MHL Project: Spats from Dad’s Old Leather Jacket

A contraction of spatterdashes, spats are a type of footwear accessory covering the instep and ankle. They first came out in the late 19th century from military origins.  They were worn to protect shoes from dust, mud, water, etc.  You’ve probably seen them before but didn’t know what they were called.  I sure didn’t.

Spats and the tropical heat and humidity in the Philippines do not mix.  You’d be a fool to wear long socks — much more if you wear spats.  But here in Georgia, with it’s cold and often windy fall and winter months, they are great for keeping your legs warm.  Also, I like the way they look on my legs. 🙂

My latest project is to make spats from my dad’s old leather jacket.

I wish I had the photo of my dad happily wearing his Wilson’s leather jacket.  He bought it in Hawaii in the 80’s when he was touring the US with a theatre troup.  When he came home to the Philippines, with it’s tropical and humid climate, he never got to wear it again.  It hung in my parent’s closet for a decade.  He took it out once to clean it with mink oil and officially gave it to me.  It was too big for me but my brother didn’t want it.  I cared for it after that, cleaned it the way he showed me.  But I never got to wear it.

Bronne didn’t get to meet my dad but I knew my dad wouldn’t have minded him to have his jacket.  Before he left for Georgia, I showed Bronne the leather jacket and it fit him perfectly.  Plus, Georgia’s winters would assure that it will get worn again.  I was glad that it was going to have new adventures with a new owner three decades later.

It spent two months travelling in a crate with the many things I couldn’t leave behind.  Maybe I didn’t pack it carefully enough (although I thought I did); maybe it was the many years it hung unused in my parent’s jam-packed closet.  Whatever it was, the moment Bronne put my dad’s leather jacket on, the seam along the spine and right arm ripped.

I deliberated on how to mend it, or if it could still be saved.  One thing I was sure of, it won’t get thrown away or donated.  Just thinking about how my dad beamed while wearing it in his Hawaii photo, I knew I had to keep it or, at least, a part of it with me.  Two years after I stored it along with my other future projects, I finally made my mind up to make my own spanking pair of spats.

Here they are:

It entails sewing but it’s not that hard and is inexpensive, too.  Aside from the jacket, I used seam binding, two leather strips, two 8-inch garters, two buttons, needle and thread, some alligator clips, and a pair of scissors.

I prepared a gif slide show to show you how I made it.  If you have questions, please feel free to ask via comment section.

The leather strips I used came from leather pants I thrifted recently.  The garters I used have holes in them for buttoning.  I salvaged them from some old clothes I got from freecycle,but I’m sure you can get it at any craft or fabric store.  I thought mine were black but they turned out to be dark blue and it shows in the photo.  But they helped hold my spats up and kept them from turning round and round while I walked.  I wore them for a whole evening at an art exhibit and they stayed in place like a good doggy.  Plus, they received a couple of nice compliments so they’re very pleased.

I’m planning to turn the rest of the jacket into a leather vest, since I don’t have one (and have always wanted a none-sleazy-looking one).  It’s going to be a challenge because the leather has lost its strength and suppleness.  But I’m going to do it so watch out for that.

I hope this inspires you to upcycle your old stuff, or maybe even to make your very own pair of spats.  Happy upcycling! 🙂


MHL Project: Tip Basket with Foldable Legs!

The ubiquitous tip jar.

Imagine any street or coffeehouse musician and you’d see a tip jar in your mind’s eye.  I, for one, have always felt uncomfortable with it.  First off, Bronne and I have several instruments to set up, cables to plug, and sounds to check before a performance.  The tip jar is a detail we can do without.  Second, and more importantly, I’ve always felt uneasy putting it out which is strange because I’d never feel contempt for any musician who has one.  It isn’t the ‘playing-music-for-money’ part that I dislike.  I think a tip jar could be seen as another means of measuring how one’s gig went. . .

How did we do today?

Oh, we got $10.  Not bad considering there were only 3 people here.  

. . .  and, head count, applause, and compliments, aside, do I really need another means to make myself feel insecure?

But many times in the past when we didn’t bring a tip jar, people would come up to us asking for it.  Some, with their dollar bill on hand, would awkwardly stand in front of us and  place their tip on my keyboard or at my feet.  Some would actually advise us, “You guys should have a tip jar.”  So to prevent any more discomfort or awkwardness for these people who show us their appreciation, we started putting one out.

