I'm a bit surprised with myself for not having done a book review for Woolbuddies yet and shared this wonderful book with you all! As you may know, I don't really buy project-based books for needle felting. I do sometimes for wet felting since that is not my forte, but I had to make an exception for Jackie Huang's book since his little creatures are absolutely adorable. Yes, I said his. That's another thing that's really cool about this, since needle felting, and crafts in general (except for things like woodworking) are mostly seen as feminine. I don't know about you, but I love when people do what they love regardless of whether or not society perceives it as being too masculine or feminine. It's 2017. We don't need that nonsense. On a side note, if you want to know about other male needle felters, check out the work of Richard Hanna or Dale Roberts. There really aren't that many. We need to fix that.
The back story behind Woolbuddy is one of love between a father and his newborn daughter (I really should've done this for Father's day). He was searching quality toys for his baby girl, ones that were safe and durable. I totally get it, because as a mom I have personally been far more drawn to toys made from natural materials (think Waldorf) than having our home turn into a Fisher Price museum of castaways. Nowadays we stick to the rules in Simplicity Parenting about which ones to keep or toss. The point is, Jackie tried a few things, including sewing and knitting, and of all those he found needle felting to be the most rewarding and the least frustrating. Before long, he had hundreds of various creatures, and Woolbuddy was born.
These particular creatures are so fun and whimsical, I've had to make an exception to my no-animals rule. Not that I have anything against animals, per se, and I've certainly made a few here and there as gifts, but needle felting animals is just never going to be my niche. Also pretty much everyone felts animals. Again, absolutely nothing wrong with it, but I like to try to make something different. Whimsy and quirky, however, is my thing, and these guys are so lovable! Maybe it's their bulging eyes... I do have a Boston Terrier after all, so there might be something with that (lol).
One other thing I'd like to point out before we get into the book itself is you might notice that Jackie does not felt on a foam or burlap pad. You can actually check out his shop for a wool felting pad. It's literally a thick felted pad which he uses as his base for felting. I am not sure about using it for 2D felting projects, but I'd love to try it for 3D stuff.
Onto the book: this book was definitely designed with the beginner in mind. Similar to many beginner needle felting project books, after the introduction, there are a few pages dedicated to tools, techniques and making basic shapes before getting started on the projects themselves (including a few cute cartoonish illustrations). If this is your first attempt at needle felting, definitely practice making the shapes first before you start working on the projects. It will make following the tutorials easier. Also, if this is your first attempt, you will enjoy this project book so so so so much. I wish I'd had it when I first started needle felting.
That being said, these aren't all beginner projects, and Jackie split up the sections accordingly. If you search google images for woolbuddies you should be able to spot most of these. Among the easy projects you have Zeke the rabbit, Shana the penguin, Amelia the owl, Stanley the frog (this is probably the one most people will recognize), Cecily the seal, Mr Binks the pig, Hana the guinea pig, and Pointy the starfish. I personally don't think the projects themselves are organized from easiest to more difficult, even if all the projects are easy (I'd say start with Hana or Shana if you've never needle felted before). The moderate projects include Eunice the sheep, Bill the wolf, Henry the fox (which is pretty similar to Bill in shape), Dusty the dog, Ellie the elephant, Stripe the zebra, and Quint the shark. Sheep aren't usually difficult, but the reason Eunice is in this section is that you needle felt a bunch of tiny balls to attach to the body making it look like a bubbly sheep. Getting into the challenging projects, we have Jimmy the giraffe, Lily the tiger, Hex the octopus, Cogs the alligator and Toby the bear. At the end of the book there is a page with resources, including where to buy wool and some of the supplies.
I decided to try making Toby from the book, because I'm in need of a bear for my camping/woodland-themed baby mobile that I'm finishing up. I adjusted it a tiny bit to suit my purposes; for example I didn't want him sitting like he does in the book, so I attached the legs a bit differently. I suppose he's also a bit more leggy than the Toby in the book. Did I mention my Toby also has a needle felted bottom? My husband didn't understand why, but when you have kids, at some point you know there are multiple questions regarding bodily functions, where is the bum and, if there isn't one, why do they not have a bum. So this bear comes with a child-appropriate-semi-anatomically-correct buttocks. Reminds me of those bare-bum selfies that are currently trending, which I will not link here but feel free to google if it interests you. Also reminds me of the time we went camping and came across a bear who wanted to join us for breakfast and was patiently waiting for my husband to get up and make some coffee (no, we did not offer the bear coffee). For the most part I found that the instructions were pretty easy to follow, though I'd make one adjustment which I'll get to in a minute. He was finished fairly quickly, within two days or so, only working on it for a few hours total.
The nice thing about these projects is that, of all the creatures in the book, the only one requiring any armature at all is the giraffe. The rest of them are made armature-free. They are also safe as toys (as long as you densely felt your work) - to test this, pull as hard as you can on the pieces. If they come off, felt more. The only thing I'd suggest is when it comes to attaching the eyes, when making it as a toy, roll the ball tight and felt it directly onto the creature instead of felting a ball first and then attaching it. Felted objects do not attach nicely to each other. If it flattens out, keep adding more wool Eventually you'll get a bulbous eyeball in place (if you use enough wool and wrap it tightly, you shouldn't have an issue getting it in one go). Similar to that, when you're making flat parts to attach, do not densely felt the area that will be attached to the creature. Leave that somewhat fluffy. It will make it more secure when you do get to attaching it. If you do try to felt two felted objects together and they're not sticking, felt a little bit of raw wool to the back of whatever you're attaching, and then attach that to the creature. The raw wool in between will act like a glue linking the two together.