Cowgirl Chic at Dry Creek Designs

If you’ve not been in our showroom in the past year, you’ve missed out on the show-stopping show jacket garnering so much attention. Designed by Liz Workland from Idaho’s Dry Creek Designs, the custom made piece features nearly 54 gross of Swarovski ELEMENTS crystals, pearls and ceramics, all hand-applied.3-4 Front in studio

As we welcomed new products to our shelves at the request of our Western wear customers, we asked Liz- one of our long-time friends- to create a piece showcasing them, exclusively for display at Rhinestones Unlimited. When I asked Liz what her inspiration was in coming up with the design, the first thing she pointed out was the colors. Thanks to Swarovski, we sent her a box filled with gorgeous neutrals to pick and choose from: silky nudes, smoky shades of translucent greys, bronzes and metallics. She came up with a swirling motif of hand cut ultrasuedes, set on a charcoal woven suiting fabric and a coordinating inner lining of graphic squares. It blazes in faceted crystals, soft charcoal and golden pearls, funky metallics, and artsy ceramic mosaic stones. This jacket is classic and edgy all at the same time, can suit any horse’s coloring and will complement any rider’s skin tone.

Front with front horse bigFront tail detail

Because you’re not looking at it in person, let me assure you that this piece is stunning. Anyone who sees it is drawn in by the precision level of detail. I’ve personally witnessed it hold teenagers’ attention for minutes. Minutes! Now, I’m not going to lie to you- I don’t know horses. I love horses. But, I don’t know their world. My background is in fashion and theater costume. I can tell you what looks good on an individual, and if you’re willing to listen, why it looks good. The rest of the information I have to get via phone interview from Liz, a long-time veteran in the Western and equestrian world.

Q: Liz, what would you like people to know about Dry Creek Designs?

A: We are professional tailors first, designers second. I’m in my 22nd year of [creating custom show apparel]. Our fit in the industry is probably the best as far as jackets and pants. I went to school to learn this- you don’t learn this from your mom! From toddlers to 70-year olds- you have to know how to [fit everybody] and make a pattern specific to their intent. We always put care labels inside – the only custom show company doing that. And they last! Our clothes last forever. I’ve seen pieces of mine that are 10 years old on clients and they still look great- all lined, beautiful on the inside and outside- and the resale value is phenomenal.

Unlike the majority of show clothing out there sold at pop-up arena booths or in a catch-all store, Dry Creek Designs creates pieces that are made especially for the wearer. Liz uses woven fabrics and fits them through intentionally flattering seams- not a standard one-size-fits-all stretch polyester that pulls here and sags there. She assesses each person’s figure and personality, shades that look best with their skin and hair, how they ride, the horses’ breed. The most important factors? “The person’s age and what they show.”

CB detail, ceramics

Liz on Rhinestones

Riding horses since she was 8 years old and in business for over two decades, you better believe that this woman knows her craft. She graciously shared her trade secrets with me, as I must have appeared charming and trustworthy.

Q: You’re showcasing some product that is new to our shelves- did any specific embellishment strike you?

A: I loved the rectangles [Cosmic #2520] in Golden Shadow. Anything we can glue on we love! We’re putting out an average of one garment a day, so we like speed.

Q: RU is a Swarovski distributor- if they make it, we can get it for you.  What are your top three Swarovski products?

A: Crystal and Crystal AB are number one. Jet Hematite number two, Light Colorado Topaz number three. The latest one we’re really liking is Comet Argent Light- or as we started calling it in the shop, the “shiny diamonds.”

Q: Any tips & tricks you’re willing to share?

A: Too many to name. I’d say know how your product is going to respond- test it. Prototype it. We test every product we might use, every fabric for shrinkage and colorfastness. Leather bleeds like crazy, so we use pig suede and synthetic ultrasuede instead. Also, I only use Gem-Tac [adhesive]. I bought it from you at your beginning.  Best glue on the market.

Q: Do you have a rhinestone routine?

A: We don’t put stones on until after a coat is completely finished, because we line our coats, and there’s a chance for the stones to get damaged [during the construction process]. We put any spikes, big domes, metals or hot fix stones on first, and we start on the back, working around to the front…I don’t know why. Generally, as priority, there’s a lot [of rhinestones applied] by the face; we can shortcut on the sleeves.

Horse love front with bougainvillea big

Liz On Horses

For those outside of the equestrian world, like myself, you may not realize that competitive showmanship is serious business. “It’s incredibly expensive. Horses are like children that require round the clock care, day in and day out. You’ll need a confident trainer and coach to compete at any level. But, it’s a lifelong passion, an addiction. What we do is all we do. It’s hard work at the shows. There’s long days, early mornings. Late nights.   Home is easier. And, you better know how to drive a truck and fix a flat tire if you’re going to travel! But, it’s so beautiful. It’s so rewarding. When people have horses, they are passionate about them. You’re born with that passion. It’s not acquired.”

Q: When I’m on a horse I feel…

A: …Fabulous.  Special.  Connected, like I belong there.  It’s hard to put words to that, really.  It’s kind of like riding a giant dog sometimes: similar personalities, just bigger. It feels very natural.

Q: Barbie has ridden more than a few (dozen) horses in her world.  Any prize winners in your book?

A: Not a Barbie girl.

3-4 back with bougainvilleaLiz on Leather

“Horse showing is stinky. It’s dirty. Everything we make is washable.” You can launder every piece they make- and that includes the Swarovski display jacket.

Q: In your business, what is the most recent mistake you have learned from?

A: Hmmm. I don’t know… Well, we had a quality control issue on a couple substandard pig suedes recently. I guess it reinforced the habit of double checking hides.

Q: With PETA and bondage and bike gangs and Prince in peekaboo chaps, leather can be scary.  How have you taken the fear out working with it?

A: Working with leather is something you have to experience. Learn to look past what it is and treat it like fabric; it takes the fear away. I have so many years of experience with ultrasuede, pig suede, lambskin, leather, that I have no fear. Recently, we had a design for twisted fringe and we just did a prototype and doggone it if we didn’t nail it on the head! I’m big on prototyping- that’s how we started painting. Now fifty percent of what we create is hand painted. And for that, you have to know your products.

