Pearl Prong Western Snaps Tutorial

on September 29 | in Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 40 Comments

Annie Rose from Cowgirl Snaps created this basic western snap tutorial and the Linda Mae Pillowcase tutorial. Visit the Linda Mae Pillowcase tutorial for your chance to win 48 Cowgirl Snaps in any color (your choice, mix & match) and a set of Dritz Pliers. Just mention your favorite Cowgirl Snap color in the comments of the pillowcase post and/or tell us what you’d do with the snaps! Thanks, Annie Rose!

From Annie Rose: You might be familiar with pearl prong snaps if you’ve ever seen a fancy western shirt or rodeo shirt. That’s where I first ran into them- when I was a teenaged thrift store shopper, a western shirt was considered one of the best finds. I loved them! And still do. The best part of a western shirt, as far as I was concerned were the wonderful pearl snaps. I loved the extra fanciness they gave an otherwise ordinary plaid, and I loved the satisfying snap they made when I clicked them together.

Pearl snaps aren’t just the best part of western shirts though- you can buy them as supplies and use them on all kinds of sewing projects. And pearl snaps aren’t just for western wear, either. They can be used almost any place you might otherwise use a button. Eristotle, for example, uses them on her Tiny Pocket wallets. Faitavec uses them on her fabulous spats. They’re a great accompaniment to sparkle vinyl creations. I’ve seen them used on skirts, belts, leg warmers, curtains and towels. My brand of snaps- Cowgirl Snaps- are lead free, and can be used on bibs, onesies and other children’s clothes items. They also look great when used non-functionally, as a purely decorative accent.

I like to use the wide variety of colors available to create contrasts, or to draw out colors from the fabrics. In the tutorial that follows, I used Marigold Cowgirl Snaps and a marigold colored back fabric on the Linda Mae Pillowcase. In the finished pillowcase, the yellow of the Cowgirl Snaps nicely draws out the yellow background that edges the pillowcase, and contrasts nicely with the purple flowered fabric on the front. My other current favorite colors are Teal, Red and Chartreuse.

And besides being fabulous, pearl snaps are also great for those who have a disability or illness that makes the delicate work of undoing buttons difficult. I took the buttons off of one of my Grandpa’s favorite shirts and put Cowgirl Snaps on it, and he liked the shirt even better than before.

Using and setting pearl snaps is easy, once you get the hang of it, but there are a few things that will help make it easier to do, and a few “best practices” that will make for a high quality, durable and beautiful finished project.

What are Pearl Snaps and how do they work?:
Pearl snaps, also known as no-sew snaps, western snaps, and pearl prong snaps, are a closure device often associated with western wear. They have a stud side which fits neatly into the socket side, creating a firm closure for any opening. They have four parts- a pearl prong, ring prong, socket and stud.

The pearl prong and ring prong pieces have prongs on the end that pierce fabric when pressure is applied. The prongs then fold into a ring indentation on the back of the socket or stud. The pearl prong goes with the socket, the ring prong with the stud. To use them, you need a snap setting tool.

Recommended Fabric
Woven fabrics such as quilters cotton, canvass duck, etc.
Light weight vinyl
Polar fleece
Etc.!
(not recommended for knits)

Types of Tools to Use to Set the Snaps
I recommend using the Dritz Snap Pliers. There are also hammer-on kits available, but these must be used very carefully, as it is easy to crack the pearl side. If you will be using snaps a lot, consider an industrial snap press. They can cost as much as $200, but are above all the easiest to use. If you’re just getting started though, the pliers are the way to go- below are some instructions and tips that will help you use the pliers correctly.

Where can I buy pearl snaps?
You can buy pearl snaps in 24 colors in my Etsy shop. They are also available at fabric stores, though the color selection is often more limited. I also sell the Dritz snap pliers. And don’t forget to enter the contest to win 48 Cowgirl Snaps of your choice and a set of Dritz Pliers.

Before you set the snaps:
Fabric Preparation
As a rule of thumb, use 2 layers of fabric with one layer of woven interfacing sandwiched between. This will provide the structural strength needed to resist the pressure of putting together and pulling apart your snap. This extra support will ensure that the snaps don’t rip through your garment and make yucky holes.

Just make sure the interfacing is appropriate to the weight of fabric you’re using, and isn’t visible in the finished piece. In the pillow how-to below, we fold the edges of the pillow over a light weight interfacing.

You can experiment with fabric types; if you are using a heavy weight fabric such as cotton duck, you may need only two layers of fabric. To test, set the snaps on a scrap piece of fabric, and snap the snaps on and pull them off about 20 times. If the snap starts to pull away from the fabric, your fabric is not strong enough, and you should apply interfacing. If you are using a medium to heavy weight vinyl, one layer is usually sufficient.

