Once you’ve started using Rivets and realise how wonderful and versatile they are, you will be rivetting all over the place! LOL! They are GREAT to use particularly when you are making straps for your bags and have too many layers for your sewing machine to handle….just reach for the rivets!

Tools and requirements:

*You will need Rivets (Of course!) and there are different types and sizes of rivets but the ones I am using here are commonly referred to as “Rapid Rivets”.….Some are single capped and some are double. The cap being the nice shiny dome side that you like to look at! Single sided rivets only have one cap and are suitable to use where only one side is visible, for example, one side might be hidden behind the lining in your bag. For bag straps etc where you will see both sides, it is nicer to use the double cap rivets as they look equally nice from either side.

They also range in size and it is the size of the post (The long rod bit that goes through your fabric) you need to worry about. The cap is usually sized according to the post length but you can get some with bigger caps. A common size I like to use in bag making is 6mm (¼”) X 6mm (¼”) and 6mm (¼”) with an 8mm (5/16th”) cap but the size you need to choose is according to the depth of your fabric layers. Choose a rivet length that matches the total thickness of the materials to be fastened. If the rivet post is too long, it will not compress enough and the materials will be free to move about. NOT a good look! If the rivet post is too short, it will not grasp the materials enough and it could pull out. Also not a good look!

*Hammer (For setting Rivets and punching holes)

*Hole Punch

*Anvil and setting tool. These are optional and you can set rivets just with your hammer BUT I find that without them it is waaay too easy to squash that nice shiny dome flat and spoil the look of the rivets!

In this picture below you can see how the setter has a dome shape to it to protect that nice shiny dome head of the rivet!

 1. Use a pen or a fading marker to mark dots at the location where you want your rivets to go. Use a tape measure or ruler if you like, to ensure they are evenly spaced.

2. Place your material on a firm work surface. I use an old self healing mat under mine. (I use an old one because it wouldn’t be the first time I have punched a hole right through my fabrics and the mat as well! LOL!) You might find it helps to be on a very firm surface such as a cement floor (Which is where I do mine) or perhaps on a cement step etc. Tables tend to bounce unless you have a very sturdy one!

3. Now using your hole punch, punch a hole in the places you marked.

4. Next insert the post of your rivet through the hole.


5. Place your cap on the rivet post. They should ‘click’ together loosely. 

Now position your cap onto the anvil and set gently with a hammer. I realise that in my picture (The second one below) it looks like my setter is at an angle BUT it is actually held directly straight upright. This is important so as not to get your rivet setting crookedly!

Congratulations! You’re done! Now that wasn’t hard at all, was it? What a great way to make your next bag project look even more professional!

You can download and save a PDF copy of this tutorial to your harddrive by clicking here. I hope you have found this tutorial useful! J


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  1. I used rivets many, many years ago when I did a leather working course. I still have one of the belts and a key holder. I think rivets make a handbag look so professionally made. Thanks for sharing how to install them. I’d totally forgotten how… LOL!!!

  2. LOLLL! Rivets are one of those things that really frightens people BUT in reality are SO easy it is rediculous! Having said that, I did stuff up my first few tries….BUT once I realised that as long as I hold everything STRAIGHT and hammer GENTLY everything turns out beaut! Well worth wasting a few on some practice scraps!

  3. I’ve seen rivets used when people make those vinyl record purses. I am attempting to make one but not sure of the rivet size to use on a record. I know I would have to drill the holes but would you have and suggestions on the size rivet to use. Thanks so much!

