Strass is a synonym for rhinestone, taking the name from its inventor Georg Friedrich Strass. Strassing has mostly become popular from designer Christian Louboutin’s shoes. And how can you not love them? I chose to strass the heels of my Jeffrey Campbell Lita’s because i thought it would be cool. The following tutorial is how i did it, but there are many ways, and i will share some newly learned tips to make your life easier. This is very time consuming btw!
Here is the quick info of my project for those who do not need the actual tutorial. Skip through the article for more photos.
purchased: glass rhinestone in color crystal AB 1440 4mm, 1440 3mm, 2880 2mm, E6000.
spacing: no space between rhinestones
heel color: dark brown, i put them close to cover all the brown since my rhinestones were clear
tools used: tweezers, you choose:(glue syringe, e6000 glue tip, toothpicks)
shoe (or something else, just ignore the word ‘shoe’ when you’re reading’ if so)
glue applicator – toothpicks, glue syringe, glue tube tip
ss = stone size. This is a common term you will need to know when ordering your rhinestones. Rhinestones also come in 3 materials starting with the most sparkly and expensive downward. Crystal (Swarovski), glass, and acrylic/plastic.
I ordered glass rhinestones.When buying large amounts they are commonly sold by the gross (144 pieces) or 10 gross (1440 pieces). I bought 10 gross(1440) bags of rhinestones and used about 1/2 bag (~720) of 4mm (16ss), 1 bag 3mm (10ss), and 2 bags of 2mm (6ss). The pattern i ended up with was about equal amount of space taken up by each size [more 2mm because they're smaller etc.]. They are super tiny, so be aware of what you’re going to work with! The following photo shows the size vs. my hand. The stone color i purchased was crystal AB, which is clear with a rainbow sheen on top. All rhinestones i have seen have foil behind the stone to make it look shinier and so you cannot see through the back.
Rhine stones also have other options. You will want ‘flatback’ which means…the back is flat so it can be glued onto a surface. Then there is hotfix and no-hotfix. I actually bought hotfix ones, which come with heat activated glue. I did not use the hotfix glue in the end. I bought the stones before i researched my exact project properly. Hotfix glue sticks best to very porous materials such as fabrics that have fibers because the glue needs to melt into the fabric. The shoes i bought have wooden heels so a separate glue that works well on wood is a better choice. Avoid buying the hotfix stones if you are going to use separate glue because they are taller with the hotfix glue on them and sometimes uneven. I’m talking like ‘you can’t even see it unless you stick your eyeball up against it’, but it will reflect differently especially with the AB sheen. I pulled off perhaps 4 total (yea that’s not that many) because they looked weird from being uneven.
The cheapest places to buy them i have seen are ebay.com and etsy.com. I got mine on ebay and paid about $3.60 for 2mm, $3.80 for 3mm, and $6 for 4mm with free shipping for a total of ~$20. Crystal can easily cost hundreds of dollars.. The seller i used on ebay has stopped selling these products, but i know you can find similar deals.
The glue i used was E6000 Clear Multi-Purpose Adhesive Glue. Other strassing articles will list this or Gem-Tac Permanent Glue Cement Adhesive (Rhinestones) for fabric type shoes. I just happened to have E6000 already and it is described to stick to both rhinestones and wood and also has a flexible bond, meaning it can flex when dry and not crack off, with what it is put onto- making it also great for fabric. In my case it was used on fairly smooth stained wood and unheated hotfix glue and has been pretty durable! I wore the shoes out dancing and standing in a crowd at a packed concert and did loose about 10-15 stones on the back bottom of each heel from people stepping on them. But that’s it from some pretty serious wear-n-tear abuse. They may have stuck better if i sanded the wood first but i was uncertain about the project when i first started and did not want to ruin my shoes.
The durability is also greatly affected by how fresh (more liquidy) the glue is when you contact the stone to the shoe. E6000 is a thick glue that turns rubbery very fast. It takes a while to dry completely but gets extra thick in a matter of minutes and looses some sticking power.Also if you have seen the other method of applying an area of glue then placing stones on top of it, it looks very messy and the glue often dries too quickly by he time you get to the end of your glue area the stones will not stick as well. I actually tried that method for about a square inch then removed it due to frustration and lumpy glue staring at me in the cracks. The next part explains how to get around these problems.
The next tool you choose is to get the glue on the stone without making a huge mess and dealing with the glue drying problem and while being a neat and tidy perfectionist. I used a toothpick and i have also just recently come across the glue syringe. I have not used the syringe, but i think it is self explanatory and is probably awesome. I have also seen an E6000 Glue Tip, but it may still squish out of the tube uncontrollably over time like fabri-tac does (if you have used that before).
The toothpick method works as such. You dip the end of the toothpick into the glue. Now you’re probably thinking you’re going to dab it on neatly, except, E6000 is really rubbery and stretchy and you will get way more than you want. So, hold the rhinestone and just tap it with the blob of glue on the toothpick, then apply to the shoe. If you get too much you can remove some with a finger that will not be touching the stones or another toothpick… or something. You want just enough glue that it covers the whole back of the stone but does not squish out the sides much because there will be gaps between stones- they are round. Meanwhile, let the glue dry in the metal applicator part of the tube and just wipe the excess off so it is flush (this will make sense when you look at it). When you need to refresh the glue on the toothpick remove any drying glue on the toothpick and simply stick it through the drying glue on the tube. You’ve just created a smaller glue opening and it won’t go all over the place but will still procure glue to use. This makes life easier. All the half dried glue will easily come off the tube when you are done if you scrape it out with the toothpick- reseal for another time.
Lastly, I used very thin needle nose tweezers. They are regular ones from a beauty supply store. I actually found it very annoying to pick the rhinestones up with tweezers, but they work excellent for picking off screwed up glue or stones that need to be redone.
When applying the stones, especially in tight proximity, as i did with mine, i found the easiest way was to line the outside edge first. I did not line them with all one size. I varied the size and pushed them flush with the outside edge so they were not sticking out. The inside line of the stones will be zig-zag-like because of the different sizes. That is fine because you will be filling in the rest of the area in a random way. The easiest thing you can do it not overthink it. Start placing stones according to how they will be able to close gaps and every so often check that you are using all the sizes for even distribution.
Other tutorials show glueing the largest stones first evenly placed around the area (like polka dots), but this made it very hard to avoid gaps when placing them close together since those stones were already glued down. It was 100x more effective to start in one area (ex. top of heel) and work inward from the outside line of stones you put down first. Once again, this is because of my very tightly fit pattern trying to cover brown wood color with clear stones.
The first shoe took me so-freakin-long-omg, but as soon as i got a technique that worked for me and a good feel for the sizes of the stones and placements the second shoe was about 8-10hrs of work. I think a more optimal way to apply the glue neatly such as the syringe would save hours, but i was working with what happened to be in the house due to impatience. Nevertheless, pop in a lot of movies and get going!