How to Install Grommets in Fabric Easily

If you like to make your own fabric décor, things like shower curtains to redecorate a bathroom, window curtains, or wall curtains for privacy or room accents, you know that grommets add sophistication and functionality to many curtain projects. So now you may be asking, "What are the steps for putting in grommets?"


Although installing grommets does require a special tool, learning how to use a grommet tool isn’t as complicated as you might think. Here’s how to install grommets in fabric.


Step 1: Purchase a Grommet Kit

Grommet tools aren’t one-size-fits-all. Different tool sizes coordinate with different grommet sizes. A grommet kit will include tools that match the size grommets included in the kit. Be sure you get a kit that has the size grommets you want.



Although some grommet tools are actually grommet pliers, which look like somewhat like an office hole punch, these pliers are usually used just for very small grommets. For grommet curtain projects, you’re more likely going to want the combination tool of a grommet setter (sometimes called a punch) and anvil. Some kits will also include a hole cutter and a cutting pad, which is a piece of wood you place under the fabric to give you a safe surface to work on.


Step 2: Gather Additional Tools and Materials

To properly install grommets, you need a few other things:


  • Of course, you need the fabric you’re using and possibly a backing. If you’re installing grommets in a very light, filmy fabric, you’re going to want something stronger paired with the fabric. This lining is called the interfacing. It’s placed either behind your main fabric or between the folds of your main fabric. Something like canvas or other heavy-weight fabric is a good choice for this.


  • You’ll need to mark your fabric where you want to position the grommets. You can use a pen or felt tip marker for this because you’ll be cutting out the bit of fabric you mark.


  • If your grommet kit doesn’t include a hole cutter, you’ll need a pair of very small scissors or a utility knife to cut the hole for your grommet.


  • You need a pounding tool, either a rubber mallet or a hammer. To use a grommet tool, you have to hammer the anvil into the setter. I prefer to use a rubber mallet for this task because, with the larger surface of the mallet, there’s less chance of missing the mark and you get a more evenly distributed force.


  • Because you need to do some hammering, you need a sturdy surface to work on. If you have a workbench, use that. If not, a wood cutting board set up on a table or a counter is a good choice. Don’t ever install grommets on a glass table!



Step 3: Position Your Fabric

If you’re installing multiple grommets along the top of a curtain, unless you have a large workbench, you’re not going to be able to set all your grommets at once. Just work with sections of your fabric at a time. If you’re are using interfacing, you will either want to baste it in place or pin it in place (being careful not to poke yourself when you’re installing the grommets).


Step 4: Position Your Grommets

Using your pen or marker, mark the spot or spots where you want to place grommets. Obviously, if you’re installing multiple grommets, you’ll want to do some measuring to be sure you set your grommets evenly along the fabric you’re working with.


Step 5: Cut a Hole

Using the hold cutter or your utility knife, cut the hole for your grommet. If you’re using the hole cutter, place the sharp end of it over the mark you made above and pound on the other end with the mallet. Note that even if you have a hole cutter, sometimes, it won’t cut through multiple layers of fabric or especially thick materials like leather or vinyl. You still may have to do a bit of manual cutting.



Step 6: Insert the Grommet Post

Install the grommet post (also called the male end of the grommet) in your fabric so that the right side is on the fabric front and the wrong side, the post itself, is visible from the back.



Step 7: Position the Washer

Place the washer part of the grommet (also called the female end) over the post that’s sticking out through the hole. The rounded part of the washer should be facing upward.



Step 8: Set up the Grommet Tool

Put the anvil under the front of your grommet (the right side of the fabric). Align the setter, or punch, over the top of the post side of the grommet (the back side of the fabric). Now, using your hammer or mallet, pound on the setter in smooth, strong strokes to attach the two grommet pieces together.



Step 9: Check and Repeat if Necessary

Take a look at your grommet. Are the two pieces tightly connected? If so, you’re done. If not, you might have to return to the pounding part of step eight again. Perhaps you’ll have to use a bit more force this time. Don’t worry if the back doesn’t look perfect. Sometimes the post portion of the grommet will split a little in the setting. It will still be functional and look great from the front.


If your grommet is installed properly, it will look like this from the front and the back.



Installing grommets isn’t just a handy skill to have because it opens up a world of possibilities in your fabric projects. It’s also pretty fun! And if you have any pent-up frustrations, you now have a legitimate excuse to pound them away.


Ready to put your new knowledge into practice? Click here to learn how to put grommets in curtains.


Images used with permission, courtesy of Ande Waggener

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