Corset class – A hole in one

Grommets and grommet setters

There are a lot of different types of grommets (along with eyelets) that you can find in your local fabric store, craft store, specialty store or online.  First off, there is debate about what is what – so I’m going to tell you the terms I use for different things, and we can go from there.  You might disagree with my definition, but that’s fine, just roll with me for the time being!

  • I generally refer to one-piece items as eyelets.  These are usually smaller than what I call grommets.  You make your hole, push it through, and then from the back use a tool and a hammer to roll the barrel of the eyelet down (or splits it to splay it out on the back side)  to reinforce the fabric (or paper).  You can find these in scrapbook supplies, fabric shops, and I’ve seen them in the leather section of craft stores too.  You can also find a pliers-like hand tool to close the eyelet as well.
  • I refer to two-piece items as grommets.  The first piece looks very much like an eyelet, but then there is an additional washer on the back to reinforce the fabric.  The tool rolls  the grommet down (it should not split and splay) to reinforce the fabric.  You can use a pliers-like hand tool, a hammer, shaped anvil and a setting tool, or a press to install grommets. These are also available in a range of sizes, though usually larger than eyelets.  Some people simply refer to large items as grommets and small ones as eyelets, but I prefer the one-piece/two-piece distinction.

In my experience, without the use of the shaped anvil, grommets and eyelets both have a tendency to get squished.  Since I like a uniform look in my grommets, this bugs me.  With the washer on the back, the item seems more secure, and less likely to rip out of the fabric.  When eyelets split and splay on the back side of the fabric, this can catch on other garments or on your corset lacing and be uncomfortable to wear.

So, let’s go forward with the idea that you’re going to use grommets in your corset for the lacing! How do you set them?

There are three tools/methods to use:

  • The pliers-like hand tool from

    A pliers-like hand tool – These are commonly found where ever you buy your grommets, and they are fairly simple to use, but I find difficult to use well and consistently.  The advantage – they’re quiet, portable, and affordable.  If you are the kind of sewer who is up until 3am sewing for an event the next day – your downstairs neighbors will appreciate you using this method instead of the following method with a hammer!  However, I find that it’s difficult to get consistent results with this tool, and if you use a variety of sizes of grommets, you’ll need a new tool for each size.  I found that I needed a lot of hand strength to use this – which was fine on the first five or eight, but around the 15th grommet, I was in a lot of pain.

  • Grommet setting tool with anvil from Tandy Leather

    A hammer, shaped anvil & a setting tool – This is another affordable option. You probably already have the hammer, so you just pick up the anvil and setting tool with your grommets.  Don’t worry, the “anvil” is more of a ‘receiving base’ and is about the size of a stack of 6 nickels.  You’ll also need a flat, sturdy surface – like the floor or a work bench, and a mat or something (like one of those self-healing mats or a cutting board) to avoid scratching your surface (or your floor).  This is slightly less portable (because you’ll need the hammer, but much more portable than the next option.  I find that the results are pretty good with this method, and fairly consistent, though every now and again there will be a mis-shaped grommet.  This however is NOISY, and you likely won’t win any favors from anyone trying to sleep or watch tv while you pound away.  Like the pliers-like hand tool, you’ll need a different tool and anvil for each size of grommet you use.

  • Craftool hand press from Tandy Leather

    A press with a shaped die – This is my preference for reliable and consistent results.  I would say only 1/100 grommets ends up being mis-shaped when I use this, and that is almost always due to my carelessness or trying to do things too quickly.  Using this is incredibly quiet, and you don’t need a lot of hand-strength to operate the press. The downside – it’s heavy, not really portable at all, expensive, and hard to find.  You’ll also need a different die for each grommet size you use, and the dies themselves are also expensive and hard to find.  With that being said, you can also find dies for making a hole in the fabric, for installing snaps, studs, rivets and other repetitive tasks.


I think it’s pretty clear which method I prefer, what about you? Leave a comment in the box below and let me know!

If you’re  just joining me… click the Corset Class category (on the right hand side, or this link) to read all of the posts so far in the Corset Class.

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