A Free Homemade Rope Dog Toy Upcycled From Old T-Shirts

When I was a kid, my family would regularly go to our local pool in the summer. After swimming, we'd head over to the nearby park where there'd be free crafts available to do. There I learned to make many different things, but what stuck with me the most were the lanyard key chains we made. First it was with the simple box stitch and then it got more advanced and we learned how to twist it and make it with more than four strings.
Why bring that up?
Because I had a bit of nostalgia about that when making this project.
Our new dog, Snickers, is a cutie. She really loves to play. One of her favorite games to play is tug of war. Or rather, she likes to play fetch, and then when she brings back the toy, she loves holding on to the toy and not giving it up, but rather playing tug of war with it until one of us wins. I love playing that with her; it really brings a smile to my face seeing her play tug of war. I picture these little wolf cubs playing together with a scrap of raw meat when I play with her; I can't think of any more natural game for a dog to play.
The thing is, tug of war is a little bit hard on toys. The first toy I gave her to play with, a stuffed animal (that my kids no longer used) ripped apart quickly from these games. I tried to think of some other toy ideas that would be a little more durable for tug of war and other games involving chewing, and I found quite a few ideas online. One involved the same stitch we used for our lanyard projects all those years ago, but with heavy duty ropes. Others were made of old t shirts, and then braided. I decided to combine those two ideas and made this dog toy for tug of war and chewing, and my dog couldn't be more thrilled!

And of course it was completely free because I used two t-shirts that I found in the trash for this.

Here's how I made it, and how you can too.

A Free Homemade Rope Dog Toy Upcycled From Old T-Shirts

Equipment Needed:
Two shirts
Sharp scissors

Instructions to Make T-Shirt Yarn

1. The first step is to make yarn out of the shirts. If you've read my post on how to make yarn out of socks, this is the same exact technique, and you can skip this section and move on to the next.

2. Lay your shirt on the floor and cut vertical stripes an inch or so wide, nearly all the way through to the other side, but leaving a bit uncut. Do this all the way until you get to the sleeves.

3. Rotate and open up the shirt so the uncut part is facing you.

4. Cut the shirt on a diagonal from the bottom of the shirt to the first cut, as in this picture.

5. Continue cutting this way, so that each cut is diagonal, connecting one loop to the next, so you get a steady string.

And since I get that that is totally not clear, I have this diagram I shared with my sock yarn post. The horizontal solid black lines are what you previously cut in step 2. The red dotted line is where you should now cut, in steps 4 and 5. Continue this all the way up the shirt.
6. Roll up your t-shirt yarn into a ball to make it easy to deal with. Do the same with the second shirt.

Making a Rope Toy From T-Shirt Yarn

1. Divide up your yarn into four equal parts. I had one shirt that was thicker and smaller and one thinner and longer. The longer one I folded over into two sections of 4 equal length strands. The other one was two sections of 2 equal length strands. Do whatever works for you with the t shirt yarn you have, as long as you end up with four long "ropes" with which to work.

2. Tie a knot at one end, and then make sure that the yarn is divided into its four distinct parts.

3. If you know how to do a lanyard box stitch, do that. If not, I will attempt to explain how below.

4. Using two of the bunches of yarn, make two loops, one facing towards you and one facing away from you. You should have two more bunches of yarn, one to your right, and one to your left.

5. Using the yarn on either side, put them through the loops of yarn. The way you want it to be is that the yarn that you put in from the side goes over the loose end of one loop and then through the loop part of the other loop. This way each loose end is secured. 

For example, you have a loop on your right that is facing away from you and a loop on the left facing towards you. When you bring the yarn from your right, it will first go over the right looped yarn and then under the left looped yarn. When you bring the yarn from the left, it will need to be closer to you than the yarn from the right was. And it will first go over the left loose yarn, and then through the loop of the right looped yarn.

6. Pull the threads tight to complete the box stitch.

If my explanation wasn't enough, this video instructs you on how to do this stitch.

7. Continue the stitch until you nearly reach the end of the yarn. Tie a knot at the end.

You can cut off the excess yarn but I didn't bother.

8. Have fun playing!

9. You may notice that after some time playing with it, the knotted area at the ends may get stretched out. That's fine; you can either leave as is, or retie that knot or make a double knot at the end.

Wishing you many hours of fun with this toy!

Do you have a dog? What is their favorite game to play? What is their favorite toy? If your dog likes tug of war or fetch, does this look like a toy you'd make for your dog?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


Thank you for leaving a comment on your blog. Comments are moderated- please be patient to allow time for them to go through. Opposing opinions are permitted, discussion and disagreements are encouraged, but nasty comments for the sole purpose of being nasty without constructive criticisms will be deleted.
Just a note- I take my privacy seriously, and comments giving away my location or religion are automatically deleted too.

  1. I’m struggling to understand why you would choose to bring a dog into your family when you can’t even afford proper toys for the dog, especially when a toy costs no more than a few dollars. The T-shirt fabric is extremely stretching, and pulling on a toy made from that material could cause severe dental damage. Do you have a realistic plan for handling future vet expenses? Please realize that simply hoping that the dog will stay healthy is not a realistic plan.

    1. I don't know why you make the assumption that I can't afford a cheap dog toy. I can. The interenet is filled with thousands of different instructables on making dog toys out of old t shirts. Its totally acceptable. Please show me proof that its damaging to a dog's teeth. Thank you.

    2. What a rude comment. So presumptuous, and completely missing the creative ingenuity Penny displayed for her puppy.

  2. I read it as "rope-dog" toy. I was intrigued to see what this "rope-dog" looked like! HAHAHA

  3. Ps... dogs need love, food, and walks. Like children, they will thrive on this. Not cheap toys.

  4. Thanks for the tutorial! After our puppy destroyed several made for dog toys, we do decided to go the homemade route, and it is so much better. Our dog loves socks rolled into donuts, and also socks braided into a toy similar to the one you made. I cut up three holey socks, first cutting off the toes and then cutting each sock in half lengthwise. From these strips I braided two tug toys; the braids are tight and they are an absolute favorite toy. They are equally as sturdy as rope toys from the store. I agree that playing tug with the puppy is so much fun! Dogs don't know if their toys come from Target or the rag bin. One of my dog's other favorite toys is a big cap from a spray type bottle, like hairspray. It is lightweight and he can toss it around and chase it. Not that long ago people had dogs and didn't buy them specially made food (they fed them scraps), dog toys (an old tennis ball was fine), or Halloween costumes (seriously, this is a thing now).

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. This is awesome. I have been trying to figure out how to make longer dog toys and the technique you showed on how to make the yarn totally works.

    To the skeptic - it's good for kids to learn to upcycle and reuse Rather than always buying new in out throw away consumer society. It's also a nice way to involve kids in projects for animal shelters. Animal shelter need things like dog food, paper towels and bleach. But adding quality upcycled chew toys for the dogs are a great addition and a wonderful economical way to involve kids. It's also a great stocking stuffer a kid can give to relatives with fur babies.

Previous Post Next Post