Click here to sign up!

Used & trusted by
743
lovely members

Log in

Log in

My Account    |    Sign Up!



HomeArticlesFree articlesIntermediateSewing With Hooks & Eyes

Sewing With Hooks & Eyes

hooks-eyes-iconHooks and eyes are small metal fasteners that are often used in garment sewing. They are generally made of twisted wire and have two round loops on either side, with which to be sewn down. Hooks and eyes come in a wide range of sizes, from miniscule to immense, depending on their purpose.

They have a number of functions, most frequently in couture sewing. For example, a single hook and eye is often placed at the top of an invisible zipper to hold the neckline or waistband edges together. They are used to fasten collars and sleeve cuffs, custom belts, waist stays, and lingerie guards, or anywhere that a larger fastener would be inconvenient. Doll clothes for collectors or older children use hooks and eyes, and they are a popular choice for historic costumers, since they've been in existence for centuries.

Hooks and eyes are used similarly to snaps, but they have the advantage in that they can be used when the fabric edges are adjacent or overlapping, while snaps require edges that overlap. Hooks are somewhat sturdier than snaps, because a snap is more likely to pop open than a hook, but hooks to tend to unfasten more easily when jostled in different directions.

Snaps vs. Hooks Snaps vs. Hooks Snaps vs. Hooks

 

Choosing Hooks & Eyes

Once you've determined that a hook and eye is the best option for your project, select the smallest size that will work. They are sold in white, black, or nickel, so pick the color that will be the least conspicuous against your fabric. Keep in mind that frequent or strenuous use can chip the white or black enamel and reveal the nickel underneath.

Hooks come with either a round eye or a flat bar, or you can create a thread bar or eyelet. 

The metal eye or bar is much sturdier, but the thread bar has the advantage of blending in with your fabric.  With an eyelet, the hook will lay flat against the garment, but putting a hole in your garment isn't always appropriate.

Eyes, Bars, Thread Bars, & Eyelets

Decide whether your fabric edges will abut or overlap.

This determines:

  • whether to use bars or eyes
  • how far from the edge your hook and eye need to be sewn
  • which side of the fabric they will go

Bars are best used for garment edges that overlap, because they will be hidden completely. Eyes, on the other hand, will often show when used on overlapping closures. Therefore, eyes are best used when your garment edges are adjacent.

Hooks are sewn about 1/8" from the edge of your garment, on the underside of the fabric. Eyes likewise go on the underside, about 1/8", or just far enough from the edge that neither hook nor eye will show when the closure is pulled tight. Bars go on the upper side of the fabric. Their position is not crucial; they can be moved, if necessary, for a good fit.

Overlapping and Adjacent Edges

 

Attaching Hooks & Eyes

Mark your fabric with a chalk pencil or disappearing ink pen to ensure accurate placement. (Test your fabric first, to be sure the marks will come off.)

Select a hand needle that's sturdy enough to pass through all the layers of fabric, but which isn't too large.

Thread your needle and knot the ends together, then "pop" the knot, or come from underneath the fabric, so that the knot is not seen.

Take two or three stitches across the loops, just to hold the hook or eye in place.

Anchoring the Hook or Eye

Using small buttonhole or blanket-stitches, sew the loops to the fabric.

These stitches take slightly longer, but the end result is neat and finished-looking.

Buttonhole vs. Regular Stitch

After you've sewn the loops of your hooks or eyes, you'll need to stabilize them.

With hooks, this means stitching down the top part, beneath the hook itself.

With eyes, you must stitch down the sides of the eye, just below the top curve. Bars don't require stabilization.

Stabilizing Hook & Eye

Creating Thread Bars

If you prefer a weaker, but prettier option, you can fashion a bar out of thread.

This can be nearly invisible, but will not hold up the way a metal bar will. Use it for hooks that will not be strained much.

Thread Bar

First, thread your needle and knot it. Hide the knot beneath the fabric and take two tiny stabilizing stitches.

Determine how wide you need the bar to be, and create a loose stitch just that wide. Keep in mind the three-dimensionality of the hook: a stitch that is the exact width of the hook may not have room enough for the hook to slip beneath it. Allow a little extra room, but not too much, or your thread bar will be too loose.

