Homemade Foxtail-type Toy




About: I got an old sewing machine when I was just a kid, and I've been hooked on making stuff ever since. My name is Sam and I'm a community manager here at Instructables.

This is a fairly simple way to reuse an old tennis ball to make a fun and entertaining toy. If you've never played with a Foxtail, they are surprisingly fun. They're great for playing games like 500 and Flyer's Up, and dogs just love them. If you aren't the maker type, you can buy one here:


...Or you could make one yourself!

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: What You'll Need

An old tennis ball
Some scrap fabric (preferably lightweight nylon)
Sewing machine
Dental floss
Sewing needle
Needle-nose pliers (maybe)

Step 2: Cut the Fabric for Tail

You need a 30-inch long piece of fabric that is 9 inches wide on one end, which tapers (on center) to 2 inches at the other end.

I sewed various pieces of scrap fabric together so there were three separate sections, and then trimmed the whole thing to the right dimensions. (An easier way would be to just use one whole piece of fabric to begin with.)

Having sections in the tail with varying colors is nice if you plan to play a game like 500, because it allows for different point values based on where you catch the foxtail. For example, catching the ball itself is worth 25 points, the first section is worth 50, the second section is worth 75, and smallest tail section is worth 100. (I recommend this point value arrangement, as the farther from the ball you try to catch it, the more difficult it is.)

("500" is a game where one person throws (or bats) a ball to a group of people, and individuals try to catch the ball in order to get a specified amount of points. The first one to reach 500 points becomes the thrower, and everyone else's points go back to zero. That's the basics--there are lots of variations.)

Step 3: Sew the Tail

Fold your triangular piece of fabric in half lengthwise, and with a 3/8" seam allowance sew it closed along the long side, and across the short, narrow tip of the tail. (Don't sew the wide end shut!)

(You may notice that your piece of fabric is now a right triangle. If you're worried that it will sit crooked on your tennis ball, you can trim off a little from the open end to make it into a nice isosceles triangle (picture 2). Otherwise, don't worry about it. It won't make much difference anyway.)

Now fold the tail right-side out.

Step 4: Insert Tennis Ball Into Tail Section

You now need to place the tennis ball into the opening of the tail. This might be a little tricky, but you'll get it.

On the open end of the tail, fold the top inch or so down into the tail section, and gently place the ball into the opening. Carefully pull the fabric up over the tennis ball a little at a time, working your way around the ball. It should be nice and snug. You don't want the tail to cover up more than about half of the tennis ball.

Step 5: Stitch the Tail to the Tennis Ball

Dental floss works great for things like this. It's super strong, and the waxiness makes it so it doesn't unravel easily. You should use about 30 inches of floss, placed through the needle with the two ends tied evenly, so it's doubled up.

You will want to use a strong needle, and perhaps a pair of needle-nose pliers to help push an pull the needle. Make sure to stitch through just a little bit of the tennis ball felt with each stitch. Don't puncture the tennis ball with the needle. That's not the intention here!

In picture 1, you can see that the tip of my needle is slightly bent. This makes things a little easier, so you may want to use those pliers to give your needle tip a little bend.

Picture 2 shows a good way to tie off the first stitch so the thread will never pull through and begin to unravel. Stitch your way around the tennis ball, tie it off really well, and you're done.

That's it! Go outside, swing it around a couple of times, and let her rip!

(Be sure to let me know what you think!)

Be the First to Share


    • CNC Contest

      CNC Contest
    • Teacher Contest

      Teacher Contest
    • Maps Challenge

      Maps Challenge

    19 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    My Nanna helped me make one from an old sock and a tennis ball for our Border Collie when I was little... We just put the ball into the sock, tied a knot, and done! It's still going strong after 13 years and gets a good distance on it :) The no-sew version :D


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for this! I have a Dane/Shepherd who loves to play fetch, but since *cough*thesamedog*cough* tore my rotator cuff on my throwing arm, I suck at it. I bet I could get this going, though. Awesome.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I have a pit bull
    and a husky
    and a german shepard
    and a puppy

    yeah these are great X3

    (fetch if u havent figured it out


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    You get the very skinnny bit of material, spin it around like a sling, then let go to see it go flyyyyyyyyiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing. It goes really far and is really fun if you got a nice big oval to play on.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I just made one and have two more in the works... I tossed it about a bit last night and I cant wait to take it to the lake to play with.
    I am also including it in a Christmas gift since our family agreed to hand make gifts for our Christmas gift exchange so keep an eye out for my Instructable on a huge toss game mash-up...


    9 years ago on Introduction

    This reminds me of these weapons that the bad guys used in a book in the Redwall series.  They were called fire swingers.  They wrapped a rock in grass and whatnot,  tied it to a rope, soaked it in oil,  and lit it up!  The reason this 'ible reminded me of it was that they would swing it around and around and let go to light the place on fire, kind of like this, except you probably won't use these for lighting places on fire.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    this is asome my friend had one a couple yaers ago and it rippen and we couldn't them in the stores so no i can make one YAY!!!!!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    awwww shweet! these are just like little kids practice poi! but i geuss you can throw them and make the look cool as well.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I love playing with Foxtails! Great fun indeed.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    AWESOME!! the Intro picture deserves a "Feature" let alone the actually write-up. Well done, I am definitely making some of these!!

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I second that - perfect featureable!

    I'd like to note that tennis balls are pressurized, so puncturing all the way to the center *could* be a bad thing, but in this case its just being used as 'weight' for foxtail games. If you want to retain a lot of the bounce of the tennis ball, make sure you only go partway into the rubber of the ball!

    5* from me.