  4. I have never made one of those vinyl record purses however I would say you would have to choose your rivet size based on the depth of the layers you are trying to rivet together. Rivets are measured by the length of their stem (The bit that goes though the hole) so your rivet length should be the depth of your layers so that your rivets hold the layers firmly BUT not so tight they squash (or break) the layers and not so loose that the rivets are floppy! I hope this helps! 🙂

  5. Do you have a suggestion of where to buy a 1″ or 1 1/4″ rivet post? Thanks.
    Your instructions are very helpful.

  6. Hi
    Another really helpful tutorial. Could I ask a couple of questions. What is the difference between rivets and screws I am trying to get something to go through four layers of leather 8mm and someone suggested screws instead of rivets. I’m in the Uk and we dont seem to have so many suppliers as you do in Australia and also in the US.
    Also is there an industry standard size for strap width, I am making baby change bags which are fairly large and use 2 inch straps but looking at your bags I think my straps may be too wide.

  7. I personally haven’t used the screw type rivets but I would say they would be better where there is pressure or force. As long as you choose the correct size rivet for your project, i.e the stem length would need to be the same as the depth of your leather, in your case 8mm? so you would need a rivet with an 8mm stem length, you shouldn’t have any problems unless you feel there is going to be a lot of stress on the rivets? As for strap width, that is purely a design feature and personal preference however if you are carrying a lot of weight, a wider strap that doesn’t cut into your shoulder would work better than a narrow strap. A 2 inch strap on a large nappy bag might just be what the doctor ordered! 🙂

  8. I am having trouble getting the hole punch to go through the layers on the strap of the Sugar and Spice bag…I am hitting the hole punch with a rubber mallet, and it just dents the fabric. What am I doing wrong????

  9. Hi Vivian…It sounds like bounce….I punch the holes for my rivets etc using an old cutting mat resting on a very firm surface like outside on pavers or on the garage concrete floor. I also use a metal hammer ….it may be that your rubber mallet will bounce too much and not give the sold whack needed. Hope this helps!


  11. Hi Diana,
    I assume you mean the hand press? There really isn’t much to tell about it only that you need to use the correct size and type of die for the rivets (Or other items) you are setting….each size needs its own die….the same goes for grommets or press studs etc. I use two sizes of rivet die….the 9mm and 8mm….and that refers to the cap size, not the stem. I believe you can get hole punches for the press machine too BUT I still punch my holes the old fashioned way with a punch and hammer! Hope this helps!

  12. Thanks for the article. It makes the process look so easy.
    I have a question though.
    When using a 6mm rivet, what size hole punch would you need?

  13. Thanks for the tip! I’m sewing a canvas purse and would like to add a leather strap on the sides. Can I install a rivet in the seam of side of the purse?

  14. Hi Ken, it would depend on the design of the bag so without seeing it or knowing more about its construction I cannot say for sure but it is likely that there would be a way to add a leather strap to the sides with rivets.

  15. I have a manual rivet gun but it doesn’t seem like I can use it with these type of rivets? do you have to use the rivet setter (tool and a hamnmer?)

  16. I don’t know of any rivet gun that takes the double capped rivets that we use in Bag Making. You can get other setters though, other than the one in this post, however this type is one of the more economical. I do recommend you use a setter of some sort rather than just a hammer alone as the setters are shaped to prevent the cap from flattening when you set them.

  17. When you use rivets on a purse strap or strap connector do you also sew the pieces? Also, I called my local Tandy Leather store and they said the only rivets they carry are non weight bearing rivets. What does that mean and how do I know if a rivet can hold weight or not?

  18. Typepad HTML Email
    Hi Shelly,
    I used to sew the straps as well as rivet however now I only rivet. I used  to worry the rivets alone wouldn’t be enough BUT I have since learnt that using the correct rivets and quantity for my
    project, I don’t need to sew as well as rivet. To be honest, I have never heard of “non weight bearing rivets” but I assume these are some sort of decorative only rivet. I use double capped rivets, so they look the same on both sides and I have never had an
    issue of them not bearing a load. It is important though, that you use the correct shaft length for the area you are riveting. The post should be the same length as the thickness of your work and when you compress the layers a small amount of rivet will protrude.
    Too short, so your post is buried in the layers and the rivet won’t hold. Too long so that the post is protruding even when you don’t compress the layers, then it is likely your rivet will bend when you try to set it, or be wobbly and not set firmly when you
    are finished. I suggest you buy them online from one of the many bag hardware suppliers. Please email me
    christine@chriswdesigns.com to let me know where you are at so I can point you in the direction of someone who supplies rivets perfect for bag making! Hope this helps!

