Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on April 28, 2012
Everything You Need to Know About Using Swarovski Crystals
Twenty years ago, an elegant prom dress or skating costume was likely to be adorned with sequins, pearls, or hand-applied beads. But for the last ten years or so, the creme de la creme of embellishments has undoubtedly been Swarovski crystals! These Austrian glass gems come in dozens of vivid colors and a plethora of sizes, making them the ideal addition to sparkle up even the plainest of sewing projects. Moderately priced and remarkably easy to apply, it’s no wonder Swarovski crystals have made their way onto Olympic ice skating costumes, couture wedding dresses, and First Ladies’ Inaugural ball gowns. Whereas Queen Elizabeth’s formal gowns of the 1950s required hundreds of hours of hand beading to achieve that “over the top” elegant look, now even a home sewer can create an equally dazzling dress with no hand sewing at all!
Before we look at how to apply Swarovksi crystals, I’d like to explain a couple of terms which are important to understand in the world of “bling” vocabulary.
- First, let’s take a look at the term a “gross” of stones. This just means a package of approximately 144 crystals of the same size and color, and is often times sold at a wholesale price.
- In recent years the term “to stone” something means to cover it with Swarovski crystals. (For example, when I was talking with a mother whose ice skating daughter had costume qualms, the lady said, “I’m just going to buy three gross of stones and stone the living daylights out of her outfit.”)
- But the most important thing you can learn about Swarovskis is the difference between “Hot Fix” and “Flat Back“.
- Hot Fix crystals are probably the most commonly used Swarovski stones, simply because they are the easiest to apply. These round crystals have a hardened glue on the back on them, which melts and bonds itself to the material when you apply it with the Hot Fix Tool. (More on that later!) The nice thing about Hot Fix stones is that you can arrange all the crystals exactly where you want them on the garment, then simply place the hot fix tool over the top of each until they’re all attached to the dress.
- Flat Back crystals look exactly the same as the Hot Fix stones but they have no glue on the back at all, so they must be applied with regular craft glue. There are some advantages to using Flat Backs, and they usually cost a couple cents less per stone than the Hot Fix variety.
- Finally, proper pronunciation of the name “Swarovski” can make you sound like a pro. Please don’t say, “Swar-vo-ski“! The word is pronounced just like it looks: Swar – ov – ski (rhymes with star – off – ski). In Austria of course the word would sound different, but in English we say it just how its spelled. : )
With these terms under your belt, let’s take a look at how to apply the Hot Fix crystals!
How to Apply Hot Fix Swarovski Crystals
You will need:
Hot Fix Swarovski Crystals
Hot Fix Applicator Tool
But before you start, make sure you know when to put the crystals on your project:
After your garment is completely assembled, finished, and pressed.
At least 24 hours before you will wear the outfit!
So to start out, let’s take a look at the different heads for the Hot Fix applicator tool. The package your tool came in should include a good half dozen heads, some of which are beveled (rounded) and some which are flat. The instructions on the packaging most likely tell you to heat up the tool with the beveled head attached, place the stone color side down in the head, then flip the stone over and hope it lands at the right point on your garment. Don’t believe a word of it!
The first thing I recommend doing is forgetting the beveled heads altogether, as they almost defeat the purpose of having a hot fix tool at all! (By the way, I didn’t come up with this method myself, but learned it from a lady who’s one of the biggest Swarovski crystal experts in the Northwest.)
No matter what sort of stone you’re using I would always recommend using a flat head. This way you can arrange the crystals exactly where you want them on the garment, then “iron” them on using your Hot Fix tool for the most precise and hassle-free application. You may observe that there are not as many sizes of the flat heads as there are of the beveled type, but as long as the flat head is large enough to cover the top of the colored side of the stone it will work out just fine.
Before you plug in your tool, you will need to screw in the appropriate head to the hot fix tool. Then, plug it in and let it heat up for at least ten minutes to be nice and hot.
While you’re waiting on that, now’s a good time to start placing the stones in the right position. The possibilities of Swarovski crystal designs are truly endless, and there are absolutely no rules about how to arrange them! The one thing I would caution you about is that the more symmetrical you make your design, the less likely it is to look “perfect”. We try our best, but occasionally a stone can accidentally get bumped out of place and ruin the effect. Try arranging them in lots of different ways before you decide which way you like best. (This goes without saying, but make sure the backing of the stone is on the fabric, with the colored side of the stone up and facing you.)
Now that your tool is heated up, all you have to do is press the heated tool onto the top of stone for thirty seconds! (Keep the heated head only on the stone. You don’t want to touch the tool to the fabric itself as it might melt some synthetics.)
Once all the stones are attached, let them cool and set in place by leaving the garment undisturbed for at least twenty four hours. After that, you’re good to go! And as far as washing instructions go, most genuine Swarovski crystals can be laundered in the same way that the garment would usually be washed. (For example, a prom dress would still have to be sent to the dry cleaners and a t-shirt would still go through the washer and dryer.)
How to Apply Flat Back Swarovski Crystals
All right! Now that we’ve seen how to use the hot fix tool, you might be wondering what to do if all you have is regular glue. Whether the stones you have are hot fix or flat black, you can attach either kind using the regular glue method! (Conversely, flat back crystals cannot be applied using the hot fix tool.)
I’ll admit that this is not my favorite plan of attack for embellishing a gown, since regular glue is messy to work with and may leave slight marks on the fabric even if it is supposed to dry clear.
However, if Flat Back Crystals are the type available to you, they will still add a glorious sparkly effect to your project!
You will need:
Flat Back Swarovski Crystals
Craft Glue (Gem-Tac is my personal favorite)
Set up your glue and toothpicks on the tin foil, far away from the garment itself. Place the stones in the general arrangement you’d like, then, using your toothpick as the glue applicator, place a small drop of glue on the garment. Put one of the crystals on this drop of glue (using your handy dandy tweezers!), but don’t put any pressure on it lest the glue run outside the stone and leave a “ring” of glue.
Continue dabbing small drops of glue across the garment and immediately covering them with the stones until all the crystals are in place. You want to be very careful not to bump of move the embellished item until you’re sure that it’s completely dry. The twenty-four hour rule definitely applies to this method as well!
Once you’ve started using Swarovski crystals, you probably won’t be able to stop! I’ve seen ladies go to town embellishing otherwise ordinary t-shirts, purses and cosmetic bags, high heels, hats, and belts, besides much more elegant items such as wedding veils, formal wear, and bridal gowns.
And in case you’re wondering about the two projects I showed in this tutorial, they both have to do with 1950s photo shoots! The lavender duchess satin gown is my latest creation from Butterick 5708 which will be photographed shortly. I am thrilled with the way this dress turned out, but I thought it could still use a few Swarovski crystals to dazzle it up.
The shoes were purchased in anticipation of a red 1950s party dress I will be making from an “in-the-works” 1950s dress pattern that has not yet been released. I am very excited to get this pre-release version of this pattern, especially since I’ve had the red taffeta, sparkle tulle, and embroidered organza set aside with this project in mind. I obviously won’t be able to show pictures of the finished project till the pattern is online for sale, but I will be posting all about it as soon as its ready.
Have a wonderful week, and happy sewing!