How to Make Sequins & Spangles
A while back, I was planning for making example skating dresses for my booths at upcoming competitions.
Generally speaking, I do my samples as “sample size” - generally an Adult XS.
Not the most diverse, but hey - old fashion industry habits die hard!
This time around, I was planning to add some larger adult dresses, as well as a couple teeny, tiny child dresses.
I thought back to the smallest dress I’d ever made - a white velvet one with tiny Leg-Of-Mutton sleeves, a petal skirt, heart-shaped mesh cutaways, and more.
I figured it would be fun to remake it as a sample dress... 30 years after I made it. It was a cute dress, so why not?
I ordered the materials, made the pattern, and was good to go - ALMOST.
... I ran into a big problem with finding the kind of sequins I had used, the first time around!
I’m not a person who uses sequins often - it’s probably been 20 years since I have? - so I was admittedly out of the loop...
... but something had changed in the couple of decades since I last shopped for sequins.
What Are Sequins?
First off a bit of info for those not “in the know”.
Sequins are little bits of metallic-finish plastic that are sewn (or glued) onto clothing or accessories to give it a bit of shine.
Before crystals became the default form of bling for skating and dance costumes, sequins were ALL OVER the place. They were usually hand-sewn, accompanied by seed beads.
It used to be that you could find walls of them at any craft store, and - usually - at specialty skating or dance supply stores.
The most popular form were small, round, faceted sequins with a hole in the center, which came in a few different sizes, and a wide variety of colours.
Sequins also came in a wide variety of shapes, usually with the holes punched near the edge, rather than the middle.
You’d see long, unfaceted rounds... Teardrop shapes, leaves, these long, skinny “comma” looking ones, and more.
These days, I mainly only see sequins in sequined fabric... usually the colour-change kind.
You know, where you brush you hand over part of it, the sequins flip, and you have a streak of a contrasting colour now revealed?
A Note on Nomenclature
Remember the whole “Crystal with a crystal crystal crystal” thing on my “Everything You Need to Know about Rhinestones” post?
The same sort of thing kind of applies here, too!
While I have always purchased what I’m looking for as “sequins” - the sections and labels they were sold in and under - there are actually various naming conventions that apply.
To some purists, “sequins” applies only to the faceted round style, and/or only the ones that have the hole in the center.
“Paillettes” would specifically refer to the larger, non-faceted variety of these decorations.
“Spangles” would refer to any such item where the hole was located near the edge, rather than the center.
However, I have never seen “sequins”, “paillettes”, and “spangles” separated out in any store, or even labeled differently.
So, for the purposes of this post, we’re going with the general, relatively generic term I’ve always known - sequins.
The Great Sequin Search of 2019
While I knew that crystals had replaced sequins as the bling of choice for skaters and dance, I guess I hadn’t followed that thought through.
I was shocked to find that - beyond a few colours of the small, faceted rounds - sequins were incredibly hard to find!
... this was pretty inconvenient, as I had a very specific cut of sequin in mind. (An elongated, pointed shape with symmetry on both axes)
I went to the local craft chains, my favourite spandex supply shop, and more.
There’s even a dance supply shop in the local fashion district ... didn’t even have luck there.
This was disappointing, as they actually had a huge display of sequins - in every colour you could think of - but basically just the rounds.
After a search online, I was left frustrated - it seemed that the style of sequin I wanted just.. Wasn’t a thing anymore!
... Never get in the way of an autistic with an idea, though!
How to Make Sequins
I decided that if I couldn’t buy them, obviously I was just going to have to make them. I wandered the aisles of the closes craft supply shop, looking for materials I could use.
After some experimentation, I came up with the materials and techniques that made the most sense for the shape and style I was planning to use - your mileage may vary, of course!
Metallic / Foil Heat Transfer Vinyl
This comes in a wide variety of colours, and is what makes the mirrored, shiny side of the spangles.
I bought mine at the local Michael’s, but I see there’s a HUGE selection on Amazon, here: Metallic Heat Transfer Vinyl.
Glitter Heat Transfer Vinyl
Much like with the metallic HTV, this comes in a wide variety of colours - it was easy to find a good match for the metallic HTV I’d purchased.
I’d originally purchased a roll of this as a “Maybe glitter spangles would be fun?” sort of option, but after playing around with it, I found it to be a requirement.
I’m not someone who’s ever used HTV before, so maybe there’s a known reason or workaround for it, but I found that the metallic HTV didn’t “stick” very well to itself.
Bonding the metallic HTV to the glitter HTV not only gave a much better bond, but I also preferred the stability of it.
Your mileage may vary, so I definitely recommend testing whatever metallic HTV you have to see if it will bond to itself!
