Lately I’ve gone a bit crazy with my love of metal snaps. I love all sorts of hardware and snaps are an awesome way to add a professional finish to lots of projects. I first designed the Cargo Duffle pattern and loved how the snaps looked and functioned. My Snappy Manicure Wallet pattern also uses snaps! Plus I have a few more projects coming up that also use snaps. Yay! I know that sometimes hardware can be intimidating, so I hope this tutorial will make things a bit less scary.
You’ll need the required size of snaps for your project and a snap setting tool and a hammer (a pin and water-soluble pen come in handy, too). I’ve had the opportunity to try several different snaps and snap setting tools and I’m excited to share with you my favorites.
First, I should talk about the snaps themselves. They’re commonly referred to as ‘heavy duty snaps’ or ‘pronged snaps’. Each snap is made up of 4 parts: cap, socket, stud, and open prong. Some manufacturers may have slightly different names for the parts, but of the brands I’ve used they’re basically the same pieces. Most are available with a capped top, but you can get open-ring style as well. They come in many different finishes, colors, and metals. And of course sizes, anywhere from size 14 to 24. You’ll have to choose which size you need based on your project, but I keep size 16 (for wallets and smaller projects, even shirts) and size 24 (for pocket flaps and more). Manufacturers usually recommend using snaps on heavier fabrics or/in addition to interfacing. Basically, you’ll want a sturdy spot to attach the snap.
My first choice of snaps are by Snap Source. I’ve used these since 2009 and have both size setting tools and they’re still going strong. Snap Source has many choices for colors and metal finishes, I really like the ability to choose whatever color/finish will work best for me. I think they’re really user-friendly and reasonably priced. I order directly from their site and usually have my snaps within a few business days (they’re based in Michigan). I believe some quilt shops carry them and possibly some other shops online (please leave a comment below if you know or currently stock these)? The snaps come with photo as well as illustrated instructions which are both really great. I think the trickiest part is figuring out which part of the socket piece faces up (both brands I use have a socket piece in which one side is raised). I’ll share some pictures here and hopefully you’ll find your first install to be a breeze! Below you can see (hopefully!) the inner ring of the socket is slightly raised. That raised end will face the cap of the snap.
I also really like using Dritz Heavy Duty Snaps. I can buy them at my local Hancock fabrics, which comes in really handy when I have a coupon and need some quick. Mine use a 2-part setting tool and they’re just as easy to install as the Snap Source snaps. They only come in 4 metal finishes: brass, antique brass, black and silver (and a few other colors such as navy and white), but I find that works for the majority of my projects.
I have also used the Dritz snap pliers and I can’t recommend them unfortunately, the few pliers I’ve tried haven’t held the cap part of the snap in place very well, making install pretty difficult. Possibly they’ve changed/updated them since I’ve used them last?
I should also point out that it’s probably not a great idea to try and use snaps/setters from different manufacturers. Stick with one brand and use it’s designated setting tool.
Setting a Snap (Dritz on left, Snap Source on right)
I typically* first set the cap half of the snap first. It’s the most visible and I try to be precise and measure where I want to place the snap.
- Make a mark with a water-soluble pen then place the cap (prongs down) centered on the mark.
- Push the prongs through the fabrics and then lay the cap into the bottom part of the snap setter.
- The socket part gets added next with the raised part facing the cap (so raised side down in this case). With the Snap Source setter there’s a middle alignment piece that you place down on top that helps align the socket.
- Then place the strike plate on top and hammer into place. A few solid hits usually work for me.
To get the snap to line up, I use a pin and water-soluble pen to mark the placement after I set the cap half of the snap. You can set the Stud half of the snap first, but I prefer the other way, do what works best for you and your particular project.
- Once the Cap half of the snap is set, I fold the flap (or whatever you’re attaching) into place in it’s closed position. I slightly lift the flap and poke a pin into where the center of the snap hits on the fabric. I then lift the flap out of the way and make a mark where the pin is with my water-soluble pen.
- With the prong ring under my marked spot, I gently push the prong through from the back. It’s easy to tell if you’re off on your alignment. Just feel for the prongs and adjust as necessary.
- Once you’re set, push the prongs through and place the bottom of the snap setter in place underneath.
- Then place middle alignment piece (Snap Source), stud, and setter tool.
- Hammer into place just as you did when setting the cap.
*There are always exceptions to installation. For instance, with my Snappy Manicure wallet, you wouldn’t want the back part of the stud-half of the snap to show on the interior of the wallet, so the order of install is a bit different – the stud half of the snap is set first (which is explained in those instructions). Try and plan ahead in your particular project and you should do just great.
And what happens if I set the snap and I realize afterward that it’s crooked? Or if I don’t get it to set correctly?
No problem. I’ve been there, more than just a few times. I’ve found that with a little patience I’ve been able to remove mis-set or mis-aligned snaps with a flat head screw driver. Just be sure to be gentle when prying the parts apart next to the fabric and you should have no issues. Some brands of snaps actually puncture a hole when setting the snap, so I would be extra cautious when setting those. Do a few practice runs so you feel comfortable before attaching them to your finished project.
Happy snap setting! If you have any questions please leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them below. And of course feel free to add in any tips or tricks you’ve learned!
I haven’t been contacted by any of these companies to review their products (I’m not that cool, haha), I simply want to share some helpful tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.