Today we’re sharing an easy twist (literally) on the basic box knot tug toy. Let’s look at weaving methods for making simple fleece spiral DIY dog tug toys, including pictures, diagrams, instructions, and comparisons between weaving options. Note: This post consolidates simple four-strand spiral toy instructions from several different posts from the old blog into a single all-in-one how to post.
Tug Toy Making Supplies and Materials
The materials and craft supplies used in making the tug toys shown in this post are polar fleece fabric and scissors. No fancy tool or equipment required.
- Polar fleece
Polar fleece is sturdy (as fabrics go), has a nice touch of stretchiness when playing, and can be easily machine washed for a drool refresh. See our post on weaving a square tug toy for more info including alternative fabrics, preparation, and sizing.
Basic Square Box Knot Tugs vs. Simple Spiral Tugs
A basic square box knot dog tug toy is simple, sturdy, and good looking. If you weave evenly, the toy will be squarish, as you would expect from a straight box knot, with uniform bands of colour down the sides. These bands (if you are using different colours) come from your chosen four fabric strips, with left/right alternating beside top/bottom throughout the length of the toy.
Simple spirals, in whichever weaving method you choose (more on that below) rotate the position of the strands. As the layers of the tug build up, this creates either a spiral appearance (four strands, two alternating pairs of the same colour) or a uniform speckle (four strands of different colours). The body of the tug also has a rounder shape rather than square.
Options for Weaving a Simple Spiral Tug Toy
To create a spiral tug toy, you can alter the weaving pattern (circle twist or corner-to-corner method) or alter the movement of the strands in a basic box knot (twisted box knot). I’ll briefly summarise both methods below so that you have the option to pick your preferred method. Arguably, if done with care, both methods look very similar; however, I recommend learning and using altered weaving pattern. I’ll explain why at the end of the post, after you’ve seen both methods.
Circle Twist Spiral Tug Toys (Altered Weaving Method)
In the Circle Twist method, you are altering the box knot itself. You weave on a diagonal corner-to-corner instead of straight. You can start straight into the corner-to-corner weave or, if you prefer, tie a single box knot to establish positions before switching to methods.
If your starting configuration is top strand left (as shown in the diagram) as you prepare to tie the loops, top left bends to bottom right, bottom right bends to top left, then left bottom weaves to the top right (over then under) and right top weaves to the bottom left (over then under). Repeat the exact same sequence to weave the tug.
Alternatively, if your starting configuration position is top strand right (as shown in the photo collage) it’s the opposite sequence. As you prepare to tie the loops, top right bends to bottom left, bottom left bends to top right, then left top weaves to the bottom right (over then under) and right bottom weaves to the top left (over then under). Repeat the exact same sequence to weave the tug.
Twisted Box Knot Spiral Tug Toys (Altered Strand Movement)
In the Twisted Box Knot method, you are altering the movement of the strands but maintaining a modified basic box knot weaving pattern. Instead of straight weaving, you rotate each strand a quarter turn each time, then weave the basic box knot. Side strands become the top/bottom strands, and the top/bottom strands become the sides, as shown below.
As you then tie with the same method as a basic box knot, each layer includes a quarter twist along with the box knot. This quarter turn rotates the colours on a diagonal, which makes for a pretty multi-coloured toy with four strands or a diagonal stripe when made with two colours. It also softens out the square box knot into a more rounded tug toy.
Caution: This is an easy way to create a spiral using the basic box knot, but control is essential for a tidy pattern. Keeping your tug steady and secure as you weave is vital for this “cheat” method of creating a spiral since you are capturing the strand movement in your knot without actually altering the weaving approach. Strand position is actually one of the common sources of pattern errors in a square knot tug toy, introducing a pattern anomaly in the otherwise straight, square, banded tugs.
Why I Recommend Learning the Circle Twist (Corner-to-Corner)
What’s the Difference?
For a basic four-strand tug toy, I find it makes no difference to the look, style, or quality which method I use to weave the twist. Personally, although the twisted box knot method is easy for someone like me who is very used to the basic square box knot, it’s not “set and forget”. You need to be careful not to accidentally create unwanted movement errors in the strands and pattern. The corner-to-corner method is much easier, once you learn and get comfortable with the sequence of weaving.
When Does the Method Matter?
If you’re weaving with a less cooperative material, the circle twist is better as you may not be able to capture the natural twisting while you knot as you can with fleece when using the twisted box knot method.
I recommend learning the corner-to-corner circle twist method both for consistency and so that you more easily move on to other more complex methods later, if you wish. I have some fancier tugs in the pending post pipeline to share with you that use the circle twist method to weave interlocked spirals. It’s easier if you to see the method in its simplest form and (if you’d like) try it out on the basic four strand style of tug toy first before graduating to the fancy stuff.
And what was Humphrey’s expert assessment of the two different tugs? Equally fun and impossible to tell the difference! Why choose one tug when you can have and hog both?
Additional Toy Making Help and Information
Helpful information is also available in our tug toy FAQs, tips, and troubleshooting 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 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!