Painting smock made from a man’s shirt

This was a Christmas gift for my mom, who’s wheelchair-bound, with advanced Parkinson’s. She can no longer sew, and wants to try painting. So I made her a painting smock, upcycled from a man’s shirt.

The pockets and other add-ons are made with fabrics from my stash.

Here are some of the details.

  • The front pockets can hold supplies.
  • The ties go around the shoulders; not across the back, so she can get the apron on from the front, without being lifted out of the chair.

To protect her sleeves, I made these coordinating sleeve gaiters from chambray in my stash. You can also see the shape/template of the apron as it was cut from the front of the shirt.

And another smock!

After finishing the smock and then looking at the leftovers, I realized there was another smock in the back of the shirt, so I made her a second one, too.

How are the aprons working out? Well, she hasn’t shared any feedback (or paintings) with me yet, so I can’t assess the success. But I got a big smile from her when giving her the smocks, so I know they are appreciated and will be used.

Is there a tutorial? I didn’t take progress pictures to make into a tutorial. But if you do an internet search (like this) for images of aprons from upcycled men’s shirts, you’ll see a bunch of inspiring examples like I did before starting my project. The examples were all I needed, but the search will lead you to tutorials if needed.

Nelly Don Zero-Waste Apron (part 3)–Construction steps

After looking at the life and career of Nelly Don the iconic Kansas City designer in Part 1, and then deciphering the diagram for her 1925 patented zero-waste apron in Part 2, here in Part 3 are the apron construction steps.

The Apron and patent drawings:

Last week’s post provided measurements for drawing and cutting out the pieces, like this:

Nelly Don designed the apron to be sewn in one sitting, without having to remove it from the sewing machine. So now in Part 3 we sit down at the sewing machine and start constructing:

These are the chronological construction steps:

  • Hem all free edges
    • Side Panel (C) top edge
    • Pocket (D) top edge
    • Back (B) centers
  • Sew a Pocket (D) on each Side Panel (C)
  • Join Front (A) to Front Yoke (E)
  • Join Backs (B) to Back Yoke (F)
  • Join Side Panels (C) to Backs (B) and then to each side of the Front (A).
  • Join Front Yoke (E) to Back Yoke (F) at shoulders.
  • Hem entire lower edge
  • Bind neckline
  • Sew ties to back pieces at the waist line.

Here are the above-listed steps in pictures:

Hem all free edges (shown in blue)

Hem all free edges.

Sew a Pocket (D) to each Side Panel (C), along the bottom edge of the Pocket, right sides together.

Then flip Pocket right side up, and top stitch across lower edge of Pocket.

Join Front (A) to Front Yoke (E), right sides together.

Join Backs (B) to Back Yoke (F), right sides together.

Join Side Panels (C) to Backs (B), right sides together. Catch the pocket side in the seam.

At this point, the your pieces will look like this:

Join Side Sections (C) to Front (A), right sides together. Again, catch the pocket side in the seam.

Join Front Yoke (E) to Back Yoke (F) at shoulders, right sides together.

Tada! Now you have your lovely apron. To finish it, turn under and hem entire lower edge and the armholes; bind the neckline; and sew ties to the back for the closure.

How about some finished examples? These were my practice attempts:

This wraps up the Nelly Don apron series. My obsession with the patent drawings has been satisfied…for now; although I do keep thinking of more ways to experiment with it. Have you made a Nelly Don apron? I’d love to hear about your experience with it.

Nelly Don Part 1 is here.

Nelly Don Part 2 is here.



Back to 2020, Series 6 of The Great British Sewing Bee is about to conclude. It’s been a fabulous series of talented sewing contestants and their creations. Last week was ‘Hollywood Week’, and it did not disappoint! https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1148109945557937

Two weeks ago was ’80s Week’, and it was full of larger-than-life creations and personalities. https://www.facebook.com/greatbritishsewingbee/videos/568722604082017/