Removing Pearl Snaps to Upcycle a Man’s Western Shirt

IIMG_0977 am a sucker for western shirts. The farm-raised country girl in me loves the sight of a top-stitched yoke on both the front and back of a shirt…….(because everybody knows that shirts with yokes on only the front or back are wanna be’s… slickers.)

The glint of pearl snaps makes me go weak in the knees. One browse through my favorite Etsy store, CowgirlSnaps, can inspire me to design western shirts for hours. I am experienced at creating and sewing western shirts. If my ample female chest would adapt more readily to the typically male cut of a cowboy shirt, I would have a closet full of yoked, pearl-snapped beauties.

When a client came to me asking if I could replace the snaps on a shirt with buttons, I was able to hide my reaction and agreed to attempt the project. She explained the shirt had been her grandfather’s. Her grandfather had recently passed away and she had claimed his shirt to wear herself. She felt the snaps made it look too masculine for her.

I am sure anyone watching me while we spoke would have seen me flex my thumbs as I remembered all the times I have mashed my thumbs while applying snaps to my home sewn shirts. I have extensive experience in applying snaps. “Surely”, I mused, “the snaps will come off the same way they went on.” I felt my thumbs twitch, anticipating the pain sure to accompany the project.

I agreed to try the client’s request. Here is what I learned:

┬áProper tools are essential – All snap kits come with a snap setting tool. This tool is NO help IMG_1005in snap removal. Apply a snap in the wrong spot and one is pretty much screwed. Lacking any better idea, I choose my favorite all-purpose multi-tool, a treasured gift from my husband. I find that when you put items found in hardware stores on your Wish List, husbands are more likely to give you a gift at gift-giving occasions.

The stud portion of the snap was backed with an open prong ring. I grabbed a portion of the ring with the pliers on the tool and gently but firmly peeled the ring from the fabric. Once the entire prong ring has been pulled free, the stud should fall away from the fabric.

IMG_0978The socket portion is more difficult to remove. I used the pliers to grip the snap’s socket and tried to bend the pearl snap and fabric away from the socket. With a little bit of patience and a lot of hand strength the two parts of the snap can be separated. Once separated, the pearl snap prongs will still be embedded in the fabric. The pliers easily straightened the five prongs allowing them to slip back through the fabric in the same manner that they went in. Caution here, as some of the prongs will break off, leaving small bits of metal in the fabric, falling into the folds of clothing and carpets.

The amount of wear on the shirt and the number of launderings will determine if the presence of the snap will be noticeable after it is removed. – Good quality fabric will not fade very much and most of the time, there should be no holes under the snaps. A slightly shiny look may remain on the fabric beneath the snap but that can be covered with buttonhole or button placement.

I proceeded from here with sewing standard buttonholes in place of the removed pearl studs. (Remember which side of the shirt front or sleeve cuff that laps over. Buttons can be stitched on the shirt in the exact location of the pearl sockets, aligned with the buttonholes.

So feel free to raid male family members’ closets and cruise yard sales and consignment shops. Men’s western shirts can be feminized, snaps can be removed and replace with buttons……or hey, maybe even replace with different snaps…something with some bling, yeah, now there ‘s an idea!

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