Full back in studio

Liz on Style

Shockingly, when asked whose country star style Liz most related to, all of my prompts were rejected. Granted, they could all be considered retirees today. And one of them is a horse. (Dolly Parton? Hank Williams, Jr.? Loretta Lynn, Mister Ed, Patsy Cline?) “I don’t do country music, so I’m going to have to guess…can I say Trisha Yearwood?” Sure you can, Liz.

And what does her Trisha Yearwood eye for style predict for the future trends? “There’s more texture lately: lace accents, eclectic embellishments, found objects, a lot of shiny things, of course.” With the recent rock and roll boom in Western wear, Liz was quick to interpret the attitude into a more timeless composition for the Swarovski display coat: the groupings of assertive Jet Hematite and acutely angled Rose Gold metallics are edgy but not hard. Use as accents, they don’t define the design.

Q: Do you see any big differences in show clothing from coast to coast?

A: In the past, yes: the East coast was generally more conservative in color- typically all black- and the West coast was more flamboyant . But, the East coast is catching up.

Q: Any stand-out show outfits you’ve never forgotten?

A: This display coat is number one for me. There’s also a little leather jacket with feathers, fringes, a powder blue buffalo coat my daughter wears. It’s all hand painted and covered in crystals and absolutely magnificent.

3-4 Front horse

Liz on Liz

Though she doesn’t have a cowboy name (because I asked), she was quick to supply her American Indian name: “Runs with Scissors!” After an enjoyable conversation on a grey Minnesota day, I figured I better let the Dry Creek Designs ringleader get back to her Idaho life (“It was 60 degrees yesterday! I gave the horse a bath.” In contrast, the February forecast on my end of the telephone was technically -8 degrees Fahrenheit – though the official “feels like” temp was -23). With reluctance, I hit her with my final barrage of investigative journalism.

Q: Liz, describe your personality as a Swarovski color:

A: Fireopal.

Q: And as a horse color:

A: Oooo. That one’s harder. I’ll say black. It’s a strong color, and I have a very strong personality.

Q: What is your favorite movie with horses?

A: [thinks about it] The Black Stallion. There are a lot of poorly done horse movies. Horse people can be critical of handlers and horses, just like a dancer would be watching a dance movie; but I’d say The Black Stallion.

Q: After a job well done, you gotta treat yourself.  Are there any classic recipes suitable for the stable, arena or a picnic in the pasture that you’d like to share?  They may or may not involve whiskey, as you see fit.

A: A bottle of red wine and always a couple of friends. We take off on Fridays to enjoy some flatbreads, food, friends, wine. And we breathe! It had to be done with the display coat. First, we had to get Jamie wearing the coat in some photos, but when we were okay to ship it off to you, the first thing we did was take a breath!

Full front walking with legs

Want a jacket just like it? Well, this one is not for sale. But you’re not alone! She gets many requests for so fine a piece. If duplicated- after 66 hours of work and nearly three pounds of crystal embellishments- it would retail at $4,995. And by the way, did I mention that this jacket features Swarovski crystals coated in 18 carat rose gold? Gold!

“I get at least one hit a week [asking after the coat]. You make a great design and people want it. They just don’t want to pay for it!” [She laughs] But not to worry, dear reader. Dry Creek Designs will definitely work with you to modify the design for your budget. That’s the advantage of custom show clothing- YOU become the central element in the piece. Not the other way around.

-xo- Jemm


Looking for a genuine Dry Creek Designs show piece? Keep your eyes peeled for the miniature L she’s tucked in to every garment since 1998. You can find Liz Workland in Meridian, Idaho or by visiting

Special thanks to Swarovski ELEMENTS for sponsoring the creation of the Rhinestones Unlimited Swarovski display jacket.

Secret L closeup

Swarovski New Colors Spring Summer 2015

Swarovski has announced their two new colors, Tangerine and Iridescent Green!  These beautiful shades are available now, ready in time for you to plan your Spring/Summer 2015 collections.

Swarovski Spring/Summer 2015 colors, Tangerine and Iridescent Green, available now at Rhinestones UnlimitedTangerine (Standard Color)  “A strong warm orange tone, Tangerine provides a vibrant addition to the color range.”

Chosen as the worldwide color of the year in 2012 and still holding its own, this vibrant, saturated orange is alive with energy and optimism.  Any Harry Potter fans out there?  Attribute citrusy Tangerine to the likes of Felix Felicis- liquid luck.  It makes you feel good, like you’re on top of the world, like everything will align to help you succeed.  It inspires adventure, movement, new beginnings.   It’s a spring cleaning in a swatch of color. And infused in Swarovski crystal, the end result looks good enough to eat.  I realize it’s hip to be down with raw foods and dark green diets, and I’m behind the healthy food-healthy body-healthy mind train, but sometimes I just want some junk food.  Lest I lose some cool points for admitting it, I love Jell-O.  Tangerine-steeped crystal reminds me of eating Jigglers, cutting shapes out of a shallow pan of colorful gelatin.  Resonate with anyone else?  No?  Oh.  Well, let’s hear what the Swarovski folks have to say, then.  From their official publications:

“Tangerine is as romantic as the sunset and as joyful as the sunrise.  As a very cheerful color it lifts the spirit of classic tones and pastels and adds bright flashes to contemporary looks.”

“Inspired by the sun, this color will lead the way to brighter moods and happiness.  Its sunrise/sunset tones awaken primal feelings and nourish the soul.”  Wow.  There it all is.  Hooray for color! (That last part was me, Jemm.  Non-official.)

“Combine Tangerine with warm, saturated colors such as browns and golds for a modern, elegant look.  Create expressive styles with the contrast of soft greens and blues, or marry Tangerine with darker hues for edgy effects.”

Ready for a dramatic reading?  “Like the joy of a summer sunrise, richly aromatic ripe fruit, or the shimmering plumage of an exotic bird, new Tangerine recalls the inspiration that gave birth to it: the mandarin garnet.  Balancing a fresh, vibrant energy with a sophisticated and seductive allure, it’s the color of happiness, a Tangerine dream.”

Iridescent Green (Crystal Coated Color)  “This mysterious dual-tone effect shines in a combination of blue and green, crowned with a metallic touch.”

