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Ulysses butterfly: Jan T's talisman

Updated on January 1, 2017
JanTUB profile image

Jan T Urquhart Baillie has many sides to her personality, born out of a difficult life, and success due to her optimism and practical skills

Ulysses: my life symbol

For centuries, the butterfly has been the symbol for new life, and there are many things written about why this is so. The most popular seems to be the partial death of the caterpillar before it emerges totally transformed into a glorious ethereal butterfly.

The Ulysses butterfly is so beautiful, I became enraptured by them on my first visit to a Daintree (in far north Queensland, Australia) coffee plantation about thirty years ago. As they flitted in and out of the bush, their wonderful blue wings delighted me.

From that moment I accepted the Ulysses as my life symbol, not understanding what that meant at all.

Image: Wikipedia

Calling, calling...

the Ulysses kept appearing in my life for years

When I first became aware of the Ulysses in my life, it seemed a series of mere coincidences.

But I don't think there are coincidences.

I describe such things as God poking his finger into my life and stirring it around. I don't always recognise the fact from the beginning, though.


Complete and utter change

From Dictionary[dot]com:

1. In Biology: a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism, as from the caterpillar to the pupa and from the pupa to the adult butterfly.

2. any complete change in appearance, character, circumstances, etc.

It is thought that it is this metamorphosis that the caterpillar endures is why the butterfly came to symbolise new life in many cultures.

Butterflies are commonly used

as symbols for new beginnings or new life

It wasn't until my husband was killed, and I moved to a house in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, that I realised that I was using butterflies in this way. I started a new life (without him) and a new business.

I had made my first Ulysses butterfly quilt because I was given the fabrics and a challenge to make it.

My next one was after my daughter died subsequent to having a massive brain stem aneurysm. I made a quilt covered in multicoloured butterfly fabrics, which many friends started to give me for this special mourning quilt.

Once I decided to use the Ulysses as the symbol for my new business: Quilts at Jan T's Utopia, I realised that this wonderful, bright, turquoise butterfly was being used in my life as a talisman or symbol.

Again the Ulysses shows itself to me! - Ulysses: the Dunk Island symbol

Tropical island paradise

Dunk Island in North Queensland on the Great Barrier Reef, is my favourite place. Tropical, pretty, beautiful beaches, rainforest walks, and of course, the Ulysses.

My first visit there, I was delighted by the fabulous butterfly pool.

My very first butterfly quilt - has Ulysses butterflies on it

Approximately 3' x 4'
Approximately 3' x 4'

Hexagons Flutter-by

The quilt description

In 1988, June Oliver, then President of Queensland Quilters — the state guild — was given some bags of fabric by a relative of an elderly woman who had just died.

In one bag, June found several off-cuts of a fine lawn screen printed with Ulysses butterflies. There were three colour ways: olive, turquoise, and blue. The pieces were divided amongst the committee members, who were asked to make a quilt with the lovely fabrics.

I was the only one who ever did, and the quilt above is my effort.

At that time, I was an inexperienced quilter, but totally fearless about designing my own quilts. I used my favourite 60 degree triangles, and all three colour ways of the print. As well as the butterfly fabric, I used swami, satin, evening fabrics, all of which came from the lady's collection.

As it turns out, the fabrics were screen printed by Olive Ashworth who was a famous Queensland screen-printing artist, and friend of the lady who died.

And that lady was?

Caroline Barker, very famous portrait painter who was 99 when she died.

So the quilt was honouring both women, and I was asked to donate it to the Queensland Art Gallery.

Butterflies Are Free - a mourning quilt

Approximately 3' x 4'
Approximately 3' x 4'

Talisman or fancy?

Do you believe in life talismans?

See results

Jan T's Utopia

heaven for quilters

Imagine a place where quilters would have unlimited supplies of fabric, thread, sewing machines, ideas, coffee, food and no-one to say:

"Are you ever coming to (bed),

(make dinner), (talk to us)?"

That's what Jan T started when she opened her retreat centre at East Maitland in 2000. It's gone now, but the philosophy is present here on the web.


Real or imaginary?

The dictionary says:

uto·pia, n.,

♦ Utopia, imaginary and ideal country in Utopia, (1516) by Sir Thomas More

♦ from Greek ou not, no + topos place

♦ an imaginary and indefinitely remote place

♦ often capitalized : a place of ideal perfection especially in laws

♦ government, and social conditions

♦ an impractical scheme for social improvement.

And the butterfly?

It was already my talisman

As you now know, the butterfly is one of the symbols for new life, and that's the reason for my using it as the icon for my new life, and the look of my website.

Inside Jan T's Utopia you can find art and quilts, with more happening all the time.

I'd love to have you visit and stay awhile.

I have many butterflies now

Each one a symbol of the love of the giver

My family and friends often give me little presents, and very often they are themed with butterflies.

I have earrings, bookmarks, 3D window stickers, pictures, fridge magnets, brooches, jewel boxes, and the list goes on.

Below are a few of them

A different butterfly collection - of objects dear to my heart

Watch the trailer

Buy the movie - from Amazon

The Blue Butterfly
The Blue Butterfly

It may help you to change direction anew.


Daintree Dalliance: the quilt - 24" x 18" approximately

Designed using my favourite 60 degree triangles, the background is like the rainforest — full of different lush greens, with a few small butterflies in the distance.

The large butterfly is collaged with fabric shapes, raw edge appliquéd and thread painted, using all the colours of the glorious Ulysses.

Daintree Dalliance

The quilt description

The wonderful Ulysses butterfly is my talisman.

They fly around the Daintree as big as birds. Their shimmering wings delight, but, like many brightly coloured things in nature, they are poisonous!

Layered applique with machine embroidery, all applied over the sixty degree triangle background, and quilted with the 'baked bean butterfly' quilting design.

See more of my quilts at Jan T 's Utopia

Personal imagery and symbolism

There to help

We see symbols around us everywhere, icons for how to get somewhere like the train or bus, or the public toilets.

They direct us to our destinations, they help us along the way.

So it is with personal symbols.

They are there to direct us, to show the way.

Find your personal imagery/symbols - on Amazon

Learn to See: An Approach to Your Inner Voice Through Symbols
Learn to See: An Approach to Your Inner Voice Through Symbols

Finding your personal symbol can help you transform your life


What's your talisman?

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    • JanTUB profile image

      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 21 months ago from Australia

      You are so right, Rangoon House, both have special meanings. How lucky you are to have Ulysses in your garden!

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      I love Ulysses butterflies and have many come and go in my garden. I also love everything that quilts represent - beauty, creativity and community are just some of those qualities.