How to fix rhinestones on clothes – Sew & No sew methods

Tips to effectively attach rhinestones to garments using 3 methods- Hot fix, sew on and glue on and choosing appropriate tools for secure attachment and also how to make pretty designs with rhinestones.

fix rhinestones


Rhinestones are like jewels for clothes. They sparkle the same way as diamonds and transform the look of clothes. If you are wearing a brilliant rhinestone-studded dress, no need for any extra jewelry. These flat-backed glass stones can make all the difference to your outfit.

There are three rhinestones types: glue-fixed, heat-applied, and sewn rhinestones. Glue-fixed ones are attached with regular fabric glue; the heat-applied rhinestones have glue already on them, which gets activated when heat is applied to them. You need a heat source to fix these properly on the fabric. Sewn rhinestones are what they say – you sew it onto fabric with a needle and thread.

Which Rhinestones to use on clothes?

You can buy high-end Swaroski rhinestones which are the ultimate in quality or plastic / acrylic ones – it is your budget that determines what you buy.

No need for me to elaborate on Swaroski flatback crystal rhinestones which are raised and faceted on the front- they are the best of all crystal rhinestones. They have a mirror back which gives them unmatched sparkle.

The acrylic rhinestones can look classy and embellish your clothes very well too, if you have the knack of arranging them into pretty patterns.

The two main types of rhinestones are Flatback rhinestones applied with the glue and Hotfix rhinestones. The flatback rhinestones have flat smooth back on to which glue is applied and then the rhinestone is placed on the fabric. You can use a special milliners glue that will look invisible to attach these for best and enduring results.

Flatback rhinestones can be applied anywhere, whereas the hotfix rhinestone cannot be applied on leather,  plastic, rubber etc which will damage from heat.

Flatback rhinestones can be pried out if you do not like the look of it but once the hotfix rhinestone is applied it is permanent. 

It is easier to attach the hotfix rhinestones but the flat back ones are a little messy with all the glue and time needed etc.

Rhinestone chains are great when used as borders.

Around the neck of tops, on the cuffs , on collars, around the perimeter of you scarf, on a waist tie or on a brooch – the rhinestones can add the required sparkle to your clothes and accessories.

Rhinestones can also greatly enhance the look of embroidered motifs and printed motifs even when used sparingly.

rhinestones on designs


Or on the little purse that you have made

how to make a purse

How to make the designs for the rhinestones?

Any design you use for embroidery can be used with the rhinestones. There are stencils ( Rhinestone templates) available in stores which you can place on the fabric, brush the rhinestones in place and then apply them to the fabric . Very easy to make big complicated designs this way, right?

For small motifs, you can just transfer the designs using any of the methods described here and then adhere the rhinestones in place. Or make the stencils yourself by cutting out the shapes on a thick interfacing piece. 

make an easy purse

The rhinestones are available in a wide range of sizes, colours and finishes. There are 4 types of  rhinestones according to the method used to fix it to the fabric

How to attach Glue-fix rhinestones

The glue fix rhinestones are the most common type of rhinestones. Fabric glue is used here. You can add glue to the back of this stone and attach it to the fabric. You can hold it in place for some time (or tape it)  if you feel the need.  After some time the stones will have neatly adhered to the cloth.

Sometimes these stones come with a small foil in the back of the stone which you have to peel off before applying glue. These are available for the expensive stones and these foils protect the stones from damage. The expensive stones also will come with their own recommendations as to which glue to use. It is advisable to follow this.

Ensure that you are applying just enough glue to the back of the stones; any more and you will have the glue squishing out from under the stone and making marks on the cloth

rhinestones glued on to fabric

You can also use glue with some sparkle added to it – this will ensure that inside the design the places that you have no rhinestone will still sparkle.

What glue is best for rhinestones on fabric?

The kind of glue you use to glue rhinestones on fabric can be the deciding factor on whether they stay after washing the fabric or not. You do not want the rhinestones to wash in the first wash or the subsequent ones, definitely not. You want a glue that will dry clear and will be waterproof. Any type of good qulaity fabric glues like the Gorilla fabric glue cane be effectively used to glue rhinestones on fabric.

