Keeping Clothes Clean When...

It's been a little while since I last posted as I have been busy tracking down some of the books on the Notables List for Book Week 2016 and I have been successful so I am currently reading through some of the older reader books.

But this post is actually about something else! Art smocks and aprons...Do they do the job in your classroom?

I am remember back in the 80s at school we would take along one of Dad's old shirts (or Mum would just buy us our own) and we would use that as an art smock. We each had to have our own and were responsible for it. The school usually had a couple...but they were fairly...well, you didn't want to wear one.

Fast forward to today and art rooms seem to have disappeared entirely from some schools (Whose silly idea was that? No wet area? No painting area?). This dilemma means that more and more teacher need to teach visual art in the classroom...where the carpet is...(hmm, another silly idea!)

A big issue for me was having art smocks available in the classroom, when you needed it...and of course having enough for each student. With limited space and a more diverse range of sizes of children I found this was a problem that needed to be solved.

I did consider buying some cheap smocks from the cheap shop but they were so thin it was clear that paint would some soak right through them. The other problem was that they were a "one-size-fits-all" - There is no such thing! Even with children! When I had a larger child in the class the art smocks would not go I did the only thing left to do...I asked my mum for advice!

My mum is very talented with the needle and thread (as some of you might have noticed in other posts - no, I did not inherit that natural ability...I have to try very, very hard to get something half as good!). She went away with my thoughts and would you believe came back with these beauties!

Basically it is a very long rectangle (yes, even I could probably manage this one!) with a hole for the neck and tabs on either side with Velcro to secure. But let's take a step back and look at each component so you can try it at home!

Art smock when flat. Completed version.
I love how my set of smock is so colourful! The truth behind the fabric is that it was out cheap so I bought what they had. It is lined curtain material - sometimes referred to as block-out curtain material. It means that there is that extra lining between the paint and the child - gotta love that!

Tabs to secure the sides of the smock. Here the art smock
is folded in two and you can see the soft Velcro attached
to the back and the soft Velcro on the front piece.
Basically, as mentioned above, it is a long rectangle. This one reaches most second graders' hips or waist. On a few kids their knees! Third and forth graders it mainly reached waists.

Once you have your rectangle, fold it in half and cut out a semi circle where the fabric folds over. When you lay it back out it should look as above.

The outer edges can simply be hemmed but I do recommend a bit of bias-binding (also called bias-tape) around the neck (because it looks better and finishes it off nicely).

The tabs are short pieces of bag tape (usually found near the lace). A standard piece of Velcro has been sewn onto one side and then attached to the smock.

Note: the soft Velcro is on the red bag tape and the prickly Velcro is on the smock.

Front? Back?
There really is no front or back - some kids liked to secure it at the back and others at the front - it really doesn't matter.

Tab folded over and secured with Velcro on the front.
These are really low-maintenance smocks. I usually washed them 1-2 times per term (depending on how messy the art activities have been - always wash after painting and paper mache (Papier-mâché) activities. I cheat and take them down to the local laundromat - that way they get washed with warm/hot water and they automatically add washing liquid to boot - and you can dry them there too if needed.

Hmm, Are They Student-Proof?
In all the years I have been using my set of 30 (and I still have the original 30!) I have only encountered problems on two occasions...

1. A student managed to get paint all up her arms and over her white t-shirt (jumpers had been taken off the the activity - thankfully!). She was the only one who managed to do it and I still have no idea how. Luckily we were using water-based paint and she had a very understanding mother.

2. It wouldn't go around one second grader. That student was quiet large around the middle and the smock at least still did the job - they just couldn't do up the sides.

Final Thoughts?
I highly recommend investing in art smocks like this rather than cheap ones. Sure, the cheap ones are cheap to begin with but they don't last long and you'll soon be paying to replace them. I recommend buying the fabric when it is on sale or end of the bolt (that means the last bit on the cardboard roll). If you're not handy with sewing find someone who is worth the money. My mum would have made sets up for around $200 (that included the material - which is a bargain when you consider just how many hours go into making them) and works out to about $6.60 a piece.

On another note I also found these were really handy when were were potting seedlings for the garden (as children do tend to wipe their hands on the waist or tummy when dirty!). Again, they clean well. So consider them a multi-purpose smock!

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