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Rhinestones How-To Library
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How to Use Rhinestones in Apparel Design

The number one use of rhinestones and crystal trim is on fabrics! Here, the four main attachment methods for loose rhinestones are: gluing on, heat setting with hotfix crystals (also known as iron on), sewing on or securing in a metal setting. In each apparel market, you’ll find methods that are favored. Ready to wear production and logo apparel shops favor a heat press and hotfix rhinestone motifs (also known as transfers), in order to efficiently apply high quantities of crystals and create a consistent rhinestone design throughout mass manufacturing. Specialty/custom tailors, theater costume shops and bridal gown designers may also apply hotfix stones to their garments, often using a small hand-held heat setting tool instead of investing in a large heat press; or, they use the glue on method. High end couturiers that stitch on beads, paillets or appliques use sew on crystals. These feature a pre-drilled hole through the crystal just large enough for a needle and thread to pass through. For the occasional crystaller or those who do not want to invest in extra equipment, there are non-hotfix flat back crystals, or glue-on stones. Like hotfix elements, glue-on flat backs will apply flush against your fabric surface. This method is often favored by crafters, performance groups, and teams with uniforms, such as cheer or dance costumes, figure posing bikinis, spandex swimsuits and other stretch fabrics. Heavy duty clothing—such as Western show apparel—in denser fabrics like denim that see a lot of wear and tear will often utilize the setting method.

Remember that these methods are just suggestions, and are not the limit to what is on the market. You may find that you prefer other crystal elements, such as snaps or decorative buttons that use the Swarovski Crystal Applicator Tool, appliques, or banding and rhinestone zippers in place of loose crystals. Not all qualities offer crystals compatible for hotfix or sewing. Once you choose your attachment method, you will want to choose your quality, ensuring that you can secure the rhinestones for your preferred attachment method.

Once you have an idea of your design and project, you can choose your colors and choose your sizes of flat back or hotfix rhinestones. A general rule of thumb is the larger the crystal size, the flashier the sparkle, and the smaller the crystal size the more subtle the shimmer. Although stone size (ss) 20 is our best-selling size for its versatility, designs vary dramatically across the board and crystal shapes can run from the very small (1.4mm) to the very large (over 25mm). To help you record your design ideas, print out some of our design figures —female fashion templates called “croquis”—to jump start your ideas.

Planning your order may require some calculations. How many rhinestones do you need to fill the space? If you have 20 performers, how many yards of banding are needed? Our Estimating Guide (PDF) can help you figure out the quantity you need to complete your project, and our Group Planning WorksheetF (PDF) extends those calculations through multiple pieces in a group or ensemble. Choose your quantity.

See other sections of our How-To library for more help with the design process or application.

Rhinestones Unlimited: Learn. Shop. Sparkle.