How to attach Hot-fix rhinestones

Hot-fix rhinestones already have a glue behind them; when you apply glue to them the glue is activated and it permanently adheres to the fabric. This is a time saver when you have a large project. You do not have to fix each rhinestone individually with glue on them. Also no more mess with extra glue oozing out from under the stones.

Tools used for heat application for fixing rhinestones

Heat Press

This is used mostly for commercial purposes when you have a large number of items to press rhinestones on to; very convenient to use but expensive

Iron box

This is what is used generally at homes to fix the rhinestones

Hot-fix tool

This is a small tool that is great for applying rhinestones. This heat applicator comes with different tips suitable for applying heat and setting different sizes of rhinestones. If you work with rhinestones a lot this can make your work very easy. You can apply rhinestones to curved surfaces with this tool, which is not possible with the above tools.

One problem with these rhinestones is that you cannot apply this to any surface which is heat sensitive. Like no pleather, plastic,  vinyl, leather ; also you have to be extra careful with thin sheer fabric. If you apply more heat than these materials could bear and they will be destroyed.

Any treated fabric ( Teflon, enzyme, stain resistant, water repellent) or metal dyed fabric or porous material will not take the glue on the back of these stones and hence you cannot attach the heat fix rhinestones on them

The 4 things you have to get right for correct attachment of hot fix rhinestones are – correct heat applied, duration of heat applied, pressure you apply and finally all these specified for the material you are using.

You can either keep the rhinestones on top of the fabric and then apply pressure on the top of the stone or keep the rhinestone, then keep the fabric on top and apply heat from top of the fabric – either way as long as the glue applied back is touching the fabric and the heat gets the glue activated enough the stone will adhere to the fabric

Using Transfer sheets to adhere  Hot fix  rhinestones

  1. Cut out a piece of hot fix transfer sheet slightly bigger than your design
  2. Tape the design face down on the shiny side of the transfer sheet
  3. Peel the protective layer from the transfer sheet
  4. Keep the rhinestones on the sheet front side down on to the sheet as per the design. You can use tweezers to pick up the rhinestones and carefully position them.
  5. Once all the rhinestones are in place , remove the design sheet
    Very carefully place the transfer sheet ( with the rhinestones arranged) onto the surface of the fabric.
  6. Press in place. Use a medium hot iron to press in place

How to apply rhinestones when you have a complicated design with lots of rhinestones ?

This is where the rhinestone templates I told you earlier, come to be of use. The template board will have small holes in them and you will have to brush the rhinestones en-masse on to these holes- just use a brush to fill all the holes.

Then place a transfer paper on top. Use firm pressure to adhere to the transfer paper on to the template board. Once you are sure that the stones are all touching the transfer sheets carefully peel the sheet off.

This sheet can then be placed on the fabric of your choice and heat pressed. Absolutely easy to do with any complicated design. You will have to buy the rhinestone template and transfer sheet.

rhinestones sewn to collar


Sew on Rhinestones

sew on rhinestones

These rhinestones will have holes in them through which you can hand sew them to the fabric. You will need a beading needle and thread the colour of your garment.

The holes will be in the center of the rhinestone or on the periphery. You can use small straight stitches to attach them. Make sure that you are tying knots at the back after each rhinestone is fixed; this way even if one stone comes loose the whole embellishment would not come loose together at once

The knots and stitches in the back will scratch your skin if you do not have a backing; What you can do is keep the facing of your neckline/ cuff/collar open and attach the facing open edge to the main fabric after you have sewn the rhinestones; this way the facing will protect your skin from the irritating thread on the back of your work. Use small whip stitches to attach the facing to the garment.



Mesh backed rhinestones (chains or strips)

rhinestone strips -glue on

This consists of a strip of mesh with the rhinestones attached. You can cut it into the shape you want and use it as it is, for home decor projects like decorating a candle vase, nail art, phone cases, and phones, bags, greeting cards, clothes, shoes, books and book covers, musical instruments, cars and car accessories – the list is endless


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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

2 thoughts on “How to fix rhinestones on clothes – Sew & No sew methods”

  1. Hi, I wonder if you could help me? I want to use claw findings for rhinestone work and I’m looking for a machine or tool to help me fix them to strong fabric like denim or faux leather. Any ideas?

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