How to Grommet by Hand

How to Grommet a Corset ThumbnailThis tutorial shows specifically how to grommet a typical corset, but the technique is sound for any occasion where fabric needs to be grommetted.

The setter and the grommets shown are size#0 that may be purchased at most any hardware store, fabric store, craft store, or corsetry supply store, as well as many locations online. Grommets can be any size needed, but be certain that the setter you are using is for the same size. A heavier setter will tend to work better and last longer. Table-mounted and floor-mounted presses are lovely devices that ensure an even set every time, but they are very expensive, amounting to a luxury item for many of us.

I have a small piece of hardwood (It’s only 1/4″ thick) which I place over the base part of the setter, to prevent the setter from warping my grommets if I use a grommet that wasn’t made by the same manufacturer, or if the grommet has an odd shape to it (I have some hexagonal grommets). I strongly recommend using a rubber or rawhide mallet to set the grommets. A hammer will work, but will be more jarring and more prone to un-even setting.

The only other essential piece of equipment is the stiletto, which I purchased at a fabric store. Clover is the only company I know of that makes the properly shapped stilletto. I can’t guarantee that all fabric stores will carry one, but you NEED to have one. It must have a fine point, which tapers to a thick handle. This is what you will use to make the holes for the grommets when setting in woven materials. A hole punch will cut all the threads, which will create a very weak point in the garment where it needs to be strongest. The threads WILL PULL OUT from the grommets if you use a hole punch.

In the case of non-woven materials like leather, pvc, or plastic, a hole-punch just smaller in diameter than the grommet should be used on the non-woven material ONLY.

The stiletto will push the weave aside, creating a hole while breaking the threads of the fabric as little as possible. There is usually some tearing, but most of the threads will push to the sides, creating a very strong seat for the grommet. If extra re-enforcement is needed, back or interline the fabric with a 7/8″ wide strip of twill tape or tailor’s tape.

The corset illustrated uses a 1″ gap between the grommets. 3/4″ is also a common distance. For boned bodices, I recommend a 1″ or 1.25″ gap.

Use a ruler to mark the exact locations of the grommets. For lighter fabrics I use a pencil to mark. On darker fabrics I use chalk or soapstone. Make certain the marks are at the same location on both halves of the corset.

For most corsets, I work the grommets from the outside to the inside (i.e., top edge, bottom edge, one in from top, one in from bottom, etc.), as this helps to minimize the garment edge bowing in towards the line of grommets. For this corset I won’t be grommeting into the tabs, so I started at the top edge and worked towards the tabs.

Insert the stiletto into the garment, twisting it as you work the hole larger. Periodically remove the grommet and insert it from the opposite side of the fabric, working the hole until it is slighty larger than the size of the grommet.

Insert the core of the grommet through the hole and seat it on the base of the setter.

Put the ring over the top of the hole.

Seat the top of the setter in place, holding it straight upward.

Hit it with the mallet until it’s snug.

With practice (mock-ups are great for practicing setting grommets), you’ll be able to hit the setter evenly and firmly. At first, it’s easy to end up with lopsided or split grommets. Lopsided is a result of hitting it at an angle. Splits are a result of hitting it too hard. After the grommet is in place, examine it. If there is a significant gap between the grommet and the fabric, it may need to be struck again until it sits snug.


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