I love brads. They're so easy. They're perfect for attaching flowers, vellum, ribbon or transparencies to a layout without adhesive. They come in all different sizes, and they're the perfect embellishment to fill up a space that needs a little "something." So it's no wonder I was intrigued when I heard about the itop by Imaginisce. Imagine a tool that helps you create your own custom brads to match any project! Cool, huh?
Let's take a look at the itop and see what it can do:
How Does It Work?
Without any instruction, this contraption might look a little intimidating, but in this case looks are deceiving. After one quick video tutorial I was ready to jump in and give it a try. In fact, I'd seen several videos online by the time I received my itop, so the included instructional DVD was all review for me.
Check ‘em out! - itop Video Tutorials
In short, the tool uses a combination of swivel-head mechanisms to squeeze together two brad pieces called a "Brad Daddy Shell" and "Brad Daddy Base." There are three sizes of Metal Heads which can create three sizes of brads - small, medium and large (the largest metal heads being a separate purchase from the basic tool).
Once you have the concept and procedure down, it's a cinch -- quite literally!
The Brad Daddy Shells and Bases are sold together by size, but separately from the itop tool itself. You can use templates to trace and cut the toppers for the brads, or you can buy special punches that quickly create the perfect-sized toppers. To keep it all contained, they offer the super-cute itop storage tote.
- itop Tool - $29.99
- Large Brad Die Carriage - $4.99
- Templates (all three sizes included) - $2.99
- Punches - $10.99 to $16.99
- Brad Daddies (sets of 6 or 8) - $2.99
- Self-Adhesive & Die Cut Toppers - $5.99
- Storage Tote - $19.99
It's not at all unreasonably priced, especially the Brad Daddies at only $2.99 which you'd need to repurchase as you ran out. I'd like to see a starter kit available at a discount that includes all the basic tools and goodies in one big package, so beginners don't have to piece together all the different elements.
Being able to make my own brad topper with patterned paper is pretty cool, but I was curious what else I could top my brads with, so I conducted a little experiment and tried several different media:
- Cardstock - Cardstock toppers are so quick and easy when you use the punches. Because the paper is thicker, the end result can be slightly bulky and you will see pleats where the cardstock folds and wraps around the brad. One tip I read was to run your cardstock quickly under water or wipe it with a baby wipe to make it more pliable. That helps the paper wrap more smoothly around the Brad Daddy Shell. Cardstock-topped brads make a great decorating base for rub-ons and stickers.
- Patterned paper - This was definitely my favorite. The punches made getting the right sized topper easy, and the paper was easy to fold into the inside of the brad (and stayed put!) I preferred using small-pattern designs such as polka dots and stripes because I had a difficult time exactly centering specific images on the paper and the end result didn't look quite as polished as the small-patterned designs. These are such a cool instant coordinated embellishment with any paper line. Besides your standard patterned papers, try glittered, flocked or embossed patterned paper for a snazzy look.
- Fabric - I took the lazy-chic's approach and cut circles instead of tracing the flower-like shape with the templates. That seemed to work just fine. I found that it helped to put a glue dot on the Brad Daddy Shell so that the fabric would stay in place. Folding the edges into the shell was a little frustrating (since fabric likes to move around), but if you place the Brad Daddy Base into the shell (instead of the hole on the other metal head), it helps ensure that all the fabric edges are tucked in correctly. The end result is ultra-cute! I loved using patterned fabrics, soft baby blanket fabrics and even felt. All of them looked great and add the coolest texture to your project.
- Photos - Photos are a very fun way to decorate brads and have all kinds of layout-embellishing potential! I took the company's advice and printed my color photos onto computer paper rather than using the original photo prints. The thinner paper wraps much better with the itop than thick photo papers which can look bulky and crumpled. I found that a laser-printed image or professional color copy on glossy paper has a more polished look than an ink-jet image. It looks so fabulous!
- Newspaper - Newspaper or antique book paper is a great brad topper. Since it's a thin paper, it wraps really well around the brad giving you a smooth finish. You just need to be careful that it doesn't tear when you're tucking the edges into the shell. I used a photo from the sports section, but words in an article would be very cool too. This would be so cute on layouts about school, books, reading or anything "scholastic!"
- Ribbon - Satin and grosgrain ribbon both offer such neat sheen and texture. Be sure the ribbon is wide enough to completely wrap around the brad daddy shell. I used a striped ribbon, which gave it yet another interesting touch.
- Stickers - What I liked the most about stickers as brad toppers was that you could place them on the Brad Daddy Shell exactly where you wanted them. Since I had trouble centering images from patterned papers, this worked great for me. You just have to find a sticker large enough to wrap around the whole shell.
- Layers - One layer looks great, but how about two? Tulle, lace and die cut patterned paper (think KI Memories lace-cut papers) look great as a top layer over patterned paper, cardstock or fabric. I loved the subtle sheen of a patterned paper design with shiny green tulle over the top.
Those are just the media I tried, but the possibilities go on and on:
- candy wrappers
- notebook paper
- clothing labels
- stamped images on paper
- gems, rub-ons, stickers or glitter
The itop is a great tool to make your very own custom-designed brads. It's easy to use and has unlimited design potential. I can't wait to see how you "top" your brads!