First Stitch

Once you've taken the wide stitch, bring the thread across underneath and bring it up on the other side, then take the thread across to where you began, creating a second stitch.

Go back under and across a third time, so that you have a bar composed of three layers of thread, both under the fabric and on top of the fabric.

Creating the Bar

Now you're going to sew a buttonhole stitch across the length of the bar. Slide the needle under the bar, but don't pull the thread all the way.

Pick up the loop of thread and slip it over the needle, then pull taunt.

Repeat until your entire bar is covered with buttonhole stitches.

Another option is to simply wrap the thread around the bar, creating a spiral bar. This kind isn't as sturdy, but it will be thinner, in case you have trouble getting your hook to fasten over the bar.

 Buttonhole Stitching

 

Creating Eyelets

If you'd like your hook to lie completely flat, you may want to try hooking it into a handmade eyelet. Consider carefully, however, and always make a test sample first, because once made, it can't be undone.

 Eyelet

To make an eyelet, first sew a running stitch in the shape of a circle of the size you want your eyelet to be.

Stitch through all layers of fabric.

Step #1

Next, use an awl or tapestry needle to spread the threads of your fabric apart, creating a small hole. You don't want to cut a hole in the fabric, for this can rapidly tear and cause a much bigger hole than you intended.

Once your hole is established, you can use a tapered awl, a crochet hook, or a wooden chopstick to enlarge it. Wiggle the awl, spin it through the hole, but go gently, spreading the threads apart without breaking them.

Step #2

Once your hole is the right size, take several whip-stitches around the edge to keep it from closing.

Step #3

Now begin taking small buttonhole stitches around the edge of the hole.

Keep them close together, for they will prevent the hook from wearing through the fabric.

Step #4

Once you've gone all the way around, knot your thread. Do this by taking a small stitch, but don't pull the thread all the way through. Instead, bring your needle back around and wind it through the thread loop twice, then pull tight. This creates a secure knot right at the surface of the fabric.

Don't cut immediately, but pull the needle through the fabric for some distance, so that the loose end will be hidden.

Step #5

Using Hooks & Eyes

How many hooks and eyes should you use? That depends on how wide an area you need to secure. A ribbon belt, for example, or the top of a zipper, needs only one. A waistband that's an inch wide could use one large hook or two small ones. For the front of an historic bodice, figure on one hook every inch or so.

Be careful what you use hooks for. Keep in mind that they hold fast by pressure being exerted in opposite directions.

 

Illustration of pressures

 

For this reason, they work quite well for waistbands and bodices, but they will tend to come undone if used for securing things that are subject to pressure from various directions, or that get jostled around. For example, it isn't wise to use hooks to attach a dust ruffle to the underside of a trained gown, or to secure the tapes of a bustled skirt, because such things tend to move around a lot and the hooks stand a good chance of coming undone.

Hook Spacing

Securing a Bodice

 Gaping Bodice ClosureIf you're using hooks to close something like a snug-fitting jacket, an historic bodice, or a corset, you need to consider a different way of attaching them. When done as the final step, you can either sew the hooks through all the layers of the bodice (lining, interlining, and fashion fabric) and then hide the stitches with buttons, or you can stitch the hooks just to the lining, so that they won't show. Be aware, however, that if you merely sew the hooks to the lining, the bodice will gape when fastened, and the lining may show.

The solution is to anchor the hooks through the interlining before the bodice is assembled. In this way, you can ensure that the hooks will not shift and that the stitching won't show. Make a mock-up first, to be absolutely certain that everything fits. Any fluctuations in size will have to be addressed by altering the fit at the seams, not by shifting the hooks over.

To attach the hooks and eyes in this manner, you must take the front pieces—before they're sewn—and layer the fashion fabric and interlining together. (Save the lining for later.)

Fold the center front edge over by the width of your seam allowance, depending on whether you want the edge of the closure at the exact center front, or offset to allow false buttons down the front. This is counter-intuitive.

 

For a center lap, you generally turn under more on the right and less on the left.

Place your hooks at the edge on the right side and your bars a good distance from the edge on the left side. (Exact amounts will depend on how much seam allowance your pattern has provided.)

For an overlapping button-style closure, turn under an equal amount on each side, and shift your bars over so that they remain hidden, yet your closure overlaps with enough room to add buttons.

