Sunday, 7 September 2014

Tutorial: Adding Snaps/Poppers using Prym Pliers

I often use snaps, especially on shirt dresses like  this onethis one, this one and this one.  I used to add snaps using the bendy plastic tool the manufacturers include in the packet or with a hammer and a metal thing but it was hopelessly hit and miss and they are not the easiest thing to pick off once they've been hammered in.  So, I invested in some Prym Vario pliers from a local shop and although it was a few pennies- around £12, it has been worth it.  This is my technique and you can also find this tutorial on instagram under the hashtag #sewingtutorialfittingsnaps

1.   I used 10mm snaps for the Liberty and Chambray Alder dresses- the fabric is light and anything bigger tends to be too heavy and drag the fabric down.  I buy my snaps from the Trimming Shop on ebay.  They have a great selection and are very helpful if there's a query or problem.  I always order more than I need as some are always sacrificed in the process and the odd one can be dented.  There is a male 'sticky out' half and a female 'hole' half and each has a corresponding prong section. I would advise you to label the sizes if you keep a selection of snaps.  You can see some plastic white covers on my pliers- they came with a set of snaps some time ago and don't come with the pliers.  Instead you get piecing tools for attaching metal eyelets.  I bought some jersey snaps like these a while ago and they included the white plastic attachment tools that will hold the snap parts in place without damaging them.  You need these to successfully attach the snaps.  Mine are a little large for 10mm snaps but they work fine.   

2.  Sort the snaps.  I am going to work with the two parts of the top female snap first. The top pearl prong section corresponds to the female 'hole' ring. At the bottom of this pic you can see the pieces arranged from left to right showing the right side and wrong side for these snap parts.

3. I mark where the poppers will go on each half of the button placket using a pencil dot.  On the right side of the placket that will be on top when the snaps are fastened together (usually the right placket as you are wearing the garment on female clothing), push the pearl snap prong in with your fingers keeping the pencil dot centred under the snap.  The prongs will protrude on the wrong side.

4.  Line up the wrong side of the female 'hole' part of the snap which will go on the underneath of the button placket.  You can see that on the wrong side of the snap the outer circle edge is not as rounded as on the right side.   Rest it against the prongs and hold it together with your finger and thumb: the pearl snap is underneath on this pic as I have flipped the placket over so the wrong side is on top.

 5.  Carefully place the pliers around the snap halves (I prefer to have the pearl snap on the bottom), squeeze gently to check that they are engaged and then squeeze together slowly and firmly.  Repeat for all the pearl snaps needed on the placket.

6.  If it goes wrong at this point- e.g. a prong escapes and doesn't sink into the female ring part of the snap, carefully prise the snap halves apart with a small screw driver and start again.  You might be able to reuse one or both halves of the snap but more likely, you'll need fresh snap pieces!

 7.  Now for the male 'sticky out' snap and its corresponding prong section!

8.  Insert the prong ring on the underside of the remaining placket- usually the left as you are wearing the garment for female clothing; the prongs should protrude on the right side and the placement mark pencil dot should be in the centre.

9.  Place the male sticky out section on top of the prongs and hold with your finger and thumb.  I have changed one of the plastic plates on the pilers for the one with a hole in it to receive the male section.  Place the pliers carefully around the snaps (removing your finger and thumb first!), gently squeeze to check that the sections are engaged and then squeeze as before, slowly and firmly.

Here is the male section attached.

10.  Once all the snaps are attached I squeeze each one again just to make sure they are secure.  I usually open and close them fairly gently- they seem to get more secure and established with wear.  Then could always be replaces too if needs be.  When I wash a garment with snaps, I tend to do the snaps up and turn the garment inside out- it stops the pearl or painted part of the snap getting scratched. I hope that has been helpful!  I love the clean finish snaps give.  They are handy on children's items too- I used one on this bib for a friend's baby.  

Obviously, you need to take extra care that the snaps are very securely attached.  The pattern for the bib is from Amy Morinka's  'Zakka Handmades' book (reviewed here), a very useful book for quick gift ideas!

sib blog


  1. I haven't tried mine for snaps yet, but I'm not entirely impressed with the eyelet setting insert bits, one half got stuck in the plastic and I needed pliers to prise them apart again! I will give the snaps a go now though :o)

  2. Thank you SO much for this! I have the equipment but have been afraid to try it! Thank you!

  3. Nice tutorial. Now to figure out if that's the pliers I have ...

  4. This is exactly how I do this.
    I start with the top decorative snap and proceed from there.

  5. The one I have is made with simple plastic snap. It didn't work out well for me, as I have to hold down the plastic by hands then hammer, too. I hammed myself a few times. I will need to find one of the tool you use here.

  6. I recently inherited a massive box of snaps and a pair of pliers from my aunt in law and I'm dying to try them out, sadly no pearl snaps in the box


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