Metal Snaps and Tips to Install Them Properly

Metal Snap Collage

I absolutely hate buttons. Well, to be truthful I don’t hate buttons. I love them, there is such a great variety. Also, did I mention that they are so INEXPENSIVE! But what I hate is the buttonhole, there I said it. I hate buttonholes. They never turn out the way they are supposed to. I know it’s 100% user error. I have used many different machines from basic machines to ones that cost a small fortune. But it’s inevitable that sooner or later I will have to have a button on a blouse or sweater. But I have a secret to tell you. “I still don’t use buttons, shhh don’t tell anybody”. You might ask, What do you use instead? Metal snaps.

I love metal snaps, they are my secret weapon. They make any outfit look fancy, even though in my opinion they are so much easier than buttons. But there is a learning curve to snaps. There are specific snaps for specific fabric types. When you use the wrong type of snap. You will more than likely get the dreaded snap that has pulled through the fabric and will not come off to save your life, plus a hole that is hard to fix. So let’s figure out which snap is best for your project, and learn some tips I use to install them. So they will stay put for the long haul.

There are dozens of types of snaps under the sun. For this post, I am going to talk about metal snaps.

Metal Snaps

There are two main types of metal snaps I want to talk about: Lightweight and heavyweight.

Lightweight Snaps

Lightweight snaps are used with fabrics such as knits and light woven fabrics, think 100% cotton dresses. How do you know if the snaps are lightweight? Most of the time the package will tell you which weight of fabric it is made for. Another thing I like to look at, do they have teeth or not. Most of the time if they have teeth and do not require “fancy” tools to install them, then they are more then likely lightweight snaps.

There are four parts to a snap. The “Top Snap” and the “Socket” fit together and go on the outer most side of the garment. This is the part of the snap that will be seen. In this example, the top snap is a decorative pearl. Some snaps the top snap is colored, or it can also be open and look exactly like the open pronged ring. The “Stud” and the “Open Pronged Ring” will go together. This part of the snap will not be seen unless it is unsnapped.

Lightweight snaps work by the prongs being bent so they go open up and go into the other piece. This joins the two pieces and the fabric together.

 Lightweight Snap Parts


Metal Snaps (there should be four pieces for each snap)


Spool of thread

Metal Snap Supplies

Tips on installing them

  • The biggest tip I can give you, REINFORCE! Please do not skip this step or I promise you, your snaps will pull through, maybe not the first time but eventually, they will. If I’m using knits I like to reinforce with interfacing. I have used both stretch interfacing and non-stretch interfacing, both have worked great. It just depends on the application and how the garment is going to be used. If I was going to place snaps on a children’s jammies I would use stretch interfacing. Because those jammies will get stretched. Ask your self “How is this going to be worn?”. When using woven fabric, interfacing can be used and it would work out perfectly. If you don’t happen to have interfacing I find it’s alright to use a scrap of woven fabric. The idea is to strengthen the holes that you are making, so they can withstand the snaps getting tugged as you unsnap them.
  • Another tip is using the spool of thread to install the stud. Place the stud piece into the hole on the spool, this should prevent it from being smashed and distorting the stud, rendering it unusable. 
  • Be light but firm with your hammer. When you get ready to hammer your pieces together, you will want to hit it firmly but not over and over and over. The prongs are delicate. I find about 3 firm wacks is a good amount for the prong to catch the other piece.
  • What happens if I hit it wrong and the prongs go the wrong way and stick out. Don’t panic! Just use some pliers or a flat head screwdriver and carefully pry it off. Grab another set of pieces and try again.

Heavyweight Snaps

Heavyweight snaps are better suited for denim, bottom-weight fabric, and coat fabric. These snaps tend to be more durable since they will be used more often. Heavyweight snaps generally do not have teeth. They have two sets of eyelets that help join the pieces together. They also require tools to help install them, since you are curling the metal.

Like lightweight snaps, heavyweight snaps consist of four parts. The “Button” and the “Socket” fit together and go on the outer most side of the garment. This is the part of the snap that will be seen. The “Stud” and the “Eyelet” will go together. This part of the snap will not be seen unless it is unsnapped.

Heavyweight Snaps work by the button and eyelet pieces being rolled or curled onto the socket and stud. This is a very strong connection, but it can have a sharp edge. This sharp edge is what causes holes and popped snaps in lighter weight fabric.

Heavyweight Snap Parts


Metal Snaps (there should be four pieces for each snap)


Setting Tool

Metal Holder

Awl (or a nail)

Heavyweight Snaps

Tips on Installing Them

  • I will repeat this because it is important, REINFORCE. I usually just use a scrap of whatever fabric I’m using for my project. That is generally sufficient. 
  • An awl is needed and very helpful when poking the hole for the eyelet to be inserted in. If you do not have an awl, a thicker nail can be used. I sometimes find that the nail is better since they are thicker and can create a wider hole.
  • Only poke one hole, if need be stretch that one hole. By poking more than one hole or using scissors to cut a hole you can damage the fabric weave, which inadvertently destroys the integrity and strength of the fabric, and will lead to a popped snap.
  • For some snaps, they require a certain thickness. So for example, if you are making a jacket and the fabric you are using isn’t very thick you may need to use multiple layers or use a thicker reinforcing fabric. You can tell the thickness by placing the button and the socket together. They have a natural thickness to them. This thickness will also change based on what size and brand of snaps you use.
  • I am a broken record. Like I said before, be light but firm. You don’t want to hit it over and over or with lots of pressure. It will cause the metal to split and rub the fabric causing premature tears and a popped snap.
  • Maybe you find that you’ve hit it too much or it is crooked, how do you take these snaps off? It is a bit tricky. What I find to be helpful are wire cutters and a flat head screwdriver. If it is loose, you can use the wire cutters to cut the shaft of the eyelet off. Then you can take the pieces out and start over with new pieces. A flat head screwdriver can be used to pry the pieces apart then you should be able cut them.

If you want to try adding some snaps to a shirt, I think the Julianne would look amazing with some pearl snaps. If you want to try your hand at the heavyweight snaps, the Anna skirt would be divine with some metal snaps!

Each snap is a bit different. These tips are based on the knowledge I have of snaps. I hope these tips help you have far fewer holes and popped snaps then I have had in the past. (Which is a lot!)

-- Originally written by Nicole Cook. Archived by Holly Hetzner. 

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