"The Complete Photo Guide to Felting" - Felting Fridays Book Review

Since I did a book review on something that I thought would be excellent for beginners, I wanted to follow up with a book that I think anyone who is serious about felting should own - that being The Complete Photo Guide to Felting by Ruth Lane (ISBN: 978-1-58923-698-1). Before I continue, I will say that while extremely informative, I do think that it is poorly organized. The table of contents is very minimal and not very helpful with locating the section you need, though at least there is an index. Despite all that, I think you can just get those tabs you can write on to mark the sections you may reference more often. Because you will be referencing this a lot.

If you wanted to know:

  • About various types of wool as well as exotics, how they perform both in wet felting and needle felting tests...
  • About processing wool in its raw state (including using hand carders)...
  • About various methods for dyeing wool...
  • About the math in figuring out the shrinkage rate...
  • About various techniques for both wet (including nuno) and needle felting (2D and 3D)...
  • About using an embellisher (needle felting machine)...

You will want this book. I'm serious. There are over 800 photos in the book (I didn't count but I'll take the cover's word for it), and honestly there is so much information, a bunch of different ways of felting that you can try all of them and see what works for you and what doesn't. Actually that was a bit overwhelming at first, because I would get a bit ADD and read and reread the steps and get confused. So try to follow one of the methods at a time. Of course, if you're really interested in dyeing wool, I would recommend researching other books that deal with that specifically in addition to this one since there's a bit more that goes into that (Youtube also helps). However, if you've gone couponing and ended up with way more Kool-Aid than you ever intend on drinking, the book does show you how to dye your wool with it. 

Personally, my favorite (most referenced) sections in the book have to do with the different fiber tests. I wish they kept the wet and needle felted fiber tests together (this is what I mean by poorly organized), since if you've ever done both you know they perform differently, so I have to flip back and forth between sections to get to the one I need. No details were spared, and, for example with needle felting, you get how long it took to felt a particular fiber (and the needle used) into an egg shape, plus a description of the feel of the shape after felting. The section with wet felted swatches also includes information about the shrinkage rate for each fiber, and suggestions for application (clothing vs other items). 

This book doesn't really get into projects. It's really just a huge guide you can reference when you need to look something up. That doesn't mean there aren't project guides. It's more like, instead of making a very specific item, it shows you the steps you can take to make something similar, like dolls, and using armature, and making realistic faces with a great explanation on the shape of faces and proportions. It's not just "OK, now you're going to make an eyelid." It's a whole paragraph on eyes and how the eyelids cast shadows and how to determine the width of the face in proportion to the size of the eyes. I seriously can't think of a single thing left out of the book. Oh, and get this: there's even a section on background fabrics for 2D felting. I just found this while working on this review (I wasn't kidding about the layout leaving much to be desired). I think I may be trying felting on flannel next.

If that's not enough, in addition to the inspiration scattered throughout the book, there's a 12 page gallery towards the back AND a decent glossary following that in case something you read leaves you scratching your head. Another thing I like about the book is, despite only having one author listed, quite a few felting artists contributed to the making of the book, including Patti McAleenan's contributions to the needle felting section (she's the owner of Dream Felt)!

You will likely find that you probably don't actually need any other books after you get this one. I know I didn't, and the only reason I started collecting others was either they were received as gifts, or I wanted additional inspiration from projects, or maybe something a bit more specific. So, what are you waiting for?