When people refer to grommets, they either mean a hole in material that is reinforced with a hard ring usually made of metal or plastic, or they mean the ring itself. The word is derived from the Old French word: gromette, meaning chain joining the ends of a bit, from gourmer, to bridle.
If you have ever been camping, you know what a grommet is; they are the rings through which you drive the tent stakes into the ground. You can also see simple examples if you look at a commercial tarp used to cover outdoor furniture, cars, boats or woodpiles. Most tarps have grommets installed around the edges so they can be lashed down with rope or cords to keep the tarp from flapping around in the wind.
Grommets come in countless sizes, although they are generally round in shape. Their main purpose is to reinforce the area around a hole cut into any type of fabric or plastic. By providing that reinforcement, they eliminate any fraying or cutting through of the hole when ropes or wires are threaded through; this allows the user to easily attach the fabric to something else, such as a tree.
Sometimes called eyelets, grommets are useful for those everyday purposes, but they are also used as fashion statements. Lace-up shoes are a perfect example of their use — every time we lace up our shoes, we are likely seeing the reinforceing benefits of grommets. They have also been added to clothing as fashion detail; this type of decoration has gone in and out of fashion through the centuries. Many home sewers and hobbyists learn to apply the reinforcements for both practical and decorative applications.
Replacement grommets and grommet-setting tools can be purchased at outdoor equipment, fabric and hobby stores — either in person or via the Internet. Some kits come with a range of rings in various sizes and colors and come with a hand tool. While do-it-yourselfers may want to try their hand at grommet replacement, larger projects may need to be taken to a canvas sail maker, an upholsterer, or sometimes a cobbler for repairs.