Way back when I was in my early teens, I had a favorite way of closing shirts, skirts, pants and bags by just applying snap fasteners instead of a button.
I had a very good reason for that, I did not know how to make good-looking buttonholes. No matter how much I tried they did not come up good enough. Back then my machine had terrible capabilities which made it very difficult.
After two years of hand sewing, my father bought me a very simple sewing machine. The sewing machine was an electric Singer with a straight stitch, zig zag, and three step buttonhole, nothing else. I could change the size of the zigzag but not the length of the stitches, or vice versa… I can barely even remember, it was so long ago.
For a new girl at sewing, making my own buttonholes was a bit daunting because my fear of making a mistake was high. But I found that using snap fasteners helped me simplify my projects and enjoy the process more.
A Bit Of History
If you have been following this blog for a while you would know that I love history. This invention we owe to the Chinese, the oldest samples of metal rivet snap fasteners go back to the 210 B.C. belonging to the military. You know those Terracotta warriors discovered by farmers in 1974? –maybe some of you have had the chance to see them in person. Those were the type of warriors using these fasteners on their army uniform if you can believe it!
Modern snap fasteners are attributed to two guys in two different countries: In Denmark to Bertel Sanders and in Germany to Heribert Bauer who in 1885 was awarded a patent for the invention of this most useful little gadget.
We owe press snap fasteners in clothing with a pearly cap to the founder of the Rochmount Ranch Wear, the American Jack Weil, who also holds the interesting distinction of having been the oldest living CEO of a company, he died in 2008 at the age of 106.
There are five companies that I know of that make good quality snaps fasteners kits these days.
- For thick clothing.
- For jersey knits.
- For sport and handbags
- Koh-I-Noor, the lesser-known of the five, is an art supplies company known all over the world mostly for their inks. They make a snap fastener kit made in the Czech Republic and I found one on my fabric hunting trip to Estonia. The quality is absolutely superb.
- The new kid on block in my database is this German company with top of the line products. Check their site as they also carry fabrics and other wonderful gadgets.
Maggie Snaps: Something New and Really Cool
Now, let's clarify, I do not know Maggie (Australian-born US resident Margaret Sinclair) but I am fascinated by a woman like this. She holds three different patents on the Maggie Snaps awarded between 2015 and 2016. I would love to sit in a restaurant for a long chat about how she came up with the idea of making the reusable fasteners. So, Maggie!!!! Lunch is on me anytime you let me come near you with my camera and my laptop. Here is the link to her site so you can have a look for yourselves what a great piece of hardware this is.
If you're interested in trying Maggie Snaps, you can get them on Amazon. Here are a couple of links for you:
Types Of Snap Fasteners
There are two types of snap fasteners:
- Press studs with two parts for sewing as buttons
- Rivets studs in metal or plastic with three or four parts that need to be used with riveting tools.
Parts Of A Snap Fastener
There are a male and female in snap fasteners as in grommets.
The male part will be on one side of the material and the female on the other side of the material.
The cap has a post that can be 4mm or 6mm long which is the part that will be seen on the outside of a bag.
The socket will be inside of a bag.
The stud will be shown on the outside of the bag crimped to a post.
The post will match the length of the cap to 4mm or 6mm.
Applying Snap Fasteners
- Snap fastener kit
- Kam Tool (optional)
Open a hole with the tool your kit came with.
Place the cap on the outside of the fabric.
The socket will go on the other side of the fabric.
Change the pieces from the hole openers to the smooth disc and the riveting metal piece.
Flatten using a hammer.
On the other side of the work, open the hole as done previously and insert the stud.
You need to change your riveting tool to the one with the groves.
Slide the post. Hammer once again.
Note: Plastic Kam snaps are placed the same way. The only difference is that both cap and stud are the same.
Alternatively, you can use a hand plier tool like a Kam Tool to lock in the pieces of the snap. It's not necessary but works really well. I wanted to show you the simplest and least expensive way above using a hammer.
Hope this quick guide to snap fasteners gives you some practical guidance and a good reference list of resources that you can choose from when you're making a garment and want to have a different kind of closure.
Do you know any other company that makes snaps? Leave it the comments below, or even better load a picture of a project where you have used the snap fasteners before.
Want a few projects where you can practice your newfound snaping skills Why not try this small crossover wallet.
Thanks, and see you next time!
I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your snap parts are mislabeled. What you have labeled as a post is actually a stud, and what you have labeled as a stud is actually a post.
The stud part snaps into the socket. The “post” is the part that goes through the middle of the stud, gets folded back on itself and secures the stud to the material. The cap is the outside facing piece(this piece often has a decorative aspect to it), which also has a “post” that inserts through the socket and the metal gets folded back on itself and holds the socket in place on the material.