Oooo, magical.  The need for green is still prevalent in 21st century designs.  Iridescent Green expands on the recent addition of Dark Moss Green (Standard Color, released this past September for Fall/Winter 2015) and comes on the heels of Pantone’s color of the year for 2013, Emerald.  But this green is earthy, shrouded under a dreamy, mystic veil.  It’s opulent, enigmatic, phantasmagorical…  (eh?  Impressed?) …it’s strange, reminiscent of murky lagoons and Art Nouveau Absinthe posters.

The official statements from Swarovski:

“Thanks to its timeless quality and metallic glow, Crystal Iridescent Green is an asset to any design.  Its shifting, shimmering effects create a mysterious aura and awaken curiosity and attraction.”

“Reminiscent of Arabian nights, the irresistible color play of Crystal Iridescent Green gives a spirited and sensual edge to heritage-inspired and heavy glam styles.  The look is mysterious, deep and enchanting.”

“For a mysterious shine add it to dark and metallic hues.  Create sophisticated looks by combining it with opals or tone-on-tone colors.  Crystal Iridescent Green is a perfect companion for beige and nude tones, expressing refinement and class.”

Clearly “mysterious” is the adjective of the day.  And here’s a collection of more words found in Swarovski’s product publications:  luminescence, lustrous, magnetic, blue-green sheen, sparkling dragonflies, fathomless depths below shimmering waves, powerful, irresistible.  Ooooo.  (That last one is mine.  Quote Jemm on, ”Ooooo.”)

See how both new shades pair with some of your favorites, below.  Watch how your mood changes with each color story.  Then give us a call- you can request a sample stone of the new colors to add to your color chart.  Don’t have a color chart?  It will be one of the best design investments you will make, as color needs to be experienced through your own eyes in order to make the biggest impact.  These new colors are available now, so take a look and let your imagination run wild…

-xo- Jemm


Wondering how to pair these colors?  You can expand on a theme in whatever mood suits you, but here are some base suggestions, thanks to the color wheel.

Monochromatic themes use shades within the same color family. 

Tangerine monochromatic color themeSwarovski Iridescent Green monochromatic color theme

Analogous themes use colors that are next to each other on the color wheel.

Swarovski Tangerine analagous color theme from Rhinestones UnlimitedSwarovski Iridescent Green analagous color theme from Rhinestones Unlimited

Complementary themes use colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel.

Swarovski Tangerine complementary color theme from Rhinestones UnlimitedSwarovski Iridescent Green complementary color theme from Rhinestones Unlimited

Neutrals- think business suits.  Blacks, grays, creams, beiges, browns.  Neutral themes play it safe, but have an appeal all their own.

Swarovski Tangerine neutral color theme from Rhinestones UnlimitedSwarovski Iridescent Green neutral color theme from Rhinestones Unlimi

P.S.  I didn’t really mean that about the junk food.  I was just kidding, you know?  It was a joke.  I mean, who still eats junk food?  What’s cool is carrots.  Pumpkins.  Persimmons.   Yams.  Squeezed through a really expensive juicer with some whole oranges, and drinking it for lunch.  Right guys?  High five…

Pantone’s Color of the Year 2014: Radiant Orchid

If the color Radiant Orchid was a tangible object, I imagine it would be an infinity pool tucked inside a colorful garden, overlooking a calm valley.  I imagine that when I stepped in and sunk to my shoulders- in the morning hour when everything is still quiet: the rush is past, the sunlight is present and what’s left is the breath that lingers in optimism for the day ahead- that the lilac-tinted liquid I am moving in (for it’s a Wonka-inspired infinity pool) tastes sweet, feels creamy and warm…

Pantone Color of the Year 2014- Radiant OrchidHuh.  I just wrote that introduction based on my initial reaction to seeing the color for the first time on my computer, but delving further into my research, I’m seeing a lot of similar ideas coming from the mouths of the color experts themselves…either I’m a genius or the global mood (which Pantone is paid to analyze) really is as they say.  I noted a lot of anticipation, mystery, intrigue, creativity associated with purples, and this rosy-cheeked medium version is flush with enthusiasm.

“Radiant Orchid blooms with confidence and magical warmth that intrigues the eye and sparks the imagination. It is an expressive, creative and embracing purple—one that draws you in with its beguiling charm. A captivating harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones, Radiant Orchid emanates great joy, love and health.”

“…a captivating, magical, enigmatic purple…”

“An invitation to innovation, Radiant Orchid encourages expanded creativity and originality…”

“Uplifting and bold without being overpowering, Radiant Orchid reenergizes almost any color palette and provides a unifying element…”

“A modern and surprisingly versatile shade…”

“…flattering to many hair, eye and skin tones.”

Swarovski Cyclamen Opal, Amethyst and Light Amethyst

Swarovski Cyclamen Opal, Amethyst and Light Amethyst

Lots of fancy and inspiring words from the critics.  The bottom line?  Radiant Orchid is a welcoming and approachable color, and you’ll see a lot of it this year, so it’s worth getting to know.  When Pantone appoints the Color of the Year, it’s like announcing the winner from the list of Golden Globe nominees.  The contenders are shades that have made an impression all over the world, transcending cultures, ages and spaces- but the winner is the one whose dramatic display has awakened the collective heart.  Then, suddenly, you see them splashed all over the magazine covers, in celebrity weddings, department stores, perfume ads, greeting cards, your living room couch… oh, wouldn’t that be something…  Pantone’s elected color of the year will appear in fashion fabrics, decorative papers, interior paints, graphic designs, product labels and more, as it has been designated by the company specializing in color as the most desired around the world- even before people realize their desire for it.  This is called trend forecasting, my friend, and it is a definition of our times.  Remember Harvest Gold and Avocado?  No, half of you don’t.  Those were the colors that reflected the tastes and interests of consumers worldwide back in the early 1970s, warm earth tones to connect back to nature following the eye-popping age of drug-induced psychedelics and overproduced synthetics.

