How to Repair a Torn Grommet

Grommets seem to show up in all sorts of outdoor and survival gear, from tarps and tents to truck tie-downs.

Guest post by Julie Anne Eason of Serious Sewing

They’re handy when they work, but all too often they tear out of the fabric. Many people will just sigh and replace the entire item, or hope it will hold for just one more camping trip. But if you catch these little buggers in time, you can repair them as good as new. Better than new, actually.

The trick is to catch the tear early before the grommet has ripped through the edge of the fabric. So, it’s wise to check your grommets every time you use your tent or tarp. Look for signs that the fabric is creeping out away from the metal.

How to fix a torn grommet
Look for Signs of Failure

Here’s how to replace the torn grommet.

These techniques work for any fabric using grommets–plastic tarps to canvas tents.

Step 1: Remove the old grommet. This can be tricky, you’ll probably need a pair of pliers and maybe some tin snips or bolt cutters. Try not to tear the fabric any more than it already is.

Step 2: Assess the damage and repair. If the hole is still intact and hasn’t ripped through the side of the fabric, you can simply replace the old grommet with a new one. In a survival situation, though, you may not have access to any fresh grommets or setting tools. Don’t worry; there are several ways you can improvise.

  • Use 2 layers of thick leather as a replacement grommet. Just sandwich the hole between two layers of leather. Stitch around the leather and punch a hole in the center where the hole belongs. You’ll either need a heavy duty leather sewing machine for this, or a stitching awl, leather needles and heavy thread.
Fisxing a Torn Grommet
Use stiff leather for your replacement grommet
  • Another alternative is to place a metal washer or ring over the hole and hand stitch around it using heavy weight waxed linen or Kevlar thread. Beware, though, use metal that won’t rust if you’re putting it next to canvas. Rust will rot through canvas over time.
  • Finally, you can simply sew a buttonhole stitch around the entire hole. If you’re working with canvas, this will create a sort of “self-grommet”. It’s very strong and has been used for centuries in corsets and ship sails.
A quick button hole stitch
A quick button hole stitch can be just as strong as a metal grommet

So, what do you do if the old grommet ripped through the side of the fabric and the hole is no longer intact? Your best bet is to create a large patch out of canvas or nylon webbing and sew it over the hole. Stitch it down securely, zig-zag back and forth several times. You want the patch to feel like part of the fabric. Then just punch a new hole and either add a fresh grommet or use one of the improvisations listed above.

Don’t let a torn grommet ruin your next camping or canoe trip. It’s a simple fix and often your repair will be stronger than the original.

7 Comments

  1. Thanks, your step-by step guideline is awesome. Normally I would just throw the entire item when the grommet is torn from the fabric.

  2. If too late, well than warp a pine cone or small chunk of something in the tarp, twist and tie and there is your tie off.

  3. Good Intel but no grommets for me. I build custom tarps, tents, packs, hammocks, and shelters. I do not use grommets. I use loop and straps and try to minumize use of zippers on my packs “Just for this reason”. Grommets rip out and zippers break. Basic is the way to go and it is easy to repair. I also use toggles instead of buttons. A toggle is everywhere it is just a stick or twig.

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