  19. Can I have your valued opinion please, Chris.
    At the moment, I have a 6mm die set for a hand press, and am thinking of purchasing 2 more sizes to accommodate a range of double cap rivets, probably an 8mm and another. If I bought a 10mm, would it set 9mm rivets sucessfully, or would I be better buying the 9mm?
    In time, I may want to use larger cap rivets, such as the 10mm, but really don’t want to have to purchase another die set, if I get the 9mm just now.
    I would appreciate any advise you can give.
    Thank you.

  20. Typepad HTML Email
    Hi Sheila,
    Yes, I think a 10mm would set the 9mm. I use my 9mm to set 8mm ones…..You can’t do the reverse but going down a size seems to work for me….

  21. Hello,
    I’m making dog collars out of cotton webbing and cotton material – the width of the 4 layers of webbing and 4 layers of material is around 7mm. My rivets keep bending no matter what length post I try, I’m not sure what I am doing wrong?
    I have tried 8mm and 10mm posts, am successful maybe 1 out of 20 times in it working
    Thank you

  22. Typepad HTML Email
    Hi Joanne….Firstly make sure your posts are the correct length. If they are too long they will bend. If you put the rivet into place and compress the layers, only the little knobby bit on the end
    of the post should stick out…..That’s with the layers compressed. If more than that sticks out, your posts are too long and that is your problem. Try a shorter post. If you are sure the post is the correct length then the key is to hold your setter perfectly
    straight and hit gently……more wacks are better than hard wacks.
    I hope this helps!

  23. Hi Christine… your tutorial above states it depends on how thick your fabric is in regards to the size of rivets. Is it better to purchase the rivets “after” I can actually measure the thickness of my layers? Is there a couple of sizes… probably the 2 you mention the would work. Will 2 layers of leather or vinyl work with the the larger 6mm post with 8mm cap you mention?
    Thanks.. great tutorial!

  24. Typepad HTML Email
    Hi Kimberly,
    If you make bags regularly, personally I would buy rivets in 6mm, 8mm, and 10mm post lengths. Even 9mm too if the budget allows. In whatever cap sizes you like. It’s the post length that is important.
    Of course it will depend on the thickness of your vinyl or leather….and there is a HUGE variation so I cannot guess as to what post lengths you need so yes, if you don’t want to have extra rivet sizes on hand, then you would need to put your intended layers
    together (Interfacings and padding and folds etc) and see what thickness it measures to be.. It’s the compressed thicknesses you are measuring. Hope this helps!

  25. Hi Chris,
    I have just wrecked a faux leather strap by applying too much force with my hammer. The rivet buckled under the pressure.
    The rivets were from China and not very good quality, as this is not the first time I have done this. You’d think you’d learn, wouldn’t you, but …..
    Would you advise me where to buy better quality rivets, and do you think it’s worth the extra cost to buy a proper press. Thanks

  26. Hi Kerry,
    Absolutely the quality is so important! Also important is making sure you are using the correct length step. You should just see the nobby bity at the end of the rivet poking through when you compress the layers. If it doesn’t poke through, the stem is too short, if more than just the nobby bit pokes through, then the stem is too long and there is a good chance the post will bend on you if that is the case. If you set a lot of rivers, then yeas, I mosr certainly do recommend a press. They are AWESOME! Here in Aus I buy my rivets mostly from Kylie at https://www.bettybp.com.au/ they are excellent quality. For the press and die, I suggest https://gbau.com.au/dk-93-manual-snap-press-and-screw-in-die-sets.html
    Hope this helps!
    Christine XX

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