Sunday, April 17, 2016

Product Review of The Beadery's New Plastic POP TABS

Being an avid upcycler, most of my projects are made with everyday items and material headed for the trash bin.  Because of this, I don't get the opportunity to do reviews for new products.  But, because of its crossing of crafting boundaries, today I get to discuss a new product for a change!

Can tabs have become very popular in the crafting world.  With their flat two-holed shape, they allow for more possibilities than traditional beads are incapable of with just one hole.  Because of this, I'm seeing more and more readymade can tab items available in online stores.  Some people are even offering conveniently cleaned and sorted bags of tabs for purchase on sites like Etsy.

And, now you can even find a new plastic version on the market called "Pop Tabs".  I mentioned in my last post, I received a generously large box of these plastic pop tabs  in the mail.  They are small flat colorful plastic bits that resemble the tabs we open our soda/beer cans with.  But, being non functional as an opener, I will admit it does seem a strange thing to buy/use imitation can tabs created expressly for crafting.  (They do appear to go against my trash to treasure philosophy.)  You may be asking yourself who would ever want to buy imitation tabs, right?  I thought it would be fun to devote a post to my perspective on these little wonders.

Besides the issues of consuming unhealthy amounts of soda or beer to collect enough tabs to make something, there are also concerns with the safety and sanitary nature of sharp metal tabs and can parts possibly cutting or scratching younger kids.  These are designed as an option for those who want the versatility of crafting with tabs, without the commitment and hassles associated with getting, cleaning and preparing them.  I believe they are intended as an option for younger children, and amateur crafters looking for try their hand at a new hobby.  For this reason, I will be reviewing these as a new design for a plastic crafting component or bead, and not as a replacement for upcycling what we already have.  (No, I won't be giving up my aluminum tabs any time soon.)  :)

First, lets introduce the company responsible for these plastic tabs.  These are manufactured by The Beadery, a company whose products I have frequently encountered and gladly reused on a regular basis for many years.  Our family has enjoyed using The Beadery's inexpensive large-eyed Pony Beads and other colorful and creative bead components since I can remember.  You may have spotted some Pony Beads in my past projects like my tribal headress hair falls above.  I've used some of their smaller beads on my "fiendship" pins for my witch BOO'ts below.  My dad, like many other fishermen, has also been using The Beadery's faceted and brightly colored beads in his fishing gear for years, as well.  From school projects to Christmas ornaments and from animal shapes to alphabet beads, you have to admit they have some lovely creativity-inspiring products for kids of all ages at inexpensive prices.

Here is their Spaghetti Beads being used along with Bic pen lids to make bullets for a steampunk hat.  One big reason I use their products so often, is that like Legos (We do love us some Legos!), we can't resist picking up these things when I spot them at thrift stores and flea markets.  They are endlessly reusable and are made durable to last.  I've even purchased their tiny Wonder Loom rubberbands to assemble my adjustable knitting looms.

Their products are clever, fun, well made and inexpensive.  So, I was kinda pleased to discover this new rather unusual tab-shaped bead design was made by them.  And, given this opportunity, why not put these tabs to the test.  How will they stack up to regular tabs?  Let's find out!


Pros - At $2.99 for 150 pieces retail, they seem extremely reasonable as bead prices go, especially for a product manufactured in the U.S.A. and comparable to what some would pay for anodized colored tabs.  Get yourself a craft store coupon, and they're practically cheaper than buying regular aluminum tabs if you're inclined to do so.   I believe the company also offers them directly at bulk discount, too.

Cons - Averaging 500+ tabs for my own projects, I'm gonna need a bigger bag!  :)  But, I'm lucky enough to get a great portion of my aluminum tabs for next to nothing from friends and the local recycler.  So, I don't think these would be practical for me to make larger projects solely of these.  However, if you don't have access to a unlimited supply of tabs, these could be an option to help complete a larger project faster.  They would work nicely mixed with the regular aluminum variety.


These tabs come in five different mixes (shown below), so far. Black/White, Neon, Pastel (Candy), Camo, and Silver

Pros - I do like the idea of adding more color to my work.  This is a BIGGEST plus.  I've been working on a few ways to add more color besides with the weaving material.  But, they all prove to be pretty labor intensive and some tend to be susceptible to scratching.  These tabs will provide endless possibilities for patterns and color combinations with less work.  Being plastic, there's also no worry of most chemicals doing any harm to the tabs.  No tarnishing, oxidizing, pitting or grayish residue to worry about.  And, knowing the quality of their other products well, these colors won't rub off or fade easily over time.  You may even be able to paint these.  I've yet to try it.

