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How to Set Snaps in Clothes

I love using snaps in clothes. Whether it’s attention-grabbing snaps to give a hint of cowgirl on a blouse or subtle snaps down the crotch of  baby clothes to make ins-and-outs easy, snaps are a fun substitution for buttons and useful addition to any sewing project. I use and adore and swear by my SnapSetter tool for how it makes setting snaps almost mistake proof (nothing’s completely mistake proof, if you’re me ;). It’s what I recommend you use and it’s what I’ve geared this tutorial for. If you have snap pliers or an anvil snap setter, I recommend this Seamwork tutorial for using them. But seriously, pick up a SnapSetter for yourself – you won’t regret it!

To set snaps you need:

  • Snap Setter
  • snap components (Make sure they are all the same size and the same size as your snap setter. Size 16 is a pretty standard clothing size.)
    • cap – the decorate part of your snap
    • socket – the female part of your snap
    • stud – the male part of your stud
    • open prong – the back of your snap
  • rubber mallet (you can use a different type of hammer but a rubber mallet is best)

There are several options for what you can use for the visible, decorative portion of your snap. A snap cap is most common and comes in solid metal, powder coated colors (far left), and as pearls (second from left). You can also use a open prong in either a color (second from right), or plain metal (far right). As long as what you are using has prongs, you can use it for the top of the snap.

Start by marking the snap placement. I love using tailor’s tacks because they are exact and don’t rub off as you work with the fabric, but you can also mark placement with tailor’s chalk or fabric pens. (Read about how to make tailor’s tacks here).

We start by placing the snap top into the fabric on the right side of the fabric where it will be visible in the finished garment.

Turn the fabric over. You should be able to see and/or feel the prongs coming through the fabric. The loftier or bulkier your fabric is, the less will poke through.

Set the cap upside down into the bottom of the Snap Setter and then place the middle layer on top of the fabric. It’s possible for things to jiggle as you do this, so make sure that your snap is nestled into the ditch of the bottom layer of the Snap Setter and is centered perfectly in the middle layer.

Place the male portion of the snap into the hole of the Snap Setter, face up.

Place the top of the Snap Setter on and gently hammer the layers together with your rubber mallet. If you are using pearl snaps, be especially gentle as you can easily shatter the pearl. If you take the fabric out of the setter and find that the layers of the snap aren’t securely together, put it back in and hammer again. Repeat until you have placed all of the tops of your snaps.

Now we place the bottom snaps. You can determine bottom snap placement by using your pattern (like you did for the top). Alternatively, you can use the already set snap tops to place the snap bottoms to make sure that they align perfectly. To do so, line up the layers of your fabric how you would like for them to align and mark the bottom snap placement by rubbing chalk on the male part of the snap that makes a bump.

You can also determine placement by centering the open prong directly over the male portion of the already set snaps and skip marking your fabric.

Whichever way you choose to determine placement of your snaps, use an open prong on the wrong side of your fabric.

Place the open prong in the bottom layer of the Snap Setter, put on the middle layer, and place the socket (the female part of the snap).

The two sides of the socket are subtly different. The snap on the left is face up while the snap on the right is face down. I remember this by thinking that the side that makes a flower should be face up.

Put the top layer on the Snap Setter and hammer the snap together. If you used tailor’s tacks, you can easily pull them out now. Make sure that your snaps are securely set by snapping them and pulling them apart a few times.

Happy snapping!

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