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How To Use Fun Colorful Plastic Snaps:  A Foldable Grocery Bag Tutorial

How To Use Fun Colorful Plastic Snaps: A Foldable Grocery Bag Tutorial

A plastic snaps tutorial and a pattern for a reusable lightweight foldable grocery bag :-)
Too many adjectives, I know, but the bag is all that!

Lately have been using these plastic snaps on different sewing projects. They are a great alternative to buttons and velcro. Having a box at hand with all these colors (24!) opens up a lot of possibilities. Attaching them is very straightforward and simple. They have a soft feel and are easy to open and close, also for kids. They have a good strong hold. The snaps are often used on baby stuff, like bibs, little vests, dresses, reusable diapers, wraps… but are also interesting for closing quilt or duvet covers…

I’ve used them on a camera strap that I gave as a present and also for these little envelope-like purses. I’m planning to make these with the children in my daughters class. Yes, mommy’s going to teach them how to sew :-).

A Plastic Snap Tutorial

To assemble 1 snap, you need 4 pieces: 2 identical caps (front & back), these are the ones that look like thumb tacks, and 2 inside pieces, a stud (male end) & a socket (female end)

The standard snaps are size 20 (sometimes also referred to as T5), the cap has a 1/2” wide diameter. They can be used for most general projects. They are the most popular snaps.

Size 22 (0.55”) are used for heavy duty applications requiring a strong grip: tote bags, coats, tarps, and upholstery. Size 16 (0.4”) are the small ones. They are used for baby and toddler clothing, mama pads, and small crafts.

You will need special pliers with a piece with a divot (a tray) where the snap can sit in (the black part) and a rod with a soft plastic cover (metal rod + white transparent cover).

The pliers we have in our store, come with everything you need: 3 different divots, 2 rods, an awl to make the holes and a screwdriver to change the parts.

The tip of the rod is either (approximately) (A) ⅛” or (B) 3/16” in diameter. For the standard snaps, you use the the smallest rod of the two. The widest one is only for snaps in size 22, for all snaps size 20 or smaller, you use the small rod. The transparent plastic covers for the rod are the same size but the size of the hole is different. The one with the little hole is for the thinnest rod, the other two for the big rod.

The 3 divots are approximately (1) ½” , (2) ⅝” and (3) ¾” in diameter. With these divots and rods, you can use these pliers for plastic snaps in these sizes:

  • cap size ⅜” (T3 or size 16) → (1) ½” divot + (A) small rod
  • cap size ½” (T5 or size 20) → (2) ⅝” divot + (A) small rod
  • cap size ⅝” (T8 or size 22) → (3) ¾” divot + (B) big rod

At MadamSew we sell the size 20 caps in a handy organizing box with 24 colors. If you buy the pliers as well, you won’t even have to change the rod and the divot. The right rod and divot are on the pliers.

But if you need to change the rod and the divot, you need to use the little screwdriver that comes with the pliers and unscrew 2 big grey screws for the rod and 1 little black screw for the divot.

Change the rod

1. Loosen the screw that holds the rod and remove it. You can loosen the other one next to it as well, but with some practice you can leave it on.

2. Remove the plastic cover from the rod

3. Remove the spring

4. Pull out the rod

5. Slide in the other rod

6. Attach the plastic cover on the tip

7. Get a good grip and push the spring down so you can get the screws back in

8. Tighten the screws

Change the divot

1. Remove the little black screw on the side

2. Pull out the divot (or push from the other side)

3. Put in the new divot

4. Replace the screw and tighten it

6 STEPS to attach a button to your project

1. Mark where you want your snap.

2. Poke a hole where you will position your snap. Sometimes you can pierce your fabric with the plastic pin (the prong) of the cap but very often you will need to use an awl.

3. Put the prong of the cap through the top side and put the socket with the wider part away from the fabric on the prong.

4. Now take your pliers to attach the socket and the cap: Put the flat piece of the cap inside the black tray (the divot) of the pliers, it has to fit inside the divot, match the socket with the other end of the pliers, indentation away from the prong. Make sure no part of the button sits outside of the divot. Now press down and squeeze it with both your hands. You will see that the prong is flattened like a pancake. The pliers smooshed down the plastic prong.

5. For the stud part, do the same. Make a hole, poke the prong through, place the stud part with the flat side facing down onto the fabric, place the cap in the divot. Squeeze!

6. To make sure your snaps are placed properly, there should be a clicking sound when you open and close them. “SNAP! SNAP!”

Extra tip: If your fabric is not firm enough, you can reinforce the place where you will put the snap.

How To Remove A Snap

Turn the pliers side on to the snap and squeeze to break the seal between the 2 components. Don't forget that the fabric will likely be marked by the hole you poked to fix it in and you will not be able to use the snap again.

