Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Buying crystals for figure skating dresses


Anyone who reads my blog knows that I’m obsessed with the cost of everything in the skating world. The prices just floor me.

I sew Ice Girl’s dresses and I put the beads on myself. I know that I’m saving money on the dress, but should I be cutting corners on the crystals?

Lots of folks swear by Swarovski and claim that their crystals are more sparkly than anything else. I’ve sewn a bunch of dresses and used the cheaper, machine-cut Preciosa crystals on each one.

Here’s the thing: no one – not one person – has said to me, “What a beautiful dress, but those crystals just aren’t very sparkly.”

In fact, the opposite is true. The last dress I made and beaded had a gross of 42ss and a half gross of 40ss cystals on it. I think the bling blinded folks – including me.

Preciosa crystals are real lead crystals, just like Swarovski crystals are lead crystal. The difference is that the Czech-made Preciosa has fewer facets (8) than Swarovski (12). Some folks believe that the Swarovski has more sparkle, but from a distance, like at an ice rink with no spotlight, the crystals look pretty darn similar.

You’re not saving huge amounts of money buying Preciosa, though, so don’t get too excited. Swarovski crystals cost about 20 percent more than Preciosas. So, if I’m buying a gross of 12ss flatback crystals, Preciosa will set me back $4.85 for a gross of crystal; $7.50 for a gross of colored. Swarovski will cost $5.90 for a gross of crystal; $6.75 for a gross of colored.

I think I saved about $10 in the last order I placed for Preciosa crystals, but I spent $7 for shipping. Buying Preciosa instead of the Swarovski is like getting the shipping for free or paying for an hour of ice time.

Of course, Ice Coach would point out to me that I'm not saving money when I make a dress every other month instead of making one per season.

But, well, I like the sparklies. And I can't resist the pretty fabric.

Resources – all of these are U.S. retailers
http://www.espallstarrhinestones.com/
Good prices, standard shipping rates. Terrible online color charts.

http://www.dreamtimecreations.com/
Competitive prices (some are a few cents higher, some a few cents lower), standard shipping rates. Great online color and size charts. Lots of Preciosa colors to choose from. Good shipping times.

http://www.rhinestoneguy.com/
Good prices on crystal, great prices on colored stones. Weird site layout. Shipping unknown. Good online color chart, but blurry. Not as many Preciosa colors to choose from.

21 comments:

justpat said...

I just found your blog. It's very entertaining. My ice girl is on the other end the the skating spectrum-- just about done. She's in college now but you're helping me relive the early years.
Anyway, as for crystals: I use Feibusch Zippers at www.zipperstop.com
They are based in New York City. They only sell size 16, 20, and 30ss Swarovski crystals. I think the prices are reasonable. 1 gross16ss clear 6.50, colored 8.50, 1gross 30ss clear 19.50, colored 22.50. These are glue-on stones. Although they also sell the pronged rim settings. Jeff is very helpful and he ships USPS priority so I get my stones in about 2 days and no matter the size of the order, shipping is $4.80.
I feel compelled to mention that lately I have come around to the conclusion that sequins can be just as beatiful as the crystals. Sequins are REALLY cheap and lighter weight. You can reposition them, and once you get used to the techinque (I use a seed bead in the center), it's not too much more time-consuming than gluing crystals.

justpat said...

I just found your blog. It's very entertaining. My ice girl is on the other end the the skating spectrum-- just about done. She's in college now but you're helping me relive the early years.
Anyway, as for crystals: I use Feibusch Zippers at www.zipperstop.com
They are based in New York City. They only sell size 16, 20, and 30ss Swarovski crystals. I think the prices are reasonable. 1 gross16ss clear 6.50, colored 8.50, 1gross 30ss clear 19.50, colored 22.50. These are glue-on stones. Although they also sell the pronged rim settings. Jeff is very helpful and he ships USPS priority so I get my stones in about 2 days and no matter the size of the order, shipping is $4.80.
I feel compelled to mention that lately I have come around to the conclusion that sequins can be just as beatiful as the crystals. Sequins are REALLY cheap and lighter weight. You can reposition them, and once you get used to the techinque (I use a seed bead in the center), it's not too much more time-consuming than gluing crystals.

