Why is it that closets are always slightly shallower than shirts are wide?
We don't know either, but we're tired of crimping our shirt sleeves in the door. And while our teen years were filled with fun moments of attempting to beat Murphy at his own game by throwing the closet door shut in less time than it took the shirt sleeve to escape, lately, we've grown tired of such antics and prefer 'a place for everything, and everything in its place.'
These upcycled shirt sleeves with formed coathanger inserts do the trick in style and with restrained humor. Your sleeves will never stray from the closet again.
If you have the need but not the time? You can purchase our SewUseful - Stiff Arm Sleeve Guard through our Etsy shop.
Step 1: Overview & Materials
When complete, your Stiff Arm Sleeve Guard will measure approximately 12" x 6". The sleeve itself will measure 11" with the coat hanger wire ends extending 1". The ends will be used to attach the sleeve guard to your closet door frame.
For this project, you will need:
1 discarded but loved dress shirt
pencil or washable fabric marker
1 wire coat hanger
needle and thread (sewing machine optional, but fun!)
drill with 1/16" drill bit
Step 2: Assess Your Closet and Select the Appropriate Sleeve
Facing your closet, determine which side of your closet door frame you intend to mount the Stiff Arm Sleeve Guard to.
If you select the right side, you will want to use the right arm sleeve of your shirt. If you select the left side, use the left arm sleeve. Our problem area was the right side (hinge side), so we used the right arm sleeve to make our Stiff Arm Sleeve Guard.
Why? Here's a little trick to help you think it through: Try the shirt on. Or, if it no longer fits, try on any long sleeve dress shirt. Now extend your arms straight out to the side with your palms facing forward.
You will notice two things:
1. The buttons on the cuff face towards the back, and
2. For obviously anatomical reasons, your shoulder is above your arm pit.
Selecting the shirt sleeve as described above will ensure your Stiff Arm Sleeve Guard appears correctly installed. In other words, the pit of the sleeve will be below the shoulder and the cuff buttons will be hidden towards the back.
(If for some reason, you want to see the buttons, then select the opposite shirt sleeve and adjust the remaining instructions accordingly.)
Step 3: Prepare the Sleeve
Apply a liberal amount of spray starch to the selected sleeve and iron the sleeve nice and crisp. Then lay the sleeve out smooth on a flat surface and allow it to cool.
Measure out from the cuff 11-1/4" measuring along the centerline of the sleeve and place a tick mark using a pencil or washable fabric marker. Now take a deep breath, and with scissors cut the sleeve off the shirt at the tick mark cutting parallel to the cuff.
Notice in the photograph how it's difficult to iron the button side of the shirt. This is another reason for having the button side face into the closet.
Step 4: Hem the Cut End 1/4"
So as not to leave the cut end of the shirt sleeve exposed, make a 1/4" hem along the entire cut edge. Fold to the inside -- like you're hemming a pair of pants -- and iron the hem to crease it and hold it in place. (Alternately, you can pin the fold in place temporarily, but with all the starch you used, you shouldn't have to!)
You will sew this edge permanently in a later step after you've inserted the formed coat hanger.
Step 5: Prepare the Coat Hanger Insert
Take a wire coat hanger and with wire snips cut the hanger as shown in the diagram to remove and discard the hook and winding. Note the 'center' location shown on the diagram.
Step 6: Form the Coat Hanger Into a Wire Insert
Lay the shirt sleeve out flat on a hard surface with the cuff buttons hidden. Using pliers, shape the wire coat hanger as shown to fit within the shirt sleeve. Note the 'center' of the coat hanger and use this as a starting point. Also note the following key design features:
1. The Bend: Works like a spring to help keep the cuff of the shirt taut. The bend also helps hide the coat hanger so as not to be visible at the cuff.
2. Critical Dimension: Size the coat hanger insert at this location to fit tight within the sleeve cuff.
3. Anchor Loops: Allow you to stitch the sleeve to the coat hanger in a later step so it does not slip.
4. The Legs: Enable the Stiff Arm Sleeve Guard to be attached to the closet door frame.
Take care to replicate these features. It helps to form each feature in the order described. As you form the wire, lay it on the outside of the sleeve from time to time to check your progress.
Note that the photograph shows 2 wire inserts. One inside the sleeve and one outside. This is for illustration purposes only. You are only making one insert.
Step 7: Insert the Coat Hanger Wire Into the Sleeve
Next insert the coat hanger into the sleeve being careful to protect the 1/4" hem.
Make any final adjustments for a proper fit. The coat hanger should fit tight within the sleeve especially at the cuff. Adjusting the angle of 'The Bend' can also ensure a tight fit at the shoulder/pit end of the sleeve. When formed and inserted correctly, the wire will stretch the sleeve taut and keep it looking crisp and clean. (Be patient, and don't fret if you have to throw the coat hanger out a time or two and try a new one.)
Finally, cut the Legs of the coat hanger wire so that they extend only 1" beyond the shoulder/pit end of the sleeve.
Step 8: Attach the Sleeve to the Coat Hanger
With needle and thread, attach the shirt sleeve to the coat hanger insert at the (4) anchor loop locations. Make several passes at each loop like you're sewing a button back on.
Step 9: Sew the Sleeve Closed at the Hem
With the sleeve now fastened to the coat hanger insert, you can sew the sleeve closed at the hem. This can be done by hand, or using a handy-dandy sewing machine being careful not to strike the coat hanger with the needle.
Step 10: Install Your Stiff Arm Sleeve Guard
For the final step, hold your Stiff Arm Sleeve Guard in place against the closet door frame at the desired height. It is helpful to have several shirts hanging in the closet to better gauge the installation height. The mounting location should be towards the inside of the frame so as not to prevent the closet door from closing. With a pencil, mark where the attachment legs hit the closet door frame. Drill 1/16" diameter holes at these locations approximately 3/4" into the frame. Insert the attachment legs into the holes. (A friction fit should suffice, however, you can also glue the attachment legs in place with 5-minute epoxy.)
Now stand back and shut the closet door.
Now open the closet door.
Now shut the closet door.
Now laugh hysterically. Your job is done.
Congratulations and enjoy!