Make covered wire hangers using t-shirt yarn

Wire hangers are hard on your clothes, they get tangled up in the closet, and they are easily bent out of shape. But covered wire hangers are a completely different story. The padding protects your clothes, the hangers line up neatly on the closet rod, and you can cover two hangers together so they’re much stronger. Do this using t-shirt yarn, and you have lovely eco-friendly hangers made from free/scavenged materials. I’ll show you how I do it.

Materials

  • two matching wire hangers
  • t-shirt yarn cut about 2.5 cm (1″) wide (Instructions for making t-shirt yarn can be found here.)

Tools

  • sewing pin
  • clothespeg
  • needle and thread
  • crochet hook to fit the t-shirt yarn
  • twist tie to hold the hangers together (optional)

Understanding the weave

It’s easier to see how the weaving works if you start with two different coloured strips of t-shirt yarn. I prefer the look of solid coloured hanger covers but I’ll show you the technique using contrasting colours so you can see what’s going on.

There are three things to remember when weaving the hanger covering:

  • Anything that was over, goes under; anything that was under goes over
  • Every pair of strands will have two different colours in it
  • The pairs will alternate between being at the sides, and being at the front and back

Getting started – covering the hook

The trickiest part of weaving the hanger covering is getting started. It might take a few tries to get it going, so be prepared for a bit of a muddle at first.

A green strip of t-shirt yarn is laid across a blue strip and they are pinned together where they cross.  Both strips were folded in half lengthwise before they were put in position.
Fold the t-shirt yarn strips in half, lengthwise. Cross one over the other, roughly in the middle, and pin them together.
Two strands of t-shirt yarn are twisted together with a pin in the middle.
The part that was under (blue) goes over the part that was over (green). This is done on both sides.
The twisted t-shirt yarn strands are getting paired up differently and the lower pair has been twisted together.
Now the bottom strands are being twisted together. Green (which was under) goes over blue.
The top pair of t-shirt yarn strands has also been twisted together.
Finally, the top two strands are also twisted together. Again, green goes over blue.

It’s hard to tell, but there’s actually a little pocket formed now. The pin marks the bottom of the pocket. Two blue diamonds form the sides of the pocket, and two green diamonds make the front and back. Slide the tip of the two hanger hooks into the pocket. (The hangers are much easier to handle at this stage if they are held together with a twist tie.)

A clothespeg holds the t-shirt yarn pocket in place in the tip of the hanger hooks.  The pin was removed to make room for the clothespeg.
Once the hooks are safely inside the little pocket, the sewing pin can be removed and replaced with a clothespeg. The weaving has continued here with blue over green on both sides. All four strands have been pulled hard to tighten the weaving around the hangers.
Weaving has continued along the hook and the clothespin has been moved down as well.
As the weaving continues, the clothespeg can be moved to secure your work any time you need to put it down. Here you can see the row of blue diamonds slanting in one direction, and the row of green diamonds slanting in the opposite direction. Keep weaving until you get to the bottom of the hook/handle.
Weaving is done on the hanger hook.  It is time to start on the shoulders.
Weaving is complete on this hanger hook. The green strands barely made it to the bottom. They would need to be sewn together with needle and thread. The longer blue strands will be secured and hidden when the cover is worked on the shoulders of the hanger.

Covering the shoulders – option 1

Now that you have the weaving working, you could just continue it around the shoulder portion of the hanger. As you need longer pieces of t-shirt yarn, just sew on a new strand. (If you taper the ends that you’re sewing together, they can overlap without leaving a huge bump.) Keep going all the way around the loop and then tie off the ends when you get back to the bottom of the hook.

Covering the shoulders – option 2

I prefer a crocheted cover over the shoulders of the hanger. I find it easier to work, and the ridges it forms make it a little more difficult for garments to slide off the hangers. Originally, I crocheted the entire hanger covering but the extra bulk around the hook can get in the way. Now I prefer a smooth woven hook covering with a crocheted shoulder cover. Here’s how I do that.