We’ve been using a small basket we bought from a thrift store for 50 cents.  One of my concerns during set-up is where to put this darn tip basket.  We can’t put it on the floor.  We can put it on a chair but, because we play an 88-key keyboard, bells, and 2 guitars and use 3 mics with mic stands and 2 music stands, we take up space more than the typical duo.  Putting the tip basket on a chair would just create more clutter.

A few months ago, we went to another thrift store and bought half-a-music stand for 79 cents.  We couldn’t find the lyre.  I had the feeling the legs alone would come in handy some day, so we bought it.  And a couple of weeks ago, I thought of putting one and one together to eliminate this tip jar concern from my mind.

All it took was a needle and sturdy twine, glue gun and sticks, a small square cardboard, clear tape, and a chopstick.

I sewed the basket to the legs by hooking the twine around the clip (where one adjusts the height of the stand).  I used the glue gun to keep the twine in place and to make the basket more stable. Finally, I wrote THANK YOU on a small cardboard and covered it with clear tape to keep it from getting dirty.  I cut a slit at the end of the chopstick and slipped the cardboard in.

I know it’s such an easy little project but it sure made a huge difference for our band mascot, Joyful, who’s in charge of the tips.  He seems to really appreciate the tip basket’s handiness and compactness.

Was it Plato who said, “Necessity is the mother of invention”? It’s true in this case.  Design doesn’t have to be complicated and practicality often brings about elegance.

MHL Upcycle: Transforming the 6-Ring Beer Can Holder into a Lamp Shade

If you watched the movie, “Happy Feet”, you might remember this guy…

The movie didn’t exactly tickle my soles, but I do remember this penguin because of its unusual neck wear.  An unfortunate piece of jewelry no creature on earth would want to have around its neck, and not for aesthetic reasons.  Obviously, it’s uncomfortable and, the longer one wears it, painful.

That was a cartoon character.  And though I felt sad for him and his predicament, this creature below is real.

This is how far man has come.  There was a time when he hunted and dragged his prize home.  Now, he goes to the grocery store, hooks his finger under a 6-ring beer can holder, puts it in a rolling cart, drags the cart to his car, and brings his beverage home.  Man’s come a long way, baby.

Back in the Philippines, we didn’t have a lot of packaging-trash issues.  I can’t explain why.  We shop and eat probably as much as Americans do but consumer products back home are packaged simply.  One can say that it’s the manufacturer’s way of saving a peso, but I say it’s a sound decision for the environment.  Here, many products we buy are packaged as if they were volatile experiments safely contained inside plastic within plastic.  Corporations are so afraid of getting bad reviews or, worse, sued for selling contaminated or defective products that they’ll package the hell out of them.  They put little “Please Recycle” or “Please Reuse” signs on their packaging to relieve their conscience.  But, really, who reuses the ziplock bags food come in? I used to.  In the Philippines, buying something with a ziplock on it’s packaging is like getting a bonus product.  My mom and I would reuse the bag until it disintegrated.  But here, even when I did reuse them, when the time came for us to buy another pack of its product, we’d reluctantly get another ziplock bag in the process.  After a couple of months living here, I must have had a cupboard full of totally reusable recyclables but I couldn’t keep up with the deluge of plastic.  It’s like a never-ending cycle.  We had no choice but to trust our garbage collector that they really do recycle everything we give them in our bins.

The 6-ring beer can holder, or let’s call it 6-rBCH, it’s one of those recyclable plastic things that I never discarded.  I have “Happy Feet” to thank for that.  But also, I found them to be quite interesting, design-wise.  I knew I could upcycle – or transform – them into something useful and unexpected, but I wasn’t sure what.

Then last July we moved and we were fixing our home.  I needed a lampshade for my kitchen but I didn’t want to buy one.  I told Bronne I’d make one out of my collection of 6-rBCHs.

And here it is.

I sewed them together with little stitches and designed it so two layers of the 6-rBCHs would create a new pattern from their overlapping holes.

Bronne wanted me to add something inside to cover the bulb, and I experimented with tulle and Japanese paper, but I really liked the light and airy feeling the original design gave.  Though the bulb is a bit exposed, the double layer of plastic mutes the intensity of its light. 

