This post is a collaboration with our partner blog, Creativity Unmasked. To create any or all of these toys, all you need are some tatty recycle-ready jeans (give the good ones to charity and save the scrap ones for crafty projects), a pair of scissors, and a few minutes to make this quick toy. If you prefer or want a bigger length of denim than the legs of your jeans will allow, you can also buy denim material in most craft stores - keep an eye out for bargains and end-of-roll specials.
This is a partner post update on an old toy first made for Oli many years ago. I rarely use denim for any no-sew pet projects these days, preferring to work with other materials instead (check out our other DIY toy ideas). Tough denim holds up pretty well (depending on the denim and the vigor of play), but not nearly as well as some other tug toy materials in our experience; however, variety is the spice of life! No matter what your personal choice of toy(s) may be, always remember to choose based upon your particular pet, supervise carefully, and ensure safe play. Unfortunately, one of the big problems is that denim frays - sewing the edges definitely helps, but then this isn't no-sew anymore. :) Pinking helps, but just a little. As a tip for toughness, where possible, I like to use the leg seams. The strips are a little more rugged for play and hold together better. As a bonus, this is a great use for the seams if you would like to use the "good" material for other projects.
Option 1: The Denim Knot/Fist Oli is a puzzle solver who loves to undo and untie things. This was our original DIY dog toy creation, many years ago. It doesn't last long in his clever paws and teeth, but can be retied to enjoy all over again until the material becomes scrappy. Great for using your leg seams before binning. If you would like this to last longer, you will need to sew the edges of your strips as they fray quickly. You can also adapt this for use with a different less fray prone material (my preference).
- Cut two extra long (e.g. leg length) strips of denim. The width is at your discretion and you can include the seams if you wish. The strips in the toys as shown were approximately 5cm wide.
- Lay the two strips in a cross (one strip horizontal and one vertical, crossed in the middle) OR tie a knot in the middle and position the ends in a cross. You may find starting with a knot easier !
- Knot the denim using a "box weave" aka "square knot" or "box braid" as show and detailed below:
- Spread the strips in a cross (+) shape
- Fold the top of the vertical strip towards the bottom
- Fold the bottom of the vertical strip towards the top
- Fold the right end of the horizontal strip towards the left, passing over then under
- Fold the left end of the horizontal strip towards the right, passing over then under
- Pull to secure. The stands should now look like a woven square, but don't worry,it gets a little easier as the toy grows larger. Besides, your dog won't judge it on looks, just on the fun of trying to untie it!
- Flip the knot over and tidy your strands back into a neat cross (+) shape. Repeat the steps, flipping after each knot, watching your denim "ball" grow by wrapping around itself.
- If you wish, take a little extra care on the final layers to twist/flatten the denim for an attractive finish.
- You can leave a few tempting ends for your pampered pup to carry and grip, tidy them up with a straight cut (or pinking cut to reduce fraying as shown), of tuck them in completely.
Option 2: The Denim Tug Toy A jean-ious take on our popular woven fleece tug toys. A little prettier than the basic knot (at least until your dog gets his paws on it!). Great for using up long seam scraps before binning. If you would like this to last longer, you will need to sew the edges of your strips as they fray quickly. You can also adapt this for use with a different less fray prone material (like our fleece tugs).
- Cut four extra long (e.g. leg length) strips of denim OR if you want the toy to look extra neat and tidy (and/or a little fatter!), cut eight and double up the strips back-to back so that the denim appear uniform in the finished toy. The width is at your discretion and you can include the seams if you wish. The strips in the toys as shown were approximately 3cm wide and doubled.
- Tie a loop knot at on end of the strips.
- Spread the strips into a cross (+) shape and proceed to knot the denim using a "box weave" aka "square knot" or "box braid" as shown in the diagram and blue text above but do not flip - simply continue weaving until you approach the end of your strips and the tie the ends off with a loop knot.
- Leave the ends as-is or even them up with a straight cut (or pinking cut to reduce fraying as shown).
Option 3: The Denim Grenade Want to use your leftover denim strips before they hit the trash? Not interested in sewing or weaving them? Grab one of your dog's balls or squeeky toys and wrap it up. The wrapping will be short lived, but puzzle-solving pups will enjoy the challenge. Ensure you collect any loose strips immediately and either retie and start again, or scrap your scraps if/as appropriate. This toy is unsuitable for dogs that may try to eat the strips instead of claiming the prize inside.
- Cut 4+ strips of denim (the length and width are at your discretion for size/safety and will depend on what you are wrapping). The strips in the tennis-ball sized toys as shown were approximately 3-4cm wide and long enough for multiple passes around the ball. Wrap around a ball or small toy, cross at the bottom, wrap around, and cross at the top, repeating until you approach the end of your strips, then tie at the top. Repeat with additional strips until the ball is fully wrapped and tied. You can leave the ends as-is or even them up with a straight cut (or pinking cut to reduce fraying as shown).
- Alternatively, you can use a large piece of denim and wrap completely, or tuck the ball into a cut-off pocket for a simple sneaky option. These are slightly more robust options than the grenade, but you must still (always) be attentive for safety. We've also tucked a ball into the middle of the knots (Option 1) and that works nicely as a larger toy.
Remember, these toys are only for supervised interactive play. Foreign objects are hazardous if swallowed, and linear materials like fabric strips, string, thread, etc can be particular dangerous. Know your dog before giving him or her any new toy, check toys for safe condition before and during play, and always play together. Some dogs would rather eat their toys (whether store bought or handmade), and that's dangerous. Toys of any and all varieties are for playing and playtime is safer (and more fun!) with you involved. You can read more about dog toy safety here.