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Before getting into the nitty and gritty of how to work with Velcro, we thought it would be worthwhile to share with you some background information about this astounding product.
The hook and loop fastening system, known as Velcro today, was invented by serendipity in 1948 by the Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral. Velcro is an example of bionics to show that an invention model can come straight from nature.
In 1941, when he returned from a hunting trip to the Alps, he had to remove a lot of burdock fruit hanging on his clothes and in his dog’s hair. Observing the fruit under a microscope, he noticed that the spines of the fruit ended in deformable hooks. These hooks get caught in the hair and looped fabric and return to their original shape when pulled out of a holder. This gives him the idea of creating a type of quick-release fastener for clothing.
On one strip of fabric, he implants deformable hooks, and on another one closed loops of yarn. Applied one against the other, the hooks get caught in the loops and fix the two strips together. Originally designed in cotton, the system gave unsatisfactory results. After several years of development with a professor at the ITF in Lyon, nylon and polyester replaced cotton and finally gave the desired results.
In using the apocope of the words “velvet” and “crochet”, he named his invention Velcro and filed patents in the early 1950s (registration of the trademark in 1952). After the development of industrial production, Mestral granted production licenses to manufacturers in various countries.
Some historic milestones and publicity that made Velcro succeed, after a very difficult beginning:
In 1968, Velcro fastening systems were used in the suits, sample collection bags, and onboard lunar vehicles of the Apollo program to go to the Moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
In the fictional universe of Star Trek, Velcro was invented by the Vulcans. In the “Carbon Creek” episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, a sample of “Velcro” is taken from a Vulcan ship and given to a patent expert to raise money for a teenager’s university education. One of the Vulcan crew members in this episode is also named Mestral.
“Velcro” gained popularity and broadened its scope when in 1984, in an interview between host David Letterman and Velcro Corp.’s industrial sales manager of the Velcro Corp, USA. The host dressed in a Velcro suit jumped off a trampoline against a wall and hung against it.
Created in Denmark, “bumball” is a collective game that consists of intercepting, with one’s chest or belly, a velcro-covered foam ball thrown by a partner. For this purpose, each player has a jacket with a 20 cm x 20 cm velcro square on the chest and a belt with a 15 cm x 15 cm velcro on the belly. The team scores 1 point for a landing on the chest, and 3 points for a landing on the belly.
In 1988, “Velcro” was mentioned in the famous comic book Charlie Brown. In the March 21 comic strip Sally, the main character brings a doll with hands joined in prayer to the school for hands-on demonstration sessions. The doll’s hands are held together by a Velcro strap, raising the question of whether Velcro has been mentioned in the Bible.
In 1992, Velcro is also mentioned in the episode “The Purse” of the Seinfeld television series, in which Jerry’s father, Morty Seinfeld, states that he hates “Velcro”.
2016: On April Fool’s Day, Lexus launches seats featuring V-LCRO (Variable Load Coupling Rear Orientation) technology, which effectively holds the driver in place with a Velcro adhesive system for a more aggressive driving experience.
So if you are someone that loves crafting all kinds of fabrics and garments by yourself, you might have considered the use of Velcro. The usage of velcro to attach different parts together is a great choice in the right setting since it’s often easier than other more conventional attachment methods like buttons or zippers. Also for the final user, the velcro has proven to be a reliable and comfortable alternative to attach, close, and re-open items at will.
The most secure option to attach velcro to a piece of fabric is of course going to be through sewing it on. Therefore, before getting into other attachment methods, we would like to show you the best techniques used to sew velcro.
Some tasks are easier said than done, and sewing velcro is one of them. The basic stitch is simple enough for beginners, but velcro is a sturdy, thick material that can make sewing considerably more difficult. But with the right tools and techniques, this material can comfortably be sewn by hand. Here are the steps involved:
- Choosing suitable materials
Before we start a new project we need to discover the type of velcro needed. Read the list of specifications of the project to find out what color and width of velcro you need to buy if you’re following that pattern. You will have more liberty in choosing the size and color that you think is going to be the most suitable if you are not bound to a specific pattern.
The smaller the clothes, the thinner the velcro surface should be, as a general rule. A backpack may need 2.5 cm, but a doll’s dress may need a velcro of 0.5 cm width.
Try to match the color of the velcro to the color of the fabric where possible. Otherwise use white for light fabrics and black for dark fabrics if you do not find the exact corresponding color.
Self-adhesive Velcro is not strong enough to be a permanent fixture. Also, velcro can make your thread and needle sticky and therefore make sewing considerably more difficult. Therefore always buy good quality non-adhesive velcro. Unless your project requires round velcro stitches (which are often sticky), it is better to choose a velcro with regular backing. Keep in mind that you can always cut Velcro in any shape, like rectangles or squares, at will.
Choose a velcro with a soft, flexible strip for the best results. Because it will be easier to sew on a soft, flexible strip than a stiff and thick one.
Try to buy a Velcro with spaces without hooks and rings on each side of its extremities. This will make sewing much easier.
