Eyelets are holes in textiles used for lacing and decoration. Eyelet machines are specialized textile devices that create and reinforce eyelets in a single step. The primary components of an eyelet machine are the stoppers and table, hopper, die and hammer.
There are three steps needed for creating an eyelet hole in a finished fabric. A round of material is punched out of the fabric and discarded. A small metal tube, called an eyelet or grommet, is inserted into the gap to reinforce the sides of the hole. The ends of the grommet are then bent outward to enclose the raw ends of the fabric and keep the surrounding fibers from becoming unraveled.
When creating a single eyelet by hand, a crafter might punch the hole with a hole-punch, awl or craft knife, then insert the grommet and hammer it in place with a plier-like tool called an eyelet setter. This process is laborious and can create inconsistent results because of the natural variance in the crafter’s technique. An eyelet machine performs all of these steps in one go by combining these individual tools into a single tabletop unit.
The eyelet machine's table is the flat, horizontal surface that holds the fabric. Stoppers line the back and side of the table and help hold the fabric in place. The stoppers usually are adjustable, allowing the user to place the eyelet closer to or further from the edge of the material. A ruler might be etched into the stopper for easy measurement. Automatic eyelet machines might have a modified table and stoppers that clamp the fabric in place and move the material, removing the need for a human operator.
The hopper is a container for holding loose metal grommets. A metal finger rotates around the hopper and pushes the pieces down into a holder before they are inserted into the fabric. Eyelet machines typically specify the use of a particular size of grommet. Some eyelet machines also feature built-in storage for more grommets.
Dies are the pieces of the eyelet machine used to punch the hole and serve as a form for the grommet during hammering. The cutting die is called the perforating die, and the formed die is called the setter. Dies might be fixed or interchangeable.
The hammer applies pressure to the grommet. This pressure forces the grommet into the setter, which bends the grommet and secures it to the hole. Manual eyelet machines have a lever which, when pulled, initiates the process.