A pattern and tutorial for a reusable lightweight foldable grocery bag

This is a neat little project.

Who doesn’t need reusable bags these days? Yes, making practical everyday things makes me happy, especially when they contribute to less waste. I’m posting all my makes on my personal instagram page, so if you’re interested, just follow me @an_madamsew.
I like the canvas totes that some stores and brands give you for free a lot but they take a lot of space. I often pop in a store for some groceries on my way home from work and then a foldable bag is more convenient. You just pop it out of your hand bag and pack it with all the fresh produce you need. The little snap buttons keeps the bag compact.

You just need a piece of 36”x 32” lightweight synthetic material and 2 plastic snaps. And I like to use some fusible hem tape to make the handles (2 x 26”) but you can perfectly make the straps without this.

The tools I used: plastic snap pliers, awl, cutter, mat, ruler, fabric marker, iron, clips or pins, sewing machine, thread, needle, edge joining foot

The pattern: You don’t need a pattern because you can just cut the fabric right out. But I’m using a drawing of the pattern pieces in step 2 to clarify the tutorial.

10 Steps to make the bag

1. Cut the 4 pieces 18” x 18”. You can cut it on the fold (= less stitching en finishing)

2. Markings: 2 where you want the handles + 2 lines where you will sew the corners to box the bottom of your bag. My handles are positioned 5.5” from the side seams. The bottom box markings are at 2” from the bottom along the side seams.

3. The handles: Strengthen the handle strips with fusible seam tape. Press a seam on both sides. Double fold and press again. Stitch the both sides of each handle with a edge stitch. You can use an edge joining foot for this job. Straight top stitches guaranteed!

4. Close 3 sides (or 2 sides, leave 1 side open), right sides together. Because it’s a bag with no lining, finish the edges with your serger or with an overcast stitch + overcast foot. I did the latter because I had black thread on my serger for another project and I am too lazy to change the threads twice :-)

5. Attach the handles to the bag. Raw edges together, on the right side. So the handles should lay on the bag when you sew.

6. Turn the edge of the bag in twice, press and pin down and make sure the handles now lay outside of the bag. You fold the handles together with the edge of the fabric, but with the second fold you turn them back to the outside. Sew all around at the edge of the fold and give some extra stitches to keep the handles in place.

7. To make the bottom part of the bag flat, sew together the 2 corners. Put the right sides together. Line up one of the side seams with the bottom seam and pin in place. You should now have one bottom corner pinched together. Stitch across 2 inches from the corner. Repeat this for the other corner. You can cut the excess part off and finish the edge with your serger or just leave it like this on the inside.

8. To determine the position of the snaps, you need to decide how you want to fold your bag. You should think about what works best for you. Because once the snaps are on the bag, this is how you will have to fold it… every time :-)

My way:

  • Put the handles on top of the bag
  • Fold the side seams towards the middle
  • Next, fold the top end and the bottom end towards the middle, on top of each other
  • And finally, pick up the top end and fold it over the other

9. Mark where you want to attach the snaps

10. Attach the snaps (go to the snap tutorial for all details)

And … if you have a lightweight store-bought bag lying around that is not foldable (or snappable), you can just add a snap and make a foldable one in 2 minutes. Just go for step 8 → 10.

While I was looking for inspiration for this bag the other day, I saw another little bag with snaps that I would like to make: a cutlery bag. A small pouch to take cutlery to work when I take my salad or when I buy a take-away lunch (I told you already, sometimes I’m lazy :-)). I saw some lovely examples on Etsy that I would like to try myself.

Questions or suggestions? Don’t hesitate to send me an email:
And I’m still curious about what you are making. Share it in our Facebook group or on instagram with the #madamsew hashtag!

Sewing aficionado and keen sewing blogger/vlogger.
An is Madam Sew’s dedicated creative brain, writing and filming insightful, inspirational content for the sewing enthusiast.



  • Thursday 3 Jan just received my order can’t wait to try everything out. But not til Feb I have a break on every Jan from craft like projects. Do sewing for rest of year. Thank you for how to attach the press studs looks easy hope it is for me. All the best.

    Catherine Rose
  • Any chance that you would sell these snaps in a kit of one color such as black, white or cream. I am not crazy about multicolored

  • You make it look so easy! Thank you so much! I have snaps but didn’t know how to use them and now I do.

    Patricia Stanley
  • I am in my 70’s and remember these from years past however they were made from metal and were hard to remove. I do believe that I’d like a set of these and wished that they were made back then. Thank you for showing this product.

    Cheryl Montaigne
  • Where can i get the snaps?
    Thank you

    Leslie m Pemberton

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