Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Burdock, Beggar's Lice and Velcro

I read yesterday that it was on that date, May 13, in 1958 that Velcro was patented. Velcro was invented by Georges de Mestral, an electrical engineer from Switzerland.

Credit: askville.amazon.com

(Parts of the information presented below is from The Writer’s Almanac Newsletter
http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/ )

Mestral’s idea for the invention began in 1941, when he went on a hunting trip with his dog in the Alps. He passed through fields dotted with the burdock plant, whose spiny seeds latch themselves onto anything or anyone passing by. When Mestral got home, he was picking the burs off his dog's coat and his own clothes, and wondered how burdock was so effective.


Georges de Mestral, Velcro inventor 

He placed the seeds under his microscope and saw that each bristle was a tiny hook that was able to catch in the loops of clothing. He realized that by copying burdock he could create a way to simply bind materials together.

Most people Mestral told about his "hook and loop" cloth thought that his idea was stupid, but he kept on with it. It took him 10 years to get it right. With the help of a talented weaver, he was able to make a workable product, but the cotton didn't hold up to wear.

Credit: wikimedia
Then he discovered that nylon sewn under infrared light made the perfect set of loops — but that meant sewing hundreds of loops per inch, a slow and inefficient task. Eventually, he was able to mechanize the whole process, and 10 years after his walk with his dog, he applied for a patent for his invention: "Velcro," which combined the French words velour (which means velvet) and crochet (which means hook).

Lately as I walk the dogs, tiny green seed-like particles attach themselves to the dogs paws and my clothing. I don’t know if it’s burdock; I am not that familiar with names of plants/weeds that grow in the fields and woods.

Traditionally, any seed of this type that attaches itself to clothing in the fields and woods, we call "Beggar's Lice."

Whatever its name, it’s quite a painstaking task to remove these sticky seeds from dog fur. And from my clothing.

I wonder….. could I apply Velcro to the seeds to remove them? Might be worth a try.

Velcro. What a great invention that was!

Are you familiar with Burdock or Beggar's Lice? Is it a problem for you while roaming around in the great outdoors?


  1. Interesting.
    Maybe the species of Burdock/Beggar´s Lice is not as sticky over here a it in the States.
    I use a comb or a brush to remove it from Morty´s fur coat or the mane/ tail of the horses and avoid places where it grows myself.

    But Velcro is a marvelous thing. Can be used in so many ways everywhere.

    Once again, thanks for an informative post.

    1. Those seeds are so sticky and I remove them from the dog fur with a small-tooth brush called a "furminator." Have you heard of those? It's a great invention for dogs who shed a lot of hair (mine). It gets the undercoat. I think I could sit and run it through my dogs' coats from now until next year and still get a brush full!!

  2. I had no idea Velcro had been around for so long. Very interesting post, Sanda. I love my Maryjanes with Velcro fastening - much quicker. An excellent invention.

    1. Velcro is used for so many things. Back in the days when I sewed I used it more than I do now.

  3. Hello Sanda

    I met with Mr Beggar Lice for the first time last Fall, when we visited a State Park. You are right, it is so diffict to remove. Perhaps your are on to a new invention
    Helen xx

    1. I imagine you wondered what in the world you had gotten into the first time you saw the Beggar's Lice! I have a piece of Velcro laid out for use the next time I get those pesky seeds on my clothing.

  4. Thanks for an interesting post, especially how it led to the very useful velcro invention.
    No longer do small children have to learn to tie their shoe laces!
    We call them Thorny Burrs here.

    1. You are so right; Velcro on children's shoes and so many other items. It takes an inventor to come up with something like Velcro.


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