In the late 1980s through the late 1990s, I studied Zen and learned how not to be so impatient with myself, others, and inanimate objects. This was really, really useful when I started applying Swarovski flatback crystals to shoes….
First of all, I had to accept that just because a glue manufacturer or the people who make “hot fix” crystals (the kind you apply with a little heat wand) say their products will work on leather, it ain’t necessarily so. I tested a bunch of different gem-adhereing glues that SAID they worked on leather, only to discover that most did a pretty lousy job. I did find a couple that worked, though, namely Beacon 527 (formerly called 527 Bond) and E6000.
Actually, what I found were glues that worked only on the parts of shoes that didn’t bend or get twisted while they were being worn. So, crystals glued to heels, as on the shoe above, worked fine. A line of crystals down the back seam of a shoe, like the ones my creative partner Destiny Carter put on Diva Couture, below left, worked fine. What didn’t work was gluing crystals onto the strap of a slingback (below, right). As soon as I tried to slide the strap over my heel, the crystals popped off! It was very sad, ’cause they LOOKED gorgeous!
The problem was, although the glue I used dried clear and flexible — like it was supposed to — there’s NOTHING flexible about the flat back side of a size 16ss Swarovski crystal! When the leather strap bent, something had to give and it wasn’t going to be the crystal. So it was the glue.
Frustration, however, is the mother of invention, and when Destiny Carter was working on creating her Pirate Girl purse, we came up with a workaround. She had found a cool hot-fix motif of a skull and wanted it front and center on her purse. (She got hers at Walmart; there’s a wide selection of hot fix motifs, also called rhinestone appliques, online at Threadart.com) How were we going to do it?
That’s when common sense struck: Hot fix motifs are made to be ironed onto fabric — so that’s what we did. We found black cotton fabric to match the black color she had painted the purse and ironed on the skull motif. Then we outlined the motif with Fray Check, let it dry, and cut away the extra fabric. Finally we glued the fabric to the painted surface of the purse (which was manmade leather) using The Ultimate. (The Ultimate is far and away the best glue for attaching fabric to surfaces painted with acrylic paint like Lumiere and Neopaque, which are the paints we use.)
When we were done, it looked exactly as if the crystals had been glued onto the purse itself. And they have stayed put over time. Ta-da! (If we do say so ourselves….)
The pink bag above right is the “before” of Destiny’s purse. (You can find “bustier” purses like this on ebay.) Below it is the “after” version. If you want to know the secret of the wonderful chain she used for a strap, read the description in the Sassy Feet purse gallery.