Marking
Before setting your snap, mark where you want it to go on your project with a washable fabric marker or chalk.

Be sure to mark in two places- one for the pearl/socket side and one for the ring prong/stud side.



Practice makes perfect!
If this is the first time you’ve used the Dritz Snap Pliers or pearl snaps, always practice first on a scrap piece of fabric. All Cowgirl Snap orders come with a few extra sets so you can try a few out first if you need to. A word to the wise: getting the hang of the Dritz Pliers does take time. Expect to make a few mistakes at first.

How to set the Snaps:
Setting up the Snap Pliers

The Dritz Snap Pliers come with three essential parts- the pliers themselves, and two rubber rings. The rubber rings hold your snaps in place before you put them onto the fabric. When you get your pliers, make sure that the yellow plastic side with the round hole in the middle is on the outside. If it’s not, you can push the yellow oval up and twist it around. The metal stud side is not used when setting Cowgirl Snaps. Fit the rubber rings onto the metal side and the yellow side of the pliers. Make sure they are firmly in place.



Setting the Pearl Prong/Socket Side

1. The pearl prong goes into the yellow side of the pliers, with the prongs facing out. To get it in place, stretch the rubber rings apart a little bit and slide the pearl prong inside.
Make sure it is FIRMLY in place, held snugly and securely by the rubber ring.
2. The socket piece: There is an inside and an outside of the socket piece. The inside of the socket is the side that the prongs will go into and latch onto. This side has a larger circumference indentation around the center. Check out this pic… It’s much easier to show this than it is to describe it!
The socket goes into the metal side of the pliers…
…With the inside facing towards the pearl prongs.
3. Setting the snap: Once you have the two pieces in place, put the fabric you wish to snap in the jaws of the pliers.
Line the snaps up over the mark you have made, so that the pearl side is on the outside of your item, and the socket side is inside. Squeeze gently but firmly. You’re done!



Setting the Ring Prong/Stud Side

1. The ring prong goes into the metal side of the pliers…
…With the prongs facing out.
2. The stud piece goes into the yellow side of the pliers, with the stud facing into the pliers.
Peel the rubber rings apart, and place the stud piece into the yellow side. The stud should make a click sound as it fits into the hole in the pliers.
3. Setting the snap: Once you have the two pieces in place, put the fabric you wish to set the snap on in the jaws of the pliers. Line the snaps up over the mark you have made, so that the ring prong side is on the outside of your item, and the stud side is inside. Squeeze gently but firmly. You’re done!


Snap Setting Tips:
Be sure that the snaps are completely inside of the rubber rings on the pliers. Also, try getting the pliers as close together as you can, without piercing your fabric, before you give the final snap setting squeeze.

Quality Control:
Both sides of the snap should be firmly attached to the fabric. If you can fit a finger nail between the bottom of any of the four parts of the snap and the fabric, you need to squeeze it a little more. Fit the snap pieces back into the pliers, and give them another gentle squeeze.

Trouble Shooting:
The prongs didn’t line up with the socket/stud when I set the snap!
This happens. Even to the best of us. It can be frustrating! But I have found a few tricks during my snapping years:

  • 1. Check to make sure that both sides of the snap are firmly tucked into the rubber rings on the pliers.
  • 2. I also find it helps to slowly squeeze the pliers together, until the prongs are almost touching the fabric. When they are this close, I then give the pliers the final firm squeeze that sets the snap.
  • 3. And for some reason, I find they work best when you keep the pearl prong or ring prong side on the bottom.

I put the snap in the wrong place. How do I get the snap off of the fabric?
The most effective way to get them off is to take a flat head screw driver and insert it under the socket/stud side and pry the snap off. It can be a pain to do- but at least it can be done, and if done carefully, it won’t mess up your fabric. You can reuse the socket/stud sides if they are undamaged. I don’t recommend reusing the ring/pearl side, however, as there is usually a bent prong.

The Pearl part cracked!
Oh no! This is probably because too much pressure was applied during snap setting. Try using less pressure next time. A firm but gentle squeeze is the best.

There’s a little round flap of fabric sticking up out of the middle of the ring prong side. It seems like it’s cut.
Again, this could be the result of too much pressure during snap setting. Try using less pressure next time. This could also be the result of insufficiently strong interfacing. Try using another layer of fabric or a heavier weight interfacing.

There’s a big gap between one side of the snap and the fabric.
This is probably the result of not enough pressure during snap setting. It’s easy to fix, though! Fit the snaps back into the snap pliers and give it another gentle squeeze.

