The magnetic snap is indispensable to the construction of purses, totes, and bags. We’ve used them on dozens of Sew4Home projects and decided it was high time the technique had its very own tutorial. As with many notions and tools that add a unique professional finish, the steps for their use are themselves not necessarily difficult. The secrets are taking the time and patience to go through the instructions in the correct order, and using extra precision in your marking and measuring.
This tutorial shows you the basic steps of installation. The other main component is marking.
Most patterns will include directions for where and when to place a magnetic snap. It is traditionally inserted towards the end of project. If there will be a final seam or edgestitching near the snap after it’s been inserted, make sure you allow room for the presser foot to pass alongside the snap. A magnetic snap is rather thick, and without adequate space (¼” is best although ⅛” may work as well), it may be hard to sew past the snap with a straight seam. A Zipper foot can help you get in closer.
The parts of a magnetic snap
A complete magnetic snap has four parts: the flat ball side with prongs, the thick socket side with prongs, and two flat rings, like washers, with openings that fit over the prongs.
The styles of magnetic snaps are fairly limited. Unlike traditional snaps, which are designed to be seen from both sides of the fabric into which they are inserted, a magnetic snap is a usually hidden inside a purse or tote or under a flap. So while you can find traditional snaps in a wide variety of decorative finishes, such as pearl, rhinestones, or colored metal; magnetic snaps are basically gold, silver or copper colored and either square or round. You can also often find both matte and polished finishes.
Preparing your fabric
Your magnetic snaps will not install properly if your fabric is too thin. The weight of this type of closure is not made for thin fabric. If your chosen fabric is lighter weight, you can overcome this by adding one or more squares of a mid-weight fusible interfacing behind each part of the snap to provide stability. Some people like to use a heavier fabric square as a stabilizer or even a small piece of cardboard. For our demonstration, we’re using Pellon Décor Bond fusible cut into 1½” squares.
- Gather your materials
- As mentioned above, most patterns will include directions for when and where to place a magnetic snap. Measure accordingly to find your insertion point. If necessary, fuse the stabilizing squares on the wrong side of the fabric, directly behind where the snap will be placed.
- From the right side of the fabric, center one side of the snap over the insertion point. We generally start with the socket side. Firmly press the snap’s prongs into the fabric.
- Press hard enough for the prongs to leave indentation marks.
- Pull away the snap to reveal those indentation marks, and before they disappear, highlight them with a fabric pen or pencil.
- Using a pair of sharp scissors, cut along the indentation lines, making two thin slits.
- Insert the prongs on this first side of the snap (again in our sample, we started with the socket side) through the slits from the front to the back.
- Flip over the fabric. On a real project, you may not be able to so easily flip the fabric from front to back. You may need to pull back the fabric or reach around or between layers in some way to access the prongs.
- Slip a washer ring over the prongs.
- With your thumb, fold one prong down so it lays completely flat over the washer.
- Then fold the opposite prong down into place.
- The second side of the snap is inserted in the same manner. The “trick” is to make sure the two parts come together evenly so there is no puckering of the fabric. It’s best to not rely on just your measuring and marking abilities. Insert one side first (we like to start with the socket side). When this first side is fully in place, place the second side against the first and allow them to snap together. Then use this “assembled” unit to mark the position of the second side’s prongs. This step is optional, but is a good way to double-check your positioning. To release the magnetic grip of the two pieces, slide thin tool between the layers, like a letter opener, and gently twist the tool to break the seal.
- Once your opposite side indentation marks are made, trace them with a fabric pen or pencil.
- Cut along the drawn lines to form slits.
- Insert the second half of the snap from front to back.
- Slip the remaining washer into place, and fold the prongs flat to secure.
- Your second half is done.
- And the two pieces will now work together like the cool little magnets they are.