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!

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. :)
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Temporary preface: We've received lots of reader questions on this candy cane tug toy, so I decided to create some extra diagrams and photos to help explain how the toy is created/shaped. I will also be creating a FAQ/troubleshooting post on tug toys in general in the future and will link out to this when it goes live, but since Christmas is coming soon, I'm going to temporarily beef up this post with some of the added info on different weaving options and why.  To help with this, I wove three new candy canes using each of the methods below for added photos and so that you can see the difference the methods make to the shape/size of the finished tugs.  These are yellow and blue because I had ample fleece in those colours on hand...plus blue and yellow are great colours for dog vision!  See the temporary blue text at the end of the post for this additional information/photos.
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The materials and craft supplies used in making the tug toy shown are:

Weaving the tug: The body of this candy cane toy is made by weaving eight long narrow strips of fleece woven as four sets of doubled-up strips for extra thickness. If you are using an alternate prep option, as noted above, adjust your prep to suit.  The strips are joined with a small knot at one end, tied to create a pretty box knot end, and then flipping to weave back over the starting point concealing the starting knot/ends inside the woven tug. At the finishing end, the ends of the strands are trimmed and carefully tucked back into the woven tug.
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 for the cinching "lace", 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:
    • 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). 
    • Fold the top of the vertical strands towards the bottom
    • Fold the bottom of the vertical strands towards the top
    • Fold the right end of the horizontal strands towards the left, passing over then under
    • Fold the left end of the horizontal stands towards the right, passing over then under
    • Pull to secure.
  • Flip your stands over so that the box knot you just tied becomes the neat visible end of your tug. Your starting knot will be hidden inside the body for the tug as you continue to weave, so you can 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.  
Tips: Detailed instructions and diagrams for the spiral weaving methods are available in the linked posts for reference if/as needed when weaving the tug. Whichever method you choose, since this tug has no loose ends, you will need to carefully tie the first few knots to create a long enough tail to nip between you knees if that's you preferred method of holding tugs tight during weaving (it's mine!).
  • The diagram below is for a circle twist, which is woven as follows, noting that the there are two pieces of fleece in each working strand (double thickness). If your starting configuration is top strands left (as shown in the diagram) the sequence is as follows/shown. Alternatively, if your starting configuration position is top strand right, it's simply the opposite sequence.  
    • Top left is folded  to bottom right
    • Bottom right is folded to top left
    • Left bottom weaves to the top right (over then under) 
    • Right top weaves to the bottom left (over then under) 
    • Pull to secure.
    • Repeat the same sequence to weave the tug into a twisted spiral of colour.
  • Weave until you are approximately 1/3 of the way through, the pause for the step below. 
  • Take your extra strip of white (the cinching "lace"), 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.
Tip: You can add the cinching "lace" after your tug is finished, if you prefer, by looping it under the weave and tying a small knot. It's a little more visible and less secure, but work just fine if you aren't sure about placement or just want to simplify the toy making.
  • Resume weaving and continue weaving until you can no longer knot any further. 
  • Cut/tuck the ends to create a neatly finished end. 
Cinching a curve:  To give our spiral tug a classic cane shape, we use that extra strip of white (the cinching "lace") tied in during weaving to cinch one side of the tug (the inside of the curve) tighter, creating a curve. 
  • Take the "lace" 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 inevitably loosen with stretchy play, but this additional knotting cinches the cane into a nice firm pretty hooked shape...at 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!


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One of the most common questions we get on our toys is about size, especially how to create a thicker/fatter tug toy.  What length/thickness of strip to use for a desired finished size of tug can be a deceptively tricky question to answer. In reality, how long and wide a toy will be for a length/width of strips can vary quite a bit depending on weaving style (more on that below) and also how tight you make your knots and the weight of the fleece.
  • Weave securely, but don't pull too tight! How tight to make your weave (i.e. pull each knotted later) is a matter of personal preference.  I like my tugs to be firm, secure, but still a little bit of give. Whatever tightness you like to work with, try and keep it consistent for the full tug so that your tug looks uniform. 
  • Fleece comes in different weights (material thicknesses).  Heavy weights are sturdier and the thicker material will weave into a thicker tug. If your fleece is thinner or you can't get the colour you want in a heavy weight, you can add extra bulk by using thicker strands and/or (my favourite trick) doubling up your strands for weaving. More on this below..

