Setting Snaps – How to Set 4 Types

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Learn all about setting snaps. Snaps can be used for shirts, bags, kids clothing and all kinds of sewing projects. They are a great alternative to sewing buttons and buttonholes and are perfectly suited to beginners. Here we will learn how to set 4 types of snaps.

PinSetting Snaps


Types of Setting SnapsHow to Line Up a SnapSetting Snaps – 4 TypesSetting Snaps with ProngsSetting Snaps – Heavy Duty Press StudsKam SnapsSew on SnapsAlternatives to Setting SnapsSetting Snaps – In ConclusionMore Articles on Fastenings

Types of Setting Snaps

Snaps come in different sizes and colors and differ in their method of setting.  The bigger snaps are useful for thicker fabrics such as denim and leather and smaller snaps look more discrete on lighter fabrics.  Snaps come with two parts that ‘snap’ or pop together. 

There are 4 methods of settings snaps that I will discuss

Pronged Snaps – Best for thin to medium weight fabricMetal Snaps – Best for thick denim and leatherKam Snaps – Plastic snaps best for kids and baby nappies and clothingSew in Snaps – Best for thin to medium weight fabric and knitted items

Other names for snaps – You may see snaps referred to as press studs, gripper studs, poppers, press fasteners, or any combination of these.

Setting Snaps Top and BottomSetting Snaps Top and BottomPinSetting Snaps Top and Bottom

How to Line Up a Snap

Regardless of the type of stud, you will need to line up the top and bottom pieces. Set the top snap in place first, then rub a bit of tailor`s chalk on the inside and press it over to the other piece of fabric.  The chalk that rubs off will mark the exact spot for the other half.  SNAP it is a perfect match!

Setting Snaps – 4 Types

Setting Snaps with Prongs

These snap fasteners have small prongs on the back and front that goes through the weave of the fabric. They can also be called gripper studs and poppers.

Look for Hemline, Birch and Dritz brands.

They are designed for light to medium fabric and not leather or denim. Lots of shirts use this type of snap. It is up to you whether you like a matching or contrasting color. As well as the usual silver and gold, you will often find enamel colored snaps like my red and blue ones below.

Setting Snaps with ProngsSetting Snaps with ProngsPinSetting Snaps with Prongs

The area these are to go through should be doubled or faced with interfacing first. Think about the thickness of the front facing of a shirt.

Pronged snaps come with a ring style or solid style top. You may have even seen the ones with a metal ring and a pearl look on the inside down the front of some shirts. I always think of this style on the front of checkered shirts.

SUPPLIES – You will need a metal setting tool which is normally included in the packet and a hammer to set the snaps.

PARTS – There are 4 parts to prong snaps

Top ProngTop SocketBottom ProngBottom Stud

Parts of a SnapParts of a SnapPinParts of a Snap

Setting Snaps with Prongs on the Top Layer

From the top layer push the top prong piece through the fabric. You will see the small prongs pierce through the fabric underneath. On the underside of the top, place the top socket on the prongs. Set it by placing the metal setting tool on top of the top socket and giving it a firm hit with the hammer. I usually put a cutting board underneath so I don`t mark my table.

Setting Snaps with ProngsSetting Snaps with ProngsPinSetting Snaps with Prongs

Setting Snaps with Prongs on the Bottom Layer

From the underside of the bottom layer, push the bottom prong piece through the fabric to the top. You will see the small prongs pierce through the fabric.On the top side of the bottom, place the bottom stud on the prongs.Set it by placing the metal setting tool on top and giving it a firm hit with the hammer.

Setting Snaps – Heavy Duty Press Studs

These metal heavy duty snaps are suitable for denim jackets and skirts, and leather items such as jackets, bags and purses. If your leather or fabric is not thick enough, you may need to reinforce it with interfacing or another layer before you begin. You will normally need to put them through at least 2 layers.

Setting Snaps - Heavy DutySetting Snaps - Heavy DutyPinSetting Snaps – Heavy Duty

LENGTHS – These metal studs come in different length prongs to suit different thicknesses of fabric.

QUALITY – If you will be making leather bags, purchase them from a leather supplier as the chemicals from the leather can rust and discolor cheaper brands more quickly. Generally, the ones you purchase from a haberdashery are good enough quality for denim clothing.

PARTS – These setting snaps come in 4 pieces

Bottom post – Goes on the bottom piece on the undersideBottom stud – Goes on the bottom piece on the topsideTop socket – Goes on the top piece on the undersideTop cap – Goes on the top piece on the top piece. This is the part that is visible when the snap is done up. Parts of SnapsParts of SnapsPinParts of Snaps

TOOLS – When setting snaps like these, you will additionally need a setting tool and a rounded cap tool as well as a hammer and either a hole punch or sharp pair of scissors.

