In this tutorial, we will be learning all about sewing with grommets and eyelets. I'll show you how to attach grommets and what to look for when you're selecting grommets as well as a few tricks to avoid the grommets from coming undone.
The latest trend in accessories and clothing is the use of grommets. They are everywhere these days –on belts, dresses, tops, leather jackets and, my favorite, on handbags. This is, of course, not new. Not much in fashion is anymore, but this a cyclical trend when punk style barges its way onto the catwalk. The trend this year is called “subversive punk” –whatever that means–but it makes for a fun and easy project and a great gift for people of any age.
To better understand this trend, we have to go all the way back to the 1400's when eyelets in clothing and boots started to be used. The word used back was Eyelet and it was a marriage of olde English and French. At the time, the word referred to a crudely constructed hole in a garment reinforced by stitching –not the best-looking thing if you have ever tried to recreate a costume from that time.
Sometimes a round ring was used underneath to reinforce the hole, then in (the late 1600's), the first metal grommets were introduced. Fast forward to 1827 Paris when the metal eyelet made its debut with a washer at the back and was first used in corsetry to tame the waists of the upper-class ladies. Of course, by the 1920's the middle and lower classes were able to follow the trend too.
So is it a Grommet or is it Eyelet? In fact, it's both, since the male part of the grommet is called an eyelet. However, an eyelet is normally used on shoes, corsetry, and garments to be with laces instead of buttons.
So let me suggest the following grommet terminology:
Use the term grommet when you are going to make a handbag, shower curtain or drapes. Usually 1″ or bigger.
Use eyelet you're making clothing or corsetry and you want to use lacing rather than buttons. Usually smaller than 1″.
Grommets and eyelets may or may not come with a washer. You must use with a washer if you are making corsets, tops, pants, jackets, wallets and leather accessories.
You can use grommets or eyelets with no washer for paper products, price tags, bookmarks or any craft that is not going to handle a lot or is not going to be in contact with the skin.
- Industrial Kam tool (for serious bag maker. This is what I use.)
- Dritz grommets Pack of 8 (for one project)
- Glue (Optional)
- Hole Puncher for leather and small eyelets
- Embroidery or sharp scissor
Anatomy of a grommet
A grommet is composed of two parts: the male (the eyelet) and the female (the washer).
Grommets have a right side and a wrong side just like fabrics do. Right sides showing below with a convex shape rim around the hole.
Wrong sides showing below with a concavely shaped rim around the hole.
How to attach grommets
Tip #1. The best way is to trace the inside diameter of the grommet on the fabric to indicate where and what size to make the hole. Most patterns will have this marked for you but if you are adding grommets to embellish your project this is the way to do it. The hole should never be larger than the inside diameter. Tip #2. Cut the hole using a very sharp pair of scissors or embroidery scissors to cut a small hole. Always start with a smaller hole, you can increase the size bit by bit with the point of your scissors. Attach the right size of the die to the Kam tool mounting hole according to the size of the grommet, and place the proper part of the tool in the corresponding side of the tool. The Kam tool comes with a few sizes so it is a good idea to keep them separate with a sample of the grommet size.
Place the male side of the grommets otherwise known as the eyelet right side down.
Tip #3. Add the fabric with the print side down. Apply glue around the hole to prevent the fabric from stretching and the grommet coming off with time.
Place the washer right side up on top of the fabric and press not too hard and not too light. In fact, chances are that a few will go bad during this process no matter how careful you are. If that happens to you, I got your back…
How to change a broken, missing or bad grommet
It happens to everyone, sadly. No matter how hard we try to do the right thing some grommets are just not going to come out well.
A grommet that is going to be close to the skin should always be smooth and well formed. When you pass your fingers and any bit scratches or cuts you, it's not going to end well for you or for the person who will buy your product.
So here is a way to change a bad grommet.
You will need a long or needle nose plier. Place the tip of the nose plier between the hole and the rim of the grommet and squeeze in about three different places.Lift the washer at the back and take out the eyelet.Apply glue to the back and place a new grommet.
If the hole is too large, you will have to sew around the hole matching the thread as much as possible to the fabric. Then replace the grommet.
Some projects involving sewing with grommets for you to try
The Boho Chic Belt with a secret pocket.