There are several options for creating the spiral "stick" for the candy cane. Which to use depends on how long and thick you'd like you tug and the materials you're using. 
  • The pictured candy cane uses eight long strands of fleece (four pairs of two) to create a long, thick tug toy. 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. 
  • If you weave with four long strands of fleece (of identical size/width/weight), the process is exactly the same, but the tug is much skinnier (around half the diameter). 
  • Starting the weave from the middle of two very long stands of fleece is an easy and secure way to weave a blunt end, but the finished tug is only half as long so you would need a much larger piece of fleece for your strips.

Because we want our candy cane to have "stick" ends with no visible loose end pieces of fleece, we need to conceal the ends. To turn the end of any basic tug into a stick without "tassel" ends, you can:
  • Start weaving from the middle (the two strand method noted above). This is very secure, but only works for your starting end and is size limiting as noted above.
  • Start weaving from an end knot, flip, and conceal inside (the method we used for our starting end here). This is secure but only works for your starting end, and you need to make the starting knot as small/tight as possible and take your time at the beginning to conceal the end.
  • Tuck ends into the finished weave (the method used for our finishing end here). This works for any end of a tug, as you can use a temporary knot at the start of your weave. It is simple, but less secure. Ends may pull out over time with play, but can be tucked back into place. 

Shaping the straight "stick" into a curved cane shape requires using a little hidden help to pull and hold the top portion of the tug into a curved shape. In the cane shape, unlike a loop, there is nothing to hold the tug in a curve, so we are going to use a piece of fleece like a "lace" to cinch and hold the curve instead.  

When making tug toys, the simplest shapes are straight stick tugs, whether square/box knot or simple spirals with loose "tassel' ends. Easy to weave and my dogs love the ends for play. Once you are comfortable with these simpler weaving styles, you can tray a fancier straight tug, like a double spiral, or play with shapes. Straight tugs can be adapted to include loops with relative ease.  In most loop tug toys, whether just a loop or a loop with a tug tail (another favourite here), the ends are pulled together to form the loop and held in place with additional knots and/or weaving.

To give our spiral tug a classic cane shape, we need a helper to hold shape. The cane uses an extra strip of fleece in one of the tug colours so it can be better hidden within the weave of the toy as a cinching "lace".  By lacing one side of the tug tighter than the other, we can pull it into a curve shape. This will inevitably loosen with stretchy play and want to return to a straight shape, but this additional knotting cinches the cane into a nice firm pretty hooked shape...at least until playtime begins! 
  • Prepare for cinching by adding an extra piece of fleece at approximately where you would like your curve to begin. You can attach your extra strip of fleece during weaving (as shown in the original red cane) or slip it into the tug after weaving (as shown in the yellow and blue canes).
  • Take the "lace" and begin to carefully tuck it under/through what will become the curved 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 (underside) 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. 
  • Once you're happy with the curve, you can trim and tuck any excess to hide the end of cinching strand.

5 comments:

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

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    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!

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  2. 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 :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    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!

      Delete
  3. We've received lots of reader questions on this candy cane tug toy, so I decided to create some extra diagrams and photos to help explain how the toy is created/shaped. I will also be creating a FAQ/troubleshooting post on tug toys in general in the future and will link out to this when it goes live, but since Christmas is coming soon, I'm going to temporarily beef up this post with some of the added info on different weaving options and why. To help with this, I wove three new candy canes using each of the methods below for added photos and so that you can see the difference the methods make to the shape/size of the finished tugs. These are yellow and blue because I had ample fleece in those colours on hand...plus blue and yellow are great colours for dog vision! See the temporary blue text/photos at the end of the post for this additional information/photos. Hope that helps! Woofs!

    ReplyDelete

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