Setting Tools NeededSetting Tools NeededPinSetting Tools Needed

Setting Snaps on the Top Layer

Mark the position in the top layer of fabric (or leather) and create a small hole. I used a leather punch but you can also use an awl or the end of a small pair of scissors. If you are using scissors, be careful not to create too big a hole. The hole needs to be smaller than the size of the prong on the top cap. From the top, push the top cap prong through to the underside. Place the top cap on the rounded cup tool and place the top socket on the prong on the underside. The purpose of the cap tool is to prevent the rounded cap from being squashed flat when you take a hammer to it. Work on a steady table or the floor. You don`t want to be setting snaps on a wobbly table. Place the tool in the inner circle of the prong and hammer down firmly. If you look closely you will see that the edges of the prong round over and hold the socket in place.

Setting Snaps - Heavy DutySetting Snaps - Heavy DutyPinSetting Snaps – Heavy Duty

Setting Snaps on the Bottom Layer

The steps for setting the bottom layer are very similar to the top.

Mark the position in the bottom layer of fabric (or leather) and create a small hole. From the bottom, push the bottom post prong through the fabric to the top.Place the bottom stud on the prong on the top of the fabric. Place the setting tool in the inner circle of the prong and hammer down firmly. If the bottom post has a flat base then you don`t need the curved cap tool underneath. For bottom posts that are curved or are even capped, you will need the curved cap tool. Usually, the bottom pieces for clothing are flat and for bags, they are often capped like the top.

Here is what all your finished pieces look like

Topside of top fabric flapUnderside of top fabric flapUnderside of bottom fabric flapTopside of bottom fabric flap

Setting Snaps - Heavy DutySetting Snaps - Heavy DutyPinSetting Snaps – Heavy Duty

Kam Snaps

Kam snaps are a brand name for plastic snaps designed for home use. You will often see them on baby nappy covers and kids clothing. Like most studs, they come in different sizes to cater for different fabric thicknesses. They are really reasonably priced and come in kits with the awl and setting pliers on Amazon and eBay.

Kam SnapsKam SnapsPinKam Snaps

They come in 4 parts and are set in a similar way to regular snaps. The awl is used to make the hole in the fabric and then the pliers set the snaps. One side of the pliers are designed for the cap and the other pushes down the prong.

Read my full article on how to use kam snaps for more photos and instructions.

Sew on Snaps

Setting snaps is easy when you use the sew in variety. No special tool is needed for these, just a needle and strong thread.

Sew in SnapsSew in SnapsPinSew in Snaps

PARTS – Unlike the other styles of snaps we have looked at previously in this article, sew on snaps only have 2 parts. Just a top and bottom. You will notice the one side has a ball cap and the other side is a socket so they fit together. There are four holes around the edge of the snap.

How to Sew on Snaps

Start your stitching with a knot or double backstitch that will lie under the snap.  Then work through each hole with a couple of stitches to secure and make sure you do not have stitches showing on the right side of the garment. 

You can stitch with a normal over stitch or you can be fancy and use a buttonhole stitch.  End off with a stitch concealed under the snap. 

If you would like more pictures and a video, see my article on how to sew on snaps.

Setting Snaps that are Sew OnSetting Snaps that are Sew OnPinSetting Snaps that are Sew On

Alternatives to Setting Snaps

An alternative to setting snaps is using a snap tape. Snap tape has the ball snaps on one side and the socket snaps on the other. The two pieces of tape snap together in a long row. While this is a more expensive option, it certainly is quick and easy as you just need to straight stitch along the edges.

Snap TapeSnap TapePinSnap Tape

Setting Snaps – In Conclusion

Whichever type of snaps you use, you will get a great result without having to do fiddly buttonholes. Setting snaps really is quite an easy and cheap option when sewing and is a must for bags and denim clothing.

More Articles on Fastenings

Clothes Fastenings Guide for SewingTYPES OF BUTTONS | 13 main types you will useAlternatives to Buttons | 5 Easiest MethodsHow to Fix a ZIPPER – Problems SolvedHow to Make FABRIC BUTTONS – Kit and No KitHow to Sew an Invisible Zipper – Easy Step by StepHand Sewn Buttonhole – Easy Way To Do ItHow to Sew a Buttonhole | Automatic & ManualHow to Sew a Button – BEGINNERS GuideHook and Eye Sewing – TUTORIAL for BeginnersHow to Sew a Button on a Shirt | For BeginnersHow to Sew a Zipper – Easiest Way for BeginnersHow to Cover Zipper Ends – Great for Bags & PursesHow to Sew On Snaps (Press Studs) for BeginnersHow to Sew an Exposed Zipper – 2 Easy WaysHow to Shorten a Zipper | BEST Method for Plastic & MetalBUTTON SIZES | With Button Sizes ChartHow to Use KAM Snaps Tutorial {Plastic Snaps}TYPES OF ZIPPER – Types, Sizes and Measuring ZipsSEWING VELCRO | How to Sew Velcro the Right Way

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