Friday, 9 December 2016

DIY Woven Fleece Christmas Candy Cane Dog Tug Toy

Calorie free candy cane tug toy fun! Why not work off some of those holiday goodies with a little festive playtime together? This candy cane tug toy is made using a twisted box knot weave to create it's pretty diagonal strips along with a sneaky hidden extra to create it's classic candy cane curve. Here's how to make your own!

The materials and craft supplies used in making the tug toy shown are:
Caution: This project is not recommended for beginner weavers. It can be tricky to gauge the scale if you're unfamiliar with making tugs and you will need to manipulate both the starting point and shape of the tug, as well as weave a basic box knot and either the twisted box weaving method or the circle twist weaving method to give candy cane its diagonal colour banding. Beginners might prefer starting with a simple festive coloured tug to get comfy with the techniques before experimenting with some of our crazier projects. :)

The body of this candy cane toy is made by joining long narrow fleece strips at one end, and then flipping to weave back over the starting point concealing the knotted end inside the woven tug.  If I was weaving a square tug with a basic box knot instead of a spiral, I'd use a temporary knot and weave in both directions instead (like I do when making loops), but to do this with a spiral you'd need to switch weaving directions to make both sides match. I'm a uni-directional girl and I'd rather have the much simpler hassle of tucking away a starting knot instead. 

Prep Option 1 (as shown for a large tug): Prepare for weaving eight long narrow strips of fleece in four sets of doubled-up strips (two strips of the same colour in each per strand for thickness).
Tip: I find that doubling up is often a better way to add bulk to woven toys than just using wider strips, which can be rather bunchy to work with and may detract from the shape/style of the weave.  The narrower doubled strips toy allow me to create a nice fat tug, but also create a neat and narrow spiral of colours for the classic candy cane look. The doubled strands also offer more options cinching up the tug into a curved cane (details below).
  • Cut eight long strips of fleece (four red, four white) for the tug, one extra medium strip of white, and (the bow is optional, but cute!) a shorter length of green for the bow. Length and width are at your discretion to scale the toy for your pet. 
  • Starting with your long candy cane strips, tie them together in a small tight knot (you will be hiding this knot inside) close to one end. See tips below. 
  • Using a basic box weave create a single box knot as follows:
    1. Spread the working strands in a cross (+) shape (red and white opposite), noting that the there are two pieces of fleece in each working strand (double thickness). 
    2. Fold the top of the vertical strands towards the bottom
    3. Fold the bottom of the vertical strands towards the top
    4. Fold the right end of the horizontal strands towards the left, passing over then under
    5. Fold the left end of the horizontal stands towards the right, passing over then under
    6. Pull to secure.
  • Flip so that this box knot will show at the end of your tug (the end of your candy cane).  
  • Your starting knot will be hidden inside the body for the tug as you continue to weave, so trim excess from the knotted ends, if needed, to make it easier to tuck/hide inside. 
Tips:  This approach requires a little extra effort to join the strips and conceal the knot, but allowed me to make this style of tug in a size suitable for my dogs without buying a gigantic length of fleece.  Your initial knot to join the strips needs to be as small as possible and is not integral to the toy once weaving progresses; however, it's key to holding things together in the early stages.  Ugly knots are a-ok - it will be hidden. :) If you are having difficulty making a small enough knot to hide, you can try making the starting knot temporary, repeat the box knot for added security, and then undo/trim the temporary knot.
Alternative Prep Option 2: As above, but with just a single strip per working strand, instead of doubling for extra thickness as per the toy shown.

Alternative Prep Option 3: Prepare for weaving from the midpoint of two very long strips (or four if you prefer to weave in pairs double the thickness for a bulkier toy) instead of joining separate strips. Our birthday candle tug toy uses this method.  As noted above, this requires either making a smaller toy with narrow long strips in order to get sufficient length to form a cane or starting with a very big piece of fleece to cut very long strips.

Weaving the spiral stick tug for the Candy Cane:  Once you've prepared your starting point with one of the methods above, the process for weaving the tug is a standard four working stands (either single or double layered strips) spiral weave, to give candy cane its diagonal colour banding. You can do this using the twisted box weaving method or the circle twist weaving method, both of which work the same for four-strand tugs.
Tip: Detailed instructions and diagrams for the spiral weaving methods are available in the linked posts for reference if/as needed when weaving the tug. 
  • Resume knotting from the other side of your flipped starting knot, using the twisted box weaving method or the circle twist weaving method, which work the same for four-strand tugs, to give candy cane its diagonal colour banding. 
  • Weave until you are approximately 1/3 of the way through, the pause for the step below. 
  • Take your extra strip of white, tuck it under/through your working weave and then tie one end to secure the strand inside the tug. Ensure the long end of this extra strip is kept free (remains loose outside the tug at this stage) and that the tied end/knot (trim if needed) is hidden inside as you continue weaving the spiral tug, per below.
  • Resume the twisted box weaving method or the circle twist weaving method and continue weaving until you can no longer knot any further. 
  • Cut/tuck the ends to create a neatly finished end. 

