Introduction: Crochet a Tough Dog Tug Toy From Old Socks
If you have a dog who loves to play tug and a pile of old, holey socks lying around the house, then this Instructable is for you! It turns out that you can cut old socks up and turn them into something resembling thick yarn. This yarn — which I refer to as “sarn” (from sock yarn) — can be used to crochet or knit something bulky and durable.
I decided to make some sarn into a monkey tug toy for my dogs because they love playing tug but easily destroy most of the toys we give them. (And what dog doesn't want to beat up a dumb-looking monkey?) The length of the arms and legs of the monkey design are as long as our longest tug rope (about 1.5 meters, or 5 feet, when stretched), so it gives both dogs (and humans) plenty of room to be on any of the tugging ends. It’s held up pretty well against our dogs so far, and is easy to repair.
As a side note, I’ve previously used sarn to crochet a dog sweater. (I got the idea originally from people making yarn from cut-up plastic bags, called “plarn.”) But other than that project and this one, I’ve never seen anybody attempt to make yarn from socks — I’m doing this new Instructable in the hopes that it’ll catch on! It seems to work pretty well as a readily-available, "green," tough, yarn substitute.
Step 1: Materials You’ll Need
You’ll need the items pictured above to make your own sarn-based dog tug toy:
- Old socks. I used about 35 socks (most with small holes) to make the rather large, monkey tug toy. It was a mix of men’s and women’s. One of these socks, unstretched, roughly made abuot 135 cm (53 inches) of yarn/sarn.
- Large crochet hook. I used a Q/16 mm — you could try something bigger, but this is the smallest size I’d recommend. I got mine through Amazon.com.
- Ruler or tape measure
- Red thread and a sewing needle. This is for attaching the mouth.
- A friend to help you cut up some old socks! This is optional, but it really helps.
A dog, or a couple of dogs, who love to play tug!
Step 2: Sorting the Socks
If you want to create balls of sarn that are each a different, individual color, first sort the socks based on color. That said, you could also mix the colors to make multi-colored balls of sarn, which can be fun for a dog toy too!
If you want certain parts of the monkey to be a certain color, then you can plan ahead to do that. I basically used the color I had the most socks of (black) for the legs/arms because those body parts took up the most sarn. I then used blue for the torso and eyes, red for the head and mouth, white for the face, ears, hands, and feet, and beige for the nose. A lot of the color decisions came down to how much I had of each different color.
Step 3: Preparing the Socks
Next cut up all of those socks. Laying a sock flat, stretched out from left to right, cut it vertically into pieces that are each about 2 cm (nearly 1 inch) wide. If you want the tug toy to withstand a lot of abuse, be sure not to make the pieces be less wide than 2 cm — it might be good to even make them a little wider, such as about 2.5 to 3 cm.
It’s important to make each piece be a complete loop, so if you have any holes in the socks, keep this in mind as you cut them up — I just worked around any holes and it worked out well.
Note: Cutting up socks can be messy — they can leave many small pieces behind! Because of this I recommend preparing the pieces on a surface that can be easily vacuumed or swept. I also recommend continually shaking out the pieces as you make them so that they shed less and less as you go on.
Step 4: Chaining Together the Sock Pieces to Make “Sarn”
To turn the sock loop pieces into sarn, take two loops, put one loop inside of the other, and then intertwine them. Gently pull on the ends (of the two different loops) to pull and knot them tightly together. See the pictures for guidance.
Make strands of sarn by repeating this process and making long chains of the loop pieces, adding one loop on at a time. For me, one adult’s sock made about 135 cm (or 53 inches) of sarn, but it depends on the sock size and how exactly the sock is cut. If you want each ball to be a different color, then just use loops of the same color for each chain, but if you want a multi-colored ball, just mix together the loops as you make the strand.
Note: A great feature of sarn is that it’s modular, meaning that you can easily take off, or add, a sarn loop anywhere in a chain. So, instead of cutting them up to end a thread, as you’d do with real yarn, you can just undo the knot at the end of a loop to disconnect it from the rest of the chain.
