I know this is a scary subject for some, but once you get the hang of it, I actually think installing the rivets and buttons is one of the easiest aspects of making jeans. I installed a rivet in this example, but the steps and procedure for installing a button are exactly the same.

Step 1. Gather all of your tools and supplies.

Tools for installing jeans rivets

I am using a piece of scrap denim for this example, but your jeans obviously need to be ready for the rivets. Installing the rivets and buttons is one of the last things I do.

You will need:

  • Rivets
  • Marking Tool (I use a chalk pencil)
  • Scissors
  • Hammer
  • Nail (roughly the size of your rivet)
  • Hard surface to pound on (I use a smooth steel plate. This isn’t entirely necessary, but since it is so smooth and hard, it won’t scratch the rivet cap [burrs] as you pound)
  • Denim scraps to use as spacers if necessary

Step 2. Mark the spot where you want to insert your rivet.

Denim with spot marked for rivet insertion

It may be difficult to see, but I marked a blue spot in the middle of the image above.

Step 3. Determine how many layers of denim and pocketing fabric you will be inserting the rivet through. Depending on how thick your denim is, and how many layers you have in the spot where you are inserting the rivet, you may need to use some spacers. If the rivet is too long and you don’t have enough thickness, you can over pound the rivet, causing it to go in at an angle. This is bad, don’t do it. Your rivets may come out if they go in crooked. To solve this problem, you need to add two or three layers of denim on the back side of the rivet. You might be able to cut the rivet down, but I prefer to use spacers instead.

I am inserting the rivet through two layers of denim in the example, and decided that I need two additional layers for the back side of the rivet. Just use some scrap denim. Poke a hole using your nail (Step 4, below) and insert your rivet.

Jeans Rivets spacers

Then trim around the edge of the rivet head, eliminating the excess denim.

Jeans Rivet, trimming spacers

Finished rivet spacers

Now your spacers are done.

Step 4. Poke a hole through your denim with your hammer and nail. You can use this same method to poke the hole for the spacers as well.

Nail through denim

Step 5. Insert the rivet (with spacers) through the back or wrong side of your jeans in the same hole you poked in Step 4.

Rivet through denim

Step 6. Flip your rivet cap, or burr, upside down on your pounding surface.

Upside down jeans burr

Step 7. Turn the right side of the denim over, and align the rivet with the hole in the back of the rivet cap.

Aligning rivet for installation

The rivet cap is upside down under the denim above.

Step 8. Lightly hammer the back of the rivet, but don’t pound it all the way in yet. You want to make sure that the rivet is going in straight. You should be able to pick up everything and check. The little bit of pounding you have already done should hold the rivet cap in place.

Step 9. If the rivet is going in straight, then finish pounding it in until the rivet cap lays flat against the surface of the denim (on the right side). You really don’t need to pound that hard. Take it easy, rivets are your friend. With regard to jeans buttons, you want to pound until the button no longer turns in place and feels solid.

Finished jeans rivet

Tada, like magic. Finished rivet.