Thursday, 25 November 2010

V for Velcro

V for Velcro

Image from http://www.mustknowhow.com/
Velcro is a brand name of fabric hook-and-loop fasteners wich consists of two layers: a "hook" side, which is a piece of fabric covered with tiny hooks, and a "loop" side, which is covered with even smaller and "hairier" loops. When the two sides are pressed together, the hooks catch in the loops and hold the pieces together. When the layers are separated, the strips make a characteristic "ripping" sound.


Velcro hook and loop fasteners are typically made of Nylon and polyester but the ones used on space shuttles are actually made of Teflon loops and polyester hooks, for extra strength.

There's a very interesting story about how Velcro was invented: it's 1941 and a man called George de Mestral returns from a hunting trip with his dog, he realizes his clothes and the dog's fur are full of burdock burrs (seeds) he was curious as to how they kept sticking to things all the time so he examined the seeds under a microscope and noted hundreds of "hooks" that caught on anything with a loop, such as clothing, animal fur, or hair. So he saw the possibility of binding two materials reversibly in a simple fashion, if he could figure out how to duplicate the hooks and loops.


George de Mestral
Image from http://www.speakingforspot.com/

It took ten years to create a mechanized process that worked and finally he patented it in 1955. The name "Velcro", was taken from two French words velours (velvet) and crochet (hook). The term Velcro is a registered trademark in most countries, but the brand name has become the generic term. They're also known as touch fastener or magig zipper. Velcro is strong enough that a two inch square piece is enough to support a 175 pounds (79 kg) person!


One of the many good things about Velcro is that it is very easy to use, specially for kids and the elderly. There is only a minimal decline in effectiveness even after many fastening and unfastening. The bad thing is that it tends to accumulate hair, dust, and fur in its hooks after a few months of regular use. It often becomes attached to articles of clothing, especially loosely woven items like sweaters. Additionally, the tearing noise made by unfastening Velcro makes it inappropriate or annoying. It also absorbs moisture and perspiration when worn next to the skin, which means it will smell if not washed.

Velcro can be glued or sewed to fabric. It comes in different sizes and colors and it can be bought by the yard. When sewing it I recommend using a quilting pressing foot on your machine so every piece remains steady. You can also add a small amount of fabric glue to hold it in place while sewing, but you have to let it dry first and be careful the glue doesn't bleed or stain your fabric. Choose a thread that’s the same color as your velcro.

It's not necessary to use too much, if you're working with a long area of fabric, like a jacket closure, you can stitch an inch of velcro every few inches away (like you would do buttons) and it will be enough to hold both pieces together.

Other cool and easy things you can do with velcro:

* Cut a 3-5 inch strip of velcro, turn it inside out (loops on one side hooks on the other) and sew them together, you can use it to organize cables and wires.

* Cut small squares of velcro loops and glue to a work surface, then glue the hook sides to your utensils to keep them in place and always handy. My brother did this on his car to keep the remote control for the garage always at hand. Adhesive velcro is very easy to find.

* Wrap some strips of velcro hooks around your hand and use it as a hair comb for your cat or dog.
 
This post was written by Venezuelean fashion designer Laura Plenzik

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