Rivets are godsends for those with delicate sewing machines; and also for those with a patience-fuse when there are skipped stitches when sewing thick fabrics; and also for those who love some cool hardware and want to reinforce stitches at the same time – the kind that gives that extra coolness to jeans.
Knowing how to set metal rivets on your projects is one of those magic-bullet things every bag-making/ jeans-sewing/ upholstering person ought to know. No more sweating about how to sew those thick bag handles on your bags/purses or manipulating hard to sew places onto a non-cooperating sewing machine.
Common types of rivets that you can use
You can use the semi-tubular cap rivets – this one is the regular rivets with a smooth cap that is visible on one side (Cap that comes on the right side of your project). The other side will have a shaft with an indent (Looks like a nail)- this appears on the backside; this shaft is inserted into the cap side of the rivet.
Then there are the double cap rivets which are smooth on both sides.
There are screw-on cap rivets that have one smooth side (Cap) and one screw on the other side to fasten it. This is my favorite.
Then there are split rivets – which consists of just one part- this is inserted into the hole and the back of this cap will spit on the back to fasten to your material. You can see the video here to see how to set this type of rivet.
How to add the metal rivets to your material
Step 1 – Get your rivets
Select the best cap rivet for your project. You can buy the rivets according to the thickness of the fabric layers you have. If you have very thick layers your shaft size will be longer and the cap size will be bigger. Passionate sewists always have a range of rivets in their sewing kits.
The problem with not getting the right kind or good quality one is that, it will remain loose on the holes, jiggle all the time, catch on other fabrics and be a nuisance all the time. You need rivets that will snugly fit on your fabric layers. If you are good with metal tools (wire cutter) you can try cutting the shaft of the nail side to fit in the fabric hole so that it is not loose. Otherwise buy correct fitting ones.
Step 2 – Adjust hole punch
To set these rivets you also need to make holes on your projects. On fabric it is easy – you can use an awl to make a hole.
But if you have thick layers of upholstery material or leather or pleather you will need to make neat holes with this tool – a hole punch. You can make holes of different sizes with this tool
Select the shaft of the hole punch according to your revet. You can keep the shaft side of the rivet on the tool to see how big your hole should be. Adjust the hole punch accordingly.
Step 3 – Make hole
Mark your hole. Keep the hole punching tool shaft ( with the correct pointy shaft adjusted to the front) on your hole and press.
If you have a sharp punching tool I guess it will make the hole easily enough. I had to give a whack with my hammer for mine to behave.
Step 4 – Fit the rivets
If you have a screw-on rivet, just screw the backside on the cap one you have fitted.
But if it is a tubular rivet you will need to have a special tool to set it, like this one.
This one has a concave side and a convex side – just right for fixing the cap rivets without damaging anything.
Place the cap side of the rivet onto the hole and bring the shaft part of the rivet to fit inside. You will have to use a rivet setting tool like this to set the rivet without damaging the outer part.
Just press it together and if needed use a hammer on top.
Ensure that they are snugly fitted together.
If you do not have this tool, you can do with a hammer, I guess. Just be careful that when you use the hammer it doesnot destroy the smooth surface of the rivet. You can keep some fabric on top before whacking with the hammer.
Instead of one big whack, I would use small taps and check after every tap that I have not damaged my rivet. It is a pain if they do not align- you will have some trouble getting the rivet out of the material, even if you deseprately want it out.