This butterfly table runner tutorial is a fantastic way to use small scraps of fabric, refresh your dining space, and, if you're like me and have little kids running about, maybe even introduce your child to the beautiful world of sewing!
I love how easy it is to transform the Butterfly Garden quilt pattern into a table runner. For more Butterfly Garden inspiration, check out this post with over 18 examples of quilts! There are tons of color, fabric, and quilting combinations to spark your creativity.
For me, the first butterfly sighting is a sign that summer has truly arrived. We have milkweed, butterfly bushes, and echinacea growing in our backyard just so we can watch those lovely creatures flutter about all summer long.
This past spring my family finally finished our screened in porch. While we waited 6 months for our sliding door to be installed, we lived with a plywood wall in its place. Don't get me wrong, we had fun with that terrible plywood wall, but the sliding door was a HUGE improvement...
So now that we have easy access to the outdoors, and a wonderful view of our backyard butterflies, I wanted a butterfly table runner on the porch dining table. It just seemed fitting!
In this butterfly table runner tutorial I will give you a couple tips on making your butterfly quilt blocks, show you the easiest way to make a quilted table runner, and then finish with a video tutorial on how to free motion quilt your runner.
Of course, you can quilt your table runner however you like. In fact, you could just sew a few quilt ties in it and call it finished! There's no wrong way to make one of these sweet and summery runners.
Butterfly Table Runner Tutorial Supplies
I'm just going to list out the basic supplies and not include any free motion quilting supplies. If you choose to quilt your runner that way, I have a list of suggested notions below.
- Butterfly Garden quilt pattern
- 100% cotton fabric - amounts will vary based on how long you want your runner to be (Most likely you can use scraps to make the butterflies and will need background fabric. However, if you use similar shades of scraps, you can also scrap together the background fabric too.)
- Backing fabric - this just needs to be the exact size of the pieced runner. You don't need overhang for this technique. You can use canvas or home dec fabric as backing if you would like something sturdier.
- Low-loft batting - I suggest cotton, bamboo, or a poly blend
How to Make a Butterfly Table Runner
Butterflies can represent personal growth and positive transitions. They're like a reminder that change can be a beautiful thing! So if you are new to any part of this process — making quilt blocks, sewing a table runner, or even free motion quilting, just think of yourself as a caterpillar on a beautiful journey to something new.
Step 1: Pick fabric for your butterflies.
Why do we love butterflies? Mostly because of their vibrant colors and delicate wings. Watching a butterfly flit from flower to flower gives me a sense of freedom and lightness. What better way to live than dancing around from beautiful thing to beautiful thing?
When picking fabric for your butterflies, just go with whatever makes you happy. Don't think too hard about if the fabrics "match." The background fabric will add enough negative space and balance that every fabric you pick will shine without the runner looking overly busy.
I am using Art Gallery Fabrics PURE solids by me, Suzy Quilts! These will be available in stores in August 2023. I can't wait for you to get your hands on them!! The fabrics pictured above include: (Background) Pearl , (Butterfly 1) Shrimpy, Queen Bee, Spiced, Poppy, (Butterfly 2) Pistachio, Matcha, Hemlock, Nova, and (Butterfly bodies) Driftwood. You can see all of the colors in the 20-piece collection here!
After looking at the photo above I want to draw your attention to two things:
- My block piecing is different than the pattern and that's OK. I pieced these blocks late at night and cut my HST butterfly wings differently than the pattern. Oops! Oh well. It doesn't effect the finished block at all, it just changes the look. The butterflies on the left have vertical stripes (different than the pattern) and the butterfly on the right has horizontal stripes (same as the pattern.)
- Scrappy butterfly wings is an option too! Notice the butterfly on the right has wings that do not mirror each other. When you slice your HSTs you will get blocks with stripes that are opposite. The pattern instructs you to match up HSTs that look alike (as they do in the other butterflies.) If you like the scrappier look, you don't have to match up your wings. As they say, "There's no wrong way to sew a butterfly." They say that, right?
Step 2: Sew your butterfly blocks into a table runner.