Ice Mom said...

Sequins are mighty cheap, justpat. I recently bought 2.5 yards of black stretch velvet that has a sequin every 1/2-inch or so. $22.99/yard, but I won't be buying crystals for that dress!

I'll have to check out zipperstop.com - thanks!

As for handsewing, justpat, I have to give you props. Handsewing makes me nuts. However, if you're able to bead as fast with a needle as I am with my toothpick and glue, I can understand the allure.

Thanks for stopping by!

Skittl1321 said...

Thanks for the review. I have never heard of that brand of crystal.

I have to say- for now, I stick to plastic rhinestones. They don't have NEAR the bling factor of rhinestones, but they add a bit of dimension to the dress. My skating doesn't have the "sparkle" factor to justify the rhinestones quite yet, and like you- I just like to sew dresses because fabric is hard to resist (though I'm still learning so my dresses aren't even close to as nice yours!)

Ice Mom said...

Plastic? O.K. You have to tell me about those! I've bought some cheaper Tulip crystals at JoAnn Fabrics. Are those the ones you're talking about or do you have some other source?

Anonymous said...

Thank you so very much for this blog. I need to stone a dress for my daughter. I have been putting it off because I know I will usually spend at least $50.00 on stones at a local dancewear store that I go to near my home. I will definately check out the websites you have suggested and the website suggested by one of the moms who commented. I have also had the dressmaker who made my daughters dress use sequins and shimmery fabric such as metalic style fabric to make a dress have more sparkle. You can also use small ringestones in place of seed beads with a small amount of glue to give the smaller rhinestone more sparkle. If you scatter medium beeds with sequence and smaller beeds combined this can really make a dress shine. Try not to get too much glue on the sequence because it will reduce the shine factor of the sequence. I hope my hints are helpful. I know dress making and stoning can be almost as addictive as the sport of figure skating. I think that the bling bling factor of figure skating is what attracts many of our children to this sport. I know I love seeing my daughter shine in her new dress and with her athletic and artistic skating ability. Making and stoning dresses also makes me feel like I have contributed to my daughters success in this sport. I may not be able to do a double axel or pull my foot up to the back of my head but I can design and stone a beautiful dress. Good luck to all the other moms who are making beautiful creations for there sons and daughters and anymore advise you have please continue to share your words of wisdom.

Skittl1321 said...

The plastic ones are the "general craft" acrylic rhinestones that pretty much any hobby store will have- Hobby Lobby, Michael's, Joanns, the brands vary. They actually aren't much less expesnive then the ones you've blogged about here (except no shipping)- but compared to buying the packets of Swarvoski in the stores its a huge savings. Now that you've given me these links- I might have to look into real crystals!

Amanda said...

Loving your blog ice mom!

I am an adult skater, but could do with my very own ice mom :) In the meantime, you have some really good hints and tips about crystals, costumes and the like.

Have you not been tempted to take to the ice yourself?!!

Ice Mom said...

Thanks for the comment, Amanda. I hope you're doing well as an adult skater.

I think putting me on blades would be a disaster. Heck, putting me upright on shoes is sometimes not a great idea! :)

Susana said...

I use a toothpick and some playdough to pick up the crystals and paste them to the fabric using clear textile paint. It works great and there is not mess at all.

By the way, I love your blog! I'm a skater's mom living in Mexico City and really enjoy reading your blog.

Ice Mom said...

Thanks for the comment, Susana! Toothpick and playdough. I'll have to try that.

I just picked up some GemTack glue that I'm going to try as well.

Anonymous said...

I am about to put crystals on my daughter's dress -- never done this before. I only have 144 (seemed like a lot but now I know it really isn't...)
I have Gem Tac and the dress is stretch velvet, with gauzy sleeve ruffles (3/4 sleeves) and skirt. Where can I get ideas for where to put the crystals? Neckline? In a pattern? Help!
adult skater, skating mom

Ice Mom said...

Hi, Anony. I take inspiration from other dresses I've seen. You might consider doing an online search to look at what other folks are doing.

Another way to decide where to put the crystals is to follow seam lines, neck lines, and other elements on the dress.