Step 5: Making the Arms and Legs
You’ll be making two long ropes for the arms and legs. Both arms will be made up from one rope, and both legs will be made up from the other rope. The arms and legs are the core part of the tug toy. I basically wanted tug ropes that were about 1.5 meters (or 5 feet) long total, since this is the length of our favorite tug rope, so I made the ropes of the arms and legs a little shorter (1.2 meters, or 4 feet) since I planned on adding hands/feet later.
Pick which sarn you want to use for the arms and legs. (I’d recommend selecting whatever you have the most of, which is what I did.) Then make a chain that is about 1.2 meters (or 4 feet) long. (How many stitches this is will depend on how thick your sarn is.)
To make a chain (which is shown in the pictures using beige sarn), do the following:
- Make a slipknot from the end of a strand of sarn.
- Put the slipknot on the hook and pull the slipknot a little tight (but not too tight!).
- Pull the sarn over the tip of the hook (going in a clockwise direction).
- Pull the hook down through the slipknot so that the sarn you just placed on it is pulled down through the slipknot. The slipknot should slide off of the hook, and you should be left with the “new” sarn on the hook.
Once your chain is about 1.2 meters long, turn back around on the chain and do a round of single crochets (into the chain stitches) going back to the beginning of the chain. (This will make the rope be a lot more durable than just a single row of chains.)
To make a single crochet (which is shown in the pictures using black sarn), do the following:
- Put the hook into the chain.
- Pull the sarn over the tip of the hook (clockwise).
- Pull the hook back through one of the chains that was on the hook. You should have two chains remaining on the hook.
- Pull the sarn over the tip of the hook again (clockwise).
- This time pull the hook back through both of the chains that were on the hook. You should end up with only the new sarn on the hook.
Repeat this step so that you end up with two ropes that are about 1.2 meters long each, and each are made up of a row of chains and single crochets stitched together.
Tip: If you are new to crochet, you may want to practice with some normal, non-bulky yarn first. It can be tricky to get the hang of bulky yarn, but once you get it it’s great because it crockets up fast and the bumps help hide any little mistakes!
Step 6: Making the Torso and Attaching the Arms and Legs
Next you can make the monkey’s torso and attach the legs and arms as you crochet the torso. The torso is basically an elongated sphere (and it’s super durable). You’ll need a lot of sarn, but not as much as you needed for the arms/legs – I ended up using blue because I had a lot of it and it was pretty.
Starting the torso
Start the torso by chaining two stitches. Then single crochet 6 stitches into the 1st chain you made. (See step 5 for how to do chain and single crochet stitches.) You should end up with a circle with 6 stitches going around the rim. (Use a paperclip or something to mark the last stitch of the round.) Next, in the next round do 2 single crochet stitches into each of the 6 stitches, so you end up with 12 stitches. See the picture. It will basically look like a small empty hemisphere, or a bird’s nest.
Adding the legs
In the next round, you will add the legs. To do this, start by placing one of the leg/arm ropes you made (in step 5) right in front of the hook, covering the next stitch. Then do a single crochet stitch over the rope, skipping the stitch that’s right in front of the hook. Do 4 single crochets into the stitch that’s right past the rope. See the pictures for details.
Then do 2 single crochet stitches into each stitch going around the circle. When you reach the point on the circle that’s directly across from where you crocheted over the rope, place the other part of the rope there and crochet over it as you did before. See the pictures for details. Again, do 4 single crochets into the stitch right past the rope (skipping the stitch the rope blocks), then continue doing 2 single crochet stitches into each stitch until you finish the round. You should now have 24 stitches total.
Continuing the torso
For the next round, do a round entirely of 1 single crochet stitch into each stitch. (You will still have 24 stitches by the end.)
For the round after that, do a round entirely of single crochet decrease stitches. You will end up with 12 stitches by the end.
To make a single crochet decrease (which is shown in the pictures), do the following:
- Put the hook into the desired stitch.
- Pull the sarn over the tip of the hook (clockwise).
- Pull the hook back through only the first stitch that was on the hook. (This means you should have one stitch and a loop from the “new” sarn still on your hook.)
- Put the hook into the next stitch.
- Pull the sarn over the tip of the hook (clockwise).
- Pull the hook back through all three loops that are on the hook. You should end up with only the new sarn on the hook.
