Holes in the front of t-shirt; not the back

ClareBroommaker's picture

Why am I getting holes only in the front of my t-shirts?

I admit I do abuse them, stretching them out by doing stuff like drawing my knees up into them or taking my arms out of the sleeves and into the body if I'm chilled. I'm sure you've seen kids do these things. Have I strained the fibers on the front, but not the back by these antics?

Maybe I could spare myself a lot of mending if I could train myself to stop stuffing extra body parts into my t-shirts, eh? Do you who don't do this get holes primarily in the front, as well?

Could it just be the larger amount of dirt that gets deposited on the front of the t-shirt? The rubbing of arms, hands, and things being carried at the front?

(Glad to be able to ask a simple question like this here. Others would probably just tell me that t-shirts are cheap; throw them away and get new ones.)

If you use city water for laundry, you might ask if they have changed the way they purify their water. As I said on the "Water Wars" node back in October,

"Our water comes from the Illinois River and the Sankoty (?) aquifer. We also have a very large mineral spring. Folks are asking who actually owns the water? Could the water company actually sell our water to Nestle or a fracking company? And how transparent is this company? Apparently they changed the chemicals they use to purify the water without informing the city. They started using ammonia and other stuff."

About that time, I started developing pinholes in my undies, which then fell apart--dissolved--over a couple of weeks.

I agree that tee shirt fabric is getting thinner and thinner. However, some ants will also eat small holes in cotton knits. We had this problem one year and solved it by turning out closets and drawers and vacuuming everything, with special attention paid to baseboards and cracks. We had been vacuuming regularly, of course, but the back corners of the closet shelves and baseboards and the baseboards behind the bureaus had been neglected. We followed up by wiping down the corners and baseboards with peppermint essential oil.

Magpie's picture

I have a dwindling supply of quality cotton t-shirts that are mostly 11+ years old. When I was younger, I used to have fraying colars and hems be what did them in, but now they wear out right in the belly area, developing lots of tiny holes between my hip line and sternum. I'm pretty thin, so it's not that I'm stretching them out (all my shirts are baggy). I bike a lot, and so spend quite a bit of time bent over (more friction in that area), and wear a pack with a waist strap, which definitely puts some wear into the front of my shirts. I've thought long and hard about what I can do about it, but I think that I can't substantially change my activities to avoid wearing down clothes. I've committed to biking everywhere, and that's worth a bit more mending to me.

When the wear on the front gets bad, I turn the t-shirts into underwear. I learned the hard way not to use the belly area of the t-shirt, though! Once it starts getting numerous holes in it, the whole area is pretty much done for, and only good for stuffing draught excluders (or childrens' toys) and making oil rags out of--unless you fancy making new underwear every four months (which I might in the future when I have no other option, but for now, it's not worth the time).

ClareBroommaker's picture

Yes, Magpie, this is not the way they used to wear out! In fact, I used a much older t-shirt to make two patches for one of these belly-hole t-shits. The old t-shirt had been mended at the neck and at the top shoulder seams. Oh, the oldest had a couple tiny holes in the front that had been stabilized, but then it wore on for a lot longer without developing these belly holes. It just wore to a floaty-thinness. I found thicker material remaining at the back shoulder from which to cut some patch material.

Well, I'm putting a lot of effort into mending these shirts. It will be valuable to know if the repairs last or if too many more holes open up. Some of them are just pin-head size, but you know what? I sewed up 23 pinhead holes on one shirt! In short, I guess I blame the fabric.

Oh, yeah, I should say that around the house I sometimes wear the t-shirts backward in order to rotate the wear.

Magpie's picture

I find the top of the shirt around the neck/shoulders and also the sleeves to be in the best shape at the end. I don't rotate my shirts front-to-back, so the back is also typically solid enough to be remade into new garments.

Have you looked at boro-style mending? It's Japanese in origin, and a visible mending type. I have experimented with every darning type I can get my hands on using a very old pair of my husband's jeans (which I jokingly call my "darning sampler"). I found boro-style mending to be the only thing that holds up when fabric is getting threadbare--it seems to be able to stabilize large areas and prevent holes from forming or, if they have started, from getting bigger. I've used it for knit patches on knit material and it has held up surprisingly well! It seems to prevent fraying/laddering without having to individually darn each gosh-darned pinhead-sized hole. The downside is that it's easier to tell that the garment has been mended, but with the alternative being worse clothes made of worse fabric that will wear out quickly and then end up in the mending pile anyway, I've found it to be worthwhile. Using a matching thread, people don't seem to notice from a couple yards, which is probably good enough in most cases.

ClareBroommaker's picture

I only have acquaintance with boro mending through the internet, but that is something to keep in mind. Thank you. I did once try to stabilize the threadbare knees of some synthetic long underwear (Cuddleduds) by sewing a crosshatching. The thread turned out to be too slippy inside the remaining weave, and the repair thread itself wore out. A big knee patch would have been better, but I'm still not sure if I had any thread that would have been more compatible....Live and learn

Stabilizing those little pin-head holes makes me think of decorative technique on clothes and accessories imported from India---Those that are full of holes that have embroidered edges and sometimes the holes are filled with shiny metal or even tiny bits of glass mirror.

Not sure if your holes are caused by the same thing, but I found that I accidentally caught the thin fabric in my belt (the kind with a metal "snap" cover - not sure how to describe it ... kind of like an airplane seatbelt?) and in the plastic clip of my backpack's waist strap. And sure enough, little holes began to appear... When I'm careful to NOT clip my shirts int the buckles, I have better luck Smile

Also, I'm impressed with your making of underwear!

Magpie's picture

Some of it could be buckle damage, but the area the holes are developing is much bigger than the area of my backpack strap. I don't typically wear belts with my t-shirts (only office clothes), and the one belt I do have has a smooth buckle type with no tongue or grips of any kind.

Given that I've basically been wearing the same backpack + t-shirt combination for my entire life, the new wear pattern in t-shirts is a bit of a question mark. I feel that blaming the material may be appropriate! Plus the newer knits are knit out of finer thread than my 10-year old ones--even when the final material is the same thickness. Thinner threads take less time to wear through, and because of the properties of knit fabrics, it won't be long before you get runs and ladders over a huge area.

Re: underwear. It's not actually that difficult! Plus, old t-shirt material is REALLY comfortable--so soft!

Blueberry's picture

Many years ago while doing electrical work at a chemical plant several of my cotton work shirts had all kinds of holes after washing. Glad when that job was over, was not the only one in the crew who had problems with clothing. When cleaning the batteries in my solar power system I always wear very old stuff just in case.

Magpie's picture

I did some brass casting, and ran into this problem. I put the shorts I was wearing while doing it into my mending pile (they tore on the hour-long bike ride back home) without washing them, and by the time I got to them about a month later, they were green with oxidization and had corroded through in several places! I learned my lesson to only wear old stuff I don't care about if I do metal casting again!

David Trammel's picture

I get them too, and I expect its just because of the additional wear the front gets. Though putting your knees inside of them probably doesn't help either, lol.

While I don't get holes in my t-shirts I get stains.....I never remember to wear an apron. The really bad ones are used for gardening...then the badder they get I use them for rags.

I have a plan to cut the shirts into strips and knit with them or make a braided rug, but I haven't done either of those yet.

Sounds like you need a nice big woolen sweater to keep warm.

Once you get a hole or a rip the surrounding fabric will be weaker so it's as you say.... stop stretching them out. Buy heavier shirts.

OK I'm out of ideas:)