The third (and my favorite) is to let someone you know and trust come up with an idea. I ask Ice Coach, Ice Girl, and Ice Dad for ideas.

I sometimes use air-dry fabric pens to mark up a beading pattern on the dresses. I also use table knives or something similar to make sure that beads are spaced evenly.

Good luck!

emily said...

Skating dresses are so expensive. i don't ever know how to make my little figure skater happy and it makes me very frustrated. i don't have the kind of money for a custom dress anymore. do you know a good website that has reasonably priced dresses so that they'd only need some gems and then they're good?

Ice Mom said...

Hi, Emily. Does your club offer a dress resale? Even if it doesn't, sometimes you can approach a growing skater and ask about selling older dresses.

I've never tried ordering from China, but I've heard people get good results for a small amount of money ($40, including crystals).

Another possibility is eBay. You could try searching the listings on your lunch hour to see if anyone's unloading dresses.

Best wishes for success!

anne said...

There was a display of higher end dresses at our competition last weekend...the seller has nice lighting to shine on them...I told my 4yr old that looking at them made me happy:)

Rhinestone Guy is where I first discovered Preciosa and he highly recommends them for costuming...evidently he also has a new stone (RGA) that he loves and is offering for good prices on crystal only.

I have purchased Preciosa recently from a place called beadsfactory.com and they have the cheapest prices yet! I think my recent order ran about $6.50/gr for 20ss AB glue on! About 1/2 the price of most Swarovski...can you say YAY! SO...while it still gets expensive...it is more tolerable...they also have hot fix. I have has no luck using their online ordering but call them and tell em what I want and 4 days later it is in my mailbox.

Anonymous said...

We us the Precoisa Viva on the team synchro dresses, alongside swarovski. There was no difference. I think we paid about £58 for 1440 (AB ss20) and they were hotfix.

Try precoisa!

Flip said...

Ok I am a Skate dad so forgive me if I come off sounding a little off base.
I don't get it. Our coach just said that our comp dress isn't sparkly enough. I didn't realize that there was a sparkle section on the judges scorecard. In my opinion a kid can skate in a burlap sack and as long as the criteria is there and they skate better, then why shouldn;t they win?
I can understand the self confidence factor, but there seems to be a feeling that if they don't shine they don't get a medal. So in theory I should go to the Waterford Crystal company get 20 pounds of cut cystals for about $5,000 and plaster them all over her dress. Too bad it will be too heavy for her to to a single Waltz jump, but with all of that sparkle she's sure to win.
I am just sick of the attention given to dresses. I am by no means a NAASCAR fan but can use a comparison here. A race is won by who can drive the fastest the longest and the best. Yes teams look to try and make their car look cool, but the guy waving the flag could care less how shiny the car is when it crosses the finish line.

Ice Mom said...

Hi, Flip. Well, as a parent, I can tell you that the sparkles and the rest are an expectation. Part of the judging is on performance and the dress is part of that performance mark.

However, I'm not satisfied with that answer. I'll speak to some coaches and judges and post about this. Thanks for the great idea, Flip!

Twirldad said...

Thank you for your blog .. you have inspired me to do something similar, i'm not an ice parent but I am a twirldad and there are many similarity's that we both have to deal with.

also i thank you for the entire section you have on Rhine stoning i learned alot and was able to successfully complete my girls Pairs Costumes

i will be linking to this post as my source in the post i'm making now
http://twirldad.wordpress.com/

Anonymous said...

I also just found your blog...I'm a new ice mom, daughter is 1/ thru her first "real" stint of figure skating: taking private lessons 3x a week, placed 1st in her first competition and placed 3rd in her second competition. I, too, am dumbfounded at the cost of everything related to figure skating!! My husband & I had no idea; but, daughter loves it and is having a blast! I'm going to attempt to crystal a plain dress that I bought (on sale for $55), one I purposely bought plain so that I could jazz it up myself---having grand ambitions, that's me! I bought the Tulip glue on crystals from JoAnn as well as a tool that heats up and is used to secure the crystal to the fabric. Has anyone tried this? I also bought something comparable to the "Bedazzler"...I figured whichever one didn't work, I'd return. Would appreciate any comments...thanks!