As with the metallic, I bought my glitter HTV at Michaels, but see that Amazon also has a huge selection, here: Glitter Heat Transfer Vinyl
You’ll want an iron that has a non-steam setting, as well as an ironing board or other flat, heat-safe surface.
I use just a super basic Black and Decker Iron that I bought at Walmart a few years ago.
It was whatever was cheapest - I don’t iron often! - so you really don’t need anything fancy!
You’ll be cutting through multiple layers of vinyl, so probably best to not use your sewing scissors.
The spring-loaded feature is easy on my hands, and if I do grab the wrong pair to use on a project like this, they’re easily sharpened.
At the very least, you’ll want a very small-hole hole punch, for making the holes in the sequins. The one I use is a 1/16" Hole punch.
If you’d like to make basic round sequins, you’ll want a larger hole punch for that (larger than normal hole punches!). The one I use is a 5/16" hole punch.
These were both parts of a 3 pack of Darice hole punches that I bought a few years ago, it looks like that particular set is no longer available.
While I just cut my shapes out with scissors, the shape you’re looking to make will influence whether or not you can do the same.
DIY Sequins Technique
1. Decide how big of a sheet you’d like. A little goes a long way, and it’s easy enough to make more later, if you underestimate it!
2. Cut a piece that size out of both the metallic and the glitter Heat Transfer Vinyl.
3. Position the pieces of heat transfer vinyl together, shiny / glitter sides facing out.
4. Following the directions on your HTV, iron the pieces together.
For this brand, that meant having the iron on the “Cotton” setting - no steam - and pressing down for 10 seconds, but the brand you use may vary from this.
5. Allow your sheet to cool fully, on a flat surface.
If there’s a curl to it at all, set something flat and heavy on top of it, while it’s still hot.
6. Peel the plastic sheet off the glitter side, if you’d like.
Leaving it on gives more stability, and can protect the underlying garment from snagging on the glitter (if it’s something fragile like chiffon).
Peeling it off gives it a more flexible structure and more sparkle.
For Larger Sequins
1. Once sequin sheet is fully cooled, use scissors, a large punch, or a cricut machine to cut your sequin/spangle shapes from it.
2. Use the 1/16" hole punch to carefully punch holes in your sequins in the desired location.
3. And you’re done!
For Smaller Sequins
1. Once the sequin sheet is fully cooled, use your 1/16" hole punch to punch the center holes in the sheet.
Be sure to leave room to accommodate 2x the radius of the sequin in between each punch.
2. Position your larger / shaped punch over the small holes you’ve punched, aiming such that the small hole will be in the desired spot of the finished sequin.
3. Punch your shapes out.
One Final Note
Once I had gone through all of this and was super satisfied with my results, someone told me that the Darice company had a product called “Dream Sequins”.
It’s a double-sided, shiny metallic paper that you can use to cut your own sequins, much in the same way I use my bonded HTV.
... However, it looks like the product was discontinued a few years ago.
I see it’s still possible to get the odd package, out in the wild (Etsy or Ebay), so that may be an option for some. The selection is - understandably! - limited, though.
Share the Love!
Well, the published nonsense, anyway!
How to Make Sequins & Spangles
- 1 16" Hole Punch
- Metallic / Foil Heat Transfer Vinyl
- Glitter Heat Transfer Vinyl
- Decide how big of a sheet you’d like. A little goes a long way, and it’s easy enough to make more later, if you underestimate it!
- Cut a piece that size out of both the metallic and the glitter Heat Transfer Vinyl.
- Position the pieces of heat transfer vinyl together, shiny / glitter sides facing out.
- Following the directions on your HTV, iron the pieces together.
- For this brand, that meant having the iron on the “Cotton” setting - no steam - and pressing down for 10 seconds, but the brand you use may vary from this.
- Allow your sheet to cool fully, on a flat surface.
- If there’s a curl to it at all, set something flat and heavy on top of it, while it’s still hot.
- Peel the plastic sheet off the glitter side, if you’d like.
- Leaving it on gives more stability, and can protect the underlying garment from snagging on the glitter (if it’s something fragile like chiffon).
- Peeling it off gives it a more flexible structure, and more sparkle.
For Larger Sequins
- Once sequin sheet is fully cooled, use scissors, a large punch, or a cricut machine to cut your sequin / spangle shapes from it.
- Use the 1/16" hole punch to carefully punch holes in your sequins in the desired location.
- And you’re done!
For Smaller Sequins
- Once the sequin sheet is fully cooled, use your 1/16" hole punch to punch the center holes in the sheet.
- Be sure to leave room to accommodate 2x the radius of the sequin in between each punch.
- Position your larger / shaped punch over the small holes you’ve punched, aiming such that the small hole will be in the desired spot of the finished sequin.
- Punch your shapes out.