Returning home to the 21st century, images of green carpeting and wheat-hued appliances are immediately identified as out-of-date.   Bins of records, whose photos of acoustic guitars in green fields are steeped in a hazy yellow sunlight on the faded covers – you know to which era they belong.  Same goes for the all-black cover with bolts of aqua and hot pink lightning in the text: awesomely 80s, baby.   90’s: crimson, sunflower yellow, and black & white gingham; the millennium:  minimalist charcoals with pops of berries.  You’ll find the eras’ popular shades splashed all over movie posters, prom dresses, expensive cars- Tupperware!   If there was a game called Name That Decade in which color swatches were drawn from a stack and shown around the room, I bet a majority of your drunken party guests would be shouting the same year.  Why?  With sight being our dominant sense, we identify with color, whether or not we’ve registered that fact in the moment.

Radiant Orchid swatch range

Though recent years may still be sifting through the sieve of our subconscious, visual designs affect, represent, define our decade.  It may not be obvious for another 30 years, but the colors we are living amongst today are the shades of our generation.  So, start with Radiant Orchid this time, and see where it takes you.

-xo- Jemm

P.S.  Read more Radiant Orchid quotes, suggestions for use and a bit about Pantone itself here:

How to Design for a Dance Costume, part 2


Sparkling accessories tucked into a highly textured costume. Rhinestone rows and scattered stones.


A solid panel of sparkle made from alternating snug rows of rhinestones.


The strong style lines and textured fabric inspired the placement of the rhinestones. Note that the colors chosen did not contrast with the already elaborate costume, but blend.


Sequins come in an abundance of colors, compliment the crystal rhinestones, are economic, and make a big impact. Note the use of rhinestones to accent the halter neckline.


Sequins mix with stones for a dot-dash pattern contrasting on the pink fabric, giving an edgier attitude.


Even a simple wash-and-wear garment can become stage ready with some sparkle. Here, sequins were glued on. Note how a bit of adhesive should come through the center of the sequin for the most secure glue application.


A variety of patterns were used here for visual texture. Pick out a pattern in the fabric- such as brocade swirls- or create a stencil to use as a guide.


A close inspections shows that lace is made up of a repeating floral pattern. Choose a leaf to stone throughout, or scatter stones over the entire flower.


Taking a cue from the distinctly angled cuff, the diamond shape was echoed in the rhinestone border.

Mixed sizes are concentrated in the center of this top, and gradually lighten out to the sides. The end result is still a heavily encrusted look, even though there is space left between the stones.


Loving the tone-on-tone sequin border, giving a splash of juicy color to the skirt! When applying stones to layers, remember to go light in areas that will be covered by fabric, and keep most of the stones in the exposed areas for the most effective results.


Glittering fabric, sequins and mixed stones in the same color palette create a mixed media costume with tons of glitz! Chunky jewelry adds interest to the airy fabric layers.


Taking a cue from the unique wave pattern of the fabric, crystals were applied directly on top of the embroidery. This is a no-fuss embellishment that harmonizes completely with the total look.


Great fabrics don’t need a lot of embellishment. Only a few contrasting crystals were used on the black sequined fabric, but to great effect- proof that a little bit can go a long way.


A perfect example of “following the lines” and “random scatter” pattern styles. Outlining the lapels and rhinestoning along a seam give the black ensemble a lot of personality just by using a contrasting color. The easy-going scattering on the hat is a great way to fill a large space with a little or a lot of sparkle.


A really sweet interpretation on the allover scatter, crystals in grouped in clusters of three play off each other for bigger sparkle under the lights.


Following the lines, the unique front paneling and off-the-shoulder neck are highlighted with a simple train of Crystal AB stones. This is one of the simplest design styles, but makes a big impact- great for beginners!


I love the addition of subtle sequins and a few crystals to jazz up a fabric flower. The details count!


An advanced design, this large rose was created with some advanced planning. Create a template to put under sheer lace, or use tailor’s chalk to mark directly on the fabric.


Though this piece is encrusted all over with red rhinestones, it’s the contrasting swath of Crystal stones bursting from the cutout that make the costume.


Great use of “repeating a shape” when designing the embellishment on this hat. Pulling from the large circular cutout on the dress, the sunburst is echoed on a smaller scale, using a brooch at the center.


Remember your accessories! A little attention spent on additional pieces- a hat, a fan, a pair of gloves- can keep a unified, performance-ready look throughout the mixed separates.


Waistbands and neckbands are often the first areas to get the glam treatment, framing the face and body’s curves. Grouped snugly together, rhinestones can play off each other for maximum sparkle.

DD- Lexi-White-Bottom (2)

How far will your stones go? Measured lines of all-over sparkle are embellished with 2 and a half gross of Crystal rhinestones, doubled in the second round.

DD- Lexi-Lyrical-Skirt (2)

A random, all-over scatter is quick and easy for both the beginner and the veteran crystaller alike, and can easily be added to without disrupting the design.

Discount Dance- Bella-Theatre-Back-Leotard (2)

Here we see the difference in a costume’s personality when spacing is altered. This is a great example of “following the lines,” highlighting the edges and unique style lines of the leotard.

Discount Dance-Alayna HipHop Pants Waistband (2)

A random scatter takes on an intergalactic burst of energy with a pattern of sparks: groupings of stones in short lines, moving in all directions. On the generous waist panel of black harem pants, they add a stylishly subtle flare.


How to Design for a Dance Costume

Do you want to know the secret of the best costume designers?  They pick a direction and stick with it.  That’s it.  Design- in any medium- is just the individual’s perspective, manifested.  Yes, some people have innate abilities to make the process easier, or the energy to research how to appeal to the masses…but, I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard someone wrongly utter, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body” as they make up an adventurous bedtime story or crookedly sketch an inventive diagram.  All you folks- you problem solve every day, weigh decisions every day, use your intuition and flex your personal preferences.  Hey- that’s what designer’s do, too!  You’re already qualified for the job, so take a breath and let yourself enjoy it.

I won’t leave you hanging, though. I’ve highlighted a few general guidelines to focus your creative lens and identify the most harmonious options.  Check back for more photos, as design inspiration will be a recurring theme during competition season.  If you still have trouble narrowing your focus, remember that the process of elimination is a great place to start.

Follow the lines.  This is one of the first characteristics of the costume you will naturally pick out through your creative lens.  Look for unique seams, a pattern in the fabric, cutouts, straps or an edge that needs more visibility, and apply stones along that line.  Size 20ss rhinestone will work well here in most cases, though by no means should you feel limited to just that size.

