How to hand embroider simple butterflies using detached chain and straight stitches

Updated: Apr 5

In this post, I'll show you how to create simple butterflies in hand embroidery using detached chain stitch and straight stitch. You could create an entire hoop filled with these butterflies, or even use them as simple embellishments!


I created an entire hoop filled with butterflies using this simple technique!

Today's post is fairly simple, just like the technique itself. You'll find instructions in written, photo, and video format (feel free to jump ahead, should video be easier for you to follow!).


You'll find more detailed tutorials for detached chain and straight stitches elsewhere on the blog, should those be useful to you! You may also find my tutorial for how to separate strands of embroidery floss to be useful if you're following along with me today, as I'll be using three strands of cotton embroidery floss for my butterfly's wings and just one strand for the body.


Preparing your design


If you prefer to work from a guide, start by drawing V-shapes on your fabric wherever you'd like your butterflies to appear on the hoop. In the photo below, I've drawn three V-shapes, and stitched just one of my butterflies to use as a reference.


When drawing your design, consider using an erasable transfer method (such as a blue or white water-erasable transfer pen). If you use something more permanent, such as a pencil, you risk having visible transfer marks once you've finished stitching. Visible transfer marks are totally fine if they're in line with your aesthetic preferences, but if they're not - go for an erasable method!



Step 1: Use detached chain stitch to create the butterfly's bottom wing.


I like to start with the bottom wing because it's possible that my two detached chain stitches might overlap, and I think it looks a bit more natural for the top wing to overlap the bottom. When pulling and securing this first stitch, do you best to pull somewhat loosely; this will help to create a fuller, more wing-like shape.



Step 2: Use detached chain stitch to create the butterfly's top wing.


To create your top wing, bring your needle back up through your fabric as close to that original stitch as possible. Again, be careful to pull fairly loosely here, so you're able to create a fuller and more wing-like shape.



Step 3: Use straight stitch to create the butterfly's body.


Bring your needle up through your fabric wherever you'd like your butterfly's body to begin.



Before bringing your needle back down, consider laying your floss across your fabric to get a better sense of the direction you'd like the body to go.



Once you're happy with the direction and length of the butterfly's body, bring your needle back down through your fabric to create a straight stitch.



Such a simple technique, right?



Video tutorial for how to hand embroider simple butterflies using detached chain and straight stitches


If video tutorials are a bit easier for you to follow, you're in luck - because video tutorials are my favorite thing to make! In the video below, I talk you through exactly how I go about creating these simple butterflies. I hope it's helpful!



Ideas for incorporating simple butterflies into your hand embroidered work


Now that you know how to create simple hand embroidered butterflies, how might you incorporate them into your own work? Below are just a few ideas, using examples from hoops I've made available as kits and patterns.


Try filling an entire hoop with butterflies as an excuse to work with scraps and explore different color combinations


Filling an entire hoop with simple hand embroidered butterflies can be a fun, relaxing way to finish a quick project. What's more, it's a great excuse to use up your scrap pieces of floss (similar to this couched rainbow project), and to play around with different color combinations.



Use butterflies in place of other isolated stitches and embellishments


I love using isolated stitches such as the French knot and cross-stitch to help "balance" the composition of a piece, but sometimes those aren't the best fit for the design! That's why having this simple technique in your back pocket for future work can be super handy and fun. For example, I used these butterflies as embellishments in the design we stitched for the February 2022 Hopebroidery Box, a photo of which you can see below!



Create a new design with butterflies at the center of your composition


If you're anything like me, you'll find placing these meant-to-be-small butterflies at the center of a new design to be a fun challenge. In the photo below, you'll see I opted to use yarn to create the larger butterflies at the center of my design. The thickness of this yarn allowed me to create larger wings while maintaining the wing-like shape of the detached chain stitch, and I wouldn't have thought to try this had I not decided to challenge myself by placing this "embellishment" technique at the center of a new design!



I hope this was useful, and I can't wait to see what you make - whether you create something from one of my kits or patterns, or from a design of your very own! If you'd like to share your work with me, you can always tag me on your social media accounts (@hopebroidery on Instagram and Twitter, @hope.broidery on TikTok). If you don't have public social accounts, but still want to share, consider emailing me a few pictures (hope@hopebroidery.com), I would love the chance to tell you how much I love your work!


Happy stitching!