Custom Costumes – Hot Fix 101

PatienceCrystals are stunning and in the world of rhythmic gymnastics and figure skating they are almost a neccessity.  Even a few draws the eyes to them as they reflect the light so beautifully.  Many leotards and skate outfits have hundreds if not thousands of crystals on them, so applying them yourself can save you money and be quite a lot of fun to do and like anything, picking up a few tips first can make a big difference to the end result. 

Over the years we’ve tried different ways of applying crystals and we prefer the hot fix method, it’s pretty well mess free, it allows you to aim and position the crystals very accurately and they adhere to the fabrics very well.  Hot fix crystals have an adhesive on the back that is activated by heat and we use higher quality crystals such as Swarovski™ as the quality of the crystal and the adhesive is really superior to any other.  So if you want to give it a try this is what you’ll need to get started.

  • Hot fix crystals in the colors and sizes of your choice
  • A hot fix wand with assorted size tips to apply the crystals
  • A piece of white tailors chalk and straight pins
  • A couple of  pieces of stiff cardboard to place inside the garment 
  • Parchment paper
  • Tweezers 

Lay out your garment and decide where you want to put your crystals.  You can follow the lines of the garment’s design and/or you can create your own designs which is where the tailors chalk will come in.  When you know where you want to put your crystals, you’re ready to set up.

Insert your cardboard inside the garment under the area you are going to crystal.  If it’s a sleeve, cut the cardboard so that it fits into the sleeve where you want to apply the crystals.  Next is an important step, stretch the fabric slightly over the cardboard and pin the perimeter area to the cardboard with a couple of straight pins so it remains stretched.   if you don’t stretch the fabric the crystals may pop off as it stretches when you wear it.  If you want to create a design, take your tailors chalk and lightly draw your lines, curves or design on the fabric.  Next, using the tweezers, place the crystals where you want them to give yourself a preview of what the area will look like once they are applied.  When you’re happy with the look, you’re ready to begin.

First, attach the correct size tip to the end of your wand that matches the size of crystal you want to apply.  Plug in your wand and leave it for a few minutes to fully heat up.

In the meantime, spread out your crystals adhesive side down on a flat surface like a plate or tray that is heat resistant.  Next, place the wand tip onto a crystal and pick it up.  Flip over the wand so that you can see the adhesive.  The larger the crystal the longer it takes for the adhesive to melt, but at roughly 10 seconds the heat penetrates the crystal and melts the adhesive, you will notice that the adhesive turns from a matte to a shine as it melts, at this point it’s ready to apply.  Next, holding the wand verticle, aim the tip of the wand with the crystal where you want it on the fabric and then gently push down against the fabric which is supported underneath by the cardboard and hold it there for a few seconds, then remove the wand leaving the crystal behind and take the outside flat end of your tweezers, and press down on the top of the crystal to ensure good contact of the adhesive with the fabric.  Continue on to the next one and so on.  After a while you’ll get used to exactly how long you need to heat and apply the different size crystals.   

Now a few tips and cautions… 

Before you start we suggest you try applying a few crystals to a piece of scrap fabric, this will help you get your technique right before you start the real thing.

Do not push the crystal down too hard on the fabric with the wand tip, or the adhesive could ooze around the edges and leave a mark around the crystal.

If you need to remove a crystal for any reason do not pick it off, reheat the crystal with the wand to break the bond and then remove it.  Do not reuse that crystal a second time as it will not adhere properly.  Certain fabrics and velvet in particular will leave a mark if you try to reposition or remove a crystal. 

Once you have applied an area of crystals, run your hand over them to be sure they are properly adhered.  If a couple come off, you’ll know to increase your application time by a few seconds. 

If you are applying crystals to mesh, you will need to place parchment paper between the mesh and the cardboard and you will have to hold the wand tip with the crystal on the mesh longer to achieve a strong bond, as the mesh has less surface area than other fabrics to adhere to.

We hope you find this information helpful.  If we can be of any further assistance please leave a comment and we’ll be happy to help you.