Thursday, April 18, 2013

DIY: Upcycled Art Smock {Tutorial}

If I know one thing about toddlers, it's that messes keep kids busy.  The messier something is, the longer it entertains... And the more laundry it creates.  Somehow, a little extra laundry always seemed like a fair compromise for a few minutes of peace.

Until it didn't.  I was sick and tired of doing laundry, so I decided my little man needed a smock to keep from having to change entire outfits every time we got out the markers or paint.  But everything I could find was expensive or not quite right, so I decided I could do better.

I give you: The Upcycled Art Smock.

Let me start by saying that I possess only very basic sewing skills.  Seriously, if you can press the pedal on a sewing machine, you can make this.
You will need a t-shirt a few sizes bigger than your child wears now.  I got mine for a buck at the thrift store, but this would be a great way to reuse older kids' clothes, too.  You'll also need some bias tape (sometimes called quilt binding), which you can find at any craft store.  (For the record, I think bias tape is a miracle).  Besides that, all you need is thread, elastic, and scissors.

Start by cutting off the back of the shirt.  Basically just leave a few inches on each side.  I rounded off the shirt near the bottom as I cut.

Using the piece of fabric you just cut from the back of the shirt, cut a pocket to put on the front of the smock.  I rounded mine off to match the round part I'd made on the shirt.

Sew a strip of bias tape along the top of your pocket flap.  I recently discovered bias tape, and, as I mentioned before, I think it's a miracle.  It takes my seriously amateur projects that never have straight seams to a level worthy of some serious self high-fives.  Instantly.  It means I can be a sloppy cutter and sew-er and still end up with something I'm not ashamed to show my friends.  Or my very crafty and talented mother.

I use "double fold" bias tape, which basically acts like a sandwich over the raw ends of the fabric.  Or...more like a pita pocket since one end is sealed.

There's also something called "single fold" bias tape, but I have yet to figure out a use for it that would make me call it a miracle.  Or a use for it at all.  Though, I'm sure someone who actually knows how to sew could tell you what it's for.

Anyway, back to the smock.  Sew your pocket to the front.  Make sure not to sew across the top...or you won't have a pocket anymore.  I sewed the pocket on just as you see it in the picture -  don't worry about the raw edges.

Once the pocket was attached, I sewed two straight lines from the bottom of the pocket to the top to create three "compartments" in the pocket. 

Remember how I told you not to worry about the raw edges?  That's because the bias tape is coming to the rescue yet again!  Sew it all the way around the raw edges of the smock.  Doesn't that look snazzy?

I used a few strips of bias tape to make the ties.  I just sewed the open edges shut. 

Then I folded the strips over just a little bit on one end and sewed one onto the back edge of each side of the smock.  Two short straps at the top near the neck, and two longer straps in the middle of the shirt, a few inches above the pocket.

You could really probably stop here and have a perfectly functional art smock.  But since my goal was mess containment, I decided to tighten up the arm holes a little so they wouldn't gap (since the shirt is a couple sizes bigger than my toddler).  To do that, I cut a slit on the inside of the wrist cuff.

I measured a piece of elastic around his wrist, added a little bit on the ends for a seam allowance, and slipped it into the slit in the cuff.  I attached a safety pin to the end of my elastic to make it easier to fish through.
Once the elastic came all the way around and back out through the slit, I simply sewed the two ends together.  And that was it.  I didn't even bother to sew the slit back up since it's inside the shirt.   But if you want to be all ambitious and get rid of the slit, I won't stop you.

There you have it.  My smock cost me a whopping $1, which was the cost of the thrift store shirt.  Everything else I had on hand.  Even if you had to buy bias tape, though, I bet the project would still be under five bucks.  And it only took me about 30 minutes.  In fact, it was so quick and easy, I made a second one.

Here's the smock (and the whirlwind toddler) in action.

"Look, Ma, I can cram all of my chalk into this one little pocket."

"My masterpiece is complete."

"My hands may be filthy, but my shirt sure isn't thanks to this amazing art smock my super talented and awesome mom made for me."  I'm totally sure that's what he was thinking.

What are you waiting for?  Go forth and be super talented and awesome.


  1. This is amazing Lisa, absolutely awesome idea!

  2. I LOVE this idea!!!! I definitely will add this to my sewing to-do list. So clever! Thanks for linking up to our Make Bake Create Party. I hope you'll joing us again this week!!!

    1. I'd love to see yours when you get around to making it! Be sure to post some pictures!

  3. I love this art smock. It's awesome! I have featured it on my blog this week. Please come by, check it out and grab a blog button too!

    1. Thank you so much for featuring this project, Vanessa! I've added your button to this post :) I'm so proud!