Two wire hangers with their hooks covered (together) in solid blue t-shirt yarn.
Here’s my pair of hangers with the hooks already covered in solid blue weaving.
A lighter blue yarn has been used to start covering the shoulders of the hanger.  The crocheting covers the ends from the weaving strands too.  Those ends have been tapered so they blend in.
The paler blue t-shirt yarn was cut rather narrow at the beginning so I doubled it. Soon I’ll have used up that thinner portion and will be working with a single, wider strand. Here you can see that I just pulled up a loop and started crocheting over the two hangers and the ends from the woven hook cover. The ends have been cut to different lengths and tapered (you can see the triangles that were cut off) so they leave less of a bump when they finish.

Crocheting step by step

To start the crocheting, fold your t-shirt yarn over at least 10 cm (4″) from the end. Hold the short end along with the hangers and the ends from the weaving. Put your crochet hook into the loop that is made by folding the t-shirt yarn. The long tail of t-shirt yarn stays behind the hangers.

Step one of crocheting - pull up a loop from behind the hanger.
Keep your hook in front of the hanger and the t-shirt yarn behind it. Let a loop drop below the hanger wire.
Wrapping the t-shirt yarn over the crochet hook to create another loop.
Pull the loop up and forward, draping it over the crochet hook.
Two loops of t-shirt yarn are now on the crochet hook.
Pull on the tail of the t-shirt yarn to make the new loop more snug.
Wrapping t-shirt yarn over hook again
While the yarn is behind the hanger, wrap it over the crochet hook again. This is the third loop.
the third loop is pulled through the second loop, which is dropped from the crochet hook.
Pull the third loop through the second loop so there are now only two loops on the crochet hook.
The newest loop has been pulled through both of the previously made loops so there is now just one loop left on the crochet hook.
Continue pulling that same loop through the original loop on the crochet hook. There is now only one loop remaining on the hook and there is a new stitch formed on the hanger. Pull the tail of the t-shirt yarn towards the back to firm up the stitch. Drop it behind and below the hanger wire to begin the next stitch.
Pulling up a loop to form a crochet stitch joining the beginning to the end
When you’ve made it all the way around the hanger, make one stitch across the hanger hook.
The tail end of t-shirt yarn has been pulled through the final stitch.
Cut the end off the t-shirt yarn, leaving a 10 cm (4″) tail. Pull the tail all the way through the final loop and then tie/sew/weave it in to secure it. The hanger is done!

Make your own dryer balls – no special tools required

Six handmade dryer balls are shown with a variety of decorative stitching on their surfaces

My first set of dryer balls was the bumpy plastic kind that left blue streaks on the inside of the dryer. Eventually they cracked and were relegated to the recycle bin. By that time, felted wool dryer balls were making their appearance on the market. They were certainly quieter than the plastic ones, and I knew they would last longer. But they were beyond my budget so I invented my own using fabric and yarn scraps. Here I’ll show you my version so that you can make your own dryer balls for yourself or as a gift.

Tools and materials

A selection of possible tools used to make your own dryer balls: includes three large-eyed needles, a bodkin, and a crochet hook
Possible tool options: A – large-eyed needles, B – bodkin, C – crochet hook.

As promised, the necessary tools are pretty basic. You will need a large-eyed needle or a bodkin or a medium size crochet hook (somewhere in the 2-4 mm range a.k.a. US sizes B-G). Scissors could also come in handy, but they aren’t absolutely necessary.

A selection of possible materials to go in the dryer ball core.  Samples include threads, fabric trimmings, worn out socks, and a variety of wool fabrics in different  weights and textures
Any and all of these materials can be combined to form the core of a dryer ball. Threads, fabric trimmings, and old socks will all work as long as they are clean and 100% wool.

Your materials need to be 100% wool and they need to be clean. You will need yarn for the outside layer. However, the core of a dryer ball can contain woven or knit fabric scraps, yarn pieces, or even unspun roving. As long as it is clean and 100% wool, it can be used. My dryer balls have sewing scraps and bits of worn out socks in them.

Make the core

Roll your core materials up into a fairly smooth ball a little smaller than your fist. Start with the smallest pieces and roll them up in the larger pieces. Loose edges and flaps will disappear when the ball is wrapped with yarn.

