Free Design of the Month: Ruffled Butterfly Tote

July 3, 2020By Joanne BankoAccessories, Embroidery, Fashion, Free Design of the Month, Projects 27 Comments Opinion by Paid Consultant

The Brother FREE Design for this Month is full of pretty stitches! Lots of thread colors give the bright butterfly design special detail and shading. Sized for an 8-inch or larger hoop, this design is a breeze to stitch on the Brother PR1050X Entrepreneur Pro Plus 10-needle machine. Simply thread up the machine and the stitching takes care of itself, allowing you to skip stopping for multiple thread changes. This artistic design fits an 8-inch square hoop perfectly. I accented the tote with ruffles, quickly stitched with the Brother Ruffler Foot. Are you ready? Let’s go sew!

This colorful tote requires just a few steps to make:

  • Embroider and sew a pocket for the front.
  • Attach pocket to front.
  • Create straps and a ruffled strip from complimentary fabric.
  • Sew tote with ruffle inserted into side and bottom seam and add straps.

Materials and Supplies:

  • Brother Machine for Embroidery and Brother machine for sewing.                                                                     Note: The ten-needle machine makes it easy to stitch a design like this without stopping for multiple thread changes. Please know that you can also stitch this design on any Brother machine with an 8-inch or larger hoop capability.
  • Brother Embroidery Thread
  • Brother Bobbin Thread for Embroidery
  • SA5810 Pacesetter Medium Weight Tear-Away Stabilizer
  • Size 11 embroidery needles for embroidering.
  • Size 14 jeans needle for constructing tote.
  • Basic sewing notions including thread to match or blend with fabrics.
Fabrics for tote:
  • For pocket: Cut one piece of medium weight woven cotton to fit hoop. Fuse medium weight interfacing to the entire piece.
  • For pocket lining cut one square of lightweight cotton measuring 10-inches square.
  • For tote front and back cut pieces of medium weight cotton measuring 14-inches wide X 15-inches long.
Quilt weight cotton fabric for ruffle and straps:
  • For tote straps cut two strips measuring 3 ½-inches wide X 30-inches long. Fuse a strip of light weight interfacing to each strap.
  • For ruffle cut and piece enough 5 ½-inch wide strips to equal one continuous piece measuring 108-inches long. Note: Cutting strips on the bias grain of the fabric will produce the prettiest ruffling effect. Piece length of ruffle strip with diagonal seams. See Step 10 for more details.
  • Brother Free Design of the month, BrightButterfly.pes. See Figure #1.
Free Design
Figure #1
Steps to Create Ruffled Tote
  1. Choose thread colors and thread machine for stitching design. I opted to use colors that picked up the color scheme of my ruffle and strap fabric. Check the selvedge of your fabric and you will most likely see the color palette the fabric designer used to mix in the print. Using these small sections of color as a color guide is a great way to create a designer look. See Figure #2a and Figure #2b
Choose Colors
Figure #2a
Color Scheme
Figure #2b
  1. Hoop interfaced fabric and embroider design on pocket piece. See Figure #3.
Pocket on Hoop
Figure #3
  1. Trim piece to equal a 10-inch square having design centered on the fabric.
  2. Set up machine for sewing with standard thread and the size 14 jeans needle. Layer pocket lining with embroidered pocket having right sides together. See Figure #4.
Layer Pocket Lining
Figure #4
  1. Sew a ½-inch seam around pocket edges, leaving a 5-inch opening at the bottom edge for turning pocket right side out. See Figure #5.
Figure #5
  1. Turn pocket right side out and press opening closed. Prepare to hem tote front and back at the top edge by pressing under 1/2-inch of raw edge to wrong side. Press again, pressing under 1-inch to create top hem. Center pocket on one of the 14-inches wide X 15-inches long pieces to use as the tote front and pin in place. See Figure #6.
Centered Design
Figure #6
  1. Stitch hem in place close to folded edge. See Figure #7.
Stitch Hem
Figure #7
  1. Stitch pocket in place, stitching close to the edge and closing bottom opening in the process. See Figure #8.
Stitch Pocket
Figure #8
  1. To prepare straps, fold and press under ½-inch along long raw edges. Fold straps in half lengthwise and stitch along each long edge. See Figure #9.
Prepare Straps
Figure #9
  1. Now it’s time to create ruffles for insertion in the side and bottom seam. For soft ruffles I prefer fabric strips cut on the bias. When piecing bias strips, I create diagonal seams by placing two short, squared off ends together, and then sewing the seam at a 45-degree angle. Press the sewn seam open and trim excess seam allowance before folding the strip in half. See examples in Figure #10a and Figure #10b below.
Figure #10a
45 Degree Angle
Figure #10b
  1. Set up ruffler as follows to create a soft ruffled trim:
  • Choose a center needle straight stitch set for a stitch length of 4.0. Attach ruffler foot and slip fabric under the ruffling blade so there is at least 1-inch extending. Position the fabric so the stitch forms a scant 1/2-inch from the long raw edge of the ruffle strip.
  • Set the space adjustment lever to #1. See Figure #11.
Lever 1
Figure #11
  • Set the ruffler adjustment screw near the center. See Figure #12.
Adjustment Screw
Figure #12
  1. Ruffle the strip, stopping with 1-inch free at the end. See examples in Figure #13a and Figure #13b.
Ruffle the Strip
Figure #13a
1 inch ending
Figure #13b
  1. Pin or clip ruffle along outer edge of tote front, folding ½-inch to the inside to finish first ruffle end. Pin or clip all around, rounding the ruffle at the lower corners. Note that you will trim away some of the ruffle when constructing the tote. When you reach the opposite end, pull out stitches and trim excess ruffle, leaving 1-inch extending. Fold under the final raw ends as you did at the beginning. See Figure #14.
Pin ruffles
Figure #14
  1. Temporarily detach ends so you can close the open ruffle ends with a standard straight stitch. See Figure #15.
Close Ruffles
Figure #15
  1. Set machine for a basting stitch and baste ruffle 3/8-inch from raw edge. Layer tote back with tote front with right sides together. See Figure #16.
Layer Tote
Figure #16
  1. Sew tote together with a ½-inch seam. Trim lower corners, curving the seam, and serge finish or overcast raw edges.
  2. Fold and press under ½-inch on each short end of straps. Position straps along the top hemmed edge, with front and back straps lined up with pocket edges. Stitch straps securely in place using a box formation with an X in the center. See Figure #17a and Figure #17b.
Stitch Straps
Figure #17a
Stitch onto Tote
Figure #17b