Repeat a shape.  A similar concept to the one above, allow the lines and shapes in the costume to dictate your design.  For example, if your fabric features polka dots, embellish with curved lines and circular shapes.  If your skirt hem ends in an asymmetric point and your leotard features a deep V back, diamond shapes and sharply angular lines will compliment it well.  If the large appliqué you’d like to put on the bodice front has a paisley shape, loose swirls and S-shaped crystal lines will blend the look throughout the rest of the costume.

Scatter!  This one has lots of variables, but is great when filling up a large space and is suitable for anyone from beginners to veteran crystallers.  You can glue the stones on at random -saving you time with the absence of measuring- and if you choose to add more stones later, the free style accepts the addition easily.  Or, you can create a tidy look with an evenly spaced plan of alternating rows or grids.  You can even get a little creative and make an ombré effect or a pattern within the scatter: sparks, clusters, constellations, Morse Code, dots and blobs (I just kind of made that one up, but it sounds artsy enough to work…)

Do your own thing.  Sometimes it happens that your canvas is so blank that you have to create your own guidelines.  If you’ve got a blue t-shirt that needs some star shapes or an stark white panel that you’d like to make zebra-striped, that’s okay!  Just plan it out first: you can easily make a star with half a gross of these stones- but if you only have the budget for a quarter gross, how can your original idea be modified to suit those requirements?  Key points when you’re ready to attach your freestyle design onto the costume:  1. Keep a ruler and calculator nearby.  2. Map out your design on the costume before permanently attaching. If in doubt, create a guide.  3. Begin with your key element.  Align your center first, then work outwards.  4. Ration your stones until you are confident you can complete the entire costume with the amount you have planned for.

Don’t stress too much about the rhinestone design (it is, after all, just rhinestones).  Your intuition is a valuable compass, and a good indicator of your own skill level.  If you imagined a few crystals along the neckline, a graduating scatter on the skirt, but you got lost in the complication of the instructor’s ravings, (“12ss…Padparadscha…dots and blobs meets pysanky eggs…pi equals 3.141592…”) it’s because you’re not ready for that.  Everyone- and I mean everyone- will have a different opinion on how to embellish your costume.  Gather a few of them if you’d like, but don’t feel like you have to agree.  Honor your gut- your initial idea, if you paid attention to it, is probably the one you’ll be happiest with when the job is done.

Together we can keep our sanity this season.


P.S.- We have printable tools for you!  Sketch out your brainstorms on our design figures, and get a quick view of the space you can fill with our estimating guide:

How to Transform Dancewear from Studio to Stage

The metamorphosis that a costume provides can do wonders for your dance, for both the audience and you.  As the performer, the addition of your dressing room routine- applying makeup, arranging your hair, clasping on your jewelry- is part of the mental journey to the stage.

And then you put on the costume.  Looking in the mirror, you feel different.  You’ve become a different you.   Even though you have the same technical ability, the change in your image gives a renewed confidence.  But remember: performing in something you’re comfortable in is just as important as performing in something that makes you look good.

I don’t have to tell you that the pool from which your costumed look can be drawn is infinite, limited only by your own imagination or resources.  But, a good place to start is pieces you’ve already had success in- your class wear.  Using the leotards, shorts, skirts and tops you’re already used to seeing yourself in and moving in can transition easily to performance wear just by layering or styling with accessories, introducing new fabrics or embellishing with…you guessed it: rhinestones.  Ahaa!  Your basics aren’t so basic, anymore, are they?  (Psst- there’s a self-acceptance practiced each time you see yourself in your clothes- or out of your clothes.  Ever notice when swimsuit season comes and you’re constantly catching glimpses of your scantily clad self that you like your butt a lot more than you do in the winter, when you rarely see it outside of the covering of your bulky layers?  In the same vein, train yourself to love your body in that spandex unitard by dancing regularly in a spandex unitard.)

Discount Dance Supply We’ll show you how we’ve glammed up some of our favorite basics from Discount Dance Supply to suit different performance budgets.  Each piece has been in the photography studio twice: once with an introductory upgrade of one to three gross of Swarovski flat back rhinestones, and again with double or triple that amount.  On most garments, the initial design style was an all-over pattern of alternating rows, to show you how far you can stretch $10-$30.  Round two filled in the spaces with a second size, or accented the seams or style lines, bringing the total rhinestone amount to the $30-$60 range.**  Each design level is appropriate for a finished costume in its own merit, but allows the addition of more rhinestones (our favorite phrase) in the future.

(**This total amount is per piece, not per ensemble.  This is $10-$60 retail in Swarovski #2058 Xilion Rose Enhanced rhinestones, spent to jazz up the leggings, or the leotard, or the skirt, etc.)

Ensemble #1: Gabby’s Jazz costume in hot pink and black, embellished by Robin  Gabby wears:

Discount Dance- Gabbys-Jazz Full(2)

Discount Dance- Gabby Pants onlyDiscount Dance- Gabby-Black-Tutu-Closer (2)

Pinks of all shades are a natural complement for Swarovski’s iridescent Crystal AB, which is often chosen over Crystal when the performance style has a little attitude.  Jet Hematite is my personal choice for black dance fabrics, as the metallic coating is subtle enough for elegance, but pops on the dark color in a way that is very striking when compared to the softly transparent Black Diamond or direct Jet.

Ensemble #2: Alayna’s Hip Hop costume in black, embellished by Jill  Alayna wears:Discount Dance Alayna-HipHop-Full-Round2 (2)

Discount Dance- Alayna HipHop Top (2)Discount Dance-Alayna HipHop Pants Waistband (2)Discount Dance- Alayna HipHop Full Pants (2)

Here’s a combination that proves sexy doesn’t have to be skimpy.  Slouchy fabrics and relaxed silhouettes give a casual cool to the wearer that looks confident- not sloppy- when the details are polished.  Jill concentrated the Jet Hematite rhinestones on the waistband for the biggest impact, which doesn’t detract from the unique characteristics of the harem pants themselves (PS- this pair has pockets!).  With glittery high tops, shiny satin gloves and a crystallized top, allowing the pant legs to remain light on sparkle adds visual texture, which makes the whole ensemble more interesting (and safer for the audiences’ eyes).  I love the way Jill made a pattern of shooting lines in the second round of stones, almost like sparks across the black fabric; props for creative use of a random scatter.

