how to make rhinestone fringe?

I’m creating a dance costume and want to make rhinestone fringe to put on it. While the concept of gluing rhinestones to thread seems simple; in practice, it has been troublesome.

I’m using flatback Austrian crystals, using E6000/Gemtac to glue the stone back to back over the length of thread at 1/2" intervals on 5" of thread. It looks fabulous, but here are the problems I’ve encountered:

Mercerized thread tangles.
Chainette fringe is too thick.
Unclear if monofilament beading or silk thread would hold up with lots of movement from dancing.
Gemtac is definitely not strong enough. Going to switch back E6000.

I’ve been advised to use hand-tied beads, but I have zero experience with beading and am somewhat worried with time involved and how well it will hold up. Any sewing, beading or costume buffs, your input is welcome! Thanks!

What is the effect you’re trying to achieve? Do you want whatever you end up using as thread to be essentially invisible (or at least not prominent)?

Will the fringe be hanging free (like at the edge of a skirt) or will it be around a neckline or something, so the fringe is lying on top of fabric?

I’ve got some ideas but I’m envisioning something that may not be what you have in mind.

BTW, you have fought my ignorance! I never knew the name for that particular kind of fringe was “chainette”!

The effect I would like is basically the movement you would get with small clusters of fringe (like 2-4 strands) which swings freely, but has a line of crystals down the front that shimmer and sparkle as the fringe moves around. I’ll see if I can post a photo of my ill-conceived attempts.

The fringe would cover the front side of a dress, not across the bottom in a row, but in small clusters that can be spaced out. Thread can be fully visible. The dress is red, so I was thinking red thread of some kind so what stands out is the rhinestone, not the thread. As I said, I tried individual strands of chainette, which is definitely noticeable from a distance, but color matched.

Clusters would look something akin to this, but with less strands and rhinestones down the length. Not exactly it, but a start to help visualize.


I think you’ll be a lot better off with sew-on rhinestones or rhinestone beads of the two-hole variety, so you can actually pass a thin strong thread (like monofilament) through the bead itself. That will hold up much better against movement and wear and tear, plus I think the rhinestones will move more attractively if they’re actually strung on the thread rather than being glued to it.

ETA: You don’t have to knot the thread in between each bead as in your “hand-tied beads” example, though it would make the strand more robust. Just stringing a filament through the beads is very simple even for non-sewers.

Here’s my attempt:

Very pretty, but I still think you’re going to find threaded rhinestones sturdier and more “fringe-like” in the long run than glued ones.

Kimstu: Can you space out the beads along the thread, or does it have to be solid beads if you don’t do knots? How would sew-on work with fringe? I’m having a hard time visualizing what that might look like.

Thanks for the feedback.

Yeah, you’d have to put a knot under each bead if you want them spaced out, but that’s not hard: hand-knotting beads is only challenging when you want the beads butted up tightly against each other, as in a necklace.

The beads on the strand of fringe will jump up and down a little between the knots as the strand moves, which I think will contribute to the flashy sparkly look that you’re after.

ETA: Oh, and you just have to make sure that the hole in the beads is big enough for the thickness of the fringe thread you want to use.

Oh, and just to be tediously specific about the procedure:

Starting from what will become the bottom end of the strand, tie a simple overhand knot in the strand a centimeter or so (it looks like in your picture) from the end.

Slip a bead onto the other end of the strand and let it fall down so it rests against your knot.

Tie another knot in the strand about a centimeter above the first bead. Slip another bead onto the far end and let it fall down so it rests against the second knot.

Repeat, repeat, repeat…

Thanks so much! I appreciate the tediously specific explanation, as this will be my first time ever beading! I’m sure after the 100th strand or so I’ll be a pro.

Any suggestions on the best type of bead? I’m thinking bicone crystal, maybe with a coating so it really flashes. What I liked about the flat back rhinestones was the foil back which really contributes to the sparkle. Most crystal beads don’t seem to have that foil and are more see-through.

So something almost like tassel?

OK, here’s what I’m thinking. When you have exposed thread between the rhinestones, that is an invitation for the strands to get tangled. That tendency would be less noticeable in a cluster, which is good.

But the bad thing is that, as the individual strands tangle and move against once another, the glued rhinestones aren’t going to fair well.

