How to Sew Rhinestones to Clothing

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Once again, rhinestones have become one of the ultimate fashion accessories. From handbags to jeans, jackets to cell phone cases, rhinestones are adding a splash of sparkling color to the wardrobes of celebrities in every age group. Even the pages of fashion magazines feature trendy designer and boutique items accented with the little splashes of sparkling color. For the average shopper, however, it’s not always easy to justify the extra expense involved in buying the jeans with rhinestones instead of the plain pair. Fortunately, even if you are not creative or crafty, following a few simple steps can give you the fashion look of rhinestones without the fashion price.

Things You'll Need

  • Fabric
  • Sew-on Rhinestones
  • Thread
  • Needle
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Chalk, fabric marker or transfer paper
  • Gather your materials. Before you can start any project, you need to make sure you have the right materials for the project. When sewing on rhinestones, the type of fabric and the type of rhinestones you are using are very important. Whether you buy something to put the rhinestones on, or make it yourself, the fabric needs to be sturdy (i.e. denim, faux leather or heavy twill). Flimsy fabrics, like silk or rayon, will pull and distort under the weight of the rhinestone. Making sure you have the correct rhinestones is also essential. There are several types of rhinestones available, and most of them require special tools or adhesives to apply them. Sew-on rhinestones have small holes, either in the middle or along the outside edge, which make it possible to attach them by sewing.

  • Before you start sewing on the rhinestones, you need to know where you are going to put them. Even items that have individually placed rhinestones have been thought out before the first rhinestone was placed. Knowing where you are going to place the rhinestones saves time and helps prevent mistakes later. The easiest way to do this is to draw the pattern you want to use and then place dots on the drawing to show where the rhinestones are going to be. You can see the pattern, as well as how well the rhinestones will show the shape when the lines are gone. If you can’t draw, or if you aren’t sure what shapes to use, look through magazines, design and pattern books, and even coloring books for outlines that you can use.

  • Transfer the design. Once you have your design planned, you need to transfer it to your fabric. You can draw the design onto the fabric using chalk or a disappearing fabric marker. If you’d prefer not to draw it, then you can use transfer paper. Transfer paper works like carbon paper for making copies. Place it between the drawing and the fabric, with the colored side facing the fabric. Tracing over the drawing rubs the color off of the transfer paper and onto the fabric, thus transferring your drawing. These three methods all allow the design to be transferred, but the lines disappear when the fabric is washed, leaving only the rhinestone design.

  • Set the stones. Sew the rhinestones onto the dots in your pattern. Position the rhinestone over the dot. Push the threaded needle through the back of the fabric, up through one of the holes in the rhinestone. Pull the needle all the way through, until the thread is pulled tight. When you push the needle back down through the fabric, the needle should be on the outside of the rhinestone, forming a loop around the outside edge of the rhinestone. This loop of thread holds one side of the rhinestone down against the fabric. After you make two or three of these loops through the same hole, pull the needle through to the back of the fabric and start the next one. Do the same thing for each hole in the rhinestone.

  • Once you’ve done all of the holes for the rhinestone, make sure you pull the needle through to the back of the fabric. At this point, you need to make a knot and cut the thread. Some people prefer to tie the knot before cutting, using the thread in the needle and the thread in the last stitch to tie the knot. Another option is to cut the thread, leaving it long enough to work with, and tying a knot in the thread once the needle is removed. Once the knot is tied and the thread is cut, you have sewn your first rhinestone!

Tips & Warnings

  • If you’re having trouble keeping the rhinestones in place as you start sewing, add a drop of glue to the back of the stone. The glue will hold the rhinestone in place as you sew.
  • You can use contrasting stones or contrasting thread to change the look of your design.
  • Use seams, hems, collars and pockets as opportunities to be creative with your rhinestones.
  • Double your thread by putting the needle in the middle, instead of the end. This makes the thread stronger.
  • Sew-on rhinestones must be sewn by hand. Using a sewing machine can result in broken needles, broken rhinestones and potential injury from flying pieces.

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