One really cool thing is that most of the neon tabs and a few other tabs are actually UV reactive and glow under black lights!  The orange and pink are very bright, as well as the yellow, green and a slight pink glow on the purple!  How fun is that?!  I tried to capture a pic of the glowing colors, but the camera was having some difficulty capturing it

Cons - Though the multi-colored mixes in the bags are a useful touch for smaller projects, it does make it difficult to know if you have enough of a particular color you need for a given project. From my color sorting, I'm pretty sure they don't set equal number of each color in each bag.   It would be nice to have the options to just buy one color as with the silver, which I'm not sure is needed in a bag all it's own.  It was the least exciting color, for me.  I realize these are new, but it would be more convenient to have more colors in individual bags. Personally, I would like to have seen a red color and maybe some darker jewel tones and muted colors.  I wouldn't be opposed to transparent, Glow-in-the-Dark, glitter, or more pearl/metallic colors other than gray.  I'm hoping they will eventually color coordinate with the pony beads for more options.


Pros - These are very close in shape and size to the metal counterpart.  So, measuring projects will pretty much be the same.  Most patterns created for regular tabs should work.

Cons - These tabs are a slightly thicker than regular tabs.  The tabs won't lay overlapped together as flatly.  The increased thickness isn't too much of an issue for most projects.  However, due to the squared corner design at the top of the tabs, the tabs become a little noticeably crooked working around curves.  This, paired with the thickness, can limit the shaping achieved on tighter shapes.  Again, it's a little disappointing, but not a killer.  I was a tad sad that the Pony beads don't fit as nicely in the holes of the tab as I would have liked. This would have been very useful.  (But, by happy accident, they may actually be useful together as a closure.  I may post about this discovery on a future post.)  I also wish there were varying sizes/shapes.  Maybe a version with a longer more rounded bottom portion, perhaps something of a hybrid between tabs and chain maille scales.  This would be great for a more scale-like pattern.  There is just so many ways that they could go and improve upon with this initial shape.


Pros - These little things are pretty strong.  Probably significantly more so than the metal tabs.  Though I need to do more testing, they do not bend easily and do hold up well to stress.  I don't see cutting/joining them as a problem, either.  Though, I'm not sure how they will endure repeated stress yet, I was able to bend one without it breaking.  It held it's bent shape well, too.

Cons - I hear a bit of a ominous creaky sound when the tabs rub in tighter weaving.  This just seems to be friction on the plastic. Regular tabs are pretty soundless compared.  Also, these plastic tabs turns white where stressed or bent.  I suppose they could be heated and bent to shape without the color change, but that is a little more tedious.  But, the extra effort to bend tabs could be a concern for tab-maille artists.


Pros - They are wonderfully snag free.  You can use longer weaving material without worry it will chew it up.  They are great for working with many materials such as t-shirt, fleece, shoelace, paracord or grosgrain ribbon.

Cons - I do find the smoothness of the tab a slight negative when working for a rigid project with thinner slipperier weaving material like satin ribbon.  They do not grab on to the fabric, so it is more difficult to get and keep a tight weave.  However, I feel this may just require some getting used to.


Pros - This product is labeled "Made in the USA", which is good in that it didn't have to travel far to make it to us here in the states.  And, from what I understand the US is supposed to holds companies to higher pollution standard than other countries might.  Knowing the quality in their other products, these are reusable endlessly and should hopefully endure generations of crafting enjoyment provided they don't end up in landfills.  For it's strength and other properties, The Beadery has chosen to produce these in styrene plastic.  And, they do say they reuse their own scrap plastics, which is good.

Cons - Recycling is the kicker that could possibly make or break this product for some.  And, this is the biggest negative for me in this day of excess plastic waste and pollution.  Though it does not produce toxic gases or bi-products when melted and recycled (aside from possibly contributing to global warming when burnt), Styrene is difficult to recycle due to collection problems. It makes up a good portion of the debris littering our oceans in it's Styrofoam form and is said not to biodegrade for hundreds of years.  It would be wonderful to hear an effort being made to maybe try to make them exclusively, or at least from a majority, of recycled plastic.  Ideally, I would be very happy to see a specially labeled recycled version, even if it is only possible in certain colors and higher price point.  I will also note that there is no recycle mark on the individual tabs for identification.


My overall opinion is that I would recommend these to their intended market of kids and amateur crafting hobbyists and to those who want a little color in their can tab crafts, possibly even to cosplayers looking for lightweight imitation armor options that are paintable.  I would consider them the same as I do other plastic crafting component, bead or toy, to be used responsibly by those who purchase them and donated when no longer needed.  The shape is versatile and will work great with other beads and crafting supplies they already use to create really imaginative things.  I think the plastic tabs are definitely suitable for schools and other places kids do art projects as another convenient crafting component to be used...and reused... in conjunction with other related products.  They have the potential to be a fun learning toy.  If I found these 2nd hand, you bet I would gladly add them to my craft stash.  And, hopefully those who stumble on these plastic tabs in stores and see advertising of what is possible with them, will maybe...just maybe...realize the usefulness and potential of their metal cousins which they take for granted and probably toss out everyday with little thought.

Thank you, Lori, for giving me the opportunity to try these tabs.  They are great fun!  I hope to work up some simple designs that will work with them in the future.  And, I wish The Beadery the best of success with their new product.  I look forward to seeing where they take them.