Want to make DIY dog tug toys, but aren’t quite sure how to start (or finish) your projects? This special FAQ post explores different knotting options and design styles for starting and finishing the ends of DIY woven fleece dog tug toys, with instructions, tips, and tricks. Let’s look at end knots for DIY dog tug toys and when different knotting styles might be beneficial for a tug toy design.
End Knots for DIY Dog Tug Toys
To Knot or Not to Knot?
Most (not all) woven fleece patterns are knotted in self-secure layers as noted above. Other DIY tug toy styles, like braids, need end knots to hold the toy together. Still, unless I’m making a special tug toy shape or design, I prefer to use end knots for all of my DIY dog tug toys. Even if the weave is self secure without them, the ends are the finishing touch and part of the tug toy fun.
Finishing the Ends of Woven Fleece Tug Toys
Unlike braiding, one of the great things about most woven fleece dog tug toys is that each layer of the toy is itself a knot. Every layer is self secured and the tug toy won’t unravel if the end knot is untied. In fact, you don’t even need to knot the ends. The ends are already knotted in the last layer of the weave and every layer in between. Knotting the ends of a woven fleece tug toy does help the toy look more finished, though. It can also (depending on the knot) add extra security to the ends of the toy by making it more difficult for strands to be pulled loose from the end of the weave. Knots also make for good gripping points for hands, mouths, and playful paws.
Choosing End Knots for DIY Dog Tug Toys
There are all sorts of potential end knotting styles for tug toys. For braids and other tugs where the knots are holding the toy together, you’ll want to pick something extra secure. The rest is a matter of shape, size, design, and personal preference. Let’s look at some favourite easy end knots for DIY dog tug toys and alternative end knotting styles.
Overhand Knots for Finishing the Ends of Tug Toys
Simple Overhand Knots for DIY Fleece 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 great for hands and 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.
Modified Overhand Knots for DIY Fleece Dog Tug Toy Ends
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 toy. In this case, you might want to modify the overhand knot or switch to a different knotting style. A looping overhand knot using one strand (or some instead of all) may be a more attractive way to knot the ends of your tug. It’s not as secure as the full overhand knot; however, as noted above, 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.
- Optional: Repeat with another strand and/or knot twice, if you wish, for added security.
- Trim excess if/as needed.
Boondoggle Knots for Finishing the Ends of Tug Toys
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.
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 and is a slimmer finish. This can be a definite plus for some designs, but it takes more effort to correctly tie a boondoggle end knot. That’s the main reason why I default to the simple all strand knot in most cases. I like keeping things easy.
Tying a Basic Boondoggle End Knot on a Fleece Tug Toy
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.
- 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.
Knotted Ends vs. Stick (No Tassel) Ends on Dog Tug Toys
Unless I’m weaving a stick as part of making a fancy shape, I prefer knots. 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?
Options to Create Stick Tug Toy Ends
Creating a Stick Tug Toy End by Weaving from the Midpoint of Strips
This is the most secure option if you want a tug with only one stick end. It can also be used as one end of a double stick; however, you will need to use an alternative method on the finishing end. The downside, as I’ll illustrate in the example photos below, is that you either need to have very long pieces of fleece or settle for a much shorter tug toy than starting from the end of your strips.
Weaving Directly from the Midpoints:
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.
Weaving From a (Concealed) Starting Knot at the Midpoint:
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, and weave a single starting knot. Then flip the strands so that the pretty side of starting knot becomes the visible stick end. Check your strand positions, then continue weaving the rest of the tug.
Creating a Stick Tug Toy End by Weaving from the End of Strips
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, then flip it. That way, the 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.
Starting from the Midpoint vs. Ends
It 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 loose ends popping out of the tug. Visually, when done well, it looks almost identical to a midpoint start. By joining, you’ll have twice the length to weave with, allowing for a significantly longer toy from the same length of fleece. See below for a side-by side example of both methods using identical strands. What a difference!
Concealing the Finishing End of a Stick Tug Toy
With any of the starting knot options above, you will have one stick end. These are starting knots only. The working end will need to be finished in a different method. You can use any of the visible end knots for DIY dog tug toys above, or you can make a matching stick end.
Omitting a finishing knot and tucking the loose ends into the weave works for any end of a tug, but is the least resilient of the options. It’s simple, but less secure than a knot. 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. Tucked? You can double check for security with a few stretch tests and repeat if/as needed. The ends might loosen or pull out from playing, but they can be tucked back into place.
Spotty Thoughts on Sticks vs. Tassels
Now you have the scoop on different options for making stick end tug toys. But, in our humble spotty opinion, a sad little stick is doggone boring looking compared to an easy to weave and more secure knotted end tug, isn’t it? And the irresitable flutter of a tassel? No disrespect to any stick lovers out there, but I always knot the ends of our tugs unless I’m using the stick as part of a special shape, like our candy cane dog tug toy. Given a choice, Humphrey will always choose the tassel end too, cheeky rascal!
Fancy Ends and Special Shapes for Dog Tug Toys
The methods above work for box/square knot tugs and spiral/round tugs, 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 a DIY tug toy idea 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 pup and your preferences.
Additional Tug Toy Making Help and Information
You can find all of our tug toy related posts under the DIY Dog Tug Toys tag. Helpful information is also available in the full collection of tug toy FAQs, tips, and troubleshooting in this mini-series:
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 or her any new toy. Some dogs try to eat toys or parts (whether bought or handmade) and that’s doggone dangerous. Toys are for playing, and playtime is always safer (and more fun!) with you involved. You can read more in our dog toy safety post, including tips and helpful links for safer playtime. Have fun and play safe!