I’m quite proud of this design and I’m thinking of other projects to do using the 6-rBCHs.  I’m happy to be doing my part in keeping these things off landfills while having created something that I like looking at as well.

Do you have design ideas for the 6-rBCH?


Bronne found some doodles of mine the other day.  They were from when he took me with him to a teaching conference in Montana last year.  I sat in some lectures and doodled on the resort’s complimentary stationary as I listened. I’ve totally forgotten I did them but was pretty excited that he had unearthed them.

When I was in school, I had two kinds of teachers: one disapproved of doodling in class, the other didn’t mind.  The first type of teacher thinks that if you’re busy with your hands then you aren’t being attentive, especially during a lecture.  They probably believe that the mind can only process one thing at a time, and, if you’re doodling, you’re not really digesting the lesson.  The second type of teacher thinks that doodling isn’t a bad thing and being busy with your hands don’t make you any less attentive.  In fact, it relaxes you and allows your brain to take in and digest information.

I was a doodler as a student and, when I became a teacher, didn’t stop my doodler-students from keeping their hands busy whenever I gave a lecture.  Only a doodler would understand what another doodler’s mind goes through so I knew there was no harm in it.

Some people are able to multi-task more than others.  When I was in Music Conducting class, we had to go through several exercises that isolated one hand’s action from the other.  These exercises helped conductors with their coordination like maintaining the beat with one hand while giving cues for dynamics or instruments’ entrances with the other.  Some people in my class did the exercises without difficulty, and, much to the amusement of the whole class, others did pretty badly.   The explanation for this has something to do with the corpus callosum, that part of our brain that connects and facilitates the interaction between our right and left brain hemispheres.  Some people have a wider corpus callosum.   In fact, there was even a study before that suggested women had a wider corpus callosum which explains their ability to multi-task more than men.  It also explained for what we often hear as “women’s intuition”.

Have a bit of fun and try these exercises:

1.  Make a square with your right hand while, on paper, you draw a big circle with your left.

2.  Do a 4-beat pattern with your right while the left does a 3-beat pattern.

3.  Write a sentence with the right hand (or left, if left-handed) and do an air-circle with the left.

How-to: My First Official (Uber) Short Animation Film


Typing that title was a real laugh-out-loud moment.  The short film is sooo short it didn’t even hit the 1-minute mark.  The main character is someone that you might have met in my blog before: Joyful, my green dog.  He is my band’s, He Sang She Sang‘s, mascot and “dogager”.  In the film, we define what DOGAGER means.  Watch it to find out.

Would it surprise you to know that this 53-second film took me 3 weeks to make?  It was a laborious project and, it being my first real foray into animation WITH music, I experimented a lot and wasted many hours of work on drawings and slides that I didn’t need in the end.  I also spent some time getting to know the Windows Movie Maker.  Fortunately, Bronne knew how to edit music and had the software to do it, so that was one less thing for me to worry about.

I didn’t read up on how to make animation and, as in the many things I do, learned by doing.  The missteps and mistakes were essential in learning.  And despite the tired eyes and hands, headaches and sleepless nights, I enjoyed every minute of it.

Just in case you are thinking of creating your own short animation film, here are the steps I chose to take (I’m sure the folks at Pixar would have a better way of doing things, though):

  1. Brainstorm on a story line with the characters, plot, music, etc.  I guess the trained folks would have a story board and if my story were longer, I would have made one, too.
  2. Edit your chosen music/sound effect to your desired length.  The amount of work you do will depend upon this.
  3. Draw your characters.  In this case, I consider the dancing flowers, sun, and clouds as supporting characters to Joyful.  I drew them and their different poses and facial expressions using a combination of MS Paint and Photoshop on white background to make cutting and pasting easier.
  4. Draw your background. Mine was the sky and the green hilly ground.
  5. Create your ‘slides’ or ‘panels’ by cutting-and-pasting your characters onto the background. Each slide would feature 1 pose or facial expression.
  6. Color.
  7. Enhance your slides with artistic effects on Photoshop or Corel Draw.  Some people skip this because they like the raw look.  I just enhanced the color and put some effects to make the slides look more “story-book” seamless.
  8. Upload your slides and music to your animation/film software.  I chose the Windows Movie Maker because it’s FREE!!!  Plus, artist, Josh Latta, told me that was a good software for beginner animators.  Windows Movie Maker is pretty easy to use.  You’ll have fun experimenting with its different effects.
  9. Edit.  Take care in coordinating the music with your slides.
  10. Save.
  11. Upload on YouTube.
Hopefully, all the things I learned from doing this uber short film will aid me when we start our next project: making a video for one of our original songs.  The song is definitely more than 1 minute.  In fact, it’s one of our longest songs.   So, if all goes well, that one will probably be unveiled in about … oh, maybe 3 years!  Hahaha!

