I know, I know – rhinestones aren’t exactly beads – but by now, you’ve probably figured out that the bling is the thing, and so long as it sparkles – it’s fair game.
First – let’s clarify some terminology. Rhinestones can fall into two categories – those with a pointed back, and those with a flat back. Pointed back stones need to go into some sort of setting or mount, whereas flat backs can be glued to any reasonably flattish surface that you can get a glue to stick to.
Swarovski makes a plain, flat back rhinestone, but, because a lot of time what you want to do with rhinestones is embellish clothing with them, they also make them with a heat-sensitive glue already applied to the backs. These are called Hot Fix rhinestones.
Swarovski has put a lot of research into this glue – as they realize that if folks aren’t 100% confident that the glue is going to work, they won’t buy the stones. They are fanatical about their glue. Evangelical about it, even. And, I have to say, when properly applied to an appropriate surface – they are as permanent as you could want. We have staff t-shirts that have been through 100s of wash and dry cycles and they are fine – the stones as bright as the day they were applied. And still in place.
We’ve spent some time finding some tools that make designing with the hot-fix rhinestones easy and intuitive.
You can use a Be-Jeweler to apply the stone individually. A Be-Jeweler resembles a modified soldering iron. With some practice, you can get good at applying the stones with it. But it’s not my favorite way to roll.
No – what I wanted was some way to design motifs and patterns intuitively, but without commitment. If you’ve ever tried arranging rhinestones on a sheet of paper to see how they will look – you quickly realize what an exercise in frustration it is. They slither around, and flip over and move if a moth breathes on them. No – what I needed was some way to have them stay in position. And to then be able to pick them up and transfer them, pattern intact, to the garment in question.
(Links to purchase cool tools at the end of this article)
First Cool Tool – the Magical Rhinestone Tray. One of the main annoyances is that the stones are top heavy, and flip up-side-down if a mouse farts. This small, plastic triangular tray has tiny bumps in the bottom, and when you gently agitate the tray from side to side, the stones catch on the bumps and flip right side up. It’s quite brilliant, actually. This will save you a lot of aggravation flipping stones over. Just pour a few into the tray, shake. Use the flipped ones, when you run out – shake again, and flip more. Totally worthwhile tool.
The Tacky Mat is a bright blue (ok – it would be better if it wasn’t blue, but can’t have everything) sticky silicon mat. It comes with a plastic cover that you lift off, and it is sticky and rubbery and feels like one of those gross snot toys the boys all covet. The point is – when you put a rhinestone on it, it stays there until you pick it off. (Keep that plastic cover – you will put it back on the mat to keep it clean when you are done with it.)
The Magical Pick is a handle, sort of like a very slender chopstick, with a slightly sticky end. Press it down onto the right-side-up of a rhinestone, and it picks up and comes away on the end of the pick.
You can also use a lump of natural bees’ wax on the end of a bamboo skewer to pick up the stones. I use both. I find that the magical pick doesn’t have the holding power for the very big stones that the beeswax does – but the beeswax has the disadvantage of losing it’s stickiness if it gets cold – meaning that you need to warm it up in your hand or near a light in the winter for it to work. The magical pick is always good to go – and is fine for the normal sized stones.
Next, you will need Silicone Transfer Paper. This is a clear, adhesive sheet that comes with a protective backing. Cut a piece the size of the design – with a little extra room, but not much.
Separate the backing from the clear front – this may be the hardest part of the whole procedure. Try curling the sheet forwards with the tweezers, hopefully you can get enough of a gap to peel the backing off. Keep the backing.
This is secure enough that you can pick it up, not even having to keep it level. You can move it around, put it aside while you make another, wait until you are ready to transfer a whole bunch at once.
Here’s a little pinwheel design, still on the tacky mat. It’s easy to design freehand, or work over a design that is under the transparent tacky mat. You can see the colours as you are working with them, and if you change your mind, you can start over. No fear of commitment!
When you go to apply the design to your fabric – you simply take off the white backing sheet and place your transfer in position, glue side down and stones facing up, and heat with an iron or a heat press. When you have finished heating, you peel the transfer paper up from a corner, carefully, making sure all the stones have adhered properly.
Here’s cute little pony motif, applied to fabric.
I’ll go more into the specifics of heat and timing next Monday. In the meantime, check out tomorrow’s inspiration for details on the stones used and a helpful grid to make designing a rhinestone snowflake easy – and addictive.
Here are links to the tools mentioned above.
Oh, and the Hot-Fix Rhinestones are here:
Swarovski Elements Hot Fix Rhinestones