Rhinestones add sparkle to clothing and accessories, and are handy for personalizing items by creating letters or specialized designs. While there are several all-in-one rhinestone applicators such as the Bedazzler, applying rhinestones by hand is a relatively simple process with several options. When deciding how to apply rhinestones, consider your skill level as well as the intended use of the item—glued rhinestones are more delicate; opt for other methods for increased durability.
The simplest method to apply rhinestones to fabric is with glue, but it is also the least durable method. Use glue for accessories like belts and hats or clothing that will get gentle wear and can be hand-washed if needed. Dry-cleaning should be avoided, since it can cause the glue to yellow. Make sure to use a fabric craft glue that is safe for rhinestones—hot glue and other types of glue can damage the mirror backing of the rhinestone and cause discoloration.
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To apply the rhinestone, dab a small amount of glue onto the fabric where you want to place the stone. Make sure the amount of glue is just enough to extend slightly beyond the edge of the stone when you press it down on the fabric. The edges of the stone must be surrounded by glue or the stone will fall off. Hold the stone with tweezers and gently press it into the glue. Allow it to set for 24 hours before use.
Some rhinestones come with heat-sensitive glue on the back that, when heated, melts into the fibers of the fabric to create a strong bond. As with other glue methods, it is best to use this on items that will receive gentle wear and can be hand washed, or not washed at all.
To attach hot-fix rhinestones, place the rhinestone on the fabric where you want to affix it. Place a thin cloth over the rhinestone and press an iron set to the lowest heat setting against the cloth. Hold the iron there until the adhesive melts, approximately 45 seconds to 1 minute. Set the item aside for at least 20 minutes to let the glue cool completely before use.
Sewing rhinestones to fabric is a more durable method, but it is much more time-consuming than using glue. Another advantage of sewing on the stones is they can be reused by simply cutting the thread, causing no damage to the stone. To sew rhinestones to fabric, you must purchase rhinestones that have special holes for this purpose. Place thread through the hole and attach it firmly to the fabric, tying knots on the underside to hold it in place.
For the most durable bond, metal settings can be bent to clamp rhinestones firmly to fabric. Most of these require special metal-setting tools available at craft stores. Tiffany settings are pushed through the fabric from the back and crimped over the stone on the front side. Rim settings are placed over the stone on the front side of the fabric and pushed through to the back, where they are crimped securely in place.