Today I'm reviewing a tool that's not new, but it was new to me. It's the i-top button and brad maker by Imaginisce. I'd debated a long time before buying it and I finally did. Here's the tool, along with the medium-sized punch you can buy that goes along with the tool. The punch allows you to punch out the proper size of paper that's going to wrap around your metal "topper." The toppers are all the same style, but you can buy different bases so you can turn your creation into a brad or a snap or a pin, etc., depending on what base you press onto the back.
I started by using the punch to cut out a piece of medium-weight patterned paper. The punch worked great!
So far so good! Uh....and then I had to load all the components into the squeeze tool. Now maybe I'm just not the sharpest tool in the shed, but even though I was an English major, I had to read the directions five or six times and still didn't get what I was supposed to do next. I ended up looking at the pictures that were included with the tool and on the back of the brad package to finally figure it out. Thank goodness for pictures and video tutorials!
I loaded my elements in the right order and gave it a squeeze.
The tool presses the metal topper into the paper and all those paper tabs start to wrap around it. Sort of. You still have to manually "tuck down" all the tabs before you go further. So here's how it looked once I started to fold down all the paper tabs around the topper:
After you have your paper tabs pressed down, you put your base in the tool and squeeze it again. The base is pressed into the topper, which also seals your paper in place. Wah-la! Here's my brad coming out of the tool:
Here's how my finished product looks. Hmmmmmm....
Nice, but a little bumpy around the edges. Maybe I was not patient or meticulous enough when folding down my paper tabs, but I tried it several times and still got some unsightly wrinkles around the edge of my brad. I suspect a lighter-weight paper might work better, although the paper I used wasn't even cardstock-weight.
Be that as it may, the tool really is pretty cool in terms of design, so I decided to see if I had any better luck using fabric instead of paper. I took a scrap of fabric and compared it to the size of the tabbed circle I'd punched out for the paper brads. Eyeballing my fabric, I just cut my scrap into a similar-sized circle. I didn't worry about tabs because fabric is more pliable than paper and I figured I didn't need them.
I loaded my rough-cut fabric circle into the machine and squeezed it just like I would for paper. It was nice to not have to worry about folding down paper flaps. I just sort of made sure that all parts of the fabric circle were tucked in and then I added the brad base and gave it another squeeze.
Here's how my fabric-covered brad turned out:
Isn't that nice?? So smooth! In my opinion, it looks way better than the paper brad I made. And it was easier, too, since I didn't have to punch out a paper shape and fold in all the tabs.
Bottom line advice: if this tool only made paper brads or buttons, I would say to hold off unless you are really an expert at paper-tab folding or doing whatever I DIDN'T do. But if you like fabric brads, buttons or pins, I think this tool works great. If you're only going to use the tool with fabric, don't waste your money on the punch (which wouldn't work on fabric anyway and isn't needed). You can buy i-top traceable plastic templates and that would give you an estimate for how big you'd need to cut your fabric circle. Or just experiment until you get the right size of circle and save that as your own template. No tabs, no folding, just a bit of tucking to make sure your fabric will be contained when you smash the back to the front.
Other notes: The tool makes both medium and small sizes of brads. If you want to make large brads, you have to buy a separate attachment. I couldn't find instructions on how to change the medium to the small heads on the tool, but you just pull them up, then rotate them 90 degrees, then set them back down. It's similar to how the Crop-A-Dile lets you flip the different head attachments around.
Lastly, this may be a no-brainer, but when using paper, remember that this tool won't make shiny epoxy-looking brads that you may be used to seeing. It really does just look like whatever paper you chose. It won't magically turn into a fancier brad. You'd have to paint the paper brad with Glossy Accents or some other substance if you wanted it to have that epoxy look.
The i-top retails for $39.99 at Michaels and the packages of toppers with bases will run about $3.99 for 8 medium brads or 10 small brads.
I know there are tons of you out there who probably have better advice on how to use it and know tricks that I don't know, but I give this tool about a C for paper brads and an A+ for fabric brads.