Turn a pile of old t-shirts into a DIY dog toy your pup will love. We'll show you how to make your own t-shirt yarn for this project, and how to turn it into a durable tug-of-war toy for your dog. 

By Kim Hutchison and BH&G Crafts Editors
Updated June 04, 2020
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T-shirt yarn is a great way to recycle old shirts that aren't being worn, and it's the ideal texture for DIY dog toys. The material is stretchy enough for a good game of tug-of-war, and when the yarn is braided, it's durable enough for even the largest of dogs to sink their teeth into. And, since it's made from t-shirt material, it's easy to throw in the washing machine! We'll show you how to cut and stretch old shirts to form a continuous ball of yarn, and our easy braiding technique makes this homemade dog toy a quick and easy project.

  • Working time 1 hr
  • Start to finish 1 hr
  • Difficulty Kind of easy
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What you need

Tools
Materials
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How to do it

Step 1

Cut Strips

Before making the t-shirt yarn, wash and dry all shirts. When you're ready to make the yarn, place the t-shirt on a large Rotary Cutting Mat ($23, Michaels) and use a Rotary Cutter ($22, Michaels) to cut across each shirt from under the sleeves and remove bottom hemmed edge. You'll be left with a large rectangle that's free of any hemming. Place the t-shirt flat, with the open ends on either side, and the flattened, folded edges on the top and bottom. Starting at the bottom edge of the shirt, use scissors cut 1-inch-wide strips across the entire rectangle—but without cutting all the way through the top edge. Stop cutting about 1 inch from the top folded edge. When you are finished, the shirt should create a line of looped fringe that is one intact piece. 

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Step 2

Make Diagonal Cuts

In order to turn the t-shirt into one long strip of yarn, use Fabric Scissors ($9, Target) make diagonal cuts in the top fold. Fold the t-shirt so that the uncut portion faces straight up. The straight cuts will match up, with a few inches of uncut fabric between them. Instead of cutting straight to continue the cuts (which would create individual, separated loops), cut diagonally to connect each cut to the the cut above and one over to the right. This method will form one large continuous strip of t-shirt material—be careful to keep the pattern, so you don't accidentally create multiple pieces of yarn.

Editor's Tip

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Step 3

Roll the Yarn

When the t-shirt is cut, you'll be left with one long strip of fabric that's about 1-inch in width. To turn the fabric into yarn, pull and stretch the fabric. If you're using plain cotton t-shirts, the material will stretch out to double the original length. When the fabric is stretched and pulled, wind and wrap it to create a ball of yarn. Repeat this process with every color you want to use.

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Step 4

Assemble the Yarn

Cut 12 pieces of 60-inch strips of t-shirt yarn and knot the pieces together at the top. Separate the yarn into four bunches with three strands each, and braid each three-strand section. When each section is braided, hold the knot in one hand and adjust braids to be opposite of one another in perpendicular lines. 

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Step 5

Make the Braid

To create the final braided toy, you'll braid all four of the smaller braids together. We found it is helpful to think of each strand as a direction. When the strands are laid out in two perpendicular lines, assign each strand a direction following the north, south, east, west pattern. Place the north braid to the south, making a small loop. Place the south braid to the north, making another small loop. Then weave the east braid over and under to the west and weave the west braid over and under to the east. Tighten the strands and repeat this pattern until the length of your DIY dog toy is complete. When you reach the end, tie all of the strands together to form one big knot like the one at the original end of the toy. Make sure the knots are pulled tight and engage your dog in a game of tug-of-war!

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