This is a pile of shirts from Vicki of Orion Designs. (You can read more about her in my interview here.) They are beautifully hand painted from Fairweather. I had previously upcycled some of Vicki’s shirts into these totes:
You can read about those totes here.
Vicki and I discussed a few options, but she gave me a lot of freedom to create a variety of totes.

 Inspired by this Fabric Fishy Purse pattern, I decided to make a simple drawstring tote using the fish shape.

It’s a smallish, fun little bag.  I lined it so that you don’t have to reach all the way to the bottom.

Vicki suggested combining several shirts, so I used the brown and black shirt to create a large Messenger Bag.  I used a drop cloth canvas to line it to give it some body.

I removed the fish and appliqued it to the fabric on back because the piece wasn’t large enough. It is simple enough to work with upcycled fabrics because you can always piece fabrics together.

For the purple and pink shirts, I created a slouchy bag.

It’s a bit “harlequin” in that I used a different color on each side and reversed that for the lining.

I like the pocket and buttons. The pockets are likely not functional, except for something small, but it retains the feel of the shirt.

The last shirt had smaller motifs. I created a simple tote and used the buttons and buttonholes as a design element along the top of the bag.

Now for the confession….I owe Vicki an apology. I’m too embarrassed to say when she sent me these shirts. She did not give me a specific deadline, but that is not an excuse.  For all my goals of being better organized (see my “Organize Your Small Business” post), I have not reached organizational perfection. I am doing well with bookkeeping and my home is fairly well-managed.  But my lists and my project Gannt Charts are a work-in-progress.

If you are still reading this far, and want to offer advice to me, I welcome it. I want to express the challenges of running my business. I use “to-do” lists in various formats and I have simplified my project Gantt chart. Part of the reason I pushed Vicki’s project off was because I didn’t assign it a deadline. So as new deadlines were added, I kept pushing them ahead of Vicki’s. I told myself that I needed a period of time to sit and think about her shirts. I find that I need freedom from distractions to let my mind wander. I thought summer would give me time without a lot of formal commitments to get the job done.

Well, life with four teens is never free of distractions. My husband couldn’t stand being in the studio/office with me for 30 minutes because of all the questions the kids lobbed at me during that time. (That said, he did ALL the laundry last weekend!) I’m going to take a day and write down every question the kids ask me in a day and share it in a blog post. It is mentally exhausting.

I have renewed my efforts to attempt to calculate my project list deadlines in a realistic manner. This is most challenging for me. I love being a custom sewing studio. It is very hard to account for the time I use to discuss ideas with customers. Also, I have a very successful component of my business – my oversized beach totes – which requires a faster turnaround time. I have actually been overheard saying “I sold another bag!” and my son will tell me that I shouldn’t complain.  Maybe my kids are learning something after all….

I am thrilled with the growth of my little sewing studio. I have renewed my efforts to manage my project list in a realistic and timely manner. I am crossing off major projects that have been in the wings.

Thanks to my customers who are so patient and kind. Thanks to my fellow artists who are always so supportive. You cannot know what you truly mean to me!