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?

MHL Upcycle: Basmati Lunch Sack

Rice is part of our daily fare so we buy these 15-pounds of Basmati rice that comes in this burlap sack.

I think we have about 3 and I planned to make them into a huge grocery sack to use so we can cut down on bringing home plastic bags.  But, for months now, B. had been using a Trader Joe’s paper bag to carry his lunch (another small step to help the environment)and it started to fall apart.  So I made him this using one for the Basmati rice sacks.

This is a very easy project that you can hand sew (if you have lots of time in your hands) or machine sew.  I decided not to cover the existing Basmati brand design because it added charm.  I made it boxy so it wouldn’t look so much like a lady lunch sack.  I was happy that B.didn’t feel his masculinity threatened by the brand design but I think shaping it like a little purse would be pushing it.

I lined it, of course, and used some fabric I got from a Freecycler.  It’s pretty sturdy and can even stand on its own.  Teehee!

I never would have thought of making a post about this but one of B.’s students asked him about the sack and wanted to know if I was selling.  Well, I hope this inspires people to make one instead.  Let’s work with what we already do have and recycle, shall we?

MHL Tutorial: Make 3 New Accessories from an Old Sweater

Hello, lovelies!  How do you feel about recycling?

I think I’ve mentioned that I am all for it . If it’s not ratty, smelly, soiled, or tattered beyond repair, I usually keep old clothes in the hopes of turning them into something new.

If you look around Etsy, you’d notice some sellers using the tag “upcycled“, instead of recycled.  Upcycling was a term coined by one Reiner Pilz in the mid-90’s to describe reusing things by giving them more value, not less.  The opposite of upcycling is downcycling (duh) where materials are converted into something of lesser quality.

For example, an old T-shirt could be downcycled by turning it into a rag.  You’re recycling it but it has been downgraded.  Now, if you turn that T-shirt into a dress, then you’re upcycling it.

For this tutorial, I used a child’s old sweater and upcycled it into 3 new accessories: a knitted hat, arm warmers, and a headband.  I got this sweater from a Freecycler who had kids.  (If you haven’t heard of Freecycle yet, visit their website.  I’ll make a post about it one of these days, don’t you worry.)  It’s quite easy and you don’t even need a sewing machine for this project.

What You Need: scissors, a seam ripper, needle and thread, and a child’s old sweater (the label says 4/5).

How to Make your Arm Warmers:  Let’s go through this clockwise, shall we?

Just make sure to reinforce the stitching around your thumb hole so it won’t fray.  Here’s the finished product:

How to Make your Knitted Hat:  Clockwise, please.

The result:

Joyful fell in love with the hat.   He thought he and it shared the same nose.  Teehee!

How to Make your Headband:

Just carefully cut out.  This will only work if your sweater has a band like mine does.

I wasn’t able to take a photo of me wearing the headband.  My hair got flattened from being hidden under a knitted hat since morning.

That’s it, lovelies!  I hope this inspires you to recycle or upcycle.  Let’s keep still usable things from landfills, everyone!  Have a lovely Sunday.  See you Monday! 🙂

The Purple Cascade is Done!

Finally, the Purple Cascade neck piece is done! (applause, applause)

BUT I can’t post the tutorial right now because it’s dark and dreary again this side of my world, and if I use a flash for the pics, that shade of purple turns out a blue.  (Booo!)  Really!  It’s true! (Rotten tomatoes flying onto the stage).

Besides, my room is a wretched MESS.  (Somewhere in Asia, my mom is reading this, and she’s chuckling and shaking her head at the same time).  I have a good reason for this mess, I swear!  The carpet guy had to remove the wet padding under my carpet and he had to pull the thing out.  So now most of my clothes, shoes, and bags are piled on the workstation.  I can’t put them back in until he comes back on Friday or Monday next week.

But it’s done! Done! Done!  Err.. I just need to add a couple of finishing touches and I can’t do it because my beads are under all my clothes.   But here is a sneak peek:

From this ... to this!

It’s made of rosettes and is hand sewn.  I added a few beads at the collar, but, because of the weather, I can’t get the right lighting for me to be able to take a shot of it.  The piece is soft but it keeps its form even when you move.  And best of all: it can be worn in 3 ways.   Hooray for versatility!  I’ll get B. to take pics of me wearing it when the weather’s better.  Promise!

Today’s outfit:

Green long sleeves mesh: thrifted
Black dress with puffy sleeves: thrifted
Black sleeveless mesh with ruffled edge: thrifted
Purple tights
Purple boots: thrifted
Weird hair-do: priceless

Ok, have to fix my room. 😦

Have a joyfully creative and creatively joyful day everyone!
Man Hands Lizzie

MHL Tutorial: Make a Simple Bead-Woven Necklace

Some friends have emailed me saying that they liked the Audrey Collar and the tutorial, but found it really daunting.  I get ya, people, BUT we can baby-step our way to more complicated tasks, right?  So, for all of you, I’m posting a step-by-step how-to pictorial of a simplified version of the collar.  It is this:

This is a pic I took of the first tier of the Audrey Collar.  I think it’s lovely even without the rest of the other tiers, don’t you think?   You can add a favorite pendant or jewel at the center to make it more special.  The great thing about it is that it’s easier to do!  Let’s begin.

You Will Need:

Important Points to Remember:

  1. If your string is made of woven nylon or some other synthetic fiber, check for fraying.  If it frays, burn the ends using flame.
  2. Decide on the length of your necklace.  Measure your string according to that and then double it twice.  Example: you want 12 inches.  Double that = 24.  Then double it again = 48 inches.
  3. You will put each end of your string through a needle — that’s why you need 2.

For extra details, see “What You Need” of MHL Tutorial: The Audrey Collar.


Thread through 4 beads from any end of your string.


The 4th bead is shared by both ends of the string. Always. That means after threading bead 4 through one needle, the other needle goes through that bead from the opposite direction.  In other words, they crisscross through bead 4.


Bead through beads 1 and 3. Notice the red bead, 4, is now bead 2.

Again, bead 4 is shared by both ends of the string.


Continue weaving…

… And pretty soon, it will look like this:

Yipee!  Now just add a clasp at the end and you have your necklace. 🙂

Now, on a different note: there is no outfit-of-the-day.  Instead, I will rant for today.

I woke up and found the carpet going into my closet is soggy wet.  Apparently, a loose  bolt (or whatever you call that bolt-looking thingie) under the sink in my bathroom, which is next door to the closet, has been dripping all night, and the carpet from there to the closet got wet.  Luckily, my clothes and shoes were dry but it’s still irritating because I have to move my shelves to make space for the carpet guys who are coming to clean this thing up.  Arghhhhh!!! I can’t work on my Purple Cascade neck piece with them walking all over my workroom.  Grrrrrr and Ngrrrrr!!!

Ok, breathe… At least my clothes and shoes were dry.

Have a joyfully creative and creatively joyful day everyone!
Man Hands Lizzie