The answer came when my husband's company changed their corporate logo. The old shirts, though in great condition, were about to go out to the thrift store. That is, until I got ahold of them.
This is the result: A double layer apron that looks like a man's dress shirt. The double layer keeps wet spills from soaking through before he can grab a napkin. It's wide and long enough to give good coverage down onto his lap. No ties or buttons for arthritic hands to fumble with, and it doesn't pull over his head. The weighted straps just rest over his shoulders. It even has a pocket for his silverware or cell phone. And, it went together in an hour!
He loves it! "Dad" wears one at every meal. It's easy for him to put on and take off, has saved a ton of effort on laundry and he doesn't feel it's demeaning. He's proud of his son, and pleased to wear his old company logo. Win, win!
Here's how it's done:
* one men's medium weight, long sleeved dress shirt. (I used chambray and a light twill size Large Tall.)
* six old fashioned disc drapery weights. You could use quarters too, but would need about 3 in each of the six pockets to have enough weight.
* sewing machine, scissors, marking chalk, thread and sewing pins. (Rotary cutter, cutting mat and 5-inch wide ruler optional.)
|step 1: cut off collar and sleeves|
Turn the shirt inside out. Spread out the shirt. The back will probably be a little wider than the front. Use pins to extend the center pleat farther down on the shirt back. This will take up the extra fabric for now. The sleeve opening front and back won't exactly match. Smooth out and draw a gentle curve around the armholes from a point a bit below the armhole and re-cut so they match.
|step 2: pin to extend pleat in back|
Cut straight across the top above the top button, but below the back yoke. I had to cut off the collar buttons because they were just where I wanted to cut. Make sure you don't cut through the pins holding the back pleat together. You can't see them from the front! Stitch the curve from side seam to top opening. I used a standard seam allowance. Then, stay stitch across the pleat in the back so it doesn't shift.
|step 3: cut straight across the top, below the yoke|
Stitch curved side seams.
Next, smooth out the the sleeves. Cut off the cuffs right above the placket, parallel to the cuff edge. Discard the cuffs. Turn sleeves inside out. Using the fold of the sleeve as one edge, cut a five-inch wide strip from shoulder to cuff. Trim the top edge at an angle, cutting off the seam at the top of the sleeve. (The cuff end will be attached to the apron, the angled end will have the weights.)
|step 4: cut off cuffs|
|step 4: 5-inch strip and angled edge cut|
Sew the long side and the angled side of the 5-inch strips to make the shoulder straps. Turn right side out. Place your weights along the angled side and mark with chalk to make three little pockets. This helps keep the weight distributed during use, and they don't all fall to one corner.
|step 5: sew and turn straps. note the angled edge|
Stitch the three pockets by sewing lines about 2-1/2 inches long or so up from the bottom. Drop in your weights. Then stitch across just above the weights to keep them in the pockets.
|steps 5 & 6: marking pockets for the weights|
With the shirt still inside out, slip the shoulder straps between the front and back. Place the strap at the very outside edge on both sides. The longer point of the angled, weighted edge should be toward the center, and slid down between the front and back shirt pieces. Stitch across the top edge, catching the front, the raw edge of the straps, and the back all together. Turn right side out. All done!
|step 7: slide straps down into the shirt,|
points toward the center
straps all the way to the outside edges
|step 7: stitch top edges|
|Turn right side out. All done!|