Posts in fabric
I Made Shoes!

Last week I shared my fears around hand sewing and how my belief that I wasn’t “good” at stitching kept me from trying embroidery. I’m not sure if it was that belief, or if was other fears that kept me from using the espadrille kit I bought at the end of August.

At first I couldn’t make up my mind about which fabric I wanted to use. Butterflies (to match my top)? Goldfish? Blue Roses?

Once I got the right fabric there was always something else more important to do than sew a pair of shoes.

Then I started second-guessing my fabric choice. I sewed a pillow with my fabric in velvet and started to wonder if maybe velvet would be more fun than linen.

Although I could convince myself that each of theses delays was perfectly reasonable, if I’m honest it was fear that stopped me from tackling the project.

I guess it does make sense to think of making shoes as kind of scary. Very few people make their own shoes, right? Making shoes is hard, isn’t it? You need special tools and skills, don’t you?

But let me assure you that despite my fears (and beliefs), it wasn’t difficult!

The kit I bought is from A Happy Stitch, Melissa Q'.’s Etsy shop. Melissa has lots of different options including children’s sizes. Some of the kits come with fabric, but she also has kits that don’t.

The Espadrille Kit that I Used to Sew a Pair of Shoes is From the Etsy Shop A Happy Stitch

I purchased the “I Got it Kit” which has everything you need to make a pair of espadrilles except for the fabric. It really is a thorough kit. (If you want to learn more about all of the “bits” and about their environmental impact, Melissa wrote about it here).

I used linen for the outside of my shoes and Kona cotton for the inside, both in my small scale goldfish design from Spoonflower. A fat quarter of each was more than enough fabric for my pair of shoes.

Getting Ready to Cut out the Pattern Pieces for the Espadrilles with My Goldfish Fabric

I have to admit that I get nervous reading sewing patterns. Often I feel like I don’t know what they’re talking about (thank goodness for Google!). The instructions with this kit were very clear. There’s even a link to a video (which I never ended up needing to consult).

In Progress Goldfish Espadrilles

Even though it wasn’t difficult, it was slow for me. My sewing machine gave me trouble (as it often does). Pinning the fabric to the soles so that everything fit just right was slow. Sewing top to bottom took some strength (and patience). But it was such a satisfying project.


I can’t wait to be able to wear them!

If you’d like to try your hand at making some espadrilles, I highly recommend this kit. What’s even better is the fact that Melissa is so kind and helpful. I emailed her a couple times with questions and she responded right away with cheerful, encouraging suggestions.

The Shoes I Sewed with My Goldfish Fabric from Spoonflower and the Kit from A Happy Stitch

Sewing these shoes, working on learning embroidery, getting back to painting… all of it is teaching me, again and again, the art of patience. The art of slowness.

Patience. Slowness. They’re important lessons. They go way beyond a pair of shoes, a colorful sampler or a finished painting.

2018 -- a Year in Review

Reviewing a whole year is a hard thing. Once you sit down to do it you realize how slippery the days can be. How difficult to contain with words or even photos.

I had my fair share of failures, mistakes and frustrations in 2018, but I don’t want to focus on them here. We can learn from our mistakes and I’m certainly using those lessons as I plan for the new year, but my focus for today is celebrating the good stuff.

I am so grateful to be doing what I do. Making art. Writing this blog. Teaching. I’m grateful for you, whether you’re a customer, student or simply pause here on occasion to read my words.

Even though it can be tricky condense a year into a definable whole, I find it satisfying to look back and remember all I’ve accomplished. (You can see past posts on my old blog for 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011). Maybe you like to do it, too? If you feel as if you’re moving forward at a snail’s pace it can be helpful to look back and see how truly far you’ve come.

I chose PRESENT for my Word of the Year for 2018. I’m not sure how successful I was at remaining Present throughout the year, but it was a good reminder that I continued to turn to. I never did manage to make meditation a habit, but I wrote in my journal nearly every day. Mindfulness is something I’ll continue to carry with me into 2019.

I began 2018 with a Gentle Nudge Towards Creativity (and a typo, since fixed, in my image for it — pondering mistakes and missteps in the beginning of the year was good for me and my business, I think).

A Gentle Nudge Towards Creativity -- Crafting a More Creative Year

My intention was to be more creative throughout my days, to focus more on making all the time and to be able to wear me-mades as much as possible. It’s easy to let creative projects slip for lack of time or energy and I wanted to try to turn that on its head. Sewing and crochet were two things I wanted to tackle in part because I already had a lot of fabric and yarn stored away in my studio closet. This push didn’t really have anything to do with my business, but it had to do with me as a person, which in turn affects all areas of my life.