Ensemble #3: Lexi’s Lyrical costume in lavender, embellished by Jill  Lexi wears:DD- Lexi-Lyrical-Single-Round-2 (2)

  • #7799 Body Wrappers Adult Camisole Dress
    Embellished with 3 gross of Crystal AB 16ss.  Second round added an additional 2 gross of Crystal AB 16ss and 1 gross of 20ss on the skirt, 2 Gross of 20ss on the bodice.
  • #H07 Capezio Unisex “FootUndeez”
    Left unembellished in the first round.  Second round added a half gross of Crystal AB 16ss, split between the pair.

DD- Lexi-lyrical-bodice (2)DD- Lexi-Lyrical-Skirt (2)DD- Lexi-Lyrical (2)

A classic empire waist dress is always feminine, and very flattering for slight figures.  Here, iridescent Crystal AB stones are used for their eye-attracting qualities under stage lighting- though the soft purple would accommodate other color directions with ease.  The flowing georgette skirt only needs a light layer of scattered stones to make an impact- too much will weigh down the lightweight fabric and restrict the skirt’s intended movement.  Instead, concentrate the crystal design along the bodice, which will draw the eyes up and frame the dancers face while the skirt enhances the choreography.

Ensemble #4: Bella’s Ballet costume in black, embellished by Ester  Bella wears:Discount Dance Bella-Ballet-Full-Round-2 (2)

I’m a sucker for a black ballet costume.  In a world of unnatural body contortions smothered in pinks, the moody tutu seems to give the discipline a modern depth of emotion that is suddenly more believable, more relatable to the audience.  Jet Hematite stones on the black fabric (again, my favorite option in the noir color family) seem the perfect snappy compliment.  Ester has introduced two design options on the leotard between rounds one and two: the gross she initially places are evenly spaced in alternating rows, a tidy but predictable pattern.  If one was not watching the dancing but paying attention to the way the light played through the stones, one could anticipate it’s path.  In round two, she intentionally maneuvers the second layer of stones into a more random smattering, which keeps one’s eyes guessing.  Though the tidy look is very befitting for a tight-bunned (in both aspects) pink dance style, I like the idea of a more organic, constellation-like scattering on the moody dark costume.  There are a few crystals below the waistline of the leotard as the skirt is sheer, but most are concentrated above the tutu line.  A third design to create an all-over sparkle on this leotard would be to line the straps with stones, then cluster a dense mass of stones in the top half of the bodice, slowly fading to a trickle at the waistline, where the tutu would then take over.  With the sheer tulle, stones on the second layer would peek through for interest (this would be a good area to subtly introduce a contrasting color), but the most impact will be on the top layer.  To prevent a big sticky mess, remember to put a barrier such as wax paper between the layers of tulle when you glue your rhinestones on.

Ensemble #5: Lexi’s Jazz costume in white, embellished by Jill  Lexi wears:DD- Lexi-White-Jazz-Single-Round-2 (2)

DD- Lexi-White-Top (2)DD- Lexi-White-Bottom (2)

Yes, pure white may be irksome to your lighting designer, the way it bounces light, but it is so dynamic on a stage.  Crystal is a natural choice for embellishment on white, as it is unfussy, streamlined, polished.  Lexi’s high-waisted shorts are a classy throwback to ladylike vintage.  Depending on the way the ensemble is styled (say, a tulle wrap vs. a garter and thigh-highs), the same two pieces can be sweet or spunky.  Note the rhinestone trim around the halter neckline and shoulders, eliminating the desire for additional jewelry, and the concentration of smaller stones through the center of the waistband, which help highlight the flow of the dame’s undulating curves.

Ensemble #6: Bella’s Musical Theater costume in black, embellished by Jill  Bella wears:Discount Dance- Bella-Theatre-Front-Back-Round-2 (2)

Discount Dance- Bella-Theatre-Front-Leotard (2)

Rows of rhinestones play up the unique style lines of this leotard.  Opting for clear Crystal over the tone-on-tone alternative, Black Diamond, the stark stone punctuates the alternating panels of Lycra and mesh- and the gal’s gams- in a (musically) theatrical way.  The outline changes dramatically between photography sessions, the ante upped to the point of becoming a totally different costume for my eyes.  Enhancement vs. intention.  A push up bra vs. a whole new set.  Round two also introduces the sultry highlights and lowlights of Jet Hematite all over to add a subtle sparkle without detracting from the style lines.  Keep in mind that pieces less prominent should still be performance-ready, or they’ll look out of place next to the classy duds, like Mr. Moneybags with scuffed up penny loafers: in Bella’s look, the derby hat and gloves still got the royal treatment for uniformly-spread pizzazz.  PS, if you’re planning on reusing the shoes, consider gluing the stones onto ribbon, then using double-stick tape to secure the back of the ribbon to the shoes once the glue has dried.Discount Dance- Bella-Fishnet (2)Discount Dance- Bella-Shoes (2)Discount Dance- Bella-Theatre-Hat-Glove (2)

You can see what a different personality your everyday dance pieces can take on with a little effort.  I don’t want to say they become the superstars of the spotlight- that’s your job- but they will make your stage presence that much more compelling.  The beauty of a budget is that it lets your ingenuity shine through, so go ahead, get creative.  Make those pieces your own.  And, if you want to use crystal rhinestones- dancers’ performance enhancers, I like to say- well, you know where to find them…

Break a leg!

-xo- Jemm

The Right Sticky Situation

If you think I’m about to dish on the best cinnamon roll at the doughnut shop, I’ll tell you up front, I’m not, and you’re hungry. Go grab a snack and come right back, we’ll talk. Let’s just discuss, all of you flat-back gluers, some adhesive options. It’s not quite as delicious as breaking down the glazed raised vs. walnut caramel roll debate, true, but the end result is still sparklingly appealing.

