.5 in
To assemble:
Lower right section:
Make a 4 patch from 2 black and 2 green 1.5 in. squares.  Sew a half square triangle to the 4 patch as shown above.  Sew the white 2.5 in. square to the second half square triangle, as shown above.  Then sew the two rows together to make a square.
Upper left section:
Sew the black square to the 1.5 in. x 3.5 in. white rectangle.  Then sew the white 3.5 in. x 4.5 in rectangle to that section.
Now just assemble the block like a 4 patch, following the picture.
You can add antennae if you like, either by hand or machine.  On the potholders, I used a chain stitch machine to make the antennae.  I drew the lines I wanted on the wrong side of the block, and stitched them from the back.
I quilted the little blocks, and then brought the backing fabric to the front for a binding.

Now I want to make some pieced flowers to go with them.
Spring is such a long way off in January in Wisconsin.
Stay warm, and keep quilting.


  1. So cute - I want to make a butterfly quilt like this! Thanks for sharing your pattern. :)

    1. Thanks, Verna! I'd love to see your quilt if you make one.

  2. I have always loved pieced butterfly patterns, but yours is new to me! Thanks for sharing the pattern.

  3. So nice to find your blog that features people-powered sewing machines! I too, was a Treadle-On participant back when Captain Dick was the moderator. I still collect and use treadle and hand crank sewing machines. My wife and I still have our little rural fabric and sewing shop, and I do most of the denim jeans mending on a treadle-operated Singer 319W. My latest project has been setting a Singer 20U industrial machine up similar to the one that Captain Dick put together. He still has how he did that on his main website. I have mine in a Singer industrial treadle that also shares the duty of powering my Singer 95-40 (our back-up jeans hemming machine). So far, I'm up to 9 treadles in our house, so sharing stands among different machines is getting more important every year.
    Well, I have a lot of reading to catch up on here at your site, and will be looking forward to any additional treadle and hand crank postings. Thanks for sharing.
    CD in Oklahoma


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