The 13 Must-Have Tools for Embellishing DIYs


1  /  2  /  3  /  4  /  5  /  6  /  7  /  8  /  9  /  10  /  11  /  12  /  13

Adding embellishments to pieces (crystals, studs, trim, iron-ons etc.) is one of the easiest ways to breathe life into your clothing and accessories and give them a whole new makeover. I’ve done a number of DIYs in the past that involve different materials and techniques (like my DIY Vinyl Eyelash Applique T-Shirt, DIY Sequin Trompe L’oeil Peter Pan Collar T-Shirt, and DIY Jennifer Behr Spiked Turban for example). I’ve found a number of tools are extremely useful in adding all those bits ‘n’ bobs (they save a ton of time!) – and here are my faves:

1. Hardwood Handle Awl

For poking holes for studs and screw-spikes, you need an awl. Period. This will make tiny precise holes (NOT slits like scissors) and the spike screw-thread will do the enlargening itself. Much better to cause as minimal damage to the fabric as possible. The hardwood handle allows for long usage without fatigue in your hands (and if you’re embarking on a large-scale studding or spiking project, you know exactly what I’m talking about!).

2. Chain Nose Pliers

For bending the studs teeth at the back, I always use pliers – though there are also stud prong press tools available for this specific purpose.

3. Creative Crystal BeJeweler Pro Embellishment Tool

For adding hotfix crystals or nailheads to your projects one-by-one: completely necessary for precision and beautiful designs.

4. Dual Duty Plus Button Thread

TOTALLY different from regular cotton mercerized or polyester thread. Did you know? I didn’t for a long time – and I’d been sewing on buttons using completely the wrong thread for like FOREVER. It’s thicker, stronger, and more durable than the regular threads, so get this if you are sewing on any buttons or button-like embellishments.

5. Dritz Fray Check

You’ll need this as a double-security for the ends of trims that could fray when washed. If they can’t be heat-sealed with an open flame (like they have beads, sequins, or are mostly cotton) then add a daub of this on the ends to prevent fraying.

6. Chalk Pencil

Marking chalk set – I use this SOOOO much! I can mark with a different color than for the sewing lines or matching lines when making a piece, and it stays fairly sharp and accurate. I really love this little tool.

7. Dritz Curved Needles

For sewing rhinestones in settings (with sewing holes in the back) onto fabric surfaces easily.

8. Aleene’s Jewel-It Embellishing Glue

For gluing crystals or other embellishments that don’t have sewing holes. Not ideal, but sometimes you have to cut corners.

9. Leathercraft Pyramid Rivet Studs Setter

If you’re doing large-scale studding on leather this will save your hands from massive pain.

10. Martha Stewart Multi-Purpose Cutting Heat Tool

I use this mostly for the mini-iron capabilities. Not completely necessary (in a pinch I’ll just grab my regular size iron and be really, really careful) – but this works great for larger iron-on embellishments that don’t fit the Hotfix iron tip, and for small appliques. I don’t particularly like the hotfix tip (not enough options), but the cutting tip is useful for cutting stencil vinyl.

11. June Tailor Non-Stick Pressing Sheet (18″x18″ size)

For appliques and fusibles. You could also use a regular 100% cotton pressing cloth, but the non-stick one is better for fusibles.

12. Beadaholique Perfect Positioner/Jewel Setter Tool

Needed for rhinestone placement and setting. And when you’re going through a lot of stones in an intricate design, this will really cut your workflow time in half.

13. Variety of Machine Feet

Multi-foot set – if you’re doing embellishments that require a sewing machine (like adding ruffles, or leather pieces, or pearl piping) — you will need a ruffler foot, piping foot, or Teflon foot to deal with these different materials and make the whole process faster. (the pack pictured is for low-shank machines)

And of course a screwdriver for tightening screw-spikes, a lighter for heat-sealing trims, and a pair of scissors for cutting.

Need more Must-Have Tool Sets? Check out my Must-Have Tools for Sewing DIY’s and my Must-Have Tools for Jewelry DIY’ing!



FTC Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission if you click and buy something through one of the links above. My full Disclosure Policy is here.


Leave Comment

DIY Street Style Inspiration: MidSummer 2013


It’s the middle of Summer, temperatures are rising, and it becomes so much harder to look chic and effortless. Plus you’re not covered with accessories and coats and scarves and hats and the like…so it may be more difficult to incorporate DIY pieces into your outfits. But here are some great ideas from street style photos for you to start your DIY list for the [mid-] season:


Jazz up a pair of cutoffs with sequin and beaded trims (M&J Trimming has some great ones!)

3182545_backtowindow222via WiolettaM’s

Add a pretty printed fabric over a panel on your satchel with some Mod Podge.

img_462w_af999045a1f1via MeganCavallo on ModCloth Style Gallery

Liven up a plain black skirt with fabric paint in wide bands.

