Young Cultivator Merit Badge: All Tied Up, Beginner Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 7,428 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—10,782 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! ~MaryJane 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Stitching and Crafting/All Tied Up Beginner Level Young Cultivator Merit Badge, I had Piper and Nora over for the afternoon. The last time I kid-sat for these two little whippersnappers, we had had an arts and crafts day, and well, let’s just say my living room will never be the same. Not to mention Piper and Nora’s laundry.

Artists are messy. I’m sure Van Gogh’s mother was beside herself on laundry day. Right?

photo by LearningLark via

Anyway, I couldn’t just ban arts and crafts altogether—I mean, that would be cruel and unusual punishment for two little farmgirls who love to create. So, we came up with a fabulous idea: earn a new Merit Badge, and design our own artist’s smocks to cut down on the mess of future art projects.

Note to self: making a mess while creating your answer to making a mess is … a messy paradox. Maybe I should’ve bought smocks for them to make their homemade smocks in. Ah well, live and learn, Janie my girl.

You can use a premade smock and do your decorating from that stage, or if you’re feeling super crafty and DIY-esque, you can make your smock from all sorts of things you likely have lying around the house:

  • Pillowcases are the perfect size for most artistic munchkins. Cut a hole in the top for the head, and two smaller ones at the sides for their arms. Hem the holes, or use bias tape, to avoid fraying.
  • An adult-size T-shirt also makes a great smock for littles. Cut off the sleeves if desired.
  • A terrycloth towel (size depends on size of child; usually a large-ish hand towel is best). Attach a loop of ribbon for placing around head, and tie two more ribbons at the side for tying around waist.
  • If you’re wanting a smock just for a day and don’t mind tossing it in the trash when your epic art afternoon is through, use a paper bag. Follow directions for the pillowcase smock above. These are nice for an entire classroom for a one-day art project.
  • A man’s or woman’s button-down shirt put on backwards makes a great smock.
  • Recycled denim overalls make great smocks. Keep the straps and the front part, and cut off the legs. These are extra nice because they’re sturdy, and they have pockets.

photo by Elaine via

Once you’ve decided what kind of smock you are using, have your wee farmkid decorate. Piper chose puffy paints, and Nora chose her button collection because she had recently learned how to sew on buttons. Other ideas for decorating your new smock:

  • Handprints. We don’t recommend using red paint, though. Kinda looked like a crime scene … ahem.
  • Tie-dye.
  • Fabric markers or paint.
  • Iron-on patches.
  • Simple applique with shapes and embroidery floss.
  • Ruffles and lace for hems.
  • Pockets.
  • Rick-rack.

By the time an hour or two had gone by, we had puffy paint in our ears and buttons between our toes, but we had two gorgeous and one-of-a-kind smocks for our next art project.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I think kids would love to be involved in making a smock for messy projects. Plus, it would be fun to see what strikes their imaginations when they see fun stuff like buttons, rick rack, and fabric markers. They also might be more willing to wear the smock if it was their own creation. Great work Piper and Nora!!

  2. Krista says:

    When I was a Pre-K teacher I used old adult t-shirts as the children’s smocks. I found that larger men’s shirts worked best because it covered all their clothes. Now I have actually smocks for my boys to use. Looks like we will have to decorate them.

  3. Karlyne says:

    Messy and beautiful!

  4. BB king says:

    this line said it all for me:

    “Handprints. We don’t recommend using red paint, though. Kinda looked like a crime scene … ahem.”

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