Choose a polyester thread that matches the color of the Velcro. If possible, use a thread of the same color as the velcro. If the seam becomes visible to the fabric, combine the thread with it.
A polyester thread is the best option because it is strong and durable.
Take a sharp, thick needle. Avoid too thin needles, these are too fragile and can break if you go through velcro. For best results, use a universal needle size 14 or 16. It’s a good idea to use a thimble; this will protect your finger while you push the needle through the velcro.
- Setting up the Velcro strap
In order not to get a crooked result by cutting some of the hooks and rings unnecessarily, do not cut them at the same time. First separate them and create from one of them a guide to cut the matching piece symmetrically.
Some use a jig to get the most precise results. You could also use some markers and a ruler if you don’t have a jig. You will have to imagine ahead what shape will look the best depending on the final product desired. For example, a long strip of Velcro works generally good for a jacket, but a smaller square of 2.5 cm looks better for a bag.
You will see that the hooks and rings do not extend to the extremities if you take a good look at a piece. They leave a small space on each side. You want these parts to be angular instead of straight, so cut off the corners. This way, a better finish is acquired and it also prevents the Velcro from scratching against your skin.
Use small, pointed scissors to cut off the hooks and rings if your velcro has no space on the sides. This is to be done to each side to create a symmetrical effect.
Place the soft strip at the bottom of the top fabric and place the rough piece on top of the bottom fabric. In this way, the strip with hooks is in the opposite direction to your skin and won’t scratch your skin. So always place the velcro with the hooks side facing away from your skin.
Before sewing, you should attach with pins the pre-cut velcro to the fabric. This will make it much easier to sew. Only one pin in the middle of the strip should be enough for most types of velcro. If you are working with a long strip though, such as a jacket, it is best to place a pin every few inches.
You could also use strips of masking tape if you can’t get the pins through the Velcro without bending them.
It’s not necessary, but to facilitate the process of getting the needle through the Velcro, cover the needle with wax or a needle lubricant. Just by simply sticking the needle through needle lubricant or a block of wax. In fact, even a regular candle will do!
- Sewing of the velcro
Thread the needle and knot the ends into a firm knot. The best way to accomplish this is by cutting a piece of thread from around 46 to 51 cm, thread it through the eye of the needle and join the ends together. Treat the ends as a single line, wrap them in a small ring, and tie a knot. Pull-on the ends to finally tie the knot into a firm knot required for this job.
It is advisable to cut the thread at an angle; this makes a sharp point and makes it easier to pass through the eye of the needle.
Now pass the thread through a block of wax (after you put it on the needle) to make it stronger, and easier to work with. This is not necessary, but it will definitely improve the whole sewing experience.
As a general rule, it is better to work with shorter pieces of thread than with long ones, since they are less likely to curl and break.
Now stick the needle through the back of the velcro to secure the knot into place. Place the needle behind the velcro, push it through until it comes out from the front, then pull the thread until the knot touches the back of the velcro. This will not only secure the knot properly, but it will also hide the knot in the final product. Resulting in a clean and professional job.
You can start sewing the velcro wherever you want. Some people find it easier to start in a corner, others at a side edge.
Use a thimble to press the finger against the needle, since the tip of the needle may hurt when pressing it through. This is especially relevant when sewing velcro since it often needs more pressure to get through than more conventional fabrics.
Sew with a straight stitch around the velcro. At this point, the needle goes up and down through the fabric. Make the smallest stitches possible and sew as close to the edge as possible. Since otherwise, you run the risk of wrapping the thread around the hooks or rings if you sew too close to it.
If you have used masking tape instead of pins, remove it gradually as you sew along.
If your velcro has no space on the sides and you did not make any cuts in it, pull on each thread to even the tension.
You will be done once you reach the place from where you started. In the end, make a small stitch by pulling the thread long enough to make a small loop. Stick the needle through this loop to make a second loop. Finally, put the needle through the second loop and pull it tight to make a firm knot.
To finish off, cut the thread as close to the knot as possible. If you are worried about unraveling the knot, re-insert the needle through the fabric and Velcro and cut the thread close to the Velcro.
If you did use pins, now is the time to remove them and enjoy the final product.
- The tip of a needle can be sharpened
- Use a thimble if the pressure on the needle hurts your finger
- If you cut a strip of velcro and the ends of the hooks and rings interfere with the seam, cut them carefully off with sharp scissors
- If the thread rolls up or becomes too tight, change to another short piece of thread.
- Close the Velcro when washing clothes or when not in use. This prevents all kinds of dirt and fabric fluff from getting stuck to it
- Non-adhesive soft velcro
- Resistant thread
- Sturdy needles with a thickness between the size 14 or 16
- Sewing pins or masking tape
- Sharp scissors
- Thimble (optional, but recommended)
- Wax or a candle (optional, but recommended
Sewing is used when you want the ultimate quality and longevity of your attachment. But even then, especially when needing to attach larger pieces of velcro, the sewing gets labor-intensive and challenging. Therefore many look for alternatives. One of the most popular and easy ways to attach velcro to fabric is with the usage of adhesives.