Friends, I KNOW you’re thinking about where this post is going…and possibly ‘what the heck is that monster and what does it have to do with sewing a sleeping bag from a vintage pattern?’ Well, let me keep you in suspense no longer. This, rather heavy, machine/tool/thing-a-majig is a snap-press press. You know the snap presses on garments? Yeah?…well this is the doolally that puts them onto the garment. Right about now, I figure you’re thinking: “Isn’t that a bit of an overkill? You can buy the little kits that require a hammer at Spotlight/local habby store/Lincraft/(insert your chain fabric store here) for a few bucks.” Friends, over the years I’ve had enough failures with those crappy do-it-yourself-with-a-hammer kits that when I recently saw one being used by badskirt on her blog post about neonatal gowns, I hit the proverbial internet running.
Although I’d been using heirloom sewing techniques like French seams on the sleeping bag, I decided that I wanted modern snaps rather than vintage buttons. This sleeping bag is going in my Grandmother’s Hope Chest for any grand-babies that my daughter’s may delight me with one day (in the far off future) and I figured that it will be one of those ‘everyday’ garments rather than the special occasion garments that I usually make for my Grandmother’s Hope Chest. I figured if it’s going to be used frequently then I want my daughters to be able to get it on and off a baby with speed and ease; so snap press buttons seemed the right choice. That’s enough about why I bought the press; now let’s looks at how it works!
Each snap press button set has four pieces: 2 caps (the outside of the button) a stud and a socket. A stud and a cap make up one part of a snap press button and a socket and a cap make up the corresponding mate of a snap press button. When the stud and cap are fused/pressed together with fabric between them, one half of the button is complete. When the socket and cap are fused/pressed together with fabric between, the other, corresponding half of the snap press button is complete. The stud and socket pieces (along with their respective caps) are fused onto opposing facings of a garment so they snap close the garment.
In the picture above you can see four caps (bottom row) and four studs. The only discernable difference between a stud and a socket is that with the socket the ring of plastic around the centre hole is further away from the hole. The ring of the stud hugs the centre hole. Each of the stud and the sockets fit onto their own respective metal die piece.
The press has a metal die set for each snap press size – this is the size 16 die set – it’s slightly smaller than the other die set I have and is more suited to the width of the facing on the sleeping bag. Each die set includes a metal die for the cap (the metal piece on the left), a metal die for the stud and a metal die for the socket. The same cap is used for both the stud and the socket pieces of the press button so the cap die can be used when pressing stud or socket button pieces. The metal dies are different for the plastic socket and stud pieces so you need to change the die for each operation. For this reason, it’s best to do all of the same pieces first (if you’re doing multiple press snap buttons on a garment) so that you only change the upper metal die piece once.
You can see how the cap (backing piece) of the snap (left) sits into the die piece – although
when you’re actually doing it, you have it poked into your fabric. I used an awl to separate the fabric fibres rather than making a hole by cutting the fibres. This Japanese cotton is a fairly loose weave fabric so an awl was an obvious choice.
Here you can see the cap sitting in the metal die piece at the bottom and it’s corresponding stud or socket piece in the appropriate metal die at the top.
You sit the back of the snap cap into the receiving die piece (the pokey piece sits upward), make sure you have a stud or socket piece inserted into the appropriate die at the top of the press: it’s a pain in the proverbial ‘you-know-what’ trying to dig out a pressed snap cap from the fabric – I can tell you from experience, it’s a bitch!
Press down on the lever and voila/hey presto you have one half of a snap press completed – can you see the hole is now gone? This is because the pointy part of the cap is pressed down to fuse the two units together as one half of a snap press button.
To add the corresponding snap press button to the other front facing you need to change the upper die piece. This operation simply requires a couple of turns with an Allen key to loosen the die screw, change the die and then re-tighten the screw and you’re good to go. This one above is the ‘stud’ piece so to make the corresponding button piece on the other facing I would change the die to the ‘socket’ die piece.
I put five snap press buttons on the back of the sleeping bag.
Folks if you a) hate the DIY snap press kits, b) have the available funds and c) have the room for an industrial manual snap press tool/machine/thingy, then I’d highly recommend the expense. If, unlike me, you can manage the DIY kits with ease and don’t plan on applying snap press buttons on lots of garments you’d be better off with the DIY kits or better yet the ‘hand held’ plier version of the press I bought. I plan to use snap press buttons on all of the ‘everyday’ garments I make for my Grandmother’s Hope Chest that require easy access for nappy changing (diapers for any American readers) – things like baby grow suits or play suits – so purchasing this monster suited me.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t an overly expensive purchase. The starter kit I chose included: the press, a set of size 16 die and a starter pack of plastics caps, studs and sockets and was priced at $60.00 AUD. Shipping via courier was $33.35 – certainly acceptable given the weight of the press (darn heavy). I’ve seen patterns on Ebay shipped from America with similar shipping rates!! I kid you not!
I figured since I was paying $33.35 for shipping I may as well get the other (slightly larger) sized die set (size 20) and packets (100 pieces) of size 20 caps, studs and sockets. I got plain white, but a variety of colours are available.
Friends, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t mention anything on this blog that I haven’t purchased myself – my philosophy is that this is an ad-free blog. I bought the press and all of the snap press button pieces from Snaps Australia. They processed my order in a timely fashion and before the week was out the press was delivered. It was a stress free transaction.
As you can see on the picture above, the back facings have been sewn and the neckline band has been added since the last post about this project. There’s not much left to do: just the sleeve hems and the bottom casing to construct. It’s all downhill from here.
I hope you enjoyed the tutorial-nature of this post readers – I’m thinking of perhaps doing a few more here and there. After all, there’s more than one way to skin a cat in any sewing-room task and sharing knowledge is something I really believe in.