How to Add an Image to your Facebook Like Badge

I opened Facebook last week and read a cry of help from comic book artist, Josh Latta, who is also making a name for himself for creating custom made avatars, or cartoon representations. I’ve yet to find out why he calls them avatards but you can ask him or find samples of his works here. Josh needed help with, among other things, his Facebook Page and Like Badge, and promised an avatard for your trouble.

I decided to help him. First off, I’ve always wanted a Josh Latta custom-made avatard for my band, He Sang She Sang. Second, Josh, whose FB status updates are funny one-liners aimed to skewer or shock, uncharacteristically sounded serious. The dude needed help and I wanted an avatard. I told him I’d help. His Facebook Badge problems were:

He wanted to have the status on his Facebook Page Badge removed. The badge status doesn’t update. Weeks before, he posted this:

ATTENTION HOT CHICKS: Send me a picture of you with my comics and I will put you on my website for free!

And more strangely, it’s not complete. Josh’s badge just said: “ATTENTION HOT CHICKS: Send me a picture of you…” which made him sound like a perv. Him possibly being one is not the point. Why include the page status if the thought isn’t complete? (Also, I was kidding about Josh possibly being a perv — hahaha!)  He didn’t know how to add his pic on the FB Like Badge. It has that default male/female silhouette. Example: The Powerpuff Girls’ Like badge:

The problem is, I don’t know anything about HTML codes.

So, unbeknownst to Josh, I did a little research and played around with the codes. It was a hit or miss process that involved a lot of hunting for words and copy-pasting. I used my own badge and posted them first on my dead blogs to see if they worked. Painstaking, yes, but a worthwhile endeavor because I succeeded!

First Problem: Removing the FB Page Badge status update didn’t require any HTML manipulations. Just in case you want to know, these are the steps:

  1. Go to Facebook Badges.
  2. Choose Page Badge.
  3. Click on “Edit this Badge”.
  4. Un-check ‘status’.
  5. Save.
  6. Then ‘Choose where to add the badge’ to get the HTML code.
  7. Do the dance of joy.

Second Problem: Replacing the default silhouette on the FB like badge with your own picture.

  1. After you’ve done “selecting a page” you like on FB Like Badge, copy the HTML Code.
  2. Now for tedious but exciting (for fastidious geeks like me) part!
  • Paste the code on notepad or word. (I chose notepad)
  • HTML codes can look daunting but treat this whole process like a game. HUNT for the name of the page you selected to like. In this example, I selected to like the band “He Sang She Sang”.  Now look for “He Sang She Sang”.

Getting Addicted to Making Animation

I know I’m no animator.  First off, I can draw passably enough, but drawing using the touch pad of my laptop is a challenge.  I’m all hit or miss here and I’ve completed drawings at a snail’s pace.

But — voila! — here is my second attempt at making animation.  It’s about a strange venue owner we met months ago.  It would make more sense if you read about it on my HE SANG SHE SANG blog.  It’s ripe with juicy tidbits and intrigue!!! (Well, just a bit… hehehe).  Also, you’ll see a BIGGER VERSION of the cartoon.  For some reason, the animation doesn’t work on WordPress.  Perhaps because it’s a big file.

I did everything.  So if it sucks, blame me.  I was very conscious of Bronne, who is the visual artist of the family, looking over my shoulder, laughing inwardly at my feeble attempts to draw.  Actually, he wasn’t, but I was very very self-conscious about the whole process.

I did have fun making the cartoon, though!  I think I spent 6 hours to draw, color, Photoshop, revise and animate this short clip but I loved every minute of it.  I just used a gif animator for this one and I’m currently looking for a FREE simple animation software online so I can make more sophisticated cartoons in the future.  I’m not after creating “Finding Nemo 2”, but I do want to step things up a bit.

Do you know of a FREE simple animation software I can download online?  I’ve read about Pencil and Pivot Stickfigure animator but I’m trying to find out more.

So help me if you can! 🙂