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How to Insert a Magnetic Snap Closure

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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 secret is having the time and patience to go through the instructions in the correct order, and with 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. The 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. 

Insertion steps

  1. Gather your materials
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. Press hard enough for the prongs to leave indentation marks.
  5. Pull away the snap to reveal those indentation marks, and before they disappear, highlight them with a fabric pen or pencil. 
  6. Using a pair of sharp scissors, cut along the indentation lines, making two thin slits.
  7. 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. 
  8. 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.
  9. Slip a washer ring over the prongs. 
  10. With your thumb, fold one prong down so it lays completely flat over the washer.
  11. Then fold the opposite prong down into place. 
  12. The second side of the snap is inserted in the same manner. The "trick" is to make sure the two parts come together evenly. 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.
  13. Once your opposite side indentation marks are made, trace them with a fabric pen or pencil.
  14. Cut along the drawn lines to form slits.
  15. Insert the second half of the snap from front to back. 
  16. Slip the remaining washer into place, and fold the prongs flat to secure. 
  17. Your second half is done.
  18. And the two pieces will now work together like the cool little magnets they are.
  19. Snap!
  20. Unsnap!


Comments (21)

Chris Cola said:
Chris Cola's picture

is the purse in the top picture of this tutorial a Sew4Home project? If so, which one? I love it!

KG1625 said:
KG1625's picture

Hi Liz, 

I'm a beginner and have a question around placement of the snap closures. I'm not following a pattern but a friend said to mark 2" from the flat side of my bottom piece and 2" from the curved side of my top piece. 

I want the closure to be further down on the cluth so the flap isn't as "flappy." So my question is: If I measured 2.5" from the flat side of my bottom piece, do I need to measure 1.5" or 2.5" from the curved side of my top piece?

Confusing, I know! Help :)

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ KG1625 - I'm afraid that's a bit tough to troubleshoot long distance. Unfortunately, there isn't really a "math rule" you can rely on - the main issue is that you need to make sure your flap is going to be long enough to cover the new position on the base - you don't want the half of the snap on the flap to get too close to the edge of the flap. You also have to take into account the thickness of your fabrics and if the clutch is flat or has a boxed bottom. Often what we do when trying to figure out the placement on our designs is to make a prototype out of an inexpensive fabric - or sometimes even just paper to test the postiion of both halves of the snap. 

Tee Riley said:
Tee Riley's picture

I saw another tutorial on putting a magnetic closure in and it suggests that you bend the prongs towards the centre.  This prevents it from possibly wearing or showing through fabric over time. 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Tee - that is certainly an option. The prongs will overlap, which might make a bit more of a bump - again, only a concern with a thinner fabric. Since pressing out ward allows a tighter hold usually on the first try, if folding in, just make sure the prongs are all the way throug. Then fold one and push it down hard until it is flat and firm, then fold the other prong over the first -- again pushing hard to insure a tight seal. 

CarolineK said:
CarolineK's picture

Great tutorial!  One question - I have been using magnetic snaps in wallets and sometimes after a few times opening & closing, I can feel the prongs of the snap (particularly on the female part- the part I use on the actual body of the wallet & not the tab) bending outwards, causing the snap to feel like it might come a little loose.  I just bend it back into place through the fabric -- but I don't like thinking they may bend out of shape over time or with multiple uses.  Do you have any tips to prevent the prongs from moving when in use?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@CarolineK - That isn't a problem we've encountered with our snaps. You could try adding additional stabilization behind the prongs to make sure fabric is stiff enough to firmly hold the snap. We've never done it, but I suppose you could also layer another square of stabilzer - perhaps a slightly larger square - over the top of the -- e.g. over the prongs, to help keep them flat. Much of the decision will depend on the type of fabric you're using as well as how many layers you're working with already -- there's always that fine line of adding enough stabilization so everything is firmly secured, but not so much that you could end up with a lunp somewhere.

CarolineK said:
CarolineK's picture

Thank you!!  I typically use just a normal quilter's cotton and stabilized using a lightweight fusible interfacing & fusible fleece -- but may try Decor Bond like you suggested tomorrow and see if that seems any better.  I'm guessing it might!  Thanks again!

ScrapStitching said:
ScrapStitching's picture

I wonder if a scrap of denim would make a good stabilizer in a tote bag application. 

Thanks for the tutorial. I have avoided using these snaps, thinking they would be really hard to install. I think I can definitely do this!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ ScrapStitching - a denim scrap could work - just make sure it's not too thick. The interfacing is nice because it's so flat, there's never a noticeable line. So glad we could help give you the confidence to try out these snaps.

WeaverGrace said:
WeaverGrace's picture

Excellent! Now I know how to use the package of magnet snaps that I picked up for 50 cents. I'm making a sunglasses case. Thank you!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@WeaverGrace - you're welcome! Fifty cents well spent.

Gonnita said:
Gonnita's picture

Great instructions!!!!!   Really appreciate all the helpful insites.  Thanks Chris Faulkner, you provided the answer for the question I was about todo a search on!!! 

Stephanie Fuller said:
Stephanie Fuller's picture

I use my seam ripper to cut the holes for the snaps instead. Poke the point in where the slit starts, then bring it back up where the hole should stop. Give it a bit of a push, and your hole is cut, much easier than trying to use full size scissors. I do the same when cutting buttonholes, though for them, I put a pin across the end to make sure I don't cut past the end of the buttonhole.

Donnaf268 said:
Donnaf268's picture

I have had problem with the snaps pulling out when only using one layer of interfacing. It has been suggested to use a piece of ready made iron-on patch instead. In my next project I will try it.

Chris Faulkner said:
Chris Faulkner's picture

I use the washer ring as a template to mark the slits, instead of pressing the prongs to make an indentation.