Project difficulty level: Medium (requires some attention to detail, especially at first)
I’ve got three dogs, and they’re all in sports. They’re all big on toys, and they all like to tug. And they’re terriers. You can imagine that a good, strong, tug-friendly toy that actually lasts is worth its weight in gold around here.
I bought my first square-braid tug from Katie at Red Dog Tugs and was sold immediately. Tugs made this way are STRONG: my first ones that I bought from Katie are more than two years old and still going strong with three maniac dogs (and several crazy fosters) in the house. The very first one I got from her, in fact, still rides around with me in Widget’s puppy bag and is her go-to tug. They’re also washable, and if you throw a stretched-out tug in the dryer for a few minutes, it shrinks back up. I started dinking around trying to figure out how to make them myself about a year ago; I got pretty good at them and have been selling them locally at the farmer’s market and giving them to my dog friends. I’m sure I’ve made at least 100 by this point. Here’s the thing, though: when I want a really tough tug for my dogs, I still buy them from Katie, and here’s why: much like the first couple of scarves you make when you’re just learning to knit, there’s a learning curve with these tugs, and you get better at them the more you make. Katie’s been doing this for a while; her tugs are better than mine. And the ones I’m making now are certainly better than the ones I made when I started, even though it’s the same fairly simple process to make them; it just gets in your hands better the more you make. But if you want to try making one for yourself, here’s what to do!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Two pieces of fleece, at least eight inches wide and a yard long. These should be in contrasting colors; it’s easier to keep track of what you’re doing that way. I made this particular tug for Widget’s puppy class buddy, Jem, a baby border collie with agility in his future. And what better colors for a pre-agility pupper than yellow and blue? But you can use any colors you want. Also note: you want a fleece that is not too stretchy: I do not have very good luck with so-called ‘microfleece’ or fleece marketed as ‘anti-pill’ as they tend to lose their shape when tugged. My favorite fleece to work with is sold under the brand name ‘Blizzard’. FYI!
Here’s what you do:
1) Lay out your fleece on a large flat surface.
2) Cut two yard-long strips from each piece of fleece, leaving you with four strips in total. I tend to make my strips about four inches wide: much wider than that and it becomes cumbersome to work with. You can go a little thinner if you have a micro-dog, but this size works well for 18 lb. Widget as well as 65 lb. Lucy (and it’s strong enough for super-tuggy pittie Nellie). You don’t have to get all Martha Stewart OCD about making sure your strips are an even four inches all the way up and down; I usually just eyeball it and assume that any weirdnesses will lead to fun, dog-friendly textural variation (WHAT?) Also, as you can see from my shockingly jagged edges (I need new scissors), they don’t need to be perfectly straight. The strips should be the same length, more or less, but otherwise, it’s forgiving.
6) …and pull it taut
6a) At this point, you might want to tie the loose ends to a chair to make your new tug easier to weave. I took pictures of it laid out on a table, since that got the visual point across better, but that’s not the easiest way to go about this.
The First Stitch*
The first stitch in your tug is different than the rest, and somewhat more complicated, but it’s necessary to start the good square shape.
* No, it’s not really a ‘stitch’, but that’s easier to say than ‘the first weave-y knot-y thing’, so let’s all just roll with it
1) Lay out the fleece as shown in the picture, with the two blue pieces hanging down and the two yellow pieces out to each side. I have labeled them yellow left (y-l), yellow right (y-r), blue left (b-l) and blue right (b-r)
4) Bring the tail of y-r up so it crosses over both legs of b-r and then crosses under b-l and then over y-l.
The Rest of the Stitches
These next stitches are easier, and by the end of the tug, they’ll be old hat. The major rule from here on out is the same as in Ghostbusters: don’t cross the streams! Your blue pieces should never cross over your other blue pieces, your yellow should never cross over your other yellow. Go straight across from here on out.
1) Lay your fleece out as in the picture below, in a big plus symbol. I am going to rename our pieces of fleece (1-4, based on the order we deal with them). To recap Rule #1, 1 and 2 will never cross each other, 3 and 4 will never cross each other. They’ll run parallel to each other but never cross.
7) The next stitch! You will notice that 1 has shifted from the right side of the box to the left, and everything else has followed suit. No matter, it’s still 1, 2 is still 2, etc. So, to recap:
Fold 1 down and 2 up (don’t cross them!)
4) Go take a look at Michelle’s awesome tug post