How to make your own t-shirt dog toy

Your dog will adore this upcycled toy made from your old clothes. It’s a fabulous way of extending the life of an old t-shirt that in the best case scenario might end up as an industrial rag or be shipped overseas, and in the worst, will go to landfill.

I’ve made several of these for my dog Maya and they have all lasted well despite her vigorous play and the many adventures she has taken them on.

Fashion waste

Fashion waste is thought to be the fastest growing household waste in Australia with $500 million worth of clothing being taken to landfill in 2013. Imagine the impact if each of us both reduced our consumption of new clothing and upcycled our old clothes.


One single t-shirt takes 2700 litres of water to produce which is particularly significant given that only one percent of the world’s water supplies are clean and accessible. Farming used for cotton production is extremely energy and chemically intense, and takes up agricultural land that could alternatively be used to produce food for local communities.

Donating to charities

If clothing items are unsuitable the charity incurs a disposal cost in taking them to landfill. Some charities sell on some clean and absorbent textiles for industrial rags and other textile by-products but you will need to check with the individual charities before donating.


Upcycling is a great way of prolonging the life of textiles by giving them a whole new purpose and delaying their trip to landfill. While it doesn’t solve the problem of textile waste, it does reduce the volume of materials needed for making new products. The process also gives us some time to think about the waste we are producing instead of simply placing it in a charity bin and walking away.

Making your upcycled t-shirt toy

These are really easy and quick to make. You can also use flannette from old pyjamas, fabric from tracksuit pants and tops, and even denim. I usually start by placing the knot between my knees.

Step 1: Find two old t-shirts. While there will be enough fabric in a t-shirt for an entire toy, a contrasting colour looks great. And this way you can also give one away to your dog’s best pal.

Cut four lengths of fabric from the t-shirts that are approximately equal in width and length. Do this by cutting across the t-shirt horizontally. Cut in a spiral if you need some extra length.

Depending upon what has been available to me I’ve made some quite small toys and also some chunkier ones that would suit a larger dog.


Step 2: Lay the lengths out on a table and tie a secure knot at the end.

Step 3: Position the knot in the middle of the table with the strips coming out into the shape of a cross.

Step 4: Pick up strips A and C and create a loop with each before taking them to opposite ends of the table.

Next gently pick up the two loops with your hand. Trust me, once you’ve done a couple of knot layers it’s a cinch!

Step 5: Wrap B over C then under A.

Step 6: Pick up D, wrap it over A, then under the loop made by C.

Step 7: You’ve now completed your first knot layer. Pull each strip to tighten it and make it neat and even.

Step 8: Continue creating the next knot layer by taking two opposite strips to opposite ends, then thread the remaining two strips over and under. Alternate between using the two different colours to start the layer.

Give to your furry friend and enjoy a game of fetch or catch. Maya also likes to take hers to bed and snug up to it. I think she might find it comforting because it smell like me.

Have you made an upcycled toy for your dog? If so, post a picture below.

Read this next:

Make Your Own T-shirt Yarn




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