Center vs. Overlapping Closure

1. Once you've determined your seam allowances, fold the center front edges over by that amount, so that you have a thickness of four layers: two fashion fabric and two interlining.

2. Fold the top fashion layer back out of the way, leaving you with just three layers.

Steps #1 & #2

3. Stitch the hooks through two layers of interlining and the folded layer of fashion fabric, keeping the hooks free of the front layer of fashion fabric.

4. Once finished, fold the top layer of fabric back in place.

Steps #3 & #4

5. When the hooks are all sewn in place, you attach the lining, folding the edge so that it hides all but the outer edges of the hooks and eyes. 

 

Step #5

The finished hook edge (right). This is an historic technique that leaves your garment neatly finished.

Conclusion

Hooks and eyes are a great way to fasten your garments. Be sure to choose the right size for the job, space them properly, and sew them on securely.

Finished Lined Bodice

 

Have you used hook and eyes, thread bars, or eyelets in your recent sewing projects? What techniques do you find useful?


Gravatar
emma 01.02.2011 03:26  
Sewing With Hooks & Eyes Yes No   Basic - yes. But as a self-taught sempstress it is great to go back to the basics to see if there's anything I've missed. It's also a good refresher.

It's great to see such a practical and useful article. Thanks!
 
 
Gravatar
valarie 01.02.2011 03:32  
Sewing With Hooks & Eyes Yes No   Hooks & eyes; another weakness in my sewing skills. Thank you.  
 
Gravatar
Lisha_Vidler 01.02.2011 22:28  
Sewing With Hooks & Eyes Yes No   Hooks and eyes are one of my weaknesses, too, so I forced myself to face them head on! The result was this article. :-)  
 
Gravatar
pandaseal 02.02.2011 03:02  
Sewing With Hooks & Eyes Yes No   This is a great article. I'd always wondered if I was sewing my hooks and eyes on correctly. Thank you.  
 
Gravatar
daisy1 03.02.2011 22:05  
Sewing With Hooks & Eyes Yes No   Reassuring to see I was mostly ok, . Loved the last section on front closure!. Some hooks come with a little bump in them which makes them hold more securely but you didn't mention them?  
 
Gravatar
cilean 05.02.2011 22:03  
Sewing With Hooks & Eyes Yes No   Thank you as a self taught sewer, I had no clue as to how to put the hooks & eyes onto a garment! I am so glad I took the time to read about this today.

Thank you for the help!

Cilean:-D
 
 
Gravatar
kaiponoheakeikiokaaina 06.02.2011 01:14  
Sewing With Hooks & Eyes Yes No   Very nice article. I especially liked the last part about attaching the hooks and eyes before finishing the garment fronts. That seems like it would leave a much neater, more secure, and longer-lasting closure. I'm going to use that in the next garment I make. Thanks!  
 
Gravatar
Lisha_Vidler 09.02.2011 23:57  
Sewing With Hooks & Eyes Yes No   Pandaseal: Thanks!

Daisy1: To be honest, I thought all hooks came with that bump. Are there some that don't have it? I'll have to look into that. Thanks for pointing it out!

Cilean: You're very welcome! Glad I could help.

Kaiponoheakeiki okaaina: It definitely makes a big difference to sew the hooks on before you assemble the bodice! I was astonished at how much neater the garment looked, how much more secure the hooks were, and the utter lack of gaping and buckling. Give it a try!
 
 
Gravatar
elensari 28.02.2011 00:54  
Sewing With Hooks & Eyes Yes No   I just did a small pile of hooks and eyes this weekend withe the buttonhole stitch. I will never go back! They are so much prettier, and not nearly as difficult as I thought they would be. Thanks for making all this seem easy. :-)  
 
Gravatar
Lisha_Vidler 01.03.2011 22:46  
Sewing With Hooks & Eyes Yes No   Elensari, you're very welcome! I love the buttonhole-stitched hook, too.  
 
 
  • Smileys
  • :confused:
  • :cool:
  • :cry:
  • :laugh:
  • :lol:
  • :normal:
  • :blush:
  • :rolleyes:
  • :sad:
  • :shocked:
  • :sick:
  • :sleeping:
  • :smile:
  • :surprised:
  • :tongue:
  • :unsure:
  • :whistle:
  • :wink:
 
 
 
 
 
Related Articles
Go to top