A Tribute to Betty Cauthen

Betty Cauthen of Betty’s Sunset Threads first began digitizing to offset the cost of designs for personal use.  My dad, Bill, had bought her an embroidery machine for Christmas along with a few design cards.   However, she quickly became frustrated with prices being charged by the larger companies and the lack of “good” designs for sale.   A natural artist, she decided to see if she could learn how to digitize some of her artwork.  Her first set, the Monthly Sunbonnets, was originally a free design complete with free mistakes and was posted on Ann-the-Gran’s website.  Many people from around the world downloaded her design and she quickly completed all twelve months so others could finish quilts or other projects they had started.  In 1999 after much deliberation over a name for the company and the potential success for starting one, the first design of Betty’s Sunset Threads was posted for sale.  The success of her designs came quickly, but to understand why you need to know some history.

Betty was born in 1937, the youngest of four children.  An Arizona native, Betty’s artistic talent was evident early on.  Even as a child, school teachers would use pictures she drew or painted to show others how it “should be done”.  She had an innate sense of color and design that most people can’t understand or even recognize.  She could tell just by looking at something if the shade of color used was wrong.  Additionally, there wasn’t a project or idea that she couldn’t accomplish. 

It was during high school at Phoenix Union that she met the love of her life, Bill Cauthen.  They were married in November 1957.  Betty & Bill both attended Arizona State University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in education with a minor in Art.  After Bill’s service in the military, they both began teaching in Phoenix.  Betty taught in the Scottsdale school system for 30 years; teaching mostly the fourth and fifth grades.   Even while teaching, art was still a major part of her life.   The bulletin boards in her classroom reflected her artistic talent.   While other teachers used store bought items to decorate their rooms, Betty created all of hers.  Even outside the classroom, art was a major part of her life.  For years, Betty painted oil paintings and sewed clothing for her family.  Her paintings were often featured at art shows and hung in local galleries around the Southwest.  In the seventies, some of her paintings were even made into Christmas cards.  Additionally, their home became a showplace for her artwork.  She painted murals on walls and her oil paintings decorated their home.

In 1966 their first daughter, Vicki was born.  Two years later, Melissa joined the family.  Growing up, the girls benefited from their mother’s love of art.  While other kids colored with crayons, they learned to paint with oils.  While other kids learned how to cut and paste, they learned how to paper mache or work with clay.  Even their bedrooms became a work of art.  Betty helped them redecorate their rooms every few years to match their growing personalities.  While doing so, she was teaching them how to coordinate color and fabric selection.  Betty’s artistic talent was just a normal part of life.    

In the late 1980’s, Betty began to take classes on china painting.  It was something she had wanted to do for years.  After learning the basics, she expanded the technique to include her own style.  Where most china painting follows a set floral pattern, Betty often used her own design ideas.  Her love of the southwest was often reflected in the pieces she painted.  Again, her natural talent as an artist was evident.  Betty retired from teaching elementary school in the early 1990’s, but she didn’t retire from teaching others.  Instead of being the china painting student, she now had time to become the teacher.  Betty taught china painting for many years and even hosted a Monday night painting session in their home.  Occasionally, she entered some of her china in shows.  The most memorable one was probably the International China Show in Madrid, Spain.

After each of the girls married (Vicki to Reggie and Melissa to Dale), grandchildren were added:  Tori, in 1992; followed by Cambrea in 1995, Brittany in 1996, Jackson in 1998, and Michael in 1999.   Having grandchildren allowed Betty a new arena for her art.  In addition to creating china pieces for the grandkids, she once again began to sew and add her art to clothing.  Not too much later, the new embroidery machines caught her eye. 

Originally a Christmas gift, it wasn’t too long before Betty’s talents led her to creating embroidery designs for her personal use and that of others.  Betty’s Sunset Threads was created in 1999 when her first design set, Patches, was placed for sale.  It wasn’t too much later that Betty was asked to teach at an embroidery convention.  Once again she started out as the student, but had become the teacher.  Initially she taught basic digitizing at conventions around the country.  However, Betty was never one to do it like everyone else.  She added her own style to her classes.  Betty began teaching others how to paint on fabric to create a background for embroidery designs.  Many people benefited from her “can do” attitude and were able to create something they usually would not have attempted.  For many years, Betty and Bill traveled around the country to embroidery conventions and were known to many.   She was even instrumental in helping to create the Crusin’ with the Teacbers event, something that will most likely be an annual affair.  Just a short five years later, Betty had created 86 design packets that all contained original artwork and were enjoyed by many people around the world. 

Betty often used her artistic talent to benefit others.  One of her embroidery designs, Cassie’s Angels, was used to raise funds for a little girl in need of a liver transplant.  Secondly, many families at her church were blessed with a hand-painted cross to commemorate the birth of a child.  Additionally, her church will forever have a banner she created to celebrate Fellowship.  These are just a few examples, however, her artistic talent was minor in comparison to her love for God, family, and friends.  Betty Cauthen died on September 13, 2004.  It was a very short illness having been diagnosed with liver cancer just two weeks prior. 

Betty will be missed by many.  Her unique and creative designs are a constant reminder of her incredible talent.  Her designs remain available on our website