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Friday, June 10, 2016

How to Rhinestone: Easy Tips for Completing Even the Largest Stoning Projects

Anyone who has had any exposure to ballroom knows that rhinestones are an integral part of what we do. Yes, the dancing itself is the most important aspect of what we do, but ballroom just wouldn’t be ballroom without the sparkle. What many people don’t realize, especially new dancers, is that many dancers stone their own costumes, meaning that the dancers’ creative talents extend far beyond what you see on the dance floor. Something else many newcomers don’t realize is that regardless of what designer you use for your costume(s) and no matter how much you pay, it’s perfectly normal for dresses to shed a few rhinestones with each wear, and it’s your responsibility to maintain the dress not the designer’s.

While it may seem like a daunting task to replace the stones on your practically-new ballroom dress, it’s really not that hard. In fact, if you have clear instructions and the right tools, it’s actually pretty easy. And once you’ve replaced the stones yourself a few times, stoning an entire dress on your own won’t seem the monumental undertaking you’re probably expecting. The biggest thing you need to accomplish any rhinestoning project is time and patience. This post will give you a step-by-step guide to starting and finishing a rhinestone project of any size.

First, here’s what you’ll need before you get started:
Wax Paper
Gem-Tac – some people prefer E6000, but I find it stringy. A good rule of thumb is use Gem-Tac on fabric projects and E6000 for everything else.
Rhinestone Positioning Tool (sometimes it helps to have two!)
White Eyeliner Pencil
Small Paintbrush with Synthetic Bristles – buy a cheap one, because you’re going to ruin it.
Stencils (if desired)
Straight Pins
Tin Foil or a Plastic Palette

If you’re just replacing stones, you won’t need the stencil(s), straight pins, or white eyeliner, but everything else you’ll need. Stencils are helpful to create a design, as it’s best to layout what you want to do before starting to glue the stones down. I usually just print off images I find online and cut them out to use as stencils.

Before you start anything, you want to put wax paper between the layers of fabric you’re stoning, because the glue can seep through and glue the fabric together. Depending on your dress, this may mean placing the wax paper between layers of skirt fabric or placing the wax paper inside the bodysuit. You’ll have to figure out what works best for you. The goal is just to make sure no fabric gets glued together. I didn’t need to do that for my current project, since I was stoning a graduation cap (finally!), but all the other steps will be the same. (If you’re just replacing stones skip to here).

Once you’ve got the wax paper set, start laying out your design with your paper stencils. Play around a bit while you can still move the pieces and make sure you’ve got something you like. When you’ve finalized your design with your stencils, take straight pins and pin your design in place.

After you’ve got everything pinned down, take your white eyeliner and trace the design. I find eyeliner works best, because it doesn’t tug the fabric and it marks easily. You can also rub it out if you make a mistake. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of this step before we started placing rhinestones, but you get the idea:

Once you’ve got your design sketched out, remove the stencils and it’s time to get down to business. It’s best to have multiple rhinestone sizes when working with specific designs, and even with scatter designs it looks best to mix sizes. SS16 rhinestones tend to work best for outlining shapes, but you may need to squeeze in a few SS12s to get sharp corners. I strongly advise against using anything smaller than SS12 for dresses. For filling in, a mix of SS16 and SS20s tends to do the job. Unless larger stones are specifically part of your design, I wouldn’t use stones any larger than SS20 unless you’re doing a scatter, then I would top out at SS30-34.
Due to screen/zoom variations sizes may not be accurately represented. Image property of Rhinestones Unlimited. 
Before you start gluing shit like a mad man, slow your roll, because this is the MOST IMPORTANT PART! DO NOT PUT GLUE DIRECTLY FROM THE BOTTLE ONTO THE DRESS!!! Glue comes out quickly and dries quickly, so if you pour it onto your dress and get more than you wanted, you’re fucked. Yes, the glue dries clear, but sometimes it looks a little shiny, so you’ll be able to tell its there unless its near a stone. The best thing to do is to pour about a tablespoon of glue onto a piece of tin foil or a plastic palette and work from that. It does tend to dry out before you’re done working with it, but you can always add more.

Now that you’ve got the glue situation sorted, here’s how you’re going to want to apply it: If you’re just replacing stones or working on a simple scatter pattern, just dip the stones into the glue. You want the back covered, but not globed up. Usually, I dip it in the glue and then touch it to the tin foil to get off the excess.  When you place the stone you want a small ring of glue around the stone, because that prevents it from falling off so easily, but you don’t want it spreading everywhere. Ideally it should look like this:

If you’re creating a specific pattern (i.e. anything other than replacing or scattering) you’re going to want to use a slightly different method. The best way to achieve a perfect pattern is to use a cheap synthetic paintbrush and paint the glue onto the lines you drew earlier. Work in small sections, because you want to get the stones down before the glue dries. As mentioned above, you want a tiny ring around each stone, but not too much. This is sort of trial and error, but you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.

After you’ve got your small strip of glue painted, take your rhinestone placer and place each stone down directly onto the line of glue. Sometimes it helps to have two rhinestone placers, incase you need to push the stone off the other placer. You want to press the stone gently into the glue, but don’t get crazy because the stone can get stuck onto the placer tool. As mentioned previously, SS16 is the best size for outlining patterns without distortion, though sometimes you need an SS12 to get a sharp corner.

It only takes 10-20 minutes or so for the glue to dry if you’re not using a crazy amount of glue. It’s not completely dry, as that takes 24 hours, but it’s dry enough that it shouldn’t move if slightly touched. Once you reach this point, start filling in using the same paintbrush method. As I mentioned before, I like using SS20s to fill in patterns, but sometimes you need an SS16 or SS12 to get into corners.

There were two of us working on this project, which explains the gaps. If you're working alone, I suggest finishing one section before starting another.
Once you’ve got your main design complete, leave it to dry overnight. While the glue goes down white, it’ll be clear by the next day. Once you’ve got the design down look at it critically and see if it needs anything else.

Sometimes, as was my case, the design/pattern is too simple on its own. To add more interest, I decided to build out with a different color. For this, I used the dipping method described earlier and placed the fuchsia stones around the SS16s. While the Crystal AB and Crystal stones that make up the 2016 and scatter are Swarovski, the fuchsia stones aren’t, so I don’t know the exact size. I would guess they’re probably 15mm mixed with some SS40-48s. While the larger round stones were perfect for this project, I don’t recommend using them on a dress. If you want larger stones, look into the Swarovski or Preciosa Fancy Stones.

Again, once I reached this point I took a step back and considered what was missing, if anything. For me, the edges still looked too bare, which will often be the case with a ballroom/Latin dress as well. Usually a pattern alone isn’t enough, which is where random scattering is great. Before starting to glue the random scatter around your design, I suggest laying out small sections and working in small-medium areas, so you can make sure each section of scatter looks evenly spaced. Don’t bother measuring – it won’t work. Once you’ve got it laid out, use the dipping method to glue down the scattered stones. For scattering, I like mixing SS16, SS20, and SS30s for added depth.

In all, I’m thrilled with how my graduation cap turned out. And stoning a dress works exactly the same way, other than it takes a bit longer and you need the wax paper. I know it probably seems like a lot now, but it’s actually really simple. More than anything, it’s just time and patience. I usually give myself several weeks to work on a big project, so I don’t have to push myself if I start to get frustrated. It also helps to have your friend, partner, etc. around to talk to while you’re doing it, so you don’t get bored. I hope this post is helpful and makes rhinestoning look a bit less daunting! Sound off in the comments below if you have any pro tips on rhinestoning and tag us on Instagram @ballroombitch with photos of your completed projects!

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