The smallest bitsof wool are bundled together in the centre of the core.
The smallest bits go in the centre of the core.
Larger scraps are wound around the innermost layer.
Larger scraps are wrapped around the initial bundle.
The biggest piece going into the core is saved for last.
The biggest scrap was saved for last. It will cover the bundle nicely.

Take one end of the wrapping yarn and hold it under your thumb while you hold and wrap the core. Once the yarn end has been wrapped over a few times, it will stay in place without needing to be held. (This layer will be barely visible when the ball is done so if you have some “less-preferred” yarn, use it here.

How to start the wrap by holding the yarn end under your thumb and then wrapping over it .
Starting the wrap. Note that the core bundle looks rather blocky at this stage. The wrapping will soon change that.

Wrap all over and around the core, working in all directions for an even layer. The wrapping should be snug but not stretched hard. If you need to add a new piece of yarn, just start it the same way you did the first one. There’s no need to tie knots.

Early stages of the first layer wrapping.
Early wrapping and already the blocky core looks rounder.
bare patches along the sides need to be filled in.
Rotate the core while you wrap so that bare patches like this one get filled in.
Inner wrapping about half done and the round shape is well established.
The wrapping in about half done and the ball is well rounded now.
Inner wrapping is done.  The core is completely obscured.
The inner wrapping is done and the core is fully obscured. No hint of holey socks now.

Outer wrap

If you used ugly yarn for the core wrapping, now is the time to switch it out for a colour you like. Keep wrapping, working smoothly and evenly. Unlike a commercially wound ball of yarn, you don’t want the strands all lined up side by side. You want a network of crisscrossing lines that are not easily disturbed. Continue wrapping until the ball is tennis ball size. Use the need;e/bodkin/crochet hook to tuck the yarn end under.

Starting the outer wrapping layer.
The outer layer of wrapping is underway.
Using a needle to tuck in the tail end of wrapping yarn.
Using a needle to tuck in the tail end of the wrapping yarn.

Secure it with stitches

One snag is all it would take to unwind the whole ball and leave you with a real mess in the dryer. This final layer is not just decorative. It holds the ball together. The way it looks, however, is up to you.

You can cover the ball in random stitches or design intricate patterns. Sometimes I embroider, like in this sample, but I often use a crochet hook to chain stitch instead. You can be as plain or fanciful as you like so long as when you’re done, there are no large uncovered patches left. If you can follow a piece of wrapped yarn for more than 3 cm (1″) without it being stitched down, it needs to be secured.

starting the stitching thread by running it through the ball before stitching.
The stitching yarn was pulled through the ball to hide the end before starting the actual stitching. Hold onto that short end while you make your first few stitches, then trim it flush with the ball’s surface so it disappears from view.

This step can be the most fun. It also takes the longest. You may want to start with a basic design for your first ball before you tackle a series of family portraits on the next ones. Monogrammed dryer balls make nice gifts for students moving away from home or for bridal showers. The lettering doesn’t need to be fancy to feel personal.

a variety of stitches shown on the sample ball - a chain stitch swirl, a straight stitch starburst, and some parallel lines of running stitch
A chain stitch swirl, a straight stitch starburst, and some parallel rows of running stitch form a casual design on this sample ball.

Alternate uses

This technique would work to make unbreakable Christmas tree balls. Take a look at Temari balls for extreme design inspiration. Design options open up when the balls don’t have to be dryer safe.

Closely stitched balls are also ideal as baby gifts. When baby becomes toddler and starts snagging the dryer balls for play, (s)he might as well have a personalized set that doesn’t keep disappearing on laundry days. A quick surface cleaning followed by a trip through a hot dryer will take care of just about any dirt that accumulates.

These balls are not recommended as pet toys because teeth and claws would quickly expose the yarn wrapping and create a choking hazard. (I have not found this to be an issue with children because the balls are too big to fit in their mouths. Besides, the fuzzy wool is not pleasant for human chewing.)

Whether they’re for yourself or to share, dryer balls are another good way to put your scraps to good use.