Snap buttons are one of those things I always assumed were much harder to work with than they actually are. I made over a half dozen samples of our Kelly Anorak before I talked myself into installing them, and I was downright shocked to discover that they are easy to install at home with only a few tools. We have the entire kit (snap setting tool included) available in our shop, but snaps are relatively easy to find online and in fabric stores.
TYPES OF SNAP BUTTONS
There are two sorts of snap buttons: spring snaps and ring snaps. Ring snaps are probably the ones you're most likely to encounter at your neighborhood fabric store, and while they are good for heavy duty applications, they simply don't look as nice installed. When possible, go for the spring snaps. They are a little gentler on fabric, and look great from all sides when installed, giving that professional, ready-to-wear look we're all after. I'll show you how to install both in this post.
WHERE TO BUY SNAP BUTTONS
For the Kelly Anorak, I suggest buttons that are 12-15mm wide; anything bigger or smaller will look awkward on a coat. Besides the high quality, rust proof hardware in our Kelly kits, my favourite source for snaps of all kinds is Gold Star Tools. They have spring snaps in a variety of finishes and sizes, and they also sell different tools for installing them. You can purchase a simple hammer and anvil set (like the ones I'll be using in this post) but they also sell an industrial press that I recently bought and now use all. the. time.
If you're buying snaps from a store, make sure at least one set includes the handsetting tool you'll need; once you have the proper sized tool you can purchase packages of snaps without it (these are the types of snap packages I've seen most often; make sure you get the corresponding setting tool).
INSTALLING SPRING SNAPS
You'll need a small circular anvil and two different snap setting tools (all are included in our kits, along with a metal hole punch). You'll also need a hammer and an awl if you have one (I think it makes better holes than the holepunch). Please note that it is very, very important that you interface any area you will be applying snaps to; without the added stabilization your snaps will likely fall off, ripping your fabric in the process.
Each snap button has four parts; the button cap with socket, and the stud with corresponding post. The snap setting tool for the cap and socket is a little narrower on the end, while the stud/post tool is wider with an indent at the bottom to accommodate the post.
Install the cap and socket first. The plain cap goes on the outside of the garment while the donut shaped socket goes on the inside; it is what receives the stud (Will not make dirty joke. Will not make dirty joke).
Begin by determining where you will locate the snap and mark the location with a pencil. Make a hole in the fabric with the holepunch or awl, and insert the button cap post into the hole, again ensuring cap is located on the outside of the garment.
Place the spring socket on the cap post and then place the base of the cap inside the indent of the anvil so the socket is facing up.
Place the end of the narrower tool through the socket and align it with the post, ensuring everything is lined up straight. Give the setting tool a few hard wacks with the hammer to smoosh down the cap post; it will flatten out and lock against the inside of the socket.
Install all your caps and sockets before installing the stud and posts. If you're making Kelly, pay close attention to the location of the buttons; we include a suggested location on the pattern but you may want to line up one with the drawstring and grommet, in which case they would shift a little.
Once installed, close the fly placket and use a pencil to mark the location for the corresponding stud and post. This area will be the trickiest since you have to poke holes through multiple layers of fabric. A wider awl is indispensable here.
The stud and post look markedly different from the other half of the stud. The part with the longer post goes against the wrong side of the fabric; the part that looks like a little bowler hat will go on the right side. This stud will lock with the socket on the corresponding side.
Use an awl or the holepunch to make room for the post. The stud post is quite a bit wider than the cap post, so you may have to make that hole a little bit bigger. I have two sizes of awls and I like to use the bigger one to widen the hole for the stud. Again, make sure you are placing the post and stud on the right side so that your buttons snap together correctly.
Place the stud on top of the post and place the base of the post on top of the anvil.
Use the wider setting tool with the indent at the bottom, and align the indent with the stud. Hammer the setting tool a few times to lock it on the post.
Finish up by testing each button to make sure they are correctly installed.
Installing them on the cuffs of the Kelly Anorak is the same; install caps first and then close the cuff to determine location of corresponding stud and post.
INSTALLING RING SNAPS
The process is much the same if you are installing ring snaps, although you will not need the wider setting tool since there is no post and stud to install (I suspect that most snap kits available to the average sewist are ring snaps for this purpose; one less tool means they are cheaper to make). The setting tool is slightly wider than the one you will use for spring snaps, but don't worry about sourcing it since it should come in a set.
Install the caps first, and use the awl or holepunch to make room for the cap post.
Place the corresponding ring socket on the post, and use the setting tool and hammer to lock into place.
Follow the same procedure for the bottom ring snap.
While these snaps lock nicely, I take issue with how they look. The post has to be crushed to lock into the ring, and I don't think it looks very nice when the buttons are undone. The spring snap does a better job of hiding the crushed post and looks better undone.
And that's it! I've grown to really enjoying setting in snaps and kind of want to put them on everything now, tearaway pants style. I'd also like to write a post about my industrial setting tool since I use it so much these days.
Any questions or helpful suggestions for setting in snap buttons that I missed?
Looking for tips for sewing a waterproof jacket? Read the next post in the Kelly Sewalong series, or start sewing!