Project Ideas for Pearl Snaps:

  • Make an envelope wallet and close it with a snap!
  • Use as fastenings for the openings of arm warmers or leg warmers.
  • Instantly turn a plaid into a western shirt by removing the buttons and adding pearl snaps in their place.
  • Spice up a wool jacket by adding just the pearl/socket side of a snap to the sleeves and hem.
  • Make a reusable sandwich bag and close it with a snap!
  • Use with vinyl to make lapel pins and barrettes.
  • There’s so much more!
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40 Responses to Pearl Prong Western Snaps Tutorial

  1. Ted N says:

    I just borrowed my mom’s (circa 1969) snap pliers to convert some button-down shirts to *snap* shirts. And I really like the idea of clamping the pearl prong over the buttonhole.

    But I am curious to ask the group . . . do people just clamp the pearl over the buttonhole without doing anything to the placket? Or do you sew the buttonhole closed first . . . use a backing of some sort . . . ?

    Would much appreciate anyone’s input. Many advance thanks.

  2. Excellent read. Givin you a quick note, the Rss feed button is not functional in iCab installed on Jaguar.

  3. Donna says:

    Very nice tutorial. I love to use the snaps and find that when I do crack one I just use a small covered button to match the fabric. It’s easier than trying to take them apart.

  4. glenda says:

    Wonderful information, have used snaps for years but your tutorial has great info. Glad to know that the best results are with the prongs on the bottom! Will save lots of frustration, and you carry every color needed for any project. Cowgirl Snaps rocks!

  5. Carol says:

    Thanks for the tutorial, Annie Rose! You’re a great teacher!

  6. brandy says:

    hi, where can we buy these snaps? can we get them whole sale? thasnk brandy 1-403-556-7894 or 1-403-946-5392

  7. beth says:

    I bought my first set of pliers today after an anguishing weekend trying to set decorative snaps with the impact (hammer) method and cracking a couple of the pearls even though I used a padded surface and a “spool” which cradled the rim of snap not the pearl. Frustration sent me to the store today and upon returning home I Googled for instructions and fell across your tutorial, and set my first set with the pliers PERFECTLY! Wonderful directions and tips easy enough for a first-timer to follow. Thanks a million! The photos were key…

  8. Eva Wong says:

    I’m in need of your help. I’d sewed an adult pyjama set and would like to make metal snap as it’s closures. Could you tell me what kind , size of meatl snaps and what snap tool I should get? Thanks.

  9. Holly Knott says:

    What a great, clear and super informative tutorial. Many thanks! :)

  10. Brian says:

    I was wondering if someone could help me find some replacement snaps for a western shirt I own. I’ve been googling around with no luck. I’m trying to find an ivory with silver ring size 16 snap. Where could I get something like that?

    Thank you!

    Brian

  11. alan says:

    Is it possible to take pearl snaps off a shirt and put traditional buttons on in their place?

  12. Claudia says:

    PS….the chartreuse-ones in your Etsy shop are so cool!!!!

  13. Claudia says:

    Oh, this is so awesome!! I just looked for a good way to do snaps, for the raincoat I sewed for my daughter, and found THIS. Thanks so much….now, if I would also win a few of these groovy snaps, I’d be just thrilled….I can see a little cowpoke-shirt in my 3-year old son’s immediate future :-)

  14. Kelli says:

    I haven’t had time to check my blogs lately, and so I just found this, but can I tell you how I LOVE pearl snaps and although I haven’t worn a western shirt in years, I still have a soft spot for the pearl snaps! I love me a little old man with his starched pearl button-down and jeans!!! Maybe I’ll add some to something I whip up for my 2 kiddos! Thanks for making me smile!

  15. Margie says:

    I want to do snaps so badly!! Thank you for the howto. I keep saying that I’m going to buy one of those snap pliers.Pearl snap are the best!!

  16. Rita says:

    Silly me, I would use them on a shirt for my dear husband. I did use some to close some wallets that I made from sock monkey fabric. I wish I’d known about the pliers, though. I tend to hammer too hard and cut my fabric.

  17. Annie Rose says:

    Hi Everybody!

    Annie Rose here from Cowgirl Snaps. I’m so glad the tutorial was helpful. I forgot to mention one thing in the tutorial – if you ever have snap or pliers questions, feel free to contact me via an etsy convo (www.cowgirlsnaps.etsy.com) or at [email protected]. Thank you for all the wonderful comments ~ Happy Snappin’!

    Annie Rose

  18. Andrea says:

    Thanks for the informative tutorial with great pictures! My favorite color is red and I would use them on several different crafts (especially with that handy setter), but I would love to start by switching out some buttons on a shirt of mine and replacing them with snaps. Oh, the possibilities!

