• Olivia Allred

"Flutterly" Amazing Fun

They say that a short attention span is the hallmark of the young folk these days, and since there are only so many things to do when you’re done with work/school/therapy, we have to find new ways to fill all this time on our hands. In light of that hard truth, I decided to have a little Reading Rainbow (thank you, butterfly in the sky) inspired crafting with my empty afternoons and make a decorative butterfly swarm.

Making your own butterfly swarm is a delight because it’s a cheap and easy way to change the look of any room; you can add color and dimension without poking holes in the walls. Bonus: if you do it with paper, like me, it’s recyclable. Looking out for you, Earth! (Of course, the downside here is that the trees have been cut down, so you’ll have to weigh those implications for yourself.) It can also take as much or as little time as you want; I took a couple of weeks with mine primarily because I was working on it while doing other things, slowing myself down all over the place. Technically, you never have to finish. You can keep adding butterflies until the world ends.

Here’s how to start:

Depending on how large you want your swarm to be (mine ended up being about 500 butterflies), you’ll need a healthy amount of paper. It can be colored, or if you’re creative and need more projects, you can use crayons, markers, or pencils to design your butterflies. I would recommend construction paper or cardstock since it makes for sturdier butterflies than regular printer paper, but the truth is that anything will work. If you’re lucky, you’ll have an arts and crafts thrift store nearby that’s still open that will let you buy more paper than you know what to do with, or you’ll have a bunch of paper lying around your house waiting to be turned into the next butterfly masterpiece. Otherwise, there is no shortage of regular paper that I’ve heard of, and it should be easy to find.

The next step is to find or make a butterfly template. You can get a hole punch shaped like a butterfly, or you can google “butterfly outline,” “butterfly silhouette,” “butterfly clipart,” or something along those lines to make your own stencil. I used a variety of butterfly shapes and sizes for a little spice. If you’re interested, you can also make origami butterflies. I chose not to go that route on account of being too lazy to learn to fold paper when I am already excellent at cutting paper.

You’ll also need fishing line if you want to hang them from the ceiling and tape if you want to tape them to the wall. If you’re considering hanging hooks in your ceiling for your project, you can get some similar to what you hang planters with, or you can get command hooks for easy installation and removal.

Before you get started cutting your butterflies (or at least before you get started cutting your fishing line), measure out the space where you want them to hang. I did not do a good job of this and wasted a lot of fishing line. You’ll want to have a general idea of how low you want the butterflies to hang and how big you want the swarm to be, as well as the general shape, i.e., does it look like a wave, a circle, another butterfly (butterfly inception, if you will).

Now make your butterflies! I wanted to stretch this project out for as long as I could, so I used cutouts of butterflies as stencils to trace (thank you, Stencil!). If you don’t want to waste countless hours and you have a printer, you can print the outlines directly on to the paper you want to use and go from there. Cut out your butterflies as nicely as you can/want to.

Once you’ve got some (or all) of your butterflies cut out, it’s time to start stringing them up. This is the worst part, in my opinion. Poke a hole in the body of your butterfly to thread the fishing line through. You can tie as many of them as you want on to one line; I did up to 5 butterflies for the longer middle sections. When I was doing my research, I found a site that recommended you use hot glue to secure the butterfly to the fishing line, but I did not have hot glue, nor did I think it was worth purchasing. If you have a hot glue gun, give it a try and let us know if it actually works to hold the butterflies in place! If you don’t here are the two things I did: 1, I wrapped tape both on top and bottom of the butterfly to keep it in place. This was partially to keep the butterfly horizontal; I spent a lot of time trying to keep the butterflies horizontal. 2, I poked two holes in the butterfly’s body instead of one, threaded the fishing line through both, and tied a knot to see if that would keep the butterfly horizontal. To be honest, I gave up on getting the butterflies to hang the way I wanted them to after a while. Butterflies do what they want.

Now, use your artistic vision to start hanging the butterflies! I tied 4 lines from one pipe to another (here’s where the hooks come into play) so that I had a few strings to tie the butterflies to and didn’t have to hook or tape them all to the ceiling. It’s up to you how dense you want your swarm and how you want to arrange them. You can also tape butterflies to the wall at the edge of your swarm to make it look like they’re moving toward or away from a window, a wall, or a doorway if you’d like. I decided to tape my butterflies up in designs because it was too difficult to make them look natural and random. Just have fun with it, really!

I know what you’re thinking: where’s the kid I’m helping make butterflies? I’m the kid! As an overgrown child, I can do whatever I want with paper and scissors, and I decided to make a happy art installation. If you need a little something to fill up your time and change the constant image of your bedroom walls, this is a fun project to do. If you have a real aversion to butterflies, you can make bumblebees or dragonflies or pterodactyls or whatever you want! The possibilities end where your imagination does!

If you decide to make your own swarm of creepy-crawly flying things, share what worked for you in the comments! Did you do anything different? Did you find a way to make the butterflies stay horizontal? (Was it magic? That’s the only way, I know it.)

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