3bf3045c01c06ce1fb78b64ca09ecdfeda8c4115_600via Ashley Tarkington on Lucky Community

Craft up a Trina Turk lookalike dress by adding some bright bias binding to the edges of a neutral dress, and wear with a black stretchy elastic belt.



Add some pretty felt flowers to the brim of a straw hat to match your outfit…extra points if you put them on a pin-backing and make them removable. 😉


Add fun to a plain cotton blouse by printing it with tiny animals (using a stencil or stamp) and fabric paint or ink. Instant DIY print!

FFCOFFEE+114via Atlantic-Pacific

Add a favorite saying to a loose sweatshirt or T-shirt with some bold iron-on letters.

47ee65e70d2f3144fadcc41d3fcd674d{source unknown}

Try your hand at ombre-dyeing by dip-dyeing a white silken blouse with indigo hues.

fdada6feb561fc2a1c2c5d95df8e939dvia FashionHotbox

Make that plain tote you carry everywhere tons more fun with a bag- or box-shaped iron-on graphic. (You could also just paint your own, or try just outlining it trompe l’oeil-style with a Sharpie!)

d0e148c841e888f7a9bb870c75858082via With Love From Kat

Hand-sew colorful tassels to the edges of a printed scarf for a Moroccan vibe and a punch of color.

How are you DIY’ing your outfits this Summer?



Leave Comment

Current DIY Outfit Obsession: Cropped Top and Flounced Flowered Skirt

MilanomstrRS146262I can’t get this image of this chic woman at the Milan Fashion Week Spring 2014 out of my head – I pinned it to my Pinterest board recently and have been lusting ever since! Her outfit is totally next on my DIY list! It’s so perfect for Summery weather, and yet so incredibly polished. (And so DIY’able!)

Just pull your hair back into a low bun and pair with some sunnies you’ve DIY’d with some cut metal pieces (a la my DIY Alexander Wang Zipper Sunglasses tutorial) or added a couple white stripes with nailpolish or washi tape to. Cut the sleeves off a tight black T-shirt and chop is to rib-length. If you’re comfortable with sewing, the skirt you could make yourself from a basic pencil skirt pattern, using a graphic striped fabric (I swear Jo-Ann’s has something really similar to that lattice!). Add a black flounce to the hem using a curved piece of fabric, then applique over it with fruits cut from quilting fabric and use Heat N Bond to secure! (Like how I made my DIY Floral Applique Cardigan.) Pair with a pair of navy satin pumps and a dark green perspex clutch (you could totally use a clear lucite jewelry box and paint the inside with green glass paint) – and you’re good to go!

And if you’re not following me on Pinterest yet, please do! I’d love to see you there! Lots of outfits and DIY ideas to get inspired by:-)

Follow Chic Steals on Pinterest



image via

Leave Comment

DIY Ideas from Street Style Photos

Create a quick butterfly clip with a faux butterfly decoration from the floral decor section of the craft store (at Michael’s Arts & Crafts, they’re with the fake birds, nests, twigs, and vase filler).

Have you ever noticed that the most eye-catching Fashion is all about the details?Make a pretty wrapped bow bracelet with some dead-soft brass wire, available at any craft store, in spools in the jewelry-making section.

Wrap some contrasting soft leather or fabric around the tops of your ankle booties, tying in knots at the sides.  Instant colorblocking!

Take the street style photos of Tommy Ton on the JakandJil blog, for instance.  His amazing photos capture all the little details of outfits, accessories, jewelry, and all the tiny details about a time, place, and the fashion therein that make the viewers feel in the moment.  Plus those little details that feel fresh and unique.Scribble a favorite saying on your dark bag with a silver paint marker.  (Practice first in a piece of a paper before committing to something permanent!)

(And ohmigosh I just realized whose bag this is!  I can’t believe I didn’t realize it before.  It’s Vivi model Sara Mary‘s bag, signed by Jane Birkin herself!)

Re-string your front-laced heels with an unexpected material, like regular shoelaces, for a sporty look.

The detailing is what makes us individuals. 

Click to Tweet the Above!

It’s a way to express oneself, to make that white blouse less standard, that LBD not just off-the-rack.Cut a tissue-thin tee at the shoulder seams – then re-tie in little knots to create a peekaboo effect at the neckline.

Tack on some veil netting to something surprising, like a knit beanie (such a popular DIY!)

And the details are soooo easy to DIY.  (Way easier than patternmaking, sewing from scratch, or even refashioning.)If you’re into stitchery, make a hybrid coat from parts of other coats.  No so much?  Cut contrasting pieces of fabric – the add some Heat ‘n’ Bond fusible to the back, and fuse onto the front and inside lapel of a blazer you may already have.  Instant facelift.

Make a one-of-a-kind necklace by twisting and knotting different-colored chains together, even incorporating some different materials, like cord or lacing.  Add some charms to make it your own.

Practice looking for those details, and noticing what makes it different.  If you see something you like, emulate, recreate, re-master, re-mix.

Click to Tweet the above!