The glue, of course, depends on the project. There is a plethora of options out there specializing in any combination of Surface A to Surface B bonds, and frankly, it’s overwhelming. Thankfully, Rhinestones Unlimited is here for you. We’ve chosen the best of the best already.

Q: How did we choose these great adhesives?

A: We looked for the most effective products for rhinestones, keeping in mind our customer’s projects and the level of efficiency that is required.

Understanding the industry terms is the first step to understanding the product, so read on, ye fellow word lovers, for new vocabulary- I’ve gathered a little extra nerdy knowledge for you:

Viscosity: Relates to the glue’s flow, or consistency- in more technical terms, it describes the internal friction of a moving fluid.  Easy flowing fluids have a low viscosity, as the molecules create little friction when moving (ex: water, super glue, school glue).  High viscosity fluids are denser, slower moving, the molecules creating a high amount of friction (ex: honey, sap, paste).  Often, the denser the adhesive, the shorter the Open Assembly Time.

Open Assembly Time: The time it takes for the glue to begin to set. Starts from when you spread the glue on the project and join the pieces to the time it starts to harden. Generally, with rhinestone work, a short open assembly time will be sufficient. You only need as much time as it takes to pick up a stone and plop it in place. (Alternately, a long open-assembly time would be useful if you were, say, building a crib with a lot of parts to line up.) Not having to stand there and hold each flat back in place is a good thing.

Pot Life: Referring to glues that require mixing (in a “pot”- get it?), this is the time you have to use the active mix.  This concept is very similar to Open Assembly Time.  Best to mix the two parts in small batches, as epoxies have pot lives ranging from 5 minutes to a half hour.  This can be extended in lower temperatures.

Cure Time: Dry time. Or, more definitively, the amount of time it takes for the glue to form its maximum bond. Between glues, this can vary drastically, from hours to full days to a week or more. We know you’re busy, your active, your glue needs to be at your level. The adhesives we stock are functioning within hours and reach their full cure time (aka, ready to wash) within 2 days, tops.

Shelf Life: You’ve probably deduced this one already. Nothing lasts forever, dear reader. Shelf life is the amount of time a product is still useable. We offer different sizes in the adhesives with shorter shelf lives, so you don’t have to worry about waste.

You should feel a little smarter now (if you didn’t cheat, and actually read the definitions).  With these concepts in mind, we brought in our favorite options in white glues, epoxies and specialty adhesives.  Our white glues dry clear and have an easy-flow consistency, comparable to dish soap. Our craft-quality white glues are all permanent, non-toxic, and washable (finished projects can be laundered in water by hand washing).  Epoxies include two separate formulas- a resin base and a hardener- that need to be thoroughly mixed in equal parts just before using.  Once mixed, you can load the adhesive into a syringe for easy control or work directly from the mixing surface.  Epoxy bonds are very strong, though not flexible.   Our specialty adhesives are permanent, flexible and washable multi-purpose glues.  These clear glues have a slightly thicker consistency when compared to white glues.  For both olfactory comfort and safety, all should be used in plenty of fresh air.  (You’ll find that glues of all kinds are very…um…scented.  Like all chemicals, use with common sense and moderation.  Some fumes can be harmful due to ingredients in the adhesive, so do not ignore warnings on the label- open the window.)

Our Chosen Line-Up of White Glues includes:

Gem-Tac bottleGem-Tac  Our most popular white glue. Beacon Gem-Tac was created especially for embellishments: “Bonds rhinestones, crystals, sequins and more to fabrics and accessories.” How befitting! This is a more user-friendly glue, when compared to the E-6000: a lighter consistency (low viscosity) that can be applied straight from the bottle. The formula is designed to bond to the top fibers of the (washed) fabric without being pushed into the weave.  This very thoughtful detail prevents stiffening of the fabric that you have likely seen on other hand-embellished garments.  Because of the adhesive’s open assembly time, we suggest your project is laid on a flat work surface when using, to prevent the embellishments from sliding before the glue has a chance to set.  Here in the office, we use Gem-Tac when gluing rhinestones onto cardstock.

Jewel Bond bottleJewel Bond  Recently introduced to our shelves, API’s Crafter’s Pick Jewel Bond was requested by a number of our customers specializing in Western wear. The white glue is easy to control, dries clear, and according to our customers, is made stronger under the heat of the sunlight- a definite plus when you are in an outdoor arena or your show jacket sits in that sweltering horse trailer for hours.  Not a problem for this glue- our crystals will stay right where you put them.  Open assembly time for Crafter’s Pick Jewel Bond is a little longer than the dense E6000.  Like almost all adhesives referred to as “white glues,” the consistency is like that of a school glue- very manageable to work with straight from the bottle.  This easy flow characteristic- otherwise known as low viscosity- generally means that the adhesive will take a bit longer to get tacky.  If this is your glue of choice, work on a flat, horizontal surface and allow a bit of extra time before repositioning your project.  This will prevent the embellishments from sliding around before the glue has a chance to set.

Flexible Stretchable bottleFlexible Stretchable  It’s all in the name, isn’t it? Also a great fabric glue, Aleene’s Flexible Stretchable is formulated to move with the give of stretch-and-recover fabrics.  Knits, spandex, tee-shirts, socks.  Sweatbands. Anything from the 80’s.  (This one, though, I wouldn’t take in the public pool- E6000 and Swarovski’s Two-Component Epoxy Resin in all their industrial strength glory are the glues we suggest for use in chlorine.)  As the glue is flexible and the fabric is flexible, try an embellishment with some give, such as ribbon and sequins.  Aleene’s- the manufacturers- suggest to push the embellishment into the glue so that the glue comes up around the edges (and through the middle, if there’s a middle) to form a glue “setting.” Though Flexible Stretchable is appreciated by many, some of our customers have noted that the longer cure time of Flexible Stretchable can be frustrating when you’re ready to dance- but your garment is not.  Allow yourself extra time for the glue to come to its full strength, or choose an alternative that cures quicker, such as Gem-Tac.

