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The turn or twist lock closure is one of those finishing touches that looks so professional, it fools you into thinking it must be crazy hard to install. We’re here to bust that myth wide open. We used this closure on our Ribbon Flap Shoulder Bag. Centered within one of the ribbons, this little lock completed the bag with high-end style. Read on to follow along with the easy steps. The trick is to measure once, twice, three times to insure both halves of the closure are perfectly placed.

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 closure. It is traditionally inserted towards the end of project – often between the exterior and lining layers of a bag’s flap.

As mentioned, it is critical to be very careful with your measuring and marking for both halves of the lock.

We recommend inserting the base first (the actual turning mechanism), then double-checking the placement for the opposite half. Although there can be many uses, this type of lock is most often used to secure a flap on a purse or bag. If the placement is not accurate, the flap will not lay flat. The other reason for extra confirmation is the fact the second half involves cutting a hole in your finished project! That’s kind of a no-turning-back type of step. Measure twice (or thrice), cut once.

The parts of a turn lock

A complete turn lock traditionally has six parts: the actual turning mechanism with prongs, one flat bar with several slots, and the unit that creates the hole through which the turning mechanism will fit. This unit is made up of four pieces that will likely arrive to you assembled: a front finished ring, a back washer type ring, and two screws that hold these rings together. Keep track of those screws; they can be very tiny.

We’ve concentrated on the classic gold tone and chrome turn locks for this tutorial. These are the most common and work well on the vast majority of projects, but you can find a variety of other finishes, such as bronze or copper, as well as some different shapes, such as rectangles, hexagons, and more pronounced ovals. These locks are quite intricate little notions, and yet can surprisingly inexpensive. Most of the online and in-store options we looked at ranged from about $5 to $9, with a few super-fancy ones in nickel or with more ornate shapes priced from $15 to $20.

Turn locks are available from a number of sources including Amazon and Etsy shops.

Preparing your fabric

Turn locks can be quite heavy, and so are not the right choice for a lightweight project. The layers of fabric into which the lock is being inserted should be substantial on their own. If you’re concerned, you can also add one or more squares of a mid-weight fusible interfacing behind each half of the lock to provide extra stability. For our demonstration, we’re using Pellon Décor Bond fusible cut into 1½” squares.

Insertion steps

  1. Gather your materials. In addition to the lock itself, you’ll also need a pair of sharp scissors, a seam ripper, a marking pen or pencil, and a mini Phillips screwdriver.
  2. As mentioned above, most patterns will include directions for when and where to place the closure. Measure accordingly to find your insertion point. If necessary, fuse the stabilizing squares on the wrong side of the fabric, directly behind where the lock will be placed.
  3. On the right side of the fabric, and working with your super-precise measurements (remember those?!), center the slotted flat bar over the insertion point. With a fabric pen or pencil, trace the inside of the two outermost slots.
  4. Pull away the flat bar to reveal the marks.
  5. Carefully insert the point of a seam ripper, and cut upwards along both marked lines.
  6. Insert the prongs of the turning mechanism through the slits from the front to the back.
  7. 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 in some way to access the prongs. Slip the slotted bar over the prongs.
  8. With your thumb, fold one prong down towards the center so it lays completely flat over the slotted bar.
  9. Then fold the opposite prong down into place. One prong will lay over the top of the other.
  10. Your turning mechanism insertion is now complete.
  11. To insert the opposite side of the lock, you’ll need your mini screwdriver.
  12. Find the assembled unit and turn it wrong side up. Using your screwdriver take out both tiny screws. Keep track of those screws!
  13. On the right side of the fabric, and working with your super-precise measurements, center the flat back ring over insertion point. With a fabric pen or pencil, trace the inside of the center oval as well as both of the little screw holes.
  14. Pull away the flat ring to reveal the marks.
  15. This is the point at which you should double and triple check your placement. Confirm the oval you’ve drawn lines up with the already inserted turning mechanism. If not, wipe away your fabric pen/pencil marks and try again.
  16. Once you have confirmed the position, and again using your fabric pen or pencil, connect the outer dots with the inner oval, creating a kind of eye shape: an oval with pointed ends.
  17. Carefully insert the point of a seam ripper at each outer point, and cut inward about ¼”.  You just need a small slit on each end.
  18. Insert the point of your scissors into one of the slits and begin cutting along your drawn lines.
  19. Continue carefully cutting to remove the full “eye” shape.
  20. Find the top ring. Place it right side up on the right side of the fabric, centering it over the hole. Push it into the hole slightly. Similar to a grommet, there is an inset ring behind the top lip that fits into the hole along with the both openings for the screws.
  21. Flip over the fabric. As above, on a real project, you may not be able to so easily flip the fabric from front to back. Do what you need to access the back of the fabric. Continue pushing the top ring into the hole. It should fit snuggly. If necessary, you can trim away a bit more of the fabric.
  22. Still working from the back, find the flat back ring and place it into position, lining up the screw holes of the two pieces and centering over the opening.
  23. Replace both screws.
  24. Tighten into place.
  25. The second half of the lock is now finished.
  26. Place the ring over the turning mechanism and twist to lock.
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Kimberly S. Norman
Kimberly S. Norman
4 years ago

This is one of the best tutorials I have ever seen. Nothing was assumed or taken for granted that the viewer already knew.

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
4 years ago

@Kimberly – Thank you so much. We do REALLY try to make sure our instructions are truly easy to understand. Thanks for taking the time to let us know.

4 years ago

Hello. What a good tutorial.

Hello. What a good tutorial. I am so glad I found this site today. I am in the process of installing a twist lock on a handbag but it is a mouse head so the lines to cut are not not simple for me to figure out. It is similar to the one in the picture of all the locks; the second from the right looking like a flower. Could you please give me a hint as to how to cut the fabric?

Thank you so much, J   

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