Don’t let anyone tell you different: the Bedazzler – once the provenance of late-night infomercials and junior high mockage – has, of late, become the discerning fashionista’s tool of choice. Or, at least, the discerning fashionista with a bunch of time on her hands and a significant DIY impulse. How else can you turn a simple handkerchief into a glittery masterpiece in the style of one Justin Randall Timberlake? Or inscribe the witty saying of your choice onto the body of those you hold most dear, without subjecting them to the tattooist’s needle? And there’s no better feeling in the world than being able to answer some jealous teeny’s anguished pleas to tell her where you found that kick-ass shirt – Hot Topic or Delia’s? – with those four lovely words: I made it myself.
But I assume that, having come to visit our delusional little world, you’re already well-versed in the joy that is the Bedazzler. You’ve succumbed to its tempting ways; perhaps purchased an item or twenty of clothing bedecked in its flashy glory. And now you’ve decided that the time has come: your My Little Pony shirt would look just that extra bit better if only the pony’s mane were streaked with diamond-head studs. Or maybe that concert tee you purchased the last time you went to see The Boys just won’t be complete until you give Lance a pair of sparkly, yellow earrings, I promise, it won’t. but you’re afraid he might end up with a couple of big, yellow pimples, instead. Have no fear! I, with my vast bedazzling experience, Heh. *ahem* am here to help, with a guide I inventively like to call…
- So I suppose this one is sort of self-explanatory, but to start with, you’re going to need a Bedazzler. Those of you out there looking to purchase your first Bedazzler are lucky. You can now pick them up in an assortment of places; Frank’s. Michael’s, The RagBag – whatever your local craft-supply store is called – is ground zero for your purchase. Jo-Ann Fabrics is another good possibility, as long as yours has expanded beyond simply fabric – you might call first to check. And, of late, I’ve even seen the Bedazzler skulking around either Contempo Casual or Wet Seal, or maybe both, in a blatant bid for the teeny wallet. The standard model is blue, and comes either in a small box or that annoying heavy-duty plastic that is impossible to remove without a high-grade weapon. I’ve also seen, quite recently, a new, two-piece model that’s even smaller. My personal feeling is that the Bedazzler is feisty enough to deal with when it’s all attached together, and that the two-piecer is going to be far more trouble than it’s worth. However, never having actually used it, that’s merely gut instinct, and I advise you to go with whatever you’re most comfortable. I haven’t seen the old-school model around much recently. Unless you really crave a pink and purple design scheme enhanced with flowers and butterflies, however, don’t sweat it. I’m pretty sure the only thing I got with it, aside from the snazzy color scheme, that’s missing in the newer models is a lot of unnecessary packaging and a couple of stickers the company advises you not to use on clothing you have the intention of washing somewhere down the line. Great.While you’re picking up the machine, I advise you to purchase, in bulk, whatever supplies you think, one distant day in the future, you might use. While the machine itself seems to be well-stocked everywhere I’ve looked, I can tell you that finding the supplies themselves is extremely hit or miss. Bedazzler makes their own supplies, and, if you can find them, tends to have more per package than anyone else. Also, they helpfully label their packaging by the plunger size it fits. Now, you can certainly purchase the supplies from other manufacturers, but be warned, they, surprise, don’t label their packages by plunger size, but by the diameter of each piece. If, like me, you think you’ll be mostly using the size 20 plunger – standard, small-but-not-micro-sized studs and rhinestones – you want to look for 6mm studs, and 5mm rhinestones. Oh yes, for those of you who don’t know, the rhinestones come in two pieces: 5mm stones, and 6mm Tiffany settings. If you ever find a store that is well-provisioned with an assortment of colors, styles, and sizes of both studs and stones, stock. Up. And then, y’know, buy me a few. I’ll pay for shipping, I swear! You never know when you’ll come across that kind of bounty again – especially at this time of the year. The holiday season means that I have been reduced to scrounging through multi-color variety packs, and pre-fab sets, just so I can get a couple of extra Tiffany settings. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, yo.
