Monday, 3 June 2019
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FAQs, Tips, and Troubleshooting: End Knots for Fleece Tugs

Side-by-side comparison of different woven fleece dog tug toy end knots

We're sharing a few special posts about some of the questions we get 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: DIY woven fleece tug toys.  We've talked about choosing and using fleece for DIY tug toys, common pattern problems, and today we're exploring options for starting and finishing the ends of woven tugs. 

Knotted DIY Dog Tug Toy Ends

Unless fancy tug designs or the size of the tog/strands warrant special handling, my go-to method for starting and ending tugs is with a simple overhand knot using all of the strands together. This is a basic stopper knot, where the strands are looped together as one (single loop using all the strands). Easy, neat, secure, and it add a nice little bump that's handy for hands/mouths during tug play.

  • All the strands are looped together at the end of the tug
  • The ends are tucked through the loop, from the body outwards.
  • The ends are pulled to tighten the loop and secure the knot around themselves.
  • Trim excess if/as needed.

Step-by-step instructions for a simple overhand end knot on fleece dog tug toy

If you are weaving a tug with lots of strands or using very wide/thick materials, you may find the overhand knot too big and clunky for the look you want in your finished tug. In this case, a looping overhand knot using one strand (or some instead of all) may be a more attractive way to style the ends of your tug. It doesn't stay quite as secure, but unlike braids, woven tugs won't unravel.

  • A single strand is chosen and circled all the way around the other ends in a big loop.
  • The free end of looped strand is tucked under itself, from the body outwards, so that it will sit with the other loose ends. 
  • With the loop kept as close as possible to the woven body, the tucked strand is pulled to tighten the loop around all the ends. 
  • You can repeat this with another strand and/or knot twice, if you wish, for added security.
  • Trim excess if/as needed.

Side-by-side comparison of a full and a single strand overhand end knot on fleece dog tug toy

If, like me, you used to make little woven bracelets when you were younger, you may be familiar with some of the weaving styles we use on fleece. The boondoggle end knotting techniques used with materials like gimp or paracord can be used with your fleece projects. Tip: If using boondoggle end knotting, I find it easiest to start off with a temporary overhand knot that I later untie, then do the both completion knots after I'm finished weaving. The finished end with a boondoggle knot is neat and tidy, and smaller than an all-strand overhand knot. You can see a side-by-side of the overhand (top) vs boondoggle (bottom) in the last photo of the collage below. Boondoggle end knotting requires less fleece for the end knots and is a slimmer finish, either/both of which can be a definite plus for some designs, but it takes more effort to correctly tie which is the main reason why I prefer to default to the simple all strand knot in most cases.

  • Start with a loose (or untied and loosened) layer at the end of your weave.
  • Take one strand and rotate it clockwise, passing under the neighbouring strand, then up through the middle of the woven end layer. 
  • Repeat incrementally until all strands have been rotated and pulled up through the middle. The last one can be a bit tricky as that last neighbouring strand has already been rotated. All the ends should now be poking out through the middle of the last layer of the weave. Double check positions before tightening.
  • Pull carefully and evenly to tighten all of the strands.
  • Trim excess if/as needed.

Step-by-step instructions for a boondoggle end knot on fleece dog tug toy

Options to Create Stick (No Tassel) Dog Tug Toy Ends

Unless I'm weaving a stick as part of making a fancy shape, I (and our dogs) prefer knotted ends. They're easy, cute, secure, and fun! Our dogs and their friends love toys with flailing tassels and lovely knots for tugging. A single stick end is relatively easy to secure with a starting weave or concealed knot, but a double stick usually requires the tucking of loose ends that will eventually loosen their way free again during the stretchy fun of tug toy playtime. They can, of course, be easily retucked, but if the dogs love tassel tugs, why would I bother with sticks except for special shapes?

To turn the end of any basic tug into a stick without "tassel" ends, you can:

  • Starting the weave from the midpoints of two very long stands of fleece is an easy and secure way to weave one blunt end, but the finished tug will only be half as long. This is very secure, but only works for the starting end and can be size limiting. Weave a single starting knot, flip the strands so that the pretty side of starting knot becomes the visible stick end, then continue weaving the rest of the tug. 
Step-by-step instructions for a stick end fleece dog tug toy weaving from the middle

  • If you find it difficult to position and start with the loose strands, you can tie the midpoints together in a small tight knot (placeholder), then position and weave the same way as above. Tie at the midpoint, position the strands, weave a single starting knot, flip the strands so that the pretty side of starting knot becomes the visible stick end, then continue weaving the rest of the tug. 
Step-by-step instructions for a stick end fleece dog tug toy weaving from a middle knot

  • Starting the weave from the end of the strands using a small joining knot concealed inside the finished tug is an alternative to working from the middle. This is also secure and allows the full length of the strips to be used for a longer tug, but still only works for the starting end. To successfully use this method, you need to make the starting knot as small/tight as possible (trim excess if/as needed) and take your time at the beginning to conceal the end. Tie your joining knot, weave a single starting knot, flip the strands so that pretty side of starting knot becomes the visible stick end. With the joining knot now facing upwards, position the strands around it and weave around it, taking care to fully conceal the joining knot inside (trim excess if needed) as you continue weaving the rest of the tug. 
Step-by-step instructions for a stick end fleece dog tug toy weaving from a concealed end knot
This takes more effort to get a tidy weave and fully conceal the starting knot, but this method performs significantly better in finished play than tucking (final method, detailed below). Joining the ends then overweaving minimises the risk of lose ends popping out of the tug. Visually, when done well, it looks almost identical to a midpoint start, but you have twice the length to weave with, allowing for a significantly longer finished toy for the same size of starting strand. See below for a side-by side example. What a difference!
Side-by-side comparison of different stick end DIY dog tug toy techniques

  • Omitting a finishing knot and tucking the loose ends into the finished weave works for any end of a tug, but is the least resilient of the options. It is simple, but less secure.  On the plus side, it works at the completion end (or both ends if you'd like to use a temporary knot at the start of your weave). The better the tuck, the more secure. Fleece can be pushed (a small pointy object like the end of scissors or a pen can help) and/or pulled (needle or bent nosed pliers can help) to get the strands into place. Double check for security with a few stretch tests and repeat if/as needed. Ends may pull out over time with play, but can be tucked back into place. 
Step-by-step instructions for a stick end fleece dog tug toy with tucked ends

Buuuut that sad little stick toy is doggone boring looking compared to an easy to weave and more secure knotted end tug, isn't it?  Unless I'm using the stick as part of a special shape, like our candy cane dog tug toy (there are comparison photos for stick methods at the end of that post if you'd like some more visuals), I always knot the ends. And given the choice, Humphrey will always choose the knot and tassle too, cheeky rascal!

Dalmatian dog and owner playing with a pile of colourful woven fleece tug toys

Fancy Ends and Special Shapes for Dog Tug Toys

The methods above work for box/square and circle/spirals, as well as many of the more complex patterns. Although these are the most common ends we use for standard fleece tugs toys, they're not the only options. As with any creative project, your imagination is the limit! Sometimes, the weaving pattern, unusual or difficult strand materials (like in our tug of tugs), or special designs and shapes call for different end knots and finishing. When we share an idea here that needs different handling, we'll include options in post, but you can put your own personal style and spin on any of our project ideas with whatever knotting style suits your personal preferences.

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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