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!

How to make t-shirt yarn – a cheap and versatile crafting ingredient

Picture shows how to make t-shirt yarn with a strip being cut, a portion pulled, and another section already bundled for use.

I use t-shirt yarn for crafting, for sewing, and around the house. It’s a very strong cord that can be cut to a wide range of thicknesses. The colour range is huge. (How many colours do t-shirts come in?) My favourite way to use up t-shirts is to make t-shirt yarn. Stains and holes don’t matter. Long pieces and short pieces all have their uses. And the process is dead easy. In this post I’ll show you how.

Tools and materials

All you need is a clean t-shirt and scissors that cut fabric. If you’re nervous about cutting an even line, you can use a ruler but being absolutely even isn’t important. This is a very forgiving product.

You could use a rotary cutter and mat instead of scissors. The cutting will be faster but if you want a long continuous strand, you will have to join the pieces after they are cut.

The best t-shirts have no side seams. The body of the shirt is a tube with slits cut in it for adding the sleeves. That long tube lets you cut a spiral that gives you one very long piece of t-shirt yarn. T-shirts with side seams are still useful but the pieces will be shorter unless your yarn is cut very wide.

How it works

There are two basic steps to making t-shirt yarn:

  • cut the strips
  • pull the yarn

The strips are cut wider than what you want the finished yarn to be. When you pull it, the edges automatically curl in and the yarn gets longer. It will still have some stretch to it but it will not bounce back to its original flat length and width. Because the edges curl in, all the thread ends and the uneven edges disappear from sight. You have a nice smooth cord to work with.

Very wide strips will only curl at their edges instead of making a cord. You usually need to get beyond 5 cm (2″) width for that to happen.

Getting ready

Remove the hem stitching at the bottom of the t-shirt. On the outside you will see two rows of straight stitches. On the inside there will be a thread looping back and forth between those two rows of stitches. Don’t pull or cut the loopy thread! If you pull it, the stitching will tighten up and be almost impossible to remove. If you cut it, you will have hundreds of tiny pieces that each need to be removed individually. Instead, pull out the two rows of straight stitches and the loopy thread will come off in one long (probably tangled) piece.

The outside and underside of t-shirt hemstitching are shown and labeled.
Pull out the straight stitch rows and the loopy threads will come right off.

Even if you want very wide t-shirt yarn, the hem should still be removed. Otherwise, the edges won’t curl where the hem is so the yarn will be stiffer there.

Cut

If your t-shirt has no side seams, or if you are cutting a very wide strip, you can cut a spiral. Just start cutting on an angle until you get the width you want. Keep going around and around until you’re done.

If the t-shirt has side seams (or if you are cutting the sleeves), use scissors or a rotary cutter and mat, to cut rings. When you pull them, they will come apart at the side seams.

You can cut pretty much any width. My default size is the width of a standard t-shirt hem. That’s about 1.5 cm (.75″).

Ruler shows cutting width of t-shirt strip as 1.5 cm or .74 inches
My default cutting width is 1.5 – 2 cm (.75 – 1″). That yields a cord about .5 cm (1/8″) diameter.

Always cut your strips parallel to the hem. Long sleeves may give you longer strands if you cut perpendicular to the hem (ie along the length of the sleeve instead of across it) but they won’t be nearly as strong. When you cut parallel to the hem, the threads that make up the knit fabric run the length of the cut strips. Even if they unravel, you still have a bundle of long threads that will hold together. When you cut perpendicular to the hem, those threads run across the width of your strips. They don’t need to unravel very much to significantly weaken the t-shirt yarn.

Avoid cutting parts that have paint, glue, or other stiff stuff on them. They won’t curl or stretch. That bit of yarn will be noticeable and possibly weaker than the rest. Unfortunately, that includes a lot of the pictures and custom printing on t-shirts.

Pull

When the first 15 cm (6″) is cut, grab both ends and pull it. It will stretch and curl. Make sure that’s the width/weight you want. Adjust your cutting width if needed, and keep cutting and pulling as you go.

Flat strip of t-shirt is shown above a piece that has been pulled and is therefore curled and stretched.
When the flat strip (above) is pulled, the edges curl in and it gets longer and thinner (below).

I prefer to pull all my strips before winding them into a ball or bundling them for storage. They are easier to handle that way. It also lets me see at a glance what their finished size will be instead of having to guess.

Join

There are many ways to join t-shirt yarn strips into longer strands and what works best depends on how you plan to use it. So I’ll just say here that it can be done and it doesn’t need to take forever. However, there are so many ways to use shorter pieces of t-shirt yarn, that I rarely splice it. I save the long spirals for projects that need them, and the shorter pieces for everywhere else.

Use it

The waistband of a re-woven shirt is shown.  It was woven with t-shirt yarn pieces.
The horizontal strands in this re-woven shirt waistband are t-shirt yarn. The colour variations caused by stains on the shirt are actually an asset. So is the slight stretch the t-shirt yarn gives to the waist.

T-shirt yarn is so versatile I find myself saving every scrap. Some projects call for 3 cm (1.25″) pieces so it’s hard to find scraps small enough to throw away. It’s yarn, so anything you would use yarn for , you can use t-shirt yarn for. It’s cord, so anything you would use cord for, you can use t-shirt yarn for. There are also specific techniques that work best with t-shirt yarn instead of other yarn or cord. Those are the ones I will focus on when I post instructions for using this fabulous resource. But don’t wait for me. Cut up an old t-shirt and start playing. Whatever your preferred fiber art is, you can probably find a way to incorporate t-shirt into it.

Partially completed rug made of t-shirt yarn strips
T-shirts aren’t the only source of t-shirt yarn. This rug hooking project uses strands from pyjamas too.