Velcro—or to use its generic name, hook and loop tape—is a handy tool to have in your sewing kit. It’s great for kids’ clothing, since they can easily fasten it themselves, and for doll and baby clothing to make regular wardrobe changes a breeze. But some sewists avoid Velcro like the plague due to skipped stitches, broken needles, crooked seams, and other hazards. If you’ve been dodging Velcro, or haven’t yet tried sewing it at all, try these tips and tricks to make applying Velcro as easy as using it!
1. Choose Velcro designed for sewing
There are lots of types of hook and loop tape on the market, and they’re not all designed for sewing. Avoid any tapes with adhesive on the back, as these can gum up your sewing needle, break your thread, and in general wreak havoc. Also avoid very stiff Velcro tapes, as these are both difficult to sew and uncomfortable to wear. Several companies now make very soft hook and loop strips, which are ideal for sewing as they’re easy to stitch and flex well with the movement of the fabric.
2. Use a sturdy needle
Since they’re made with plastic, switching up your regular universal sewing needle for something sturdier can help you avoid bent or broken needles and less dangerous (but no less annoying) problems like skipped stitches. A denim needle is a good bet. Once you’ve finished your regular sewing and are ready to apply your Velcro, swap in a denim needle, rethread your machine, and you should be ready to sew!
3. Rethread your machine to match
And speaking of rethreading your machine, now’s the perfect time to switch up your thread. Opt for something a bit heavier than usual, and, if it makes sense, change the colors so that your top thread matches the Velcro and the bobbin matches the material. As long as you make sure your tension settings are right to avoid contrasting thread peeping through, this can help your Velcro blend seamlessly into the background.
4. Test all your settings first
There’s nothing worse than adding the finishing closures to your project only to have something go awry and damage it beyond repair. That’s why it’s so important to test, test test! Take a snippet of your material and a bit of Velcro and make sure that all your sewing machine settings will provide just the finish you’re looking for. That way, you’ll never have to unpick a tangled mess of threads or ruin your last bit of Velcro.
5. Try a zipper foot
A neat finish on Velcro can be tricky, especially on the hook side of the tape. Stitching right on the edge of the tape can help, but a regular presser foot can get in the way. Instead, swap in your zipper foot and adjust the needle to land right on the edge of the tape. This can also help prevent the Velcro from creeping while you sew.
6. Use the thinnest Velcro that makes sense
Even if you’re using soft Velcro designed for sewing, it still doesn’t drape or move in the same way as the fabric you’re stitching it to. Avoid odd bunching and stiff spots by using thin, short strips of Velcro. You may want to test how strong your Velcro is first, to make sure narrower strips will still do the task at hand, and keep in mind that Velcro’s hold does tend to weaken over time as a garment is washed and worn. If you can’t find Velcro narrow enough for your purposes, you can trim a wider strip down to suit. Make sure to also clip the hooks along the cut edge to provide a flat area on which to sew.
7. Position it correctly
Velcro requires plenty of overlap in a closure point to work properly, and (like most closures) works best when both sides of the tape are perfectly aligned.
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8. Try alternatives to pins
Because it’s tough to pin through, sewists often struggle to keep Velcro in place. Thankfully, their struggles have led to some very ingenious alternatives. If you’re not opposed to a bit of adhesive (and if it won’t damage your fabric—remember to test it first!), apply a small amount to the center of your Velcro strips, apply them to your fabric, and let it dry. Then stitch around the edge of the Velcro. Since you don’t stitch through the adhesive, it won’t damage your needle. You can even opt for a temporary, washable version that will wash free once the Velcro is stitched. If adhesive won’t work for your purposes, try marking an outline around the Velcro with disappearing fabric marker or tailor’s chalk. Stitch slowly, and keep the Velcro properly aligned as you go. Voila! No pins, and no problems.
9. Sew by hand if you prefer
If you’re really struggling to get your machine settings right, or if you just don’t want to risk it, you can easily sew Velcro on by hand. Use a sturdy needle and thread, and start by bringing your needle up through just the Velcro, hiding the knot between the fabric and the Velcro itself. This will keep the knot from being visible on the right side, and from being caught up in the teeth of the Velcro. Using a thimble to push the needle through the edge of the Velcro, stitch around the edge, and hide your finishing knot under the Velcro once again.
10. Use a zig-zag stitch
Another good option for keeping your Velcro flexible and firmly in place is to use a zig-zag or blind hem stitch to sew around the edge. With your needle just catching the Velcro on the left hand swing and anchoring it to the fabric on the right side, it minimizes the chance of skipped stitches and helps your Velcro move with the material beneath it.
11. Trim away corners
The corners of Velcro tape can be tough and prickly. Clip them away using tiny scissors, and be sure not to snip through your threads in the process!
12. When all else fails, try fusible!
Still struggling with sewing on your Velcro? Never fear. Some companies have created a fusible version that you simply press in place with an iron. It may not have quite as much strength as its stitched-in cousin, but as a sanity saver, it can’t be beat!