Velcro--the $64,000 tip

Do you remember the TV show, The $64,000 Question? I wasn't around just quite yet, but following it's popularity, any imponderable was dubbed a $64K question. There's a $64K question related to Velcro--How do you cut a skillion little pieces for your communication cards without making hamburger of your fingers and gumming up your scissors?

Oooo, ouch!
The question fits well in the topic of communication as we think about the materials we use to make symbol communication materials. Families and classrooms that use communication symbols also use Velcro by the mile. We use it to adhere them to symbol boards, to store them on indoor/outdoor carpet, to stick them into books and to the ceiling of the van…and the list goes on. If you are lucky enough to be able to afford half-inch dots by the roll, you are indeed fortunate.
The rest of us who have to economize by purchasing bulk Velcro-by-yard can tell you how much pain can be involved as we poke our fingertips with the sharp plastic covering the adhesive. Never mind how many hours we have frittered away trying to peel all those pieces and remove adhesive from our favorite pair of scissors.
Well, no more! Tender fingers unite! Enter the $64K answer to that pesky question about mastering Velcro. I want to share with you a system for handling Velcro that has saved me countless hours and kept my fingers pain free. It was taught to me by a wonderful speech therapist named Carol. She doesn’t remember who showed her, but I swear that person should be sainted. They have no idea how much time and finger pain they have saved me.
Here is the trick: Put away your scissors and trade it for a rotary cutter, the kind of “pizza wheel” device used by quilters and crafters to cut fabric. For this job, I prefer a smaller rotary cutter (18 or 25mm) and a small mat (6” long). Now rotary cutters are razor sharp, so you have to use a special cutting surface to protect your tables and counters. Also, keep them far, far away from little fingers and always retract the blade when you set them down.

There are self-healing mats intended for such a use, but you can use a plastic cutting board nearly as well. I find the Velcro peels off easier from the cutting board, but you will wear grooves in yours over time. Notice the faded markings on mine...lines with 3/8" hatch marks.

Lay your ¾” Velcro against the mat and cut a length.

Then peel the backing off (just this one time, I promise!) and stick it to the mat. It will peel off just fine later. Cut down the middle of the length of the piece, giving you two strips 3/8” wide.

Come back and slice in little stripes 3/8” apart, giving you a whole line of 3/8” squares. How easy is that? A 3/8” square is just the right size to hold firmly to the hook side yet release without requiring strength…an issue for some kids with muscle weakness.

The lamination on your symbol cards will influence how well Velcro will stick. Hot laminate films stick fine (just know that the edges will peel in time unless you allow a 1/8” border of film around each symbol), as will clear Contact paper or clear packing tape. I have never used lamination pockets, so I can’t tell you how well Velcro adheres to their plastic. Velcro does not stick to cold laminate films that are made with silicone, such as Xyron’s films for the wonderful old Brother CoolLaminator. If you have a treasured CoolLaminator as I do, do not fear! Duct tape does stick to the silicone-coated film, so haul out your trusty rotary cutter and mat and slice it into 1” squares. Stick one to the center of a symbol and adhere the Velcro to that and you’re good to go!

At risk of sounding like a broken record (does this generation even know the origin of that phrase?), I will repeat the Velcro mantra:  soft on the environment and hard on the card. Use the hook side on the cards; the worst that can happen if you rub against it is a small scratch. A 3/8” square stuck to your living room carpet won’t pull the carpet loops out of the backing. Use the soft loop side on everything else, so that when you brush against it you won’t feel any pain or snag your sweater. Trust me. Just do it.
One more thought...if you are a parent looking for a thoughtful holiday or teacher appreciation gift for an especially supportive, creative teacher or speech therapist that lives in a sea of little Velcro pieces, a mini rotary cutter and mat set makes a lovely gift. I promise, it will get used!


Peggy said...

Blessings, to you and your answer to this $64,000 question. Off to unearth my mat and rotary cutter from the sewing kit to get started!

Heather said...

So glad for the tip about the duct tape- I have been beside myself trying to figure out how to get my velcro to stick to my cold laminate film!!! So simple and yet I was at a loss! Thanks so much.

PDX pride said...

Thank you so much for this!!! I had the same trouble as Heather with the cold laminate, but I tried the duck tape and it worked perfectly!