Monday, 10 June 2019
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FAQs, Tips, and Troubleshooting: DIY Fleece Tug Toy Sizes

Strips of purple and green polar fleece on a cutting matt for making dog tug toys

We love hearing from our readers! Over the years, we've gotten some great questions, comments, and requests. We've been creating some special posts around the queries we see most often here, on social media, and via email. Our first FAQ mini-series topic looks at one of the most popular topics here on the blog, and that's making fleece tug toys.  The four-part tug toy special includes choosing and using fleece for DIY tug toyscommon weaving pattern problems, starting and finishing knots for tug ends, and today's final instalment on tug toy strips and finished toy size.

When we share a toy idea, the post and accompanying photos may include indicative measurements for the toy made and photographed for the post, but we don't specify the exact sizes for materials or the finished toy. Instead, our toys include a note that you should scale the toy larger/smaller to suit your dog and, in the case of tug toys, the size of fleece you have available.

Size can be deceptively tricky. How long and wide a finished toy will be for a length/width of strips can vary quite a bit depending on the style of the weave, the weight of fleece you use, and how tight you make each knot. Not to worry - you will very quickly get the hang of visualising and estimating size once you've tried a weave or two!

To create a longer tug toy with fleece, you need to start with longer strips, but also account for how quickly that length will be consumed as the layers of the toy are woven. The thicker/fatter the finished toy, the shorter it will be for a given length of fleece. Starting/finishing knots also require a portion of the length. Unless you are buying a substantial quantity of fleece, you find yourself length limited by your materials. Check out our detailed post on choosing fleece for tips on using the on-bolt width of the material to create a starter stash of fleece. Of course, you can always buy longer lengths too, if you wish.

To create a thicker/fatter tug toy with fleece, you can choose a pattern/style that includes additional strips (e.g. a double twisted spiral will naturally be thicker than a single spiral), moderate tightness, use heavy weight fleece, widen the strips for additional bulk in each layer, and/or double-up the strips for additional bulk in each layer. Let's take a closer look at bulking with wider or doubled strips.

With a soft pliable material like fleece, it is possible to use very wide strips without the bunching issues that you'd struggle with during weaving and/or see in the finished pattern with some other materials. Once knotted, wrinkles and folds in fuzzy fleece sort of disappear into the coloured fluff. Handy! That said, depending on the pattern and your preferences, using doubled-up strips may be preferable to single double-wide strips. The smaller strips can be helpful for creating a neater pattern, concealed knots, end knotting, and/or offer greater flexibility in converting the finished toy into fancy shapes (e.g. cinching like in our candy cane, hidden transitions like in our birthday candle, joining ends like in our wreath, etc.)

Side-by-side demonstration of how strip size and strip layering can create a thicker DIY dog tug toy

The collage above shows a side-by-side comparison test for a circle/spiral twist tug toy woven using doubled-up strips vs. single double-wide strips. Because these are the things we do for you, our lovely readers! Plus Humphrey and his furfriends are always pleased to have a few new toys for their toyboxes. :)
  • Cutting four double-wide strips is easier than cutting eight strips to use in pairs. Cutting fleece for tugs isn't onerous since they don't need to be perfect cuts, but prep for doubling up does require double the effort.
  • For both, the starting and end knots looked overly bulky in my usually preferred all-strand overhand knot so I opted to use a modified one strand end knot (there is a comparison photo of both knots in the preceding end knot FAQ post). The end knots tied with the narrow strand are slightly more compact on detailed inspection, but not a significant factor between the two strip options.
  • For both, weaving was straightforward. It is slightly more effort at the start to arrange the doubled-up strips. Once weaving is started and in full swing, the additional coordination is negligible, but single strips are easier.  
  • The finished tugs are almost identical. They are the same size and there is no significant pattern difference. The only notable variations are is at the ends, where the doubled-up strands have a fluffier eight-piece "tassel" of strand ends. Also, if looking very closely, the transition layer isn't quite as small and tight from end knot to tug for the double-wide strands, but not so much so that one would ever really notice if this wasn't for a comparison.

The verdict? Unless you are creating a special design, the decision to double-up vs. widen the strips is mostly about personal preference. The weaving effort and visual results are similar. Doubling up requires a little extra prepwork and coordination, but it can be helpful for a tidier pattern and/or when making special shapes. Bonus points are awarded from Humphrey for the extra tassel ends. I'm happy to widen up to a point, but I usually just double up; however, I'm also very comfortable with cutting and weaving control. 

Inspecting a doubled tug vs. a single strand spiral, as shown in the photo below (woven from shorter strands to create a skinny twin for the photo), you can see the difference that the doubled or double-wide strands can make to a toy. The tug is twice as fat, but on closer inspection you can also see that each visible "bump" of the weave on the exterior is slightly bigger. This creates a pattern that is enlarged in width but also in length, with fewer rotations of the spiral in the same length. Not an issue for most designs, but worthwhile understanding all the same.

Side-by-side examples of different sized woven fleece dog tug toys

Safety first, furfriends! Remember, no matter what a toy is made of or how it's made, toys are meant for supervised interactive play. Know your dog before giving him/her any new toy. Some dogs try to eat toys/parts (whether bought or handmade) and that's dangerous. Toys are for playing, and playtime is always safer (and more fun!) with you involved. You can read more on our dog toy safety page, including tips and some helpful links for safer playtime. Have fun and play safe!

Looking for more? Explore the DIY Fleece Tug Toy FAQs, Tips, and Troubleshooting Mini-Series: 

Ready to try making tug toys? We have lots of ideas and inspiration in our archives! If you are a beginner weaver, the easiest place to start is probably with a square/box knot tug toy and then move up to a circle/spiral twist tug toy (I'd recommend learning the corner-to-corner circle twist method for spirals so it's easier to advance to other methods later, if you wish). If you're already into weaving, boondoggle, or macrame then many of these weaves can be adapted for toys, like our fat cobra knot dog tug toy. For added safety, I prefer using weaves that involve some form of knotting over braiding or free looping when making tugs for my pets. You can explore all of our toys using the DIY Dog Toy page or hop straight in via the linked post labels in the footer below.

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