- Okay. Now you need to pick your material. Everyone’s got a favorite: Justin’s, clearly, is bandanas. Myself, I like shirts: cotton, blend, lycra, whatever. The material is thin enough that it’s easily bedazzlable, and you’ve got all that nice, open space with which to work. Just about anything can be bedazzled, though, as long as you keep a couple of guidelines in mind: first, keep it fairly thin – those prongs aren’t real long, and you want them to grab securely. It’s all fun and games until Britney loses her textured pearl stud eye. On denim, for instance, stay away from seams. Those poor little metal teeth will never make it through all those layers of fabric. Second, make sure that you can get to the back side of the material – we don’t want you bedazzling a pocket shut, for example. Third, remember that you can only bedazzle an area that has room enough for the end of the Bedazzler–this means no tight corners, glove fingers, etc. Unless you get real enterprising, and bedazzle through the whole thing, and then go back and undo the prongs and remove one layer of the finger…suffice to say, it CAN be done, with effort, and if you need more specifics, email me.Keep in mind that you’re not limited to clothing: gloves, hats, scarves, blankets – they can all benefit from a bit of studded magic. However, keep in mind that while your fancy Italian leather coat may look stunning today enhanced with a few well-placed rhinestones, you may not be so excited about it in a few years. My advice – stay away from anything you had to save money to purchase. Along the same lines, avoid anything that’s not strictly yours. While your roommate might love the “Still a Playa” shirt when you’re wearing it, she may not feel the same way when you present it to her on her new strappy red tank. And your boyfriend might not see the humor when you show him his favorite sweater, now emblazoned with the slogan, “Whipped.”
- Figure out what you want it to say/look like. This can be as easy as a few careful additions, Lance’s earrings,or a full-fledged, free-form design, but my sincere plea to you is: draw it out first. Down to the individual stud. Yeah, it’s annoying and time-consuming, but it can save you serious time down the road, when your “o” looks like a loose collection of randomly-placed dots. Also, it’s best to know going in how many studs you’re going to use so you don’t end up, say, without enough flat-head studs to finish spelling out the name of your beloved. And a couple words of caution if you’re thinking of adding a nice little word or catchphrase.First, consider your audience. If you’re working in the corporate world, a few studs might be okay, but “Wanted: Nubile Boyband Sex Slave” might not. It’s also prolly too long, but we’ll get to that in a minute. I’m not advocating censorship, I’m just saying that if you put it on a shirt or whatever, people will read it. And likely comment. I mean, everyone. Cashiers, flight attendants, the eight-year old girl in the public bathroom, everyone. Also, if you plan on spending any time around people with a serious faith in the Christian religion, be prepared for “JC” to take on a whole other meaning. I’m just sayin’. Next, the studs are only so small, and will thus only create letters of a certain size. In other words, you can only fit so much onto a shirt. In my experience, shorter words are better, and the fewer of them you have, the cleaner the shirt is going to look. Don’t forget, there’s always the option of creative spelling to help shorten things up a bit: “to” becomes “2,” “for” becomes “4,” “grooving” becomes “groovin,” “imperfect” becomes…you get the idea.
- Perform any creative structural changes of your choice. For instance, I tend to be anti-sleeve. Maybe you want it to lace up the sides. Or you were thinking of a slight adjustment to the neckline. Go for it! But do it first. That way, if you make the neck a bit more plunging than you’d intended, or there’s less material left than you were expecting, you won’t have wasted any of your precious rhinestones yet. And you may decide that the new shape inspires a design adaptation that you never would have thought of, otherwise.