Jewel It bottleJewel-It  Another lovely glue created specifically for the embellishment world (namely, you), Aleene’s Jewel-It will hold sequins and stones to fabric, glass and even metals. A general gluing guideline claims a stronger bond between A and B when both pieces have the adhesive on them before joining; for the non-porous surfaces, apply the glue to both pieces and let it sit for about 10 minutes before attaching the embellishment. (For larger projects, therefore, or impatient crystallizers, Gem-Tac or E6000 may be a more satisfying option.)  Just like Flexible Stretchable- the sister product from Aleene’s- you’ll want to form a “setting” around the stone by pushing it into the glue, allowing the adhesive to surround the edges of the crystal.

***A special note on white glues: Do not allow these formulas to freeze.  As a customer and friend pointed out, “Bonds made with adhesive that has been frozen (for example, shipped in January) are much less permanent, and somewhat brittle.  I always order my cases of Gem-Tac in the Spring and Fall.”  Excellent advice, Marsha!

Our Chosen Line-Up of Epoxies includes:

5 Minute Epoxy 20145-Minute Epoxy You know that line, “He’s a bad mother- Shut your mouth!”? 5-Minute Epoxy is the Shaft of the glue lineup. You have to be on your game here: mix it together (in small batches) and use the mix within 5 minutes. The epoxy will set and your project will be ready to go within 15 minutes, full strength in a matter of hours. Because it is an inflexible adhesive unlike fabric glues, we recommend it for metal work, glass, ceramics, wood- your fine arts and industrial work. It is very tolerant of exposure to other chemicals (for example, paints or cleaning products). This is your no-nonsense glue for your serious projects. An underrated gem, sold in bottles or smaller quantity syringes.

Swarovski Epoxy 2014CG 500-35 Two-Component Epoxy Resin A Swarovski exclusive, recently introduced, this is the adhesive being used by the big guys themselves. It’s formulated to work exceptionally with Swarovski materials in bonding situations that are not your run-of-the-mill: chlorine, UV exposure, humidity, salt.  If you’re rhinestoning your sailboat or scuba tank (and you know that someone somewhere has), this is the glue for you.  It works great on oft tricky materials like metals, silicone and glass. Following Swarovski’s seriously responsible manufacturing practices, it has passed health and environmental hazard tests with flying colors, and it’s only warning is that of a mild irritant.  Whether one realizes or not, that’s pretty darn good.  (PS- Swarovski’s Professor of Crystal says in his videos that the epoxy doesn’t have a scent- but I haven’t given it the Jemm Stone Schnoz test yet…) Swarovski’s two-part epoxy (as it is referred to in informal conversations) has a longer open assembly time, when compared to E6000 and our quick-set option, 5-Minute Epoxy.  That means you have a longer window from the time you apply the glue to your surface until the time it begins to set.  On the Crystal Professor video series from Swarovski, Kellie DeFries (aka The Crystal Ninja) will spread the adhesive over the entire surface of a phone case and improvise her design, adjusting and repositioning the stones as she works.  By contrast, the 5-Minute Epoxy will set within minutes (as the name suggests) and is better suited for 3-dimensional surfaces, vertical work and joining parts that require holding in place.

Our Chosen Line-Up of Specialty Adhesives includes:

E6000 tubes and tipE6000  Our best-selling glue. This guy is intense, ladies and gentleman, like the gaze from the stranger at the end of the bar, but he will get the job done. Note the industrial packaging, it says it all: E6000 is a construction adhesive and sealant that won the respect of crafters.  Its bond to non-porous surfaces such as glass, metals, rubber and plastic is resolute. Its flexibility when dry makes it a great adhesive for dance and swim costumes, and it is the glue of choice for leather work. (Leatherworkers, take heed: no glue will stick to the leather unless the leather’s surface has been scored or the finishing coating dissolved to create a surface for the product to adhere to.)  Because E6000 is thick and, for lack of a better word, a little goopy (think chilled honey- higher viscosity), it requires a bit of focus. The entire staff here at Rhinestones Unlimited recommends using in conjunction with our syringes for control and precision placement. One of the reasons we love E6000 is the dense adhesive’s short but easy open assembly time, or the time it takes to set once you squeeze it out of the tube.  You don’t have to be on edge about speed- you can lay down some dots over a small area of your project, apply several stones at a comfortable pace and then- and this is the great part- move your piece around to stone a different area in a matter of minutes.  If you’re embellishing a costume, work that key area in front, take a step back to admire your work, flip it over (carefully, though) to do that key area in the back, then return to the front with your remaining stones, to scatter them over the open areas.  With a short open assembly time, the piece can be handled after less time than it would take if working with a white glue, which has a thinner consistency and takes longer to set.  For this reason, if you tend to embellish a costume on a form or are adding crystals to a 3-dimensional fine art piece, E6000 is a great option when you are working vertically.  Note here, though, that some folks are very sensitive to the fumes of this industrial strength worker- heed your ventilation warning.  In the office, we use E-6000 to glue onto promotional posters and our Flat Back Sample Cards.  Jill uses this adhesive for her costume work as well, and Carol uses it for her motorcycle (yes) and gear.

Fabri-Tac bottleFabri-Tac  This adhesive is made specifically for bonding directly to fabrics.  Like Gem-Tac, Fabri-Tac’s thoughtful formula is designed to bond to the top fibers of the (washed) fabric without being pushed into the weave, which would cause the material to stiffen.  The viscosity is relatively low, and the clear formula is easy to work with straight from the bottle.  Both the open assembly time and cure time are short, which means your stone work can be secure in a hurry if you need to pack up your costume and head out the door in an hour.  Don’t think this means we recommend that move. We do not recommend that move!  But hey, things happen.  This is the glue I keep in my sewing room for almost anything, and it makes a great addition to your “emergency stage kit.”

See all of our adhesives here:

Remember- with any project- to do a test area first before delving into the whole. With fabrics, wash first to remove what is confusingly called the “sizing” (this is basically the starchy coating on the yarns used to strengthen them for the weaving process).  Allow plenty of time for the glues to cure before handling, and use care when washing.  Questions?  Ask us.  We have a knowledgeable, experienced staff, and thankfully, we love to hear from you, whether you have doughnuts or not.

Although, please note, we prefer with doughnuts. 

-xo- Jemm

P.S.  We’d love to hear your own discoveries in Glue World.  Email with the subject line, “Glue Tricks & Tips.”

P.P.S. I’m a classic raised glazed gal