Tack the loose upper seam allowance to the back of the tote using a short line of straight stitches. You are finished! Enjoy!

Options and Ideas:

  • Change pocket or tote size as desired.
  • Watch for an Accessory Spotlight on the ruffler attachment coming soon!
  • Explore options for designs similar to this one in the Bright Blossoms category of Morango Designs on the Brother iBroidery Design Download site.



  • I love butterflies and this project caught my eye. Sadly I do t have the kind of machine to that can do this project but I can appreciate the step by step instructions and how you used the ruffler attachment! A super advanced machine can still use an old timer like the ruffler foot!

    • Hi Juanita! Thanks for leaving your comments. You could easily add a butterfly appliqué or perhaps butterfly print fabric for a pretty pocket accent. You are so right about the ruffler! That is and “oldie but a goodie” attachment. In truth, it hasn’t even changed much over the years. Watch for another tutorial with more about the ruffler foot soon! I wish you happy sewing my friend!

  • That, Joanne is a cute bag. I really like it but my machine doesnt have the 8in hoop or larger so I would have to use another design w/ butterflies. And I don’t have the ruffle either so I would have to do a zig zag over a slippery thread to pull gathers. But the bag is really cute.

    • Hi Renee! So glad you liked the bag! I had fun making it and it was great to zip through the ruffling, fast and easy with the ruffler foot. If you did much in the way of ruffles you would find it very useful. Having said that, you can certainly used the zig zag over cord method in the meantime. 🙂

  • Not so crazy about the ruffles, but I can see where some folks would be. Love the butterfly. Thanks.