This is the step when you need to measure your table and decide how long you would like your runner. My runner doesn't hang off the edges, not because I didn't want it to, but because I forgot my measurements while walking from my dining table to my sewing studio. I guess I should stop trusting my memory and just write things down. 😉
In this tutorial, A Simple and Elegant Quilted Table Runner Tutorial, I show you step by step how to make a quilted table runner. The absolute BEST part of this process if after you have sewn around the edges of your quilt sandwich and get to pull the right side of your runner out. It's just like a caterpillar coming out of it's chrysalis! Pure magic, I tell you!!
I guess I got overly excited while turning out my table runner caterpillar, because one of the seams of my butterfly block came unraveled. If this happens to you, I suggest you sew over that section of the seam again with a small stitch length — something like 1.5. That will secure the seam long enough for you to top-stitch around the entire table runner.
Step 3: Quilt your butterfly table runner.
As stated in the table runner tutorial, after turning out your table runner so the right sides of the fabric are facing out, give the edges a nice press. Secure those edges by top-stitching about an 1/8" around the edges. Once you do this, it's time to quilt!
I opted to quilt my butterfly table runner with rolling hills or "organic scallops." This is one of my favorite free motion quilting motifs. Why? Because you don't need to spend time drawing guide marks and once you get into a rhythm they are incredibly fast to sew. Oh, and they are crazy cute. Like so so so cute. I almost forgot to mention that.
This tutorial, Simple Free Motion Quilting Scallops, walks you through how to free motion quilt these organic scallops. I include a beginner-friendly video tutorial to show you just how easy it is to free motion quilt scallops. This design has a sweet flower petal appearance making it perfect for my flitting butterflies.
Free Motion Quilting Supplies
- Free motion quilting foot that is compatible with your sewing machine. Each brand of sewing machine has its own version of this foot, so you can either purchase this from the dealer who sold you your machine, or from a sewing supply store that sells multiple types of machines and notions, such as Sewing Machines Plus.
- Grippy gloves that will help you grip your quilt sandwich while moving it freely through your machine. You can purchase quilting gloves or I've even known some people to use clean gardening gloves. Since your feed dogs are down while free motion quilting, you need to create "finger feed dogs" by using something with a good grip.
- Supreme Slider so you can move your quilt sandwich freely without any friction. These come in different sizes so measure your machine before buying. Mine has been used A LOT and has lost it's grip, so as you can see in the photo above, I taped mine to my machine with maaking tape.
Different Ways to Quilt Your Butterfly Table Runner
- How to Tie a Quilt...with a Modern Twist!
- Quilt Tying Tutorial: How to Tie a Quilt with Yarn or Embroidery Thread
- How to Hand Quilt (With Video Tutorial)
- 6 Tips for Straight Line Machine Quilting (A.K.A. Matchstick Quilting)
- The 5 Best Machine Quilting Books: Quilt Like a Pro at Home!
- Free Motion Quilting Tutorial For Beginners
Step 4: Display your butterfly table runner!
Proudly place your runner on a table, step back, and enjoy your handiwork! With all of my dense quilting, the edges of my runner were pretty wavy. After a few days in the humidity, however, it relaxed and is now completely flat.
If you experience wavy edges and don't want to wait for it to relax on its own, spritz the runner with water and iron the edges down. You can even place some heavy books along the edges for a day or two to help the process along.
Troubleshooting Tip - Stains and Washing
FYI, your table runner will probably get stained since it will be living on dining table...around food. I just wanted you to have a heads up so you're not heartbroken when it happens. You do have the option of moving it before every meal, or you could live life like a care-free butterfly and just let nature take its course.
If stains occur, try spot cleaning them with stain remover. At some point, around stain 5 or 6, you may need to throw whole thing into the washing machine. It's completely fine to machine wash this in cold water using your regular detergent. NO BLEACH. I suggest adding a color catcher if you have one.
I have also found a few dabs of hydrogen peroxide can do wonders on dark stains. Just know that even if your beautiful butterflies end up flying through a few food marks, that just adds to the runner's charm — it's evidence of it being used, loved, and hopefully some good food being shared!
My kids, currently two and four, are both obsessed with magnetic tiles. They're pretty fun to play with as a family AND as an added bonus, they don't stain my table runner. 😉 If you end up using this butterfly table runner tutorial, post your finished project in the Suzy Quilts Patterns Facebook group or on Instagram using #ButterflyGardenQuilt so we can see!