The Small Fridge crossbody purse.
Grommets and eyelets can be functional or fashionable or both. I use them all the time in my projects. If you start using a lot of grommets, it really makes sense for you to invest in the heavy duty Kam tool that I used in this tutorial. It really isn't all that expensive considering the ease and accuracy you get.
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Thanks. I did a bag using shower curtain snap together grommets, but they kept coming loose since bag was a thick quilted fabric. Instead of Elmer’s, I used Gorilla glue. NEVER pulled apart again. Gorilla glue rocks!
Thank you, this tips will be invaluable. I have recently purchased one of the Kam machines in the UK mainly for Rivets. I decided to buy the die set for Grommets, well I have failed dismally….LOL…but I will persevere.
Thanks for this. I admit I didn’t find this sentence encouraging, “It happens to everyone, sadly. No matter how hard we try to do the right thing some grommets are just not going to come out well.” I was hoping with the right information I would finally have perfect results 100% of the time. I do not have the fancy machine in the budget so my method is more crude; I use a hammer with tools. However I know that one can buy grommets with with a longer male part, for heavier fabrics. I haven’t tried that yet.
I encourage you to buy grommets made in Germany, they are superior to the ones made in China and the margin error is much lower.
Thanks for your suggestion. Are Dritz grommets made in Germany? I guess I can look for myself…..
Thank You!! Your timing is perfect!!! I bought eyelets yesterday and this information has eased my mind in using them Again, Thank You!!
You are welcome, Linda!
What is your advice if we don’t have one of those grommet machines? I seldom do grommets but have an upcoming project in mind.
Hi, Patti, I put a link to the package of the company who I believe have the better quality ones. They come in different sizes and with a handy tool and instructions inside. You need to use a hammer for it. When you do, you need to be very steady with it. Buy extra, some are bound to go bad. Do show me your project, love to know what you are up to.
I have done grommets in the past, with a bit of success, but never liked doing them. Now, I will try again with your tips. I don’t know why I never thought of using glue. Seems like my fabric always comes loose…. now I know… thanks!!!!
Have you, or can you, do a tutorial on regular snaps? I have that purple thing and it seems no matter what I do, it never seems to work!!!!
You read my mind I just bought some snaps. Stay in touch:)
Thank you so much for this excellent tutorial. I have struggled with grommets and eyelets in the past – your tutorial will make any future project easier!
You are welcome Rita, it is daunting but as long as you make the hole smaller than the inside hole and know how to replace them if something goes wrong you will be fine.
As far as I can tell, your hints, tips and tutorials are some of the best to be found. I can’t believe the number of grommets I have put in with a hammer, a small block of wood and a cloth to prevent any scratching or sharp points. Why, oh why ďid I not know of these tools when I was doing projects like these. It’s like having surgery and then they come out with laser surgery. It would have been so much easier if I had been born in 1968, instead of 1948. Oh, well.Onward and upward. Anyhow, thanks again for your efforts and hard work. Cheryl
In the UK these are not available on Amazon but there are several on ebay, making 6mm, 10mm and 12mm eylets. they cost from 16GBP which seems to be a bargain as $60 is around 45GBP. Looks much more reliable and simple to use than the hand-held punches and setters that you have to use with a hammer…
great tips. thanks
Thanks for the glue idea! I can’t wait to try it. Fabric stretching seems to be a big problem.
yes it is I forgot to mention a product called “stop Fraying” I will find a supplier and share the link for you to try. It works wonders 🙂
Every day when I turn on my computer, your daily notifications come up on my desktop. I can’t tell you how many times the ideas of the day are right on point with something in my project plans.
I have hated grommets and avoided them whenever I could – but I had no idea I could get an industrial press for such a reasonable price and make life so much easier! It just never occurred to me to even look for one. I have my grandmother’s pliers, my mother’s pliers and a set of my own, and none of them make a reliable set (though Grandma’s work best and they are probably 70 or more years old). No more admiring eyelets and grommets but skipping those projects!!! Kam is a great company – I use their diaper clips and colorful snaps. Now grommets and eyelets are added to my list. Thanks for the tutorial today – and everyday!
I learn so much from So Sew Easy – thanks so much for what you do me and for people like me.
You are most welcome Sandra 🙂 your comment has warmed my heart!