I've been writing guides and tutorials for the past several months, and I realized that I hadn't provided any book reviews for you yet! Which is a bit silly since I have at least quite a few of them now and could definitely help to point you in the right direction depending on your needs. Today's book review is for "Wool Pets" by Laurie Sharp (ISBN-13: 978-1-58923-385-0, ISBN-10: 1-58923-385-9). I thought that for my first book review I'd start with a beginner book. In fact, if you have been felting for a while now, this book will likely not add anything to what you already know; however, if you have a friend you've been wanting to get hooked on felting, this book would make a great gift. Yes, I know we're done with the gift-giving celebrations, but there's always birthdays and just-because-you're-awesome-gifts and I'm-being-selfish-because-I-desperately-need-a-felting-buddy-gifts, right?
So let's get to the bones of the book. When picking out a book with felting projects, it's good to consider the author's style, and if that's a style that you want to emulate to some degree. Laurie's woolies appear to use a coarse wool and are definitely on the fuzzy side. I think this is actually a benefit since if you have projects that look perfectly smooth and so tightly felted you know the author spent quite a bit of time stabbing at it, it can be a bit overwhelming to someone new who is still trying to get the basic shapes down and is really just focused on it looking like the intended subject. And honestly, not everything that's felted has to be totally smooth! We all have our own styles. I guess my point is that the focus isn't as much on the finished piece as it is on learning the process.
And by process I really mean that. The amount of information that she provides on the tools and materials is really bare-bones, four pages total at best, before it jumps into the projects. That is not an issue, since there's plenty of information available to supplement that online (including my guides for example), but I thought it was worth mentioning that if you're looking for a thorough guide on all that there is to know about felting, you won't find it in the book. PS. I have a book for that which I'll recommend in a future book review. I did find it odd that she included wool combs in her picture for felting tools, since I can't say that I've met any felters who have used one, let alone ever seen them in stock in the shops here. Also, the pointers she provides in the book are not completely true, for example "Merino is not recommended for needle felting. The fibers are too fine and slippery." That is partially true. You don't want to use merino for your core wool. Ever. Unless you really like taking your time and spending more money than you need to since it's expensive. However, when it comes to adding color to your finished project, or 2d needle felting, merino is perfectly fine. In fact one of my favorite wool blends are Living Felt's merino cross-felting batts. She also mentions you can use upholstery foam, which is also not completely true. Never use upholstery foam that has been treated with fire retardants, so unless you're absolutely sure that the upholstery foam you purchased is free of these toxic chemicals, please avoid felting on it. That being said, let's get on with the bulk of the book.
Right before you get into the projects, Laurie provides some information on the basic techniques of needle felting, or really how to make the basic shapes that you'll need for the majority of the projects. If you've never tried needle felting, this is where you'll want to start. Grab some core wool and practice making the basic shapes. This way you'll be less frustrated when you're trying to follow along with your first project. She does introduce other techniques (such as wrapping around a wire armature for bird feet or around a skewer for small, thin shapes) once you get to the more difficult projects.
The book has 20 projects in total, starting with the easiest and progressing towards more difficult: Bug magnets (bumble bee and ladybug), penguin and chick (featured on the cover), butterfly pin, bunny, owl, goldfinch (and variations), turtle, bat, chicken and chick, hummingbird, clownfish, chipmunk, border collie, cat, frog, sheep, pink pig, giraffe, mermaid and gnome girl. Other than making the claws for the owl, none of these use an internal armature and are made purely from wool. Each project has a section at the top listing all the materials you'll need to finish that particular project, and the instructions are quite detailed with lots of photos to show every step of the way.
There is a tiny two-page gallery of some of the other things she's made, so other than that and the occasional variations included with the projects, I wouldn't say that this has a ton of inspiration beyond the projects themselves. There is a page at the end with a few resources for supplies, mostly in the states except for one located in Denmark.
I personally didn't find the instructions confusing, and readers on Amazon gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. While I think that intermediate and advanced needle felters will find this book to be too simple, I do think it's a great book for beginners.