Scrapbook Totes: Reviewed
I remember when all of my supplies could fit in a Cropper Hopper XL, the big boy of scrapbook totes at that time. For many people this is still true. They have been able to do what I haven't and they can put all of their supplies in one organized space.
For many of us this just isn't the case any longer. We now use our totes to store and transport items for crops and weekend scrapping events. The purpose of this article is to review the totes available today, and to describe how they function for the purposes of transporting materials to a crop.
I'll discuss size, quality, storage capacity, specialty features, and product specifications such as materials and construction. I'll also get into the nitty-gritty of function, appearance, and cost.
Ultimately choosing a scrapbook tote is a lot like choosing a car. We will all like something different. That being said, we can all agree that none of us wants to be the sucker who goes home with the lemon! I hope this article can help you decide what is the best tote out there for you. It's a sizeable monetary investment, and you want a tote that will live up to your expectations.
The first brand I would like to discuss is created by the Therm O Web Company. The Mimi Totes are by far the most fashion-forward set of totes, in my opinion. They come in Basic Black, Kiwi & Chocolate, Lilac & Chocolate, and Pink & Chocolate. Contrasting piping and stitching, as well as quality luggage-style handles gives these totes the look of high-end luggage rather than that of a craft tote.
The Mimi Collection has multiple coordinating pieces, such as their Essential Tool Tote, Embellishment Tote, Medium and Large Scrap Totes. The Kiwi & Chocolate totes are crafted from water-resistant micro suede. The other colors are crafted from 600 denier weight, water-resistant material. Both materials are very nice looking; however, I find the suede stained more easily. The material that the larger totes are crafted from is easier to wash and keep looking new.
I really like the combination of clear and stretchy mesh pockets for holding supplies, and most of the pieces come with a removable photo organizer, which I think is a fantastic bonus. Their largest tote is 17"x14"x20" in size. Their medium tote is 17"x10"x20". Each tote is lightweight, and both the wheels and telescoping handle are very nice quality. The medium tote will cost around $99.00 and the larger piece sells for an average of $135.00. This is a slightly higher cost than some of the bags out there, but the quality and fashion-forward nature of the bags makes this a good deal in my book.
What I don't care for is the way that the front pocket opens downward in the Medium and Large Scrap Totes. If this tote is on the ground, which it most likely is once it's full of supplies, then you essentially are opening up the front flap to the floor to get at the supplies inside. Luckily the material is easy to clean if the ground is dirty, but it would be handy to have supports or straps that keep the flap off the ground, similar to other totes reviewed in this article.
One feature I adore about the Mimi Totes is that they are collapsible! When not in use this tote can be folded down on itself and only takes up half the space it would normally. It is quite the space saver for those of us with limited room to stash our supplies.
Crop In Style
Crop In Style may be the most well-known name when we talk about scrapbook totes. They are one of the first manufacturers of this type of portable scrapbook storage, and they remain an industry leader. With sizes ranging from their Crop In Style Jr. (selling for around $35.00) to their big boy, the Crop In Style XXL tote [K5] (selling for approximately $129.00), there is a bag to fit nearly any scrapper's needs and budget.
What I don't care for with the Crop In Style brand is that they are so plain-looking. For some this won't be a deciding factor, but for others it will be the thing that helps them decide between two items. The Crop In Style bag has a ton of storage space, especially if you travel with albums, and is exceptionally well made.
The XXL is very heavy when full, so portability may be a problem with this model. You may require an extra set of hands when lifting a full XXL into/out of your vehicle, for example. The overall dimensions on this tote are 20"x20"x16", making this by far the largest of the totes on the market.
I personally prefer the Crop In Style Navigator, the little brother to the big bad XXL. This smaller version is 20"x19"x12" and costs $99.00 on average. Its well-organized pockets make finding what you want quite easy. The black material is easy to clean and very durable. The stackable lid is flat, so you can easily store another tote, a paper taker, or a small basket on top without worrying it will fall off.
