-- Five half-yard cuts, all from Amy’s Midwest Modern collection
-- Five Amy Butler Midwest Modern sewing patterns: Cabo Halter, High Street Messenger Bag, Oval Patchy Pillow, Sweet Harmony Handbag & Tote, and Reversible Sunday Sling.
Now the Q&A, direct from the pages of Sew Retro . . .
Fabric designer and book author Amy Butler has an amazing line of fabric, patterns, and stationary full of hipster florals, modern paisleys, and vintage-inspired prints. I love her fabric because it’s affordably priced and is a great blend of country chic and mid-century modern. Here, she explains how she fell in love with fabric and where she gets her ideas.
Q: What made you become interested in fabric and pattern design? Have you always liked textiles?
Butler: My passion for fabrics and sewing has been a common thread through the span of my life. I realized I wanted to become an artist when I was a young girl and learned what the word artist meant. I was always coloring and crafting and making homemade gifts for friends and family.
My grandmother, Velma Heymann, gave me my first fabric stash at age six. She’d let me play around on her “not so nice” vintage sewing machine, where I learned the basics. It was in her attic sewing room that I first fell in love with fabric; its colors and textures gave me limitless inspiration.
As a teen, I focused my energies and enrolled in art school. There I worked hard to hone my skills without losing that sense of intrigue and passion—exploring shapes, colors, textures, and style. Surface design and fashion became my obsession. I would draw enormously tall women with impossible necks, and on them I would create lavish, layered clothing. Within those layers, I would doodle in signature florals, patterns, stripes, and modern geometrics. I found that the passionate creation of the print outweighed my love of the clothing, so I focused my efforts on surface design.
In 1997 my husband and I started producing lifestyle stories for Country Living magazine alongside our studio work. The magazine was short on space, but we needed to get instructions to our readers so they could make up the projects. I designed my first two sewing patterns for Country Living, and this is how Amy Butler Sewing Patterns began.
Q: Do you come from a family of sewers and crafty people? Did you grow up watching women around you sew or be creative in other ways?
Butler: My mom and grandmother, both self-taught artists, were huge influences on me. As a child of the seventies, I watched both of them dabble and often master every craft. They created watercolor paintings, hooked rugs, knitted, quilted, made groovy dioramas with found antique artifacts, and dried flowers—truly making our home a creative nest. My grandmother always kept me supplied with craft materials. I took my first fabric stash and glued together halter tops for my little friends in my neighborhood because I didn’t have a sewing machine at home. It was all about the fabric, and the giving. My friends tried to wear the outfits and assured me it was the thought that counted—a comment I still often get, since I love to experiment on my friends with new ideas.
Q: Where do you find your ideas for the beautiful designs you create?
Butler: My influences and inspiration change constantly, but I do have a few core influences. Broadly, all decorative arts and textiles have greatly influenced my work; I love many different time periods and genres and often tie multiple influences together with the different color palettes I use. Growing up, our home was always filled with animals, and my mother taught me a great deal about wildflowers and birds. Natural influences are a constant in my work. My grandmother was also a prolific gardener, which has been a steady influence in all of my work, and today my garden is one of my most satisfying creative outlets. My home life and my surroundings play a big part in feeding my design inspiration. They are interconnected, and one feeds the other.
Q: What attracts you to vintage fabrics?
Butler: I grew up learning about and loving all things old. My mom and grandma always dragged me to auctions and flea markets—which I grew to love—so I’ve always made my home and dressed with vintage textiles and garments. I love vintage fabrics because the prints are so soulful and unique and one of a kind. Over the years they have become a centerpiece for my visual vocabulary.
Q: Who are some of your influences, from an artistic standpoint?
Butler: The top of my list is my husband, David. He is a massive talent. He’s a true renaissance man, as he’s a brilliant fine artist, writer, photographer, and graphic designer. His body of work is so impressive. He is true to himself and his art, and that’s what moves me the most.
Kaffe Fasset has always been a great inspiration to me. I admire him because he is a fine artist who eloquently shares his vision for color and design through his work with great warmth and passion. I get lost in the color combinations in his fabrics!
I am also a huge admirer of Harmony Susalla from Harmony Arts. Harmony is leading the way for organic printed fabrics. She is the real deal, an amazing artist, designer, and passionate supporter for the organic fabric movement. She is a visionary with an unwavering heart, and her fabrics are delicious!
I’m constantly inspired by Tricia Guild’s philosophy and her spirited use of color and print. Her designs are sophisticated and approachable at the same time. I love her books, they are put together so beautifully . . . a total feast for the eyes!
Q: Why do you think sewing is enjoying a resurgence in popularity among younger women?
Butler: The retail/design world is so sophisticated, and with the addition of the Internet, young women have a heightened sense of style. I think they’re coming into fabric stores and quilt shops where they can find new products, and are then introduced to the special experience of great education, service, and inspiration that’s been so successfully nurtured by these retailers. Once their creative fire has been sparked, they can’t help developing a desire for sewing! I think it’s an exciting time, with a huge influx of wonderful new designers and products hitting shops. I think we are seeing a new direction where fabric shops and quilt shops are becoming more multi-generational, appealing to their current customer base while also attracting a new, beginner seamstress.