I think what you want to experiment with is rose or chaton montées. Here’s an example. They can be strung, rather than glued. What might be really cool would be to string red bugle beads between the montées. They’d add sparkle but would blend in with the dress fabric. And they’d help keep the strands from tangling.

The difference between the rose and the chaton, BTW, is that chatons come to a point in the back but roses are flat (not as flat as a flatback crystal, though). The chatons have a deeper mounting cup. I personally think roses would work better.

For bead weaving and bead embroidery, I use 6 lb. Fireline, which is a kind of fishing line. It’s not monofillament. (I buy mine at WalMart in the sporting goods department.) So here’s how I think I’d approach this.

I’d start with a small piece of felt or Ultrasuede that matches the dress color. The cluster is going to be anchored to that. Knot your thread and put your needle through the felt/Ultrasuede (hereafter referred to as the “base.”) String on any combo of montées and bugle beads to the length you want. At the end, you’re going to want some sort of anchor bead. If you want the bead to be another design element, you could use some kind of drop bead. Or you could keep it subtle and use a seed bead. Stitch through the anchor bead and then take your needle back up through all the bugle beads and montées. Stitch through the base to the back side, then stitch up through the front again and repeat the fringe process, as many times are you want.

When you’re done, attach the clusters to the dress by stitching the base to the dress fabric.

This sounds WAY more complicated than it is. If you think it will work, I’ll find you a diagram that illustrates the basic technique.

No problem! There are flat-back two-hole sew-on rhinestones with foil backs too. (Since you’re not putting them back-to-back, though, the foil back of each flat rhinestone would show the fringe strand running along it.)

Now, there is a way to thread two-hole flat-back rhinestones back-to-back using a thin strong invisible thread, and you can run the actual fringe strand through them simultaneously. But it’s a little bit trickier and I don’t know how to explain it without drawing it. I think the bicorne beads you’re talking about will be simpler to use, and there do seem to be some kinds with the foil sparkle look.

ETA: Listen to freckafree, she knows what she’s talking about!

Great ideas here. Since this is the first of two dresses I wanted to make, I’ll probably try out several of the approaches here to see what works best. Which I try first will probably be dependent on what I can source locally, since I have a bit of a time crunch. Any diagrams you can forward would be much appreciated. Thanks so much both of you!

This seems like a job for the Bedazzler does it not?

Have you considered gluing the rhinestones onto narrow (same width as the rhinestones) ribbon? I’ve made a very effective dance costume that way. You can match the ribbon to the dress if you want to space out the rhinestones, and the ribbon should stay properly oriented so you don’t have to stone both sides.

Also, definitely stick with the E6000! I have old dresses that have been through many clubs then machined-washed and the stones are still as stuck as when the dress was new.

Sandra: Did the ribbon type fringe move well with dancing? I considered that, but thought perhaps it would stay too flat against the fabric because of the base being flat instead of circular. What type of ribbon did you use?

Also, anyone have experience with Czech vs. Swarovski beads? Is there a noticeable difference on a small bead (4mm), or do they essentially look the same at that point?

Swarovskis are definitely more sparkly than your average Czech beads. And way more expensive. But for fringe on a dress, I’m not sure Swarovski is worth the expense.

Two alternatives would be Preciosa (which are Czech) and Chinese crystal (sometimes called “Chinovski.”)

If you want sparkle, avoid fire polished beads. Fire polishing softens the edges of the facets.

The ribbon fringe was all-over instead of grouped in tassels. It looked good and moved well. I think I used 3/8 inch. Each individual strand was 4 inches long. I used satin ribbon from the fabric store – the kind that goes on sale for a buck and a half per 18 yards. The cut edges must be burned or glued to prevent fraying.

If you haven’t got a favorite supplier of beads and stones, or go to their physical store in L.A.'s garment district. (I miss the garment district.:frowning: Everything is so expensive everywhere else and they just don’t have the selection of fabrics. I was spoiled.)

What about pre-made beaded fringe, like this: Beaded Trim | Beaded Fringe Trimming

Here’s one in red:

But maybe that one is not sparkly enough…

p.s. if there’s not enough time to buy online, you can usually get beaded fringe at a home decor fabric store. It’s used for adorning lampshades and curtains, etc.