    • Hi Lou Ann! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I was mesmerized by the butterfly when it was stitching. Not only is the butterfly beautiful, I thought the background was really unusual and interesting. Skip the ruffles if you like, that’s what’s fun about sewing . . . so many options for making it work for your personal style and taste. It was really good to hear from you 🙂

  • This is a really cute design and project! I needed info on using the ruffle too!
    Thanks again for another great article!

  • I appreciate your efforts to provide informative articles. I always learn something. Today, though I am not one who uses ruffles in my sewing, it was interesting to learn about using bias for nicer ruffles. I did not know that tip. I also do not have an embroidery machine but it is fun to see what items are being made and how I could substitute (applique?, piecing? choices!). I will also admit that I don’t like sewing handles on as demonstrated today. I personally don’t think it is as finished or polished. I enjoyed the article and it is good to remind about having fun with those tote pockets!

    • It was great to hear from you Patti! I am always interested to know what you might find helpful from reading the Brother Stitching Sewcial blog posts. It’s my pleasure to share the information but it is even more pleasant to know if it was helpful. You have some great ideas for changing up the tote to make it in a new way with different options. I hope you have fun making one to suit your own style. Happy Sewing!

  • A ruffler made a huge difference in doing country curtains back in the 90s and ruffles for girls clothes. It is an AWESOME accessary foot.

    • Hi Sandra!
      Thanks for leaving a note here! I agree about the awesomeness of the ruffler foot. I made some pretty ruffly country curtains myself in the 90’s. I had a big picture window with ruffles on three panels and yards of Cluny lace inserted for an extra dose of “country!” LOL!

      Thanks for the trip down memory lane! I’m sure you made some really special pieces yourself.

  • I just love your designs and your blog! You do a great job of breaking down complicated projects so that we can understand and succeed with our projects. I hope that you keep working on new projects and my favorite TV Show – “It’s Sew Easy.”

    • Hello Susan!

      I can’t thank you enough for your kind and encouraging words! Brother just sposonred the 10th season of It’s Sew Easy TV so you’ll have lots of new shows to look forward to this fall. We truly appreciate your interest in all the various sewing productions. Happy Sewing!

    • Thanks for commenting Delois!
      Your idea for cording is a great one!!! Sewing is all about options 🙂

  • The butterfly design is beautiful. If I make this I won’t do the ruffles. I’m not a ruffly kind of girl. Maybe prairie points instead.

    • Hi DJ!

      Glad you liked the butterfly! Your suggestion for making prairie points is fantastic!!! I have used them on other projects but never thought about it for a tote. Brilliant idea!

    • So glad you like the tote bag Lorraine! It would wonderful to hear how yours turns out. Thanks for writing and Happy Sewing!

  • Hi Joanne,
    This bag is great. I have a ruffler attachment. I haven’t used it in a while. This is inspiring me to. Thank you Joanne and Brother Sews!

    • Thank you for writing Nancy! We’re so glad you were ispired by this project. You’ll appreciate your ruffler more and more each time you use it. Such perfect, pretty pleats it makes!!! Happy Sewing!

  • This is beautiful! I love butterflies. Can I make this with my NQ3600D? I just purchased it yesterday and I’m so excited about all of the possible projects!

  • Hi Michelle!

    Congratulations on purchasing a Brother NQ3600D! You are in for a ton of fun with your new machine.

    The ruffler attachment will work perfectly with your machine. While you do have a generously sized 6X10 hoop, this particular butterfly design is close to an 8-inch square so it needs and 8-inch or larger hoop size. I would suggest finding an alternative design you like that will fit within your hoop. There are plenty of butterfly designs available on In addition, there is a free Brother design with a butterfly theme from a previous tote bag project I created for the Stitching Sewcial blog. You’ll find it here:

    Feel free to reach out with any other questions you might have. Happy Sewing!

    • Thank you so much! The ruffler attachment is something I look forward to getting. I’m happy to know that it is compatible with my machine. The alternative bag suggestion is beautiful.
      This is my first embroidery machine and I am very excited to be able to create so many things! My list keeps growing!

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