Some of the clothes and accessories I sewed, embellished and crocheted in 2018

Some of the clothes and accessories I sewed, embellished and crocheted in 2018

Looking back I did tackle (and finish) a lot of personal projects in 2018 and I want to do more in 2019. I’m still dreaming of a way to integrate art-making and crafting as part of my business. Fabric design is part of it, but I want to take it a step further. Stay tuned!

As for fabric design, I created a new a fabric collection in 2018.

Into which I added one of my absolute favorite designs, also created this year (and available in a larger scale than seen below).

I love how it turned out and so did lots of other people. It was voted a community favorite on Spoonflower and it’s sold very well. I updated my designs from past years with new dates and they’ve been popular, too.

Because I loved creating these tea towels I decided to share my process in a class on Skillshare.

In total I filmed and taught four new classes on Skillshare in 2018.

I began teaching in person this year, too. I taught three series of watercolor classes at the library in town (where I also work part time). I had no idea how teaching in person would go, but I ended up really enjoying it (and learning a lot from my students — many thanks to everyone who took classes with me this year!).

Through the month of February I had a little exhibit of my paintings at the local library.

Paintings by Anne Butera on Exhibit at the McIntosh Memorial Library in Viroqua, Wisconsin in February of 2018

I’ve had some paintings on display at Matthias’s shop in town this year, too.

Anne Butera's Art on Exhibit at Mac Help in Viroqua, Wisconsin

My art got some nice recognition further afield in 2018.

Anne Butera's Art Was Featured in Publications Around the World in 2018

My nasturtiums painting was on the cover of The Essential Herbal Magazine in September/October. One of my illustrations was included in Flow Magazine’s 2019 Tear off Calendar. I was a featured designer on the Pattern Observer Blog in November. And perhaps, most exciting to me, my 2019 desk calendar was featured in Cottages and Bungalows Magazine!

Printing last year’s calendar was so frustrating and I knew I needed a change in how I did things. This year I had my calendars professionally printed. It made things so much easier for me and allowed my 2019 calendars to be my most successful yet.

Something completely new for me this year was my first time on a podcast. I was interviewed by Angie Noll on The Not Starving Artist Podcast in May.

Sketchbooks continue to be an important part of my art practice, although my work in them often comes in ebbs and flows.

This year I started another collaborative sketchbook project with Dana Barbieri.

a page from the second collaborative sketchbook by Anne Butera and Dana Barbieri

We aren’t sharing our pages the way we did with the first project and that has made working in the sketchbook feel very free. In 2019 I hope to hang onto that free feeling and dive even deeper into my own sketchbooks.

One big change this year: I moved my blog from blogger to my website. In a lot of ways I wish I had done it earlier. It feels good to have everything in one place. I’m not entirely certain which direction I want to take with my blog in 2019. Any thoughts from a reader’s perspective?

The backbone of everything has been, of course, my watercolors.

Some of my watercolor paintings from 2018

Some of my watercolor paintings from 2018

Looking at all these paintings makes me look forward to 2019’s gardening season and having ample subjects for my watercolors.

2018 was a weird year in the garden, but I wish I had taken more photos. Even in their imperfection the photos I did take bring me so much joy (especially when everything out there is frozen solid).

A View in My Garden in 2018

The beauty about a garden is that each year we get a chance for a fresh start. It’s also the beauty of this time of year. When January rolls around we get a fresh start with our lives, a chance to think and plan and decide what’s most important for us in the new year.

I hope that you are looking to 2019 with excitement and hope. Here’s to a joy-filled, beautiful, creative year for us both! Thanks, again, for spending time on this journey with me. See you again in 2019!

Making Do and Making Art

What are your barriers to creativity? What keeps you from making or doing on a regular basis? A lack of:

  • time?

  • space?

  • money?

  • materials?

  • tools?

  • knowledge?

  • skills?

  • inspiration?

  • energy?

  • confidence?

Or is it something else?

I think most of the things on this list challenge all of us at one point or another. I know I’ve struggled with them.

Sometimes we put limits on ourselves based on imaginary constraints. We even use language making our limits sound hopeful or dream-inspired instead of constraining. I caught myself thinking “when I have time to reorganize my studio, I’ll set up a permanent sewing table. And then I’ll be able to sew more regularly.” I even started fantasizing about the thrift-store table I’d find or repurpose. What I was really saying was “I can’t sew right now because I don’t have the right space to do it.”

Was it true? No. And I finally realized it. I brought a folding table up from the basement, shifted things a bit and brought my sewing machine out from the closet.