Change the look of any sandal by adding a swatch of fun fur to the front (tack in place with a couple stitches under the lacing; the fur will hide it completely).  This place sells some great, and very realistic, choices.

Do like Prada did and add chandelier drops to a plastic rainhat for some reflective rain protection.

Add Grandma’s crocheted flowers or doilies (or crochet them yourself!) to the front of a sweatshirt for a modern vintage feel.

You are the genie of your own identity.

Click to Tweet the Above!


All photos from

Leave Comment

Refashioning and Sewing Men’s Shirts: Tips & Tricks

So I spent the majority of the day today working on a tutorial for upcycling yet another men’s shirt into something way cuter for the girls!  I can’t wait to take the photos of the finished product to share with all of you.

But that got me thinking…a reader asked me on to share some tips for working with men’s shirts…and so I thought maybe I should share with all of you how I choose my shirts to re-work, and some techniques I use when sewing them.

 How to Choose a Shirt

First of all, I’m assuming that you are going to use a shirt that is not new or off-the-rack (right??).  Using shirts that have been pre-worn for your re-fashions is one of the best ways to be eco-friendly, save something from being discarded and give it new life, and make a one-of-a-kind piece just for your very own.  But it does pose some unique challenges.

*Choose a shirt that is NOT SEE-THROUGH.
Unless you’re planning on making a lining or always wearing your finished piece over something, you have to make sure that the shirt you choose is completely opaque, even when you’re standing in front of a light source.  Many men’s shirts are made of “summerweight” cotton, which makes them very see-through if you’re not wearing an undershirt like a guy would be.  TRY IT ON if you’re in a thrift store that has changing rooms; if not, place your hand inside the shirt.  If you can see your hand, it’s a no-go.

Pilled fabric.  These shirts can only be upcycled very creatively. img source

*Do not use a shirt whose fabric is thinning, pilled, worn, frayed, or with stains/holes.
The more times the shirt has been through the washer/dryer, the thinner the fabric will be.  If it’s visibly in bad condition, adding seams and making it into a dress it won’t help the situation.  Do not choose something that is stained or has rips or holes in it unless the final design will cover those areas.

*In the same vein, do not choose a shirt whose seams are pulling.
Even if the shirt looks like it’s in good condition, pull at the side seams.  If the fabric pulls away from the stitching and you can see obvious/large stitching holes down the seam, the fabric in that shirt cannot withstand seams that take stress.  Stitching (even re-sewing) such fabric will result in visible holes, if not the fabric tearing completely away from the seam.  DO NOT USE.

*Choose a shirt that is LARGER than you are.
This is a no-brainer.  You need the extra fabric to work with and to make the details (and especially in case you make a mistake!).  In most situations, I choose a shirt that’s as large as I can find.

How To Sew a Shirt
(so it doesn’t look like a re-fashion)

The shirt in question (since it’s pre-worn) will also probably be pre-washed…if not, wash to remove the sizing using the hottest water recommended for the fabric, and dry it according to the directions.

 img source

*Use the same color thread as what was used to sew your shirt together in the first place.This is a little obvious.  Bring the shirt with you to the sewing store and match the thread color visually.

*Use the same type of thread as what was used in the shirt.
I know it’s a hassle, but read the fiber content of the label and choose the thread accordingly to get the most professional results.

100% Cotton or Linen Shirt (a typical Men’s Button-Down): Cotton mercerized thread [size 50]
Cotton/Poly Blend Shirt: Cotton/Poly thread [size 50]
Rayon or Stretchy Shirt; Knit Shirt: Polyester thread [size 50]
Lightweight Silk Shirt: Silk Thread [size A]
*Use the right needle for the fabric.
Usually I’ll specify the type of machine needle needed in my instructions, but in case you’re using a different type of shirt than what the instructions call for, match your needle accordingly.  Needle for knits = used for any knitted fabric.  Needle for wovens = used for any woven fabric.  Even if your woven fabric has a bit of stretch to it (like a cotton/rayon blend, let’s say), still use a needle for wovens.  If you’re unsure how to tell the difference between a woven fabric and a knit fabric, check out this easy explanation here.  And learn how to choose the right size needle here.
img source

*Replicate the stitching in the shirt by practicing first.
Alot of my instructions for re-fashioning men’s shirts call for visible stitching, topstitching, hems, etc.  To make sure the stitches you are adding to the shirt match those that are already there, practice on a piece of scrap fabric that’s similar in fiber content to the shirt.  Adjust the thread tension and stitch length until your row of straight stitches looks exactly the same as the topstitching in the shirt.  And don’t adjust your stitching beyond that – just leave your machine on that setting for the entire project.

And there you go!  Hope that’s a bit of help – and just by following these simple rules on selecting and sewing shirts, you should have no problem creating a finished piece that rivals any ready-to-wear!

If anyone has any further questions on issues I didn’t cover, please leave them below in the comments section!
Leave Comment

Pin It on Pinterest