- You’ve got your shirt, bandana, whatever, you made any major shape changes, you know what you want to do…now’s the time to start, right? Wrong. From personal experience, let me give you a tip: chalk is your friend. Unless you have outstanding spatial relation skills, Which maybe you do. I, however, certainly do not. if you plunge in blindly your letters are going to end up squished, or disconcertingly spaced. Even if you’re just adding a few little decorative touches, chalk will give you that helpful visual reminder that the earrings belong in Lance’s ears. Chalk will also allow you to see if certain letters or designs are going to take on interesting new shapes when stretched over your curvy body. Remember – a straight line on a table might not be a straight line on your ass. Plus, chalk will come out in the wash; a plus, unless you’re going for that post-modern, deconstructed look.
- Alright folks, here’s your moment. Pull out your Bedazzler and go to town. There are a few things to keep in mind, though. It may seem obvious, but the Bedazzler works one. Stud. At. A. Time. This is a time-consuming process, people. We’re talking a lotof time. Don’t decide, 10 minutes before you’re supposed to be leaving for a party, that you want to fancy up your party frock, because 1) it ain’t gonna happen and 2) it may leave the dress unwearable and you in hysterics. The Bedazzler is a touchy instrument: rush it, and you risk its wrath. Plan on a good couple of hours for a plain, studded design, and add on a couple extra if you’re working with rhinestones.Rhinestones, you see, are a complicated beast. Unlike plain old studs, which are one-piece and applied from the front of the fabric, rhinestones, as I mentioned earlier, are two, and are applied from the back. The stone sits in the well of the Bedazzler, facet side down. On top of the stone you lay the fabric, reverse-side up. Finally, the metal setting goes into the plunger. When the machine is compressed, the prongs will poke through the fabric, gripping the stone in place. And don’t forget that since you’re working on the reverse side, you’re going to need to reverse the entire design. I promise you, there’s nothing more frustrating than finally completing your hours of struggle only to turn the fabric right-side out and discover your “a”s are facing the wrong way. *sigh*Finally, I recommend starting any design or words in the middle and working outward. This way, you know from the beginning that it’s centered correctly, and if you end up having to adjust the spacing as you go, you can do it symmetrically. As for practicalities, a good, bright light is a must. I like to work on the couch, the better to hear/occasionally glance at the TV with the Bedazzler in my lap for convenience, but it helps to have a firm surface to absorb the force necessary to compress the Bedazzler. I use my hosemate’s drawing board, Thanks, J. but any board, or even an oversized book, would do in a pinch. If the fabric is particularly tough – like, say, those lovely blue PVC pants you bought last week – you’ll prolly have to work at a table.
- Put it down for a day. If you’re like me, it’ll be sometime well into the wee hours of the morning by the time you’re done, anyway. Your eyes will be gritty. Your hands will be sore and cramped from having to re-bend prongs that went awry. Your head will likely hurt from squinting at tiny objects all night. Go sleep, eat, take a shower–anything to distract you for a while. Use this time to wash the item and remove any lingering traces of chalk. Then, when you can go back to it without hyperventilating, look at it again. Check everything over: are there hems that need reinforcing? Is the spacing okay? Are all the prongs going the way they should? Now’s the chance to fix it. Then check out the item as a whole: are you satisfied? Is there still something missing? Do you have a strip of sequins burning a hole in your sewing kit? Now’s the time to add on those finishing touches. Keep in mind, though, that less can be more. While a pretty dancing boy onstage might be able to get away with studs and rhinestones and sequins and lace and ribbon AND a pithy saying or two, you probably can’t. This is purely a personal aesthetic decision, and is ultimately up to you. In general, however, if I’m using words on a shirt, or a major, complex design, I’ll do structural changes to the garment, but not any additional embellishments. An item that is merely being accented with the Bedazzler, however, may be able to support other elements of flash.
Once it’s all fixed to your standards, take the time to marvel at it for a moment. You did this. Where once there was nothing, you brought this beauteous masterwork into being. It’s time to celebrate: put on your piece of creative genius, and go make someone wish they could be one-tenth as sassy as you.