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Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Handmade Christmas: Artist's Smock

The problem with a crafty-type blog is this: if you are making gifts for people who are likely to read said blog, you can't write about your projects until after the gifts have been received. So now that the holidays are over I can finally share my December projects with you!

First, a little background: while I always enjoy making gifts for friends and family this year it was especially important. Two weeks before Christmas we were told our 14 year old husky, Vegonia Lou, had developed immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA). Her immune system was targeting and killing her red blood cells and platelets. Although we started treatment immediately, she worsened quickly and after only 3 days had to be put to sleep. Most of our Christmas money had to be rerouted to cover vet bills, and I needed a project to keep my stress under control. A home-made Christmas was in order.

But first I had to figure out what I wanted to make.

Since retiring this past fall my mother has taken up painting. I originally wanted to buy her an artist's smock, but a quick survey of the available styles had me convinced that I should make her one instead. Most of the options were made of boring fabrics and/or were out of my price range. I searched online and found a style I liked. "I can do that," I told myself.

I decided to alter the design a bit by rounding the neckline and adding some pleating for a nice draping effect. I also wanted to add two pockets to the front and snaps on the straps at the shoulder to make it easier for my mother to get in and out of.

Plan in hand, the next step was finding fabric. I needed something medium weight and I wanted it to be colorful and fun. I wanted it to inspire my mother, not lull her to sleep in her studio. I envisioned one fabric for the main apron and a different fabric for the straps and pockets. I finally settled on these two fabrics from the clearance section. While the patterns themselves were completely different the colors and general scale were the same, which is key for pattern mixing.

As I have mentioned numerous times: I don't have a sewing machine and I don't know much about patterns or clothing construction. I was flying by the seat of my pants with a "how hard can it be?" attitude. Thankfully I remembered that some ingenious angel had invented iron-on seaming tape. It is easy to use and forms a permanent bond that is washer/dryer safe and has the added benefit of stopping fabric from fraying. This cut down dramatically on how much hand-sewing was required, making a garment-sized project much more feasible.

Nala was my enthusiastic helper
and provided moral support.
Back home with my spoils, I used myself as a model and estimated the overall sizing and strap length. Fortunately the draping nature of smocks allowed sizing to be more of a gut feeling than an exact science. I cut out the basic shape and used the seaming tape and an iron to finish the edges.

Folding the fabric in half, this
pattern only required two cuts.
Seaming tape made finishing the long edges easy while
I used hand stitching to make the straps and attach the pockets.

After adding the straps and pockets and pleating the neckline my first ever "garment" was finished! While I'm not ready to start making anything more complicated than a smock, I think it turned out rather well. Being both practical and unique, it puts the "fun" in "functional." With any luck, it will serve my mother well as she pursues her newfound love of painting!




  1. Yours is way cuter than the utilitarian steel melter one in the magazine.

  2. Thanks! That's a really apt description.