This post contains affiliate links. When you click through and make a purchase, SewHere receives a commission at no cost to you.
If you’re viewing this post on a podcast aggregator like Apple Podcasts, make sure to visit SewHere.com to see videos and pictures that might not show up!
Welcome to Our Episode on Snaps!
We’ve covered several other types of closures on the podcasts- but not snaps. The Wikipedia article on snaps is unsatisfying and short, but it includes some interesting tidbits. For example: “Some of the oldest snap fasteners and snap-together connectors were made of metal and developed for the Chinese Terracotta Army dating back to 210 BC. The horse halters, comprised a gold and silver tube, were linked with metal snap fasteners and made using advanced fastener-making technologies during the Qin dynasty.Inside the halters lay a pin that could be pulled out, allowing the snap to unfasten so the halters were able to be removed. Of course, many snaps are still made of metal. The Wikipedia article also shows a picture of Roy Rogers wearing a Western style shirt with pearl snaps- which we still use today. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of information on how snaps spread from different cultures or appeared in different areas of the world independently, which means Mallory should probably go get her doctorate degree in snaps or something (snapology).
A Snap is a Unique Closure
You may choose a snap over another type of closure or fastener, depending on what you’re making. Snaps don’t require a hole, like a button does, and they’re very secure. Snaps are made up of a male and female part. The male part has a protruding post and the female part is recessed. The female part on many snaps includes some kind of spring or it’s a bit smaller than the male part, so that there is tension holding the snap together in the closed position. Here’s an example of a tutorial where we add lingerie guides to a narrow strap. The small nylon snap is the perfect fastener for this project.
In costuming, snaps are extremely useful. Velcro can catch on other materials and be loud on stage. Buttons can be difficult to manage. Zede and Mallory don’t like to use a lot of magnetic closures on costumes, because they don’t want another force coming into play as someone dresses and undresses- so they mostly use riveted and sew-on snaps.
Snap Materials and Characteristics
Metal Snaps: Many snaps are made of some type of metal. Snaps on older garments may show rust (such as the ones Zede used when she first started sewing), but newer snaps are made from metals that do not rust. According to Wikipedia, modern modern snap fasteners were first patented by German inventor, Heribert Bauer. In 1885, as the “Federknopf-Verschluss”. The article includes a picture of some snaps from 1968, and we’re pretty sure that there are some from that time period in our collection too. Magnetic Snaps: Some metal snaps are magnetic. Instead of having a sort of spring system to keep the two parts of the snap together with tension, there is a magnet. They are great for purse closures! Here’s a video of a very young Mallory showing you have to insert a magnetic snap that has prongs. There are also magnetic snaps that can be sewn onto or into a project.
Nylon Snaps and Plastic Snaps: Plastic snaps are handy when you want a lightweight option. We use the small, sew-on nylon snaps between shirt buttons to prevent gapping or to secure delicate details. These are definitely something to have on hand and a sewing notion that you shouldn’t be afraid to buy in bulk- because they’re useful and inexpensive!
Attachment Methods for Snaps: Snaps can be attached in a few different ways. Sew-on snaps have spaces along the outer edge of the snap to sew through. Save time attaching sew-on snaps by quadruple threading your needle. Cut a length of thread 4 times the length you want, then fold it in half and thread the two cut ends through the needle. Knot the thread so that all four layers are knotted together. Now there are 4 threads through your needle, rather than 1 or 2. This way you should only have to sew through each opening in your snap once- maybe twice at the most. Covering a Snap– on some couture garments, the maker will cover the ring of the snaps with fabric, so that when the garment opens, as little metal is showing as possible. Riveted snaps come in plastic or metal. Kam Snaps are plastic snaps that are installed with a plier-type tool. You see these types of snaps a lot on cloth diapers.
Our favorite metal riveted snaps are SnapSource long-prong snaps. These snaps come with a sort of jig to hold the snaps in place as you hammer them into the garment. We find these to be more reliable than the plier method for metal snaps, because the prongs are super long (locking everything into place securely), and you get to use the pressure of a hammer, which you’ll never get from using a pair of pliers.
Snap Source has a huge variety or metal ring, decorative and pearl snaps.
Snap Tape- You can buy snap tape where snaps are already applied to a fabric strip or twill tape. Then you can sew the tape to your garment to create a long line of snaps easily and quickly!
Male and Female Snap Parts- When installing a snap, you want to install it so that the male part of the snap protrudes from the wearer’s body, and the female part will close the snap as it comes toward the body. This rule exists, so that people don’t poke themselves or others while getting dressed, in case they misalign the snap.
The Snap Cup Zede brought up the Snap Cup from Legally Blonde, and Mallory had no idea what she was talking about! Here’s a video