Adding the arms
In the next round, you will add the arms. To do this, start by placing the remaining leg/arm rope you made (in step 5) right in front of the hook, covering the next stitch. Then skip the stitch that’s right in front of the hook, and do a single crochet decrease into the next stitch, stitching over the rope. Continue doing single crochet decrease stitches around until you reach the point directly across from where you crocheted over the first arm – at that point, place the other part of the rope there and crochet over it as you did before. See the pictures for details. Continue doing single crochet decrease stitches until you finish the round. You should now have 6 stitches total.
Do one more round of single crochet stitches to make a sort of neck. Leave a somewhat long tail to help you attach the head to the torso later.
Knotting the arms and legs
Lastly, make a knot in each arm and leg, about half-way along the arm/leg. This will prevent the arm/leg from sliding through the torso when it gets pulled from any direction a lot.
Step 7: Making and Attaching the Hands and Feet
Making the hands and feet is super easy. For each hand and foot, make a chain 10 stitches long. (See step 5 for how to make chains.) Loop it over on itself and attach both ends to the end of the arms/legs using slip knots and regular knots. Make sure it’s secure. These loops are great to hold on to while playing tug.
Step 8: Making and Attaching the Tail
The tail is similar to the arms/legs ropes, but shorter. So, to make the tail, repeat step 5, but only make the initial chain be about 30 centimeters (or 1 foot) long. Attach the tail to the bottom back of the torso (the top is the open end, where the head will go – you can decide where the front/back is). Attach it like you did with the hands/feet, by weaving in the ends and making slip knots and regular knots. Make sure it’s secure.
Step 9: Making the Head
Making the head is similar to making the torso but smaller and more spherical. (I recommend doing a darker color for the head, and then a lighter color for the face, since this is often how monkeys look – I used red sarn for the head and white sarn for the face.)
Start the head by chaining two stitches. Then single crochet 6 stitches into the 1st chain. In the next round do 2 single crochet stitches into each of the 6 stitches, making 12 stitches total. (See step 5 for how to do single crochet stitches.) Lastly, do a round of single crochet decrease stitches so you end up with 6 stitches. (See step 6 for how to do single crochet decrease stitches.) Leave a long tail for attaching the head to the torso.
Step 10: Making and Attaching the Face and Ears
Make the face by doing 2 chain stitches, and then making 6 single crochet stitches into the 1st chain stitch (just as you did for making the head in step 9 and starting the torso in step 6). Then that’s it – the base of the face is ready for you to add eyes, nose, and a mouth. It should be about the same diameter as the head – see the pictures. (I recommend doing a lighter color for the face and a darker color for the head.)
To make the nose, take a single sock loop in the color you want for the nose, make a knot at one end of the loop, stitch the other end of the loop through the middle of the face (there should be a small hole in the center), and then make a knot with the loop on the other side. The loop will be stuck in place due to the knots on either end of it.
Make the eyes as you did for the nose. Pick two loops in the color you want and attach them to the face by first knotting one end, then sticking the loop through the face, and finally knotting the other end. See the pictures. I managed to make pretty decent eyebrows by placing the eye loops around the top of the face this way.
For the mouth I kind of cheated and sewed it on – I couldn’t think of a better way to attach it in the position I wanted. I took a single sock loop (in red) and sewed it on to the face partly open, giving the monkey a surprised, open-mouth look.
Attaching the face to the head
Use an end from the face to go around and sew the face onto the front of the head (the small opening will be attached to the neck/torso). The sewing sarn will blend right in with the face itself. Make sure the face is securely attached.
For each ear, make 3 chain stitches, loop it over on itself, and attach the ends to the head (as you did for the hands/feet in step 7). For positioning, I think it’s best to attach them mostly to the right/left of the face, on the head part itself – don’t attach them too far up on the head. Tie the ends together inside the head to attach the ears.
Attaching the head to the torso
Once everything’s on the head, attach it (by its opening) to the torso (by the opening on the neck). To do this, I recommend knotting the loose ends together and using one of them to sew the head/torso together, as you did with the face/head. Make sure the head is securely attached!
Step 11: Play Some Tug!
When it’s all done, admire the dumb-looking monkey you made and play some tug! Grab a dog or two… or three… and have some fun beating up the monkey! It was automatically our dogs' favorite toy.
From one hand/foot to another, the ropes are about 1.5 meters (5 feet) long, so there’s plenty of tugging space on the rope for others to join in!