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Perfect Corset Eyelets

Model: Sophia Sofina
Corset by Sara Huebschen at Exquisitely Waisted Designs
Model: Sophia Sofina

 

Eyelet setting is a bugbear of many a corset maker, whether a beginner or a more experienced artist. Corset makers often focus on big ideas, but the little tricks of the trade rarely, if ever, get discussed. I want to encourage us to get talking about the little things, because those little things can make all the difference in your enjoyment of your work!

 

1. Use a Poly Mallet

For setting grommets, I’ve noticed that the corset maker’s tool of choice is a rubber mallet. I’d like to politely invite everyone to put those back in their tool boxes and consider investing in a poly mallet for their grommet setting needs.

I picked this up from the leatherworking world. Leatherworkers generally use either a poly or rawhide mallet for their hand setting work, and their handwork is much more extensive, including rivets, grommets, and stamps. Rubber mallets have an unfortunate amount of bounce back that can jolt a set off-kilter very easily. Metal hammers are bad for the obvious reason that metal hitting metal can be clangy and unpleasant. Poly mallets are a happy medium with a good amount of shock absorption. They’re readily available at hardware stores as well as leatherworking supply stores.

And while we’re taking tips from the leatherworking world, invest in a slab of marble to set on. This will also help your eyelets become neater by providing a surface that absorbs the shock very well. You don’t have to go buy an expensive marble slab from a leather shop; often you can get cheap or free pieces of marble from places that sell kitchen countertops, as they sometimes have scraps.

 

My grommeting setup: Poly mallet, marble slab, hand grommet setter, grommets

 

2. Shank length

Pay attention to shank length. Knowing the shank length of your grommet can mean the difference between a smooth roll and splits that will catch on the corset’s laces. The cause of split grommets is that the shank is too long for the amount of fabric that you’re setting it in, so in order for the set to be tight, there’s excess shank being rolled, causing it to split.

A very simple way to eliminate split eyelets and get a nice, tight set with a smooth roll is to make sure that you have enough layers of fabric at the point you’ll be setting the grommets. I find that 3-4 layers of coutil depending on the type (more of thin coutil, less of broche) tends to be the exact right amount for the average grommet distributed from the main US and Canadian suppliers. This is obviously adjusted as you account for any fashion fabric, fusing, etc. I highly encourage experimenting with your preferred grommets and seeing exactly what types of sets you get with different thicknesses of fabric.

 

A grommet set through one layer of coutil. Notice the ridge around the inner ring of the grommet, where it has compressed due to the fabric not filling out the shank length. This actually caused the grommet to get stuck in my setting tool, and I had to pry it out. A second grommet set through one layer of coutil. I did not pound this one tightly so there is no ring of compression, but note how it sits away from the fabric. If you do not have enough fabric filling out the shank, your set will either gap like this or be overly compressed and potentially split, as shown in Figure 2.

A grommet set through two layers of coutil. The same inner ring is present in this grommet as in the first in Figure 2, although slightly less prominent. A grommet set through four layers of coutil. There is no inner ring and no splits from shank compression, as the fabric fills out the shank length perfectly.

 

I advise everyone to carefully think through all their processes - not just eyelets! - and look for redundancies or things that must have an easier solution, because if you have a hunch that there’s an easier solution out there, you’re probably right!

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