Friday, September 2, 2016

DIY T-Shirt Chew Necklaces & Bonus T-Shirt Bags


C is a big time chewer, the collar, sleeves and bottom of his T-shirts are riddled with holes from his enthusiastic chewing. We've tried several types of chew necklaces from Amazon.  The silicone chews we tried from Stimtastic (star, spectrum beads and blocks) were each destroyed in a matter of hours. The T Tubes, A&Z chews, and P&Q chews last a LOT longer, but they are messy (Drool streams off of the tubes as he chews), bulky and are not as enjoyable as cloth for him to chew on.  He strongly prefers to chew on cloth.  Another option is to wear Bite Bands as a necklace for chewing, but I don't like that there isn't a break away clasp if it gets caught. Also, all of these options are prohibitively expensive for every day use. C is an avid chewer and due to saliva build up, we go through 2-4 necklaces or shirts a day. In my ideal world, he'd use 4 necklaces a day and we'd have a few extra. I'd love to throw the necklaces in the laundry along with everything else we wash and not add extra duties into my already hectic life.

After a bit of experimentation, I've come up with a DIY chew necklace that I am very happy with.  It comes together fairly quickly, it soaks up a lot of saliva and it has a break away clasp that will keep him from getting caught up and choking on it.  I also find it very cost effective, I bought 50 Pop barrel clasps for about 14 dollars and 100ft Paracord for about 7 dollars. This is enough paracord and clasps to make 50 necklaces at 2 ft of paracord and one clasp per necklace.  I spent about 6 dollars on T-Shirts because I wanted to get specific colors, but you can use shirts already around the house.  If you use kid shirts, you will only get one necklace per strip, instead of two.  Cost per necklace appears to be about fifty cents.

Note: It appears I will be able to reuse the paracord with future necklaces as the ones he's currently using wear down.

Project 1: Chewy Necklace

Project time: 45 minutes

It takes me about 20-30 minutes to braid and about 10 minutes to weave the ends and add the clasp. I cut enough strands for at least 2 necklaces each time because I cut both the front and the back of the shirt.


  • Rotary Cutter (or Scissors)
  • Bodkin (or safety pin)
  • T-Shirts - Look for a thicker fabric shirt without side seams.  I used black plus the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple)
    • Each shirt was a size medium to large adult men's shirt.
    • I cut 2 loops of black, 1 loop for each of the other colors.
  • 550 Paracord
  • Pop Barrel Clasps (watch the pull weight for break away and get what makes sense for your kiddo and their age, weight and gross motor development.)

I began this project by cutting the T-shirts.  I knew I didn't want to include any printing in the chewy necklace, so I cut each T-shirt off just below the beginning of the graphics.  I saved that portion to be made into a bag (See bonus project at the end of this post). 

The T-shirts I am using are made of a single loop of fabric without a seam. I cut each of the 7 T-shirts into loops, then I cut each loop in half, making 2 strips each time I cut.  I have tried 1/2 inch, 3/4 inch and 1 inch strips.  I find I like 3/4 inch best.  At 1/2 inch, my son tends to fold the necklace in half and chew, which I suspect will decrease its life.  At 1 inch, I feel like the necklace is too bulky and noticeable.  I was going for something that didn't look like it was there just for chewing, as some of the giant letters or beads do. I also cut 2 feet of paracord for the base of the necklace.  

I have found using the rainbow really makes creating these necklaces easier to track.  On one side I have black, red, yellow, and blue.  The other holds black orange, green, and purple.  Then, when I braid, I do black, black, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, the same order as the rainbow.  I'm going to use this color scheme for the purposes of the tutorial as having all the separate colors also makes it easier to explain.

I tie the paracord to a stationary item that I can pull against.  The paracord is the core of the necklace, the t-shirt strips will completely surround it. Next I tie each strip on in a double knot, facing alternating directions.  Make sure the tail is about 2 inches long after you have tied on.  These will be covered by the braid along with the paracord.  It makes the starting end a little bulky, but is the cleanest way I have found to start.  After creating several necklaces, I decided on this route to tie on because it doesn't anchor the t-shirt braid on either side.  You can stretch it around and have it float a bit which gives you greater flexibility when tying off.  It also allows you to adjust the thickness of the braid by scrunching it closer or stretching it further apart while leaving it centered on the paracord.
  1. Black with the tail the short piece on the left (braiding portion is on the right)
  2. Black with the tail on the right
  3. Red with tail to the left 
  4. Orange with tail to the right
  5. Yellow with tail to the left
  6. Green with tail to the right
  7. Blue with tail to the left
  8. Purple with tail to the right

