Please note that as of March 2015, my online shop closed and these belt and buckle kits are no longer available. Sadly, I do not have another source for them at this time. Thank you so much!
Eyelets are that one thing that can make your belt look professional and fabulous or homemade and pitiful. If you've ever made a belt from a belt and buckle kit, you might remember your first go at the eyelets as a little more than disheartening. My first try most certainly did. Oiy. In fact, after that rather unpleasant experience, I really had no idea why sewers were so hip on making their own belts. Once you get around the eyelets though, belts are way fun to construct. And don't fret, because eyelets aren't hard, they just take some tender loving care.
I'll be showing you a couple things here. First let's assume that you don't have a hole punch. You'll need an awl, some sharp snips, the dritz eyelet tool and a hammer from your beltmaking toolkit.
Mark your eyelets. This will vary depending on how much overlap you decided for on your belt. Best thing to do, is try on your belt, pin mark the location of the eyelet that has the belt snug around your waist and then take it off. Eyelets are generally spaced 1" apart from each other, and from this first pin mark, I mark 2 eyelets on each side of this. Bonus Tip: When using the scissor method here, I like to mark the circumference of the eyelet by taking a pencil and marking inside the eyelet directly onto the fabric.
Punch your awl through each hole marking now. Next, you'll need to snip out the circle of the eyelet using your sharp scissors. The key here is to make sure that your are snipping the belt backing in particular because trying to apply an eyelet with all that bent up belting really doesn't work. It's just too much material for an eyelet to handle. I think this might be the number one tip from this tutorial that you should take home. Snip out the circle - which is not very big, but believe me, you'll end up with a much better result. Promise. Try to be precise and not take too much or too little.
OK, now that I've shown you that, I really want to show you what a hole punch does. Um, yeah. All you have to do it position your punch over the markings and then hammer the hole out. Yup. Perfect hole. I know. Now you have to have one too. You'll need the 3/16" size for all vintage style belt and buckle kits.
Once your holes are ready, its time for the eyelets. Put the eyelet in the hole, and if you like you can add a washer to the back by dropping it over the back of the eyelet. Washers are optional, not required, just so you know. You don't have to have them, but they make the back look nice and add a little more width to the edge of the eyelet which makes the fabric stay put.
Now for the eyelet tool. Position the eyelet tool with the front of the eyelet in the bottom part of the tool. Should fit into place perfectly. Now position the top part of the tool over the back end of the eyelet and with your hammer gently at first start tapping in a circular motion and rolling the eyelet into place. A couple tips for you: turn the top part of the tool in a clockwise motion after each few taps, add a bit more pressure to your hammering after the eyelet starts to roll and do this on a very hard and flat surface like cement or a marble slab. If you find that one side of the eyelet starts rolling more than the other, focus your hammering to that one side a little more. There's a great video you can watch on this type of technique here.
If you're using the scored eyelets, which are the most commonly found eyelets in sewing stores, keep in mind all the tips above, but forget the washer which you won't be able to find in a sewing store mostly likely anyway.
Here's another tip too. Forget the hardware altogether and use a buttonhole stitch for an eyelet instead. I did that here. Pretty spiffy huh. For directions on handmade buttonholes, look at my post on them here. I used one of those pearled cottons on this particular belt and could not have been happier with the result. Don't forget your thimble and pliers.