How to make your own butterflies

Most years The Five-Year-Old and I dye eggs at Eastertime. But this year I just wasn’t feeling it. Dyeing eggs is smelly and messy and the results are generally disappointing. Add to that the fact that no one in the family particularly likes hard-boiled eggs–not even the pink ones with the rainbow bunny stickers–and suddenly I’m highly motivated to find an alternative springtime craft.

When a friend pointed out these handmade butterflies via Mama’s Style on Facebook, I knew I’d found a winner. The original creator uses them to spruce up the ziplocked foods in her child’s lunch, but since I’m trying to limit our use of plastic baggies, I modified the design a bit to use leftover tissue paper for the butterfly wings instead.

The Five-Year-Old loved making these so much she has proposed opening a shop to sell them. (She’s making the sign now.) So I decided to tell you in painful detail how you can make them with your own Master Crafter at home.

What You Need:

  • Wooden clothespins
  • Googly eyes
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Tissue paper
  • Glue dots
  • Paints (both regular and if you’re feeling sparkly, glittery paint, washable paints if possible)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Water in a cup
  • Scissors
  • Parchment paper, newspaper, or something similar to protect the surface you’re working on

Note: For a super-simple project, you can use markers to make the eyes and color the clothespin bodies. This cuts your supply list down to just clothespins, markers, pipe cleaners, tissue paper, and scissors. Frankly, I think The Five-Year-Old would have preferred to just use markers on hers, but I’d already bought the glittery paint.

What You Do:

1) Spread parchment paper, newspaper, or something similar over your painting area.

2) Decorate your clothespin(s) with markers or paint as you see fit. If you use glitter paint, I find it works best to apply a coat of regular paint before painting with the glittery stuff.

3) If you used paint, set the clothespin(s) aside to dry. If you used markers, proceed directly to step 4.

4) Thread a pipe cleaner through the little metal circle on the clothespin. When it’s halfway through, twist it tightly to secure it and to hide the bits of the pipe cleaner that are in the wrong place for antenna duty. When your twist reaches the end of the clothespin, separate the two pieces of pipe cleaner and twirl them into your preferred antenna shape.

5) Use glue dots to attach the googly eyes (or draw them with a marker).

The Five-Year-Old also doesn't think butterflies need antennas.

6) Cut a square (or two or three) of tissue paper for the wings. I like to use two or three pieces of different colored tissue paper, but The Five-Year-Old prefers to work with only one. Scrunch the tissue paper in the middle and clip it with the clothespin. Rescrunch and trim the tissue paper as necessary to make a wing shape.

7) Hand the finished butterflies (along with a butterfly net, if you have one) to your child for playtime. Or clip them to your favorite basket of flowers.

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About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at, chatting about books and the writing life at, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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