How to attach Metal Rivets

Best way to add metal rivets on your project - with a hole punch and rivet setting tool ; used as replacement for seams and reinforce seams
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how to attach metal rivets

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.

rivets on jeans serve as reinforcement

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 puzzling about how to sew those thick bag handles on your bags/purses or manipulating hard to sew places onto a non-cooperating sewing machine.

Use of Rivets

If you havenot been clear about the advangates of using rivets, here they are :

  • They can replace stitching on thick layers of fabric/no-sew materials/hard to sew places
  • They can look cool because of the metal element
metal rivets are used as fasteners instead of sewing

Common types of rivets that you can use

types of metal rivets - screw on rivets and semi tubular rivets

There are semi-tubular cap rivets, double cap rivets, screw-on rivets, split rivets and rhinestone rivets.

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.

Rhinestone rivets are your regular rivets with a crystal on the front side.

metal rivets with rhinestones
Rhinestone encrusted metal rivets

How to add the metal rivets to your material

Step 1 – Get your rivets & gather your tools

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

You can get as uncomplicated as you want or as simple as you want when attaching rivets. Getting an automatic rivet setting machine may be an overkill if you only occassionally set rivets. Even a set like the picture below may be unnecessary.

rivet setting tools


metal rivet setting tool

It has a concave side and a convex side – just right for fixing the cap rivets without damaging anything.

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

make hole for fixing rivets with the hole making tool - find size of hole with the groove on it

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.

press holes for metal rivet with the hole making tool

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.

metalrivet hole punched hole

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 can use your rivet setting tool. 

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. 

attach the metal rivet with the rivet setting tool

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.

Related posts : How to attach metal grommets ; How to sew eyelets.

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.
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