Upcycled Style Made on a Sailboat: Meet Missy Sequeira of Sentropia Designs

Missy Sequeira is one of those people who becomes more intriguing as you get to know her, when her many talents and fascinating life story unveil themselves through small anecdotes. She has a warm, sweet confidence and the capable air of someone you definitely want on your apocalypse team. She also feels passionately about social justice issues and focuses much of her energy and influence on feminism, environmentalism and movements like #BLM.

Over the last few years, she went from being a restaurant blogger and 9-5 professional to a life of early semi-retirement, as she and her husband pared down their earthly possessions. Now they live (mostly) full-time on their refurbished sailboat, enjoying the space they have for new, creative endeavors like her recently revamped Etsy store. 

We caught up after months of Covid delays to learn more about a recent enterprise where she brought together two of her passions—sailing and upcycling—to develop a successful new product for her store, Sentropia Designs. (Check out the rest of our summer upcycling series!)

Sentropia Designs. Photo courtesy of Missy Sequeira.

Dismantle Magazine: How did you start with upcycling?

Missy S: I had a sewing machine for years and didn’t really do anything with it after the first attempt at using it when my son was a baby (1993). I thought it would be easy to make a tiny onesie, so I bought the pattern, bought the cute material, thought I had it figured out, then started sewing. I sewed and sewed — in fact, I sewed it all except the neck hole. I basically made a 4 finger pot holder. I didn’t sew for a while after that.

Flash forward to 2009 where I worked as a manager of a restaurant and decided to make the servers fun aprons instead of the boring black aprons that everyone wears. It was fun, the girls all had different personalities and I made the aprons to match. It was a hit, they were cute and everyone loved them.

Missy Caudill Sentropia Designs upcycled apron with cow print
Photo courtesy of Missy Caudill.

 Towards the end of 2009 the restaurant closed. I was out of a job and so was everyone else. Seeing how popular the aprons were, I decided to start making and selling them. However, I didn’t have much spare money due to the fact that I wasn’t “working” so I would visit Goodwills, thrift shops, yard sales, etc to find fabrics — meaning clothes that I would cut up and use, sheets that had cool prints, suede skirts that I could transform into bottoms for my bags. I was upcycling before I knew what upcycling really was. What I realized was the end product was much more unique and made the item a “one of a kind” due to the fact that not many people, if any, would combine a sheet and a pair of curtain ruffles and end up with an adorable apron or combine a tablecloth with some vintage tulle I bought at a yard sale. I did a couple of farmers markets, sold them in a couple of shops and my creativity just exploded. It was great.  

A thrift store tablecloth + vintage tulle = adorable. Photo courtesy of Missy Sequeira.

DM: So cool! What made you shift from making aprons to bags?

MS: Well, from that starting point I just kept sewing, It was my happy place. One day I decided to make a bag because I can never find a bag with enough pockets. I had received a ton of used fabrics and sewing supplies from an older lady, which included vintage materials that were amazing. Those vintage materials combined with my thrift store finds turned into my favorite bag.

And that’s how my upcycled bags were born! From there I was growing a small business. I was getting orders online, and they were selling great. I also made a line of bags called “The Loved Ones Collection” (which I still sell). It involves using fabrics attached to a loved one and making them into a bag, so that one could carry it with them and have the memory of that person. An example would be if your grandmother had a favorite shirt that you remember her wearing all the time. I take that shirt and make a bag out of it.

In late 2010 I eventually had to get a “real” job and stopped sewing as much, until recently.

In 2017 my husband and I sold everything and moved onto a sailboat…I brought my sewing machine with me because I love it and knew it would come in handy for projects, etc. 

Missy Caudill upcycled blue patchwork tote bag
The first favorite bag. Photo courtesy of Missy Sequeira.

 DM: How did you jump from there to restart your upcycling business?

MS: Last year, in 2019, someone was getting rid of an old sail and I thought I could try and make a bag from the sail material. Once again bags were born! My skills were a bit rusty but with some practice I knew that would improve, which it did. The sail cloth bags are very popular in the boating community. Durable, easy to clean, nice looking but generally very expensive because sails are expensive. So I bargained. You donate a sail to me and I will make you a bag! It took off.

Now I make sailcloth tote bags, sailcloth wristlets, spinnaker coin bags, club burgees for the harbor aboard our sailboat in the Florida Keys. All sails have seen their fair share of weather and have taken boats to beautiful destinations. 

Photo courtesy of Missy Sequeira.

DM: Please tell us a little more about your business today. 

MS: The name of my business is Sentropia Designs. This name came from a deep conversation about thermodynamics one evening with a friend. Basically Entropy is interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in a system, or lack of order. Syntropy is the opposite, basically making order out of chaos. Which is what I was doing with upcycling: taking a shirt and making it into a bag (for instance) is turning something “chaotic” into something with a purpose. I played on that word and decided on Sentropia Designs.

I sell my bags and burgees now around the harbour and through Facebook. I also do some craft shows every now and then and have some bags for sale at a local marina. 

Sentropia Designs spinnaker coin bags. Photo courtesy of Missy Sequeira.

DM: To wrap up, we’d love for you to tell our readers a bit more about why you upcycle.

MS: Originally because I had no money for new fabrics. But I continued to do so because it results in unique items. Also, it uses existing materials that would otherwise just be thrown away and never used again. It creates new life for tired fabrics. And I guarantee it to be unique — will anyone else cut up this exact pair of cute, infant-sized shorts and use that material to accent a bag made of used sail cloth? I doubt it. But I did! There is so much cool fabric in the world that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. I like to encourage others to think outside of the box: cut up that tablecloth or that dress you like the pattern or feel of, and make something with it that you like. When I shop at a thrift store i’m always touching and feeling — once you cut it up, it’s all just fabric.

I sew for fun, I enjoy it, it’s my happy place. The fact that I can sew and people want to buy what I make is amazing. It’s a good feeling.

Missy’s Etsy page is under construction, but you can connect with her via her Facebook page.

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