Shaping and Finishing the Candy Cane: To give our spiral tug a classic cane shape, we use that extra strip of white tied in during weaving to cinch one side of the tug (the inside of the curve) tighter, creating a curve. 
  • Cinching a curve: Take the loose extra white strip and begin to carefully tuck it under/through what will become the hook of your candy cane.  Pull to incrementally tighten the curve as you weave the strand through the tug, and loop/knot periodically if/as needed to ensure the cinching strand stays secure. Work carefully to cinch and constrict only the part of the tug which will become the inside curve of your ended cane, going back and forth as needed until the curve is shaped and relatively secure. Try, as best you can, that the extra knotting blends into your candy cane stripes. The tug will enviably loosen with stretchy play, but this additional knotting cinches the cane into a nice firm pretty hooked least until playtime begins! Once you're happy with the curve, you can trim and tuck any excess to hide the end of cinching strand.
  • Adding a bow: If adding the optional bow, slip your  green strand through the middle of your cane where you'd like to place the bow.  Knot it securely in front, flip and knot at the back (a little extra security), then flip and knot again at the front. Tie into a bow. Trim to even the ends, if needed.

Remember, this toy is for supervised interactive play.  Know your dog before giving him or her any new toy. Some dogs would rather eat their toys (whether store bought or handmade), and that's dangerous. Toys are for playing and playtime is safer (and more fun!) with you involved.  You can read more about dog toy safety here.

We have a Christmas post for you every weekday between now and the start of our offline holidays, with toys, decorations, treats, and more so stay tuned!  Have a pawesome weekend and we'll see you again on Monday, furfriends!


  1. I am totally confused. The instructions say to use 8 strands - 4 white, 4 red, but from there on all your directions I can find on either the basic or the twisted box refer only to 4 strands in total. What are we supposed to be doing with the extra four strands?

    Also, you first say to knot the eight strands tightly together, which I did using a slip knot as per your previous projects. (With the 8 strands, this makes for a pretty bulky knot to be tucking inside, BTW) But two bullet points later, you talk about the basic box knot being “the first knot.” Do you mean the first knot of the weave, after first securing the bundle with the slip knot (as in your other projects)? Or do you mean we should have used a box knot as the VERY first knot (skipping the slip knot in this case)? In which case, how does this hold together - mine keeps falling apart?

    Finally, could you please supply a bit more detail on how to use the extra white strip to create the hook in the cane? I get you’re supposed to “tuck it” in and out on the bottom side of what will become (in theory) the hook, but I seem to be missing the step that makes this a hook, instead of an extra bit of bulk on a straight stick.

    BTW, I find your graphic gray-scale drawings of the procedures extremely helpful and really missed them in this post. To me, they are way clearer and easier to follow than the photos, which have too much going on to be able to follow what originated and ends where.

    Thanks for these posts. Fun projects!

    1. Hi there! I'm very sorry that the candy cane is giving you trouble. It is definitely one of our trickier projects with joining strips for length toy, doubled thickness for a fatter toy, and manipulating the weave to shape the toy. I really appreciate the questions, and have tweaked the post a little to hopefully help others in the future.

      In order to make a big enough toy to suit my dogs for safe play, I needed to join eight long strips of fleece to create four long double-layered working strands. I've added more explanation as well as alternative options to the instructions.

      If you're working with eight pieces for the big toy, I wouldn't recommend a full eight-strand loop/slip knot - you're right - way to big to hide. A single box knot with trimmed ends won't hold (although you can try with several box knots), so you need a starting knot. Something small and ugly but functional is a-ok for making the hidden join.

      Whichever strand prep method you choose, the starting box knot that gets flipped over to the end of the cane will become the first visible knot of the woven tug, and then your spiral grows from there.

      To create the hook, you're using the extra strip to cinch together what will be the bottom (inside curve) of the hook. You need to pull the strip tight, and make sure you are incrementally cinching to tighten all along the bottom of the hook. This pulls together that side of the tug and creates the bed for the hook.

      I glad to gear that you find the diagrams handy and will definitely make sure we include those with any new weaving techniques we share in the future. Some of our toys like this one just take the methods we've already shared and manipulate the shape, but there are always links in the post out to the detailed instructions with diagrams for whatever weaving style we're using.

      Again, I really appreciate the feedback as it helps us improve the post content for you and others as well as our other/future shares. When time allows, I'll look at some of our other complex shapes to make similar adjustments were I can for clarity.

      Hope that helps! :)

  2. Thank You so much for the clarifications. I’m eager to try again this evening!

    1. My pleasure! You've set yourself a challenge for sure as this is a deceptively tricky little toy, but at the end of the day my dog's have always been just as happy to play with my ugly experimental fails as my successes! :) Good luck!

  3. Soooo want to give this a go for some gifts this coming Christmas, I've made lots of braided fleece toys but I must admit I've read and re-read the instructions and am struggling :-/ Have you ever thought about making a video for this one since it's fairly complicated? Sometimes just seeing it actually done suddenly everything makes sense, if you know what I mean Lol.

    Thanks by the way for all your freebies, toys treats etc, love love love your site :-)

    1. Hi Stephanie! I haven't made any videos for our projects (maybe someday!), sorry! I totally get what you mean, though. :)

      To create the striped candy stick you are essentially hiding the loose ends inside a standard twist/spiral tug toy. You can do this any number of ways, depending on how large a toy you want and how much fleece you have, so a few different options are noted above. To bend the stick into a curved cane, the extra piece of fleece is threaded in/out of the inside of the curve, cinching it tight as you go to make that side tighter and create a bended shape.

      The candy cane looks pawesome when freshly woven, but like most fleecey fun will stretch out over time and play, so if the cane is too tricky you can make a different fun toy in a simpler design with holiday colours. :) The dogs will be just as happy!


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