How to Set Small Grommets Without a Grommet Tool

Maybe you went to the hardware store and they had grommets but no setters. Or perhaps you have a few spare grommets in your craft kit and want to make something NOW, whether you have the right tool or not. Maybe, like me, you ordered a corset making kit that came with grommets…but no grommet tool.

I waffled on ordering a tool, but didn’t want to spend the money for one that handled varying grommet sizes, and my local JoAnn didn’t have those handy little grommet-and-setter kits in the right size. Also, I was impatient. The internet turned up any number of videos suggesting that I use a ball bearing or a marble, but I found that those didn’t work well for me.

This is the process I worked out through trial and error. It will result in a beautiful front on your grommet, and a back that is less than ideal looking, but completely solid and functional.

  1. First, gather your materials:
  • grommets and the material they’ll be set in
  • cutting mat, plastic cutting board, or piece of scrap wood
  • awl or something else to poke a hole with
  • hammer
  • Phillips screwdriver with a head that is larger than the grommet hole
  • scissors or thread snips

I had size 00 grommets, which have a 3/16” hole, and a 1/4” diameter Phillips screwdriver. If you don’t have an awl, you can poke a hole with a seam ripper, metal BBQ skewer, or anything else you have around.

  1. Second, mark and poke your holes. Draw a line first to make sure everything is aligned, then mark your holes at regular intervals along it. With your awl (or substitute), poke through the top of the material on the right side (the one everyone will see). This hole will almost certainly not be big enough. You can then use the Phillips screwdriver to widen the holes, or, if you’re VERY cautious, make tiny scissor snips outward from the holes to widen them. Check to make sure the hole is just large enough to slide the grommet tube through. If there are lots of long broken threads sticking up, gently prune them back with your thread snips or scissors so there isn’t any fuzz sticking out of your finished grommet.
  1. Next, insert the flared half of the grommet through the right/front side of the hole. The tubular part of it will stick up through the back side of the hole.
  1. Then set the grommet collar around the tube on the back side of the material. Make sure you only have one collar! They tend to stick together, and once you set them, they can’t be removed. Yes, I speak from experience.
  1. Flare your grommet. Use your cutting mat or board for this part. Ensuring that the collar stays down, hold the screwdriver firmly atop the tube with the head pointing down. Hammer it down once or twice, then remove the screwdriver. Then turn the screwdriver 1/8 turn so that the cross lines are in between the ones you just hammered. After checking again that the grommet collar hasn’t popped up, hammer the screwdriver down again. Remove the screwdriver. Your tube should now be slightly larger at the top than before, and will have eight little points around it.
  1. Now swivel the screwdriver point in a circle to flare out the tube a little more.
  1. Time to smooth out the back. Set aside the screwdriver and pick up your hammer. Continue to ensure the collar stays down. Then carefully hammer the sides of the tube out and down over the collar. The best way to do this is to go around the circle with a slight outward scuffing motion, like a tap shoe hitting the floor. Don’t worry if the outer edge of the tube splits a little as you hammer it down. This is okay, even if it isn’t picturesque. Once everything is really flared out and pulled away from the hole, you can hammer more forcefully around the circle to smooth it out.

You’re done! The front of your grommet should look professionally done. The back won’t be pretty, but it will be functional. My satin corset laces slide through easily and don’t snag on the grommets at all.

Does not look great, but feels smooth.
The fronts of these grommets are perfect.

Good luck with your grommets!

– Kate

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