I have bought snaps from amazon and are very disapointing. I find them hard to install even with the tool provided. They must be aligned just right or the pointy ends stick out and they do not hold properly.
Snapsource.com is mentioned favorably and frequently on FB sewing groups. I’m surprised you didn’t list them. I have not used them personally.
I have not either that is why I do not mention them at all.
I bought a snap kit and was disappointed that it was hard to apply snaps. I was using a thick fabric though. Thanks for all the info and history of snaps!
Hi Sheryl, snaps are not easy to apply. it always seems that the instructions are never enough however I find the quality much better from the kits than buying in bulk, sadly.
Thank you for all of the good snap information! I have a buttonhole comment. I also cannot make a nice looking 3 step buttonhole, so I went back to what I was taught in high school. We used an attachment. At the time they were universal bur when the slant shaft sewing machine came out they made an attachment for it. So when I went back to sewing a few years ago I went to e-bay and bought one. It makes a perfect buttonhole every time. there is a cam for each size.
Sewing Machine Buttonhole Attachment
I want to use snap buttons to attach outdoor curtains to the wood columns on my gazebo (so the curtains are secured during windy days). I was thinking of nailing the “female” part into the column, and then affixing the “male” part onto the fabric with the snap pliers.
Would any of the snap kits mentioned on this site be able to accomplish this?
Hi Ben, if you are in the USA you might want to check a company called https://www.sailrite.com/ they have just want you need.
I’m looking for a snap to use on a pocket Jersey tee shirts. I don’t know the terminology, but basically I am concerned about tearing.
Suspect a snap with a low “pull” (terminology please) would be best.
Any ideas greatly appreciated.
Quality of both fabric and snaps is the most important detail here. I recommend Prim or Clover snaps they are the best. You can use thin stretchable interfacing to make the knit stronger or use a fabric glue before applying the snaps.
How do you remove the snap fasteners if you make a mistake and attached the wrong thing and want to put the right one?
I use a pair of pliers to squeeze it out of shape from the whole. Before you apply a new one use fabric glue to strengthen the fabric and prevent the hole from becoming larger.
This is some really good information about fasteners. I had no idea that there were so many different types. The ones that are like buttons are really cool. I wonder if those are hard to find.
Interesting article but I’m surprised there’s no mention of Kam Snaps plier like tool. So much easier and more accurate than using a hammer.
What snap fastener are you using?
I am using Koh-i-Nor ones, they are super good quality.
Can you buy Koh-i-Nor in the USA
As far as I know, you can buy the art supplies only. The sewing supplies are sold in sewing and craft centers in Eastern Europe. I have provided you with a link if you want to get in touch with the company to see if they can sell and send to the USA. I don’t see why not…the link is above where I talk about the companies that make snap fasteners. I just remember today that Sailrite in the USA, sell marine grade snaps. This would have to be excellent quality to take the salt and the sun for many years. Hope that helps Frances.
My vote is for Snap Setters. I’ve used them for probably 30 years! The setting tool is easy to use and the snaps are sturdy and colorful. I’ve used them on corduroy baby rompers and overalls and they don’t rip out. I’m not affiliated, just a really happy customer!
Thank you for the tip, I didn’t even know these brand existed.
Which one would you recommend for using in wallets and small craft items such as baby bibs?
I love the snaps from The Snap Source (thesnapsource.com). Their tool for applying the snaps is the best! I never have a snap failure, like I’ve had trying other brands.
Are the Babyville Snaps similar to the Kam Snaps? There also seem to be several other brands, i.e. Hobby Lobby Store Brand and I am not sure it Joann’s has a store brand also. Are they comparable?
Hi Virginia, any snap company can make good snaps, but I have found that for the plastic ones you really need to make sure the post is long enough to hold the pressure. I tested the Stoffekleks VS Kam and this one goes to the Germans. 🙂
I’ve had good luck with Babyville snaps for baby clothes. They last through more than one child.
Great article! I love that you took the time to include instructions instead of just referring us to the various manufacturers’ websites. Thank you!
However, there is a little mistake in the article. You’ve misspelled Czechoslovakia. But, more importantly, Czechoslovakia does not exist as a country any more. They split back into their own independent countries, Czech Republic and Slovakia, in 1992.
Yes, Karyn thank you I really meant to say the Czech Republic. I appreciate you took the time to correct me. Kind Regard 🙂
Thank you…so helpful
To know is to appreciate. 😉
Thanks for telling me about Maggy Snaps. These look really interesting. I’ve never seen anything like them. I’m going to give them a try. As always, thanks for your wonderful articles.