You are now ready to begin braiding.  Here is the video I used to come up with this necklace.  This person is making a dog's leash. For the rainbow necklace, you will start with the black strand on the right (the side with the red braiding portion).  Holding 4 strands in your left hand and 4 strands in your right, drop the black strand from your right hand and let it dangle straight down.  Bring it around behind the paracord.  It will go between the 4 strands, with black and orange above it and on top of the green and purple strands.  It will end up back in your right hand, at the bottom of the 4 colors.  As you bring it around, be sure it is covering all the t-shirt tails in addition to the paracord.  The t-shirt strands are not anchored, so you will need to be careful not to apply too much tension.  I tighten the braid strands on every 4th pass (so after orange and again after purple).  The second pass will be the black strand on the left.  Drop it so it dangles straight down, then bring it around to the right hand side and between red and yellow above it and crossing over the blue and black.  Then do the same with red, drop it straight down, bring it up between orange and green above and over the purple and black.  Then orange will drop straight down, coming up between yellow and blue above and red and black below. Each time, make sure you have continued to cover the tails from where we originally tied on.  Once you have orange back on the left, go ahead and gently tighten the weave around the tails and paracord.  By the time you've cycled through the rainbow twice, you should be past the tails and braiding should be going smoothly.  Braid until you are within 3 inches of the end of the paracord, or until you only have 2 inches of any of the braiding strands left to work with, I always end with the two black strands braided last.

Now it is time to tie off the ends.  To tie off, I cross the colored strands across the front to opposite sides (red crosses across the front from the right to the left, orange does the opposite) then I double knot them on the back side of the braid.  I tie Red to Orange, Yellow to Green, Blue to Purple, then I try to use the black to cover the other knots and tie them together as well.  It doesn't always work, but it is the best finish I've been able to come up with.  

I then use my bodkin to weave the ends back into the necklace.  I weave them through a few times, to make it as secure as possible.  

When all the ends have been woven back into the necklace, cut off the excess tail and give the braid a little tug, the ends should disappear back into the braid. After a couple of washes, I've noticed some are coming back out.  I tuck them back in with the end of the bodkin or any small blunt object (chopsticks and safety pins have also worked for me).

To add the barrel clasp, slide the paracord back off of the inner strings and trim about 1.5-2 inches of the inner 7 strands off.  Do this for both sides of the necklace.

Next, insert the paracord into the hole in the female side of the clasp.  Make sure the clasp side is facing away from the braid.  It is super frustrating to get it tied on and realize it is facing the wrong way.  On the other side of the necklace, slide the male side of the clasp on that side (again, double check that they will clasp together before tying off.  

Tie a knot in the very end of the cord on each side and pull it down through the clasp so it won't get in the way of the closure.  

Open and close the barrel clasp several times to make sure the ends are securely tied and the clasp is fairly easy to open.

Here are three necklaces, 1/2 inch strips, 3/4 inch strips and 1 inch strips.

Plus a picture of the 1.5 inch strip necklaces I made in grey and red when I was first starting out.

Here are 2 necklaces, one before washing, one after.  They clean up well and seem to do fine thrown in the laundry with everything else.

Bonus Project: T-Shirt bags

Fold the shirt in half and cut the sleeves off of the remaining portion of the T-shirt that you didn't cut off to use as chew necklace strips.

Open the shirt back up and cut out the neckline, this will be the opening of your bag, cut it as wide as you want.  The arm holes and the neckline together form the handles.  If you think the handles are too wide, you can sew the bottom of them closed a bit in the next step.

Turn the T-shirt and both sleeves inside out.  Align one of the sleeves along the bottom of the tshirt and sew a seam along that bottom.  This is where you an also sew up some of the arm holes if you want the handles smaller.  

Once you sew the bottom seam and the sleeve is secured, you can either flip the bag right side out and use it, or you can fold it up and flip the sleeve inside out, stowing the bag inside the sleeve.  I use this bag to store my necklaces currently in progress.

Take the other inside out sleeve and sew a seam along the bottom side of it.

Use a seam ripper to create two small holes on either side of the seam on the underside of the sleeve.

Use your bodkin or a safety pin to thread a strip of t-shirt material through the first hole.

Continue threading the t-shirt material through until your bodkin emerges on the other side, then pull the strand to even the drawstring out.

You now have a bag for storing your chew necklaces.

1 comment:

  1. I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to undertand. Unlike additional blogs I have read which are really not tht good. I also found your posts very interesting. In fact after reading, I had to go show it to my friend and he ejoyed it as well!
    Titanium Rings