Fiskars got into the tote bag business as well. Their Ultimate Rolling Organizer Tote is quite large. Tons of pockets and the integrated pen and paper organizer on the lid made this tote really functional, in my opinion.
Another bonus for this large tote was the pivoting wheel system. Once full, many totes are just plain hard to move. The Fiskars tote was remarkably mobile once full.
While this was the most expensive tote I looked at, priced between $155.00 - $177.00, I have to say that it really was one of the best thought-out totes. The small straps that keep the front and side panels from falling to the floor are a simple design element that make a big difference. Large pockets for oversized punches or other tools are a bonus that isn't seen in many of the other totes.
The material is not terribly hip, but it's a nice shade of blue with black detailing. It has a nice feel to it as well. The telescoping handle was very good quality and not at all wobbly.
Overall I think you'll get what you paid for with this tote, with tons of storage space and quality construction.
All My Memories
A relative newcomer to the scrapbook tote industry is All My Memories. These adorable little hand-held totes are perfect companion pieces for any larger bag you might be using to take your supplies with you.
The pull-out tray on the bottom of the bag is great for small stamp sets, or odd-shaped items that may not fit in the pockets.
Adorable colors such as this Caribbean Blue or Raspberry Pink make these little totes very fun, as well as functional. They won't take the place of a larger tote in terms of storage capabilities, but as companion pieces they are well-made, fun, and easy to pack for a quick grab-and-go situation. I like to keep mine full of card-making goodies so that if I decide last minute to attend a crop I can simply take my Tote-ally Cool! On-the-Go Craft Bag and head out the door. The average price for this item is $34.00 and they are sold in online retail locations as well as individually-owned scrapbook stores and larger chain stores.
The Croppin' Commuter Tote is another bag for those of you who are looking for something on the smaller side. This tote comes in Black, Pink, Purple, or Blue . It was created to hold their Croppin' Companion Binder and Folders, as well as an album and a few supplies.
I do like that this bag is large enough to hold a 12-inch trimmer; however I'm not crazy for the colors or material used to create the bag.
Priced under $40.00 this piece is a decent bag if you want something on the smaller side. Features such as the shoulder pad and the stretchy pockets on the side of the bag are nice extras.
Karen Foster Designs
Another smaller-sized companion bag that I looked at is created by Karen Foster Designs. I'm especially fond of the Lavender & Black combination .
The Karen Foster Carry-Alls bag is great for holding supplies, as well as 12" x 12" papers. It's roomy and well-organized. The washable material doesn't feel as thick as some of the other bags, but it does seem to clean up really nicely.
With both a shoulder strap and a handle, you can easily carry this tote around or place it on top of your other tote when traveling. I did notice that this tote didn't stand up very well on its own once full. It had a tendency to tip forward when I filled it up.
This tote is also priced under $40.00, and it seems as though it's a good price for a companion tote to a larger bag.
A Few Conclusions
In all I chose the Crop In Style Jr. as the small tote that was the best deal. It holds more supplies, has more room along the exterior walls for pens and tools, and it was not only sturdy but it stood up on its own once full. I was able to fit nearly twice as much in the Crop In Style Jr. as I was in both the Karen Foster Carry-Alls and the Croppin' Companion. I just wish it came in more fashionable colors!
For the large totes, I think I would have to go with the Mimi Large Scrapbook Tote. It's large, without being too unwieldy. It has lovely colors, fantastic construction, and the fact that it folds down is a big bonus in my book!
If you find yourself in the market for a new tote of any size my best suggestion is to take your time. Look at them in person before you buy. Try the handle, feel the fabric, fill it up and move it around the store. See if you can lift it and move it once full.
Really do your homework and find the tote that's best for you. I suggest you never buy a tote online that you haven't gotten your hands on personally. In the end you'll be happier with your purchase, and you'll get many years of use from your scrapbook tote.