I set up my sewing machine on a folding table in my studio

It might not look pretty and the table bounces a little when the machine is going full steam, but it works. I even crossed a couple sewing projects off my list this week (although one was a bit of a fail as I shared on Instagram).

A pillow cover sewed with my fabric design in Spoonflower's Celosia Velvet

I love my new pillow* and wish I’d done this sooner.

I wonder about some of the other constraints I put on myself. Are they true?

I’ve been dragging my feet on a few projects, putting them off for various reasons. If I look closely at the reasons, I see there are ways around them. I can make do and then get on with the business of making art.

Don’t have enough time? Fit in a few minutes of making. I was able to fill a page in my sketchbook on a day when I only had about ten minutes to work.**

Don’t have the right space? Rethink the space you have.

Don’t have a lot of money for fancy supplies? Use what you have. (My blue roses fabric design was painted with one color of paint).

These sketchbook roses were painted with one color of paint and eventually became one of my favorite fabric designs

Many of our constraints can be overcome. We can shift our thinking. We can look at our situations creatively. We can listen to what we’re truly saying and combat our fears. We can make do and make art.

Lately I’ve been telling myself that winter is my uninspired season, that without my garden I can’t create any serious art. Yes, it’s true I often hit a slump during the winter, but it’s also true that I’ve created some pieces I love during the winter. (My blue roses were painted during the winter and all of these paintings were created during the winter, too).

these watercolor roses were painted without live flowers as models — one in the spring and the others more recently

these watercolor roses were painted without live flowers as models — one in the spring and the others more recently

Although I’m still working on overcoming my slump, I’ve been focusing on playing in my sketchbooks instead of creating “serious” art (whatever that is). Perhaps my art, like my garden needs a bit of rest in order to begin growing again.

from my second collaborative sketchbook with Dana Barbieri — my page is on the right

from my second collaborative sketchbook with Dana Barbieri — my page is on the right

It’s amazing what ideas come out of sketchbook play. Giving myself time and space to experiment and dream is just as important as other types of making.

Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find your working.” Figuring out ways to rethink our restraints and restrictions, to pull apart the barriers to our creativity is important work.

What about you? Is there something holding you back from being creative? How might you reframe your situation so you can begin making?

*I sewed the pillow cover with my small scale Watercolor Rose Garden in Blue design in Spoonflower’s Celosia Velvet fabric. The fabric is vibrantly colored, so soft and was easy to work with. You can find it here and learn more about the fabric here.

**It’s also important to remember that we all have a lot of time each day and how we fill it is up to us. Prioritize what’s most important and leave the other stuff out. (Bonnie Christine shared some interesting thoughts about this on Instagram the other day).

2019 Tea Towel Calendars and Coordinating Fabric

I want to thank everyone who voted for my Tea Towel Calendar design. Although this year’s tea towel didn’t place as high as in the past, my Blue Roses tea towel is now one of the Community Favorites on Spoonflower.

It’s now available to purchase from Spoonflower as a fat quarter of fabric that you can hem yourself or from Roostery as a finished tea towel.

I created this year’s design to coordinate with my Watercolor Rose Garden in Blue fabric.

Painting the roses with Prussian blue gouache this winter and then creating the repeat pattern was such a joy.

Prussian Blue Gouache Paintings in My Sketchbook Will Later Become Part of My Fabric Design

Designing tea towel calendars has become an annual tradition for me. It is a lot of fun (the calendars make great holiday gifts, too).

Last year I painted nasturtiums, which, you might have noticed are one of my very favorite flowers to grow (and to paint).

My Nasturtium Painting Created to Use in a Tea Towel Calendar Design by Anne Butera of My Giant Strawberry

Recently I updated that design with 2019 dates (I also added white space to the edges to make hemming much easier).

The nasturtiums tea towel calendar coordinates nicely with my nasturtium fabric.

It makes fun napkins. But you don’t have to take my word for it, see for yourself in Karen’s blog post. In that post you might recognize another fabric used for napkins:

The Watercolor Kitchen Garden design coordinates with the tea towel I created for 2017. So many sweet motifs. It’s now updated it with 2019 dates, too.

There is something so satisfying about seeing my art on utilitarian items like this. Looking again at my designs I’m itching to do some more sewing with my fabric.

Do you sew? What sorts of projects have you been working on or dreaming about? I’d love to hear about them.

I’m behind on my sewing, but I’m so excited about this project on my to-sew list!

It will have to wait, though, because I'm taking a little break to unplug and spend time in nature.

Until next week, I hope your days are filled with many simple joys and small beauties.