If You Had A Hammer (And A Tee Shirt)

We know I enjoy ruining tee shirts, right? Let’s do that again!

SO I have a shit-load of grommets aka eyelets, and I’ve been meaning to do a shirt with them forever. Why? Because they’re silver and shiny and I like silver shiny things. Also they’re super fast and easy to install, and they require no ironing or weird power tools or fiddly tiny pliers or arcane and toxic adhesives. Also I just think they look really punk rock, because I have very low standards for “punk rock.”

SO ALSO I have a shit-load of GIANT grommets, which is what I was originally going to do, because who cares if somebody can see your bra or whatever through the commensurately-giant holes, because they’re BADASS. These huge ones are really primarily used for the rigging or lashings or whatever you call the ropes on sailboat sails and shit, because nothing says BADASS like “sailboat paraphernalia.”

GIANT GROMMETS. SO METAL. (Literally, they’re a lot of metal.)

SO ANYWAY. I had never installed the GIANT grommets before, but the system seemed identical to the smaller ones. You make an appropriately-sized hole (more on this later) in whatever you want to grommet-ify, you put the taller base piece flat on the ground, pop the fabric hole over it, top with the other grommet half, position the … the steel rod-with-flange thing that you install them with, which I call a Grommet Whap but I’m pretty sure that’s not its real name. Anyway, you put that on top, smack it with a hammer a couple times, and BOOM (literally boom, depending on what kind of surface you’re hammering on), you’ve installed a grommet!

NOW. The thing about the GIANT grommets, which I did not know but would have if I’d thought about it for a sec [or read the package], is that they’re for Serious Hardcore Use and not for bedazzling. That means their metal is much thicker. Which in turn means they require much more force to install. Because grommets get installed via the shaft of that taller bottom piece getting splits in its top end, and then getting curled over onto the top piece. The thicker the metal, the more force is going to be required to split it, right? So I cut a teeny hole, positioned the grommet pieces accordingly, and whapped away. Annnnd … nothin’. So I whapped some more, quite forcefully, and still nothing. I pulled the whole affair off of the sisal rug I was working on and directly onto the wood floors because fuck it, and STILL nothing. And then I whapped so hard that the Grommet Whap itself went flying, rolled under the coat closet door, which I then opened to retrieve it, and TWO SPIDERS CAME OUT AND CHARGED RIGHT AT ME. Okay they were only those wispy daddy-longlegs kind but still. I was thisclose to whapping them with my hammer, which was still in my hand (never put down your weapon), but I smacked ’em with a shoe instead because why do needless damage to one’s wood floors? Also it’s my favorite hammer and I didn’t want spider ick on it.

THEN. I looked at the back of the package of GIANT grommets. And lo, it sayeth “place on a very hard surface, like concrete.” Y’all it’s 90 degrees and appx 10000% humidity right now, but FINE, I put on actual pants instead of boxer shorts, and went out on the front landing thing with my cutting mat and all my grommet crap, and I tried to whap one of those things in. Three minutes later, all I had accomplished was 1) get super fucking sweaty, 2) chip the concrete in front of my door, and 3) utterly fail to install a GIANT grommet. So screw that. We’ll go with the small ones this time.


You’ll need : grommets, the Grommet Whap (check the package when you purchase them, as some come with the little installer tool and some don’t), sharp scissors, possibly chalk or similar, a hammer, some kind of hard surface to whap upon (one that isn’t easily chipped or dented etc), and ideally a bit of something to serve as “padding” — a self-healing cutting mat is great, or some pieces of cardboard or foamcore will also serve).

FINE, I’ll use the stupid small grommets.

Okay find your tee shirt you want to use. It doesn’t matter what kind. Turn it inside out, because the grommet piece  you place on the bottom, which would otherwise be on the interior facing of  your shirt, is the attractive side. When you install one and remove the Grommet Whap, the side facing upwards will be all messy looking, so you want that ugly upward side to come out on the interior facing of your shirt.

If you want them in a very specific distribution or pattern, mark your shirt with something that’ll show up even after much handling, but also be washable. Chalk, a white eyeliner pencil, whatever. I just went for “random” and didn’t mark spots.

Then you’ll want to snip your holes. IMPORTANT NOTE : your first instinct will be to look at the tall grommet base, see that it’s about a quarter-inch in diameter, and think “oh I should snip a quarter-inch diameter hole.” You should not. Tees are stretchy, and a too-large hole will make it way too easy for the grommet to detach itself later and fall off, and then you’ll just have a bunch of holes. Which is also punk rock, but not silver and shiny punk rock.  For the “normal” size grommets (Dritz, available at pretty much every fabric store, craft store, and Large Big-Box Discount Retailer on the planet), you’ll want to snip a tiny hole, maybe 1/8″ and it doesn’t need to be perfectly round. I just gather up a bit of tee into a tiny point and snip off the very tip end.

Place your grommet base flat on your whapping surface, and stretch the tiny hole in your tee over it, and it’s best if you position the part of the tee you’re working on so it’s directly over your whapping surface without the other side of the tee underneath it (the whapping could damage that fabric or make unwanted holes). Then place the flatter “top” piece of the grommet on top and (important!) mash it down as far as you can. It should kind of snap into place, and a little of the tall bottom piece will be sticking up through the hole.

Position your Grommet Whap centered and level on top of your grommet, and whap it with the hammer a few times. Be absolutely sure you whap firmly, and also be sure that you hit your thumb at least once, so that your parrot starts yelling because you let fly a string of profanity and he would like to participate in the “fun.”

HOORAY, YOU INSTALLED A GROMMET! Now do this like a hundred more times (or however many grommets you want) or until you get tired and all sweaty and need to go have a cup of coffee. EVENTUALLY, you’ll have a tee full o’ grommets which is RAD and also if  you wanted you could run ribbons or tinsel through the holes?

Do you have an excellent method for ruining tee shirts, smacking your thumb, or dislodging spiders from a coat closet? Share it!