Friday, 26 August 2016

Recycled T-Shirt Hem DIY Woven Dog Toys


When I first started making dog toys, I tried a few t-shirt toys and was unimpressed at how rapidly my wild beasts darling dogs ripped them into shreds.  They would be fine for gentler play, but all toys are vulnerable to the ravages of ripping around here and t-shirt toys simply didn't last long enough to be worth the effort. Recently while cutting apart t-shirts to make quilts (see the DIY instructions at blog Creativity Unmasked), I had an idea.  When I made denim dog toys from old jeans, I liked incorporating the side seams of the legs to make things more durable as well as reduce shedding threads.  Perhaps the off-cut big bottom hems from hubby's large shirts could be put to use in slightly stronger t-shirt toys?  Yes indeed. Finally! A good use for the scrap t-shirt hems! I salvaged "the good bits" for other t-shirt fabric uses, and set the hems aside for toys.

The T-Shirt Ball

This toy is similar to the denim knot from our original DIY dog toy creation many years ago, but I took advantage of the stretchy t-shirt material to shape things into a more rounded ball with the ends tucked.  Since I had large t-shirts to work with, I used the hems as big uncut loops instead of strips. Make sure your ball is big enough for safe play and supervise carefully.  All balls, bought or made, can be choking hazards.  See additional safety tips below.

  • Gather your hem loops and use one to tie the bundle together (I used green - see above) and create a starting point for weaving/knotting the toy.
  • Spread your hem loops from the starting knot and arrange them into four groups in a cross shape.  I was using eight hems, so there are two left, two top, two right, two bottom.
  • Knot using a "box weave" aka "square knot" or "box braid" as shown and detailed below:

  1. Spread the strips in a cross (+) shape 
  2. Fold the top of the vertical strip towards the bottom
  3. Fold the bottom of the vertical strip towards the top
  4. Fold the right end of the horizontal strip towards the left, passing over then under
  5. Fold the left end of the horizontal strip towards the right, passing over then under
  6. Pull to secure.  The stands should now look like a woven square.
  • Flip the knot over and tidy your strands back into a neat cross (+) shape. Repeat the steps, flipping after each knot, watching your "ball" grow by wrapping around itself.
  • If you wish, take a little extra care on the final layers to position the fabric for an attractive finish.  You can tie hems together or separately if/as needed to wrap the final ball.
  • You can leave a few tempting ends for your pampered pup to carry and grip, or wrap and tuck them into the toy, as shown, to make a tidy ball.  These will inevitably be pulled out during play, but are easy to tuck back in again if you wish.

The T-Shirt Stick Tug

This is a variation on our favourite square knot tug toy.  Since I had large t-shirts to work with, I used the hems as big uncut loops instead of strips.  Unlike basic t-shirt fabric strips, these wide strips of hem were very durable (surprisingly so) and this was a great way to give the scraps a second useful purpose.  Although the ball may be better for some of you, for my dogs and our style of play, this was a better option for using my hems.



  • Gather your hem loops and use one to tie the bundle together (I used green - see above) and create a starting point for weaving/knotting the toy.
  • Spread your hem loops from the starting knot and arrange them into four groups in a cross shape.  I was using eight hems, so there are two left, two top, two right, two bottom.
  • Knot using a "box weave" aka "square knot" or "box braid" as shown above and detailed below:
  1. Spread the strips in a cross (+) shape 
  2. Fold the top of the vertical strip towards the bottom
  3. Fold the bottom of the vertical strip towards the top
  4. Fold the right end of the horizontal strip towards the left, passing over then under
  5. Fold the left end of the horizontal strip towards the right, passing over then under
  6. Pull to secure.  The stands should now look like a woven square.
  • After the first square knot, flip so that this shows as your "pretty" starting end, then continue weaving from the other side.  Unlike the ball, you do not flip - simply continue weaving until you approach the end of your hem loops.
  • Even if your starting shirts were the same size, you may find that you start to "run out" of knotting space on some before others. If this happens to you, you can continue with the remainder (try to capture any shirt ends inside the toy) until you can no longer weave.
  • Tuck the end loops back into the toy, as shown.  These will inevitably be pulled out during play, but are easy to tuck back in again if you wish.

Remember, toys are for supervised interactive play. Know your dog before giving him or her any new toy. Some dogs would rather eat their toys (whether store bought or handmade), and that's dangerous. Toys are for playing and playtime is safer (and more fun!) with you involved.  You can read more about dog toy safety here.