Eyelets are basically holes made in any material which are finished with either hand stitches or with metal pieces specially made for this. The metal eyelets are also called grommets.Hand stitched eyelets are embroidered holes which are covered with eyelet embroidery stitches around the hole. The stitches will be even and neat.
There are many uses for the eyelets. Hand embroidered Eyelets are used extensively in Venetian embroidery and Swiss embroidery. They are used to fasten hooks. Metal Eyelets (grommets )can be used for your drawstring waistbands and in bags or to lace up dress backs.Their uses in home decor sewing are many, like those in shower curtains etc. One place I would not use a grommet is on a baby’s dress but the hand stitched eyelets works there beautifully.
The first time I learned to make hand embroidered eyelets I began putting them on all my new projects. They are the cutest things for decorating your fabric.They can be used to embellish clothes embroidered in contrasting/complimentary colored thread ; on belts, for lacing ribbons. Sew them with some petals and you have a nice eyelet flower(Checkout how to make them below).
Thankfully making eyelets with hand stitches is pretty easy. Attaching metal eyelets or grommets are even easier.
How to attach a metal Eyelet or Grommet
To attach the metal eyelets or grommets I do not think you need any sophisticated tools other than the grommets themselves and a hammer or a rubber mallet. Atleast I donot use any when I make them. But that is not to say that you should not have them. There are some cool grommet setting tools with settings for just any size grommets.
The grommets have two parts – the male and female parts. You have to sandwich the fabric with the hole with these parts on either sides. Then press it and you have a handy neat little eyelet.
Mark the hole for the eyelet in your fabric
To mark, keep the eyelet on the fabric and trace around the inside of the eyelet.
Interface this area. Especially for thin fabric which needs the support of interfacing to bear the strain of the eyelet. Eyelets are meant for thick fabrics so it not optional that you interface the thin fabrics. Do it.
Make a hole there. Make it with an awl or a pair of very sharp snips or scissor.
Be careful that you do not make a too big hole ( I would skip the scissors for fear of cutting too big a hole; a too small hole is any day better than a too big hole when making eyelets) Ensure that the cut is inside the circle you have marked.A wobbly grommet is not what you want. But too small means your fabric might bunch or crease near the hole when you attach the eyelet ; You need the hole just right for your eyelet.
Push the eyelet shaft (male ) through the hole on the face of the fabric.
Keep the eyelet plate ( Female – this is basically a washer) over the shaft sandwiching the fabric in between.
Use a hammer or rubber mallet to attach it there. You may need to hit many times with the hammer for it to be fixed. ( A rubber mallet is a better choice than a hard hammer because the hammer may mark your eyelet) You need your eyelets male and female joined in a tight clasp.
Note – Be careful that your work surface is not marked when you hammer the eyelet. I would not use my wooden dining table for this – a concrete slab or a scrap wood would do.Even better just sit on the floor of the concrete floor in your garage like I do.
How to make a hand embroidered eyelet
Eyelets are a major part of heirloom embroidery. Broderie Anglais work has its basis on eyelets. Checkout the tutorial for Broderie Anglais work here.
The delicately made eyelets on fabric can change the look of it completely. Eyelet fabrics can be bought at stores and they feature beautiful eyelets made allover – they are machine made ofcourse. You can emulate the same look with your home sewing needle and detailed stitching.They are basically satin stitch done around a hole.
There are several variations of the hand stitched eyelets. The Outlines can be square, diamond, round, or irregular. All stitches begin at the periphery and enter the same central (or off-center) hole. Stitches are made sequentially along the outline
How to make a hand stitched eyelet.
Mark a small circle on the fabric.
Keep a small sharp awl on the circle and pierce; you can use drapery needles for small holes . I would not recommend using snips or scissors to make the hole as they always end up being bigger than what you want. For small circles the small awl is more than enough.
Make the embroidery stitches ( follow any of the embroidery stitches given below)
Use the awl again on the hole to re punch the hole.This will set the hole just right and settle the stitches around the hole
For large eyelet holes – If you are making large eyelet holes it is better to make the hole after the stitches are done. After you have marked the hole, Make a round of split stitch around the hole outline. Mark an x on the hole . Cut this x with a sharp scissors . You may have to trim the fabric inside the hole to near the split stitch. Make the stitches (Satin stitches or buttonhole stitches) around the hole outline stitch. ( Checkout the tutorial to make a split stitch here)
Embroidery stitches for eyelets
Diamond Eyelet Stitch (Diamond Eye Stitch)
This eyelet stitch is made almost similar to the Star eyelet stitch. It has more rays than the star stitch
Make a diamond shape around the hole. (In this stitch a hole is automatically formed by the needle and thread passing continuously through the center so if you want a small hole there is no need to use the awl first to make a hole.Just marking the center would do )
Start making straight stitches from right to left through the hole. Each quarter space will have three straight stitches inside.Fill the whole shape in this manner
Eyelet Stitch / Pierced Eyelet Stitch
Make a line of running stitches around the hole.
Cut inside the hole leavingfabric to turn to the back.
Bring the needle and thread up to the front of the fabric just outside the running stitch.Work blanket stitches or buttonhole stitches all around the hole over the running stitches very closely or loosely. The picture shows buttonhole stitches, as they have a knotted edge which makes it look well defined
Algerian Eye Stitch (Algerian Eyelet Stitch, Star Eyelet)
This is a very simple eyelet stitch. Other than as an eyelet stitch this is great as a filling stitch for embroidery designs. Large areas filled with this stitch looks great.
Make a square around the hole
Make stitches from right to left through the hole.Work around the hole and make straight stitches around it to the corners; A total of 8 straight stitches are made in this manner
How to make eyelet flowers
These are small eyelets made with bullion knots around the hole making the petals. You can make 3, 4 or 5 petals around the eyelet hole.Follow the directions below
Make a small hole in the fabric with a thick needle
Bring up the needle (with two strands of thread) two or three thread away from the hole. Make overcast stitches around the hole ( all two thread around the hole)
Bring up the needle again through the eyelt hole to widen the hole. Ensure that you are not overstretching the hole
Make bullion knots around the hole.Checkout how you can make bullion knots here.
Checkout the post on hand embroidery border designs to know how to use the algerian eyelets in borders.
A quick and cheat eyelet can be made by making a hole and attaching the premade mirror work thingie on the hole.
If you find that you are frequently making eyelets, just be aware that there are sewing machines around which can make perfect eyelets just like buttonholes. So next time you are shopping around for a sewing machine you know what feature to look out for.