  19. jen says:

    Very nice tutorial! I have been using pearlized snaps to close wallets and it’s usually done with a snap setter and hammer and a whole lot of swearing! You’ve inspired me to try the pliers method – I report back about the swearing bit … hopefully the pliers curbs it quick! :)

  20. Lavina Dee says:

    I love all of the snaps that Annie sells. The colors are very rich much better looking than online. My one complaint about the Dritz pliers: they don’t sell replacement rubber rings. I even contacted Dritz directly and they never got back to me. I had to buy a whole new plier set just to replace the rings.

  21. jill says:

    Thankyou! I’ve had these pliers for a while and didn’t know how to use them.

  22. kate says:

    Cool! Thank you for this tutorial! I bought the Dritz Snap Pliers last year and have not been able to figure out how to work those buggers for the life of me. Your tut is simple (like me) and clear. Now I can get busy putting snaps on everything!

  23. Becky says:

    Thanks so much for the tutorial! I have just about finished sewing up a western shirt for my Rock’n’roll singing son! He asked for pearl snap buttons. I’ve had the Dritz tool since about 1972 and probably haven’t used it since ’73-’74!! I need a refresher course ;)

  24. Sewmarm says:

    This is a great tutorial — you really covered all the bases! Now I have a hunkering to get a tool like that…

  25. Marie B says:

    Wow, I didn’t realize that the were such nice pliers for these! I bought some similar snaps and the only color available were like a pearly blue. my pliers are from the thrift store and I have ruined so may snaps from either assembling wrong or from the snap sliding out of place from the pliers (they don’t have a lovely rubber thingy)

    Anyway, I love using them on wallets and purses and such, I just had a thought though- I’d love to throw some on a cute tabbed hat!

    It was really hard to choose just one color, because I love the burgundy and the teal and the orange and and and… but if I have to pick one, I am currently in a chartreuse mood :)

  26. renee says:

    I’d have to keep the colbalt blue ones for myself and find a good shirt pattern.

  27. Lizzie Fenwick says:

    I LOVE the kelly green snaps. They would go so nicely with my son’s eyes :)

    My husband is in a Red Dirt Country band that just hit #35 on the charts ( hooray top 40! The name of the band is Willie Stradlin, the song is Chop Away) and I’ve been working on making them all some nice shirts to wear for thier new album coming out this fall. They’re all obsessed with the idea of having pearl snap shirts, so I would use the snaps to make them some nice shirts, and the band wives western shirt-dresses to wear!

  28. Deb says:

    Thanks for the tutorial! I have been wanting to try snaps for a while but have been a little hesitant to just jump in and try it without some help first.

  29. peggyann says:

    the snaps sure brings back memories. my mom sewed every single one of my dad (he was a working cowboy) shirts, …they were all western with snaps. The dress-up shirts, usually a brocade taffeta, had pearls and his workshirst were a twill plaid or stripe with an “economy metal” snap. My mom, who taught me to sew, let me learn on the workshirts, of course.

  30. Andrea says:

    Chartreuse – yeah! And the brown is lovely too, as is the cobalt. My twelve year-old would be all over the teal. Snap, snap!

  31. Kadybug says:

    The pillow and shirt are adorable! Thanks for the awesome tutorial.

  32. georgia says:

    Oh my, how to choose? They are all so beautiful! I really love the chartreuse ones. And purple. And metallics:)

    I would totally make myself a shirt with these babies. I need something totally cool for myself! I also need to break down and buy the pliers. I have the stupid one that you have to hammer. I. hate. it.

  33. Jan says:

    I just made my son a “western” shirt which he loves. It is finished except for the snaps. I’d recently bought the snaps and pliers. Now I know what to do! Thank you for the great tutorial. I really didn’t want to mess up my sewing work with a poorly done job on the closures.

  34. Penny says:

    So, I’m feeling like an idiot, I had no idea there was a tool to use w/ those studs, I was using a small hammer and it was a major p.i.t.a
    Good to know there is a tool to take the pain away.

  35. Loralynn says:

    Great tut!

  36. PenguitoSmile says:

    I love these snaps they are the best! Super cute! Glad I know how to do them myself now!

  37. Chelsey says:

    Oh fun! I didn’t know you could get these. I think they’d be fun going up arm warmers, or on a fabric cuff. I could see them on kid’s clothes, too. I’m in love with the teal (a color obsession of mine lately).

  38. KT says:

    Gotta love those snaps! I’ve been meaning to sew some western-style shirts out of some fabric I’ve got lying around. Thanks for the reminder about these great fasteners.

  39. Julianne says:

    Thanks for this! I actually need to put some snaps on bibs that have defunct velcro. just need the parts and the tool!

  40. susan says:

    I just had to laugh — my 30’s-ish husband also thinks a western shirt with pearl snap buttons is the best thrift store find. Thanks for the great tutorial! I love the red!

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