I recently purchased Feltmaking and Wool Magic, by Jorie Johnson (2006). This book was originally published in Japanese in 1999 as that is where Jorie was living at the time. Sheep are not indigenous to Japan and wool was only introduced to the country as a fabric in the 1800’s. She wrote this book to introduce wet felt making to the Japanese.
I came across this book through a listing where it was mentioned in another book. I find lots of books in this way as not much has really been published after 2011! Jorie Johnson has been involved with feltmaking for many years and is one of the authors of Fabulous Felted Scarves. When I saw that she had written another book, I felt I needed to add it to my collection. No pun intended. Although styles have changed some over the years, the actual process of feltmaking has not. The fundamentals are still the same, and bearing in mind the resources and materials available at the time, people have been able to make good quality felt with what they had, even if they used a cardboard template.
The book covers projects from making beads and simple toys to hats, scarves, bags and slippers. Although she uses a sander in one project, everything is done by hand. If you wanted to make any project in the book, there would be no reason you couldn’t update things a little. Most of the projects are relatively simple to do and only a few are a bit more complicated.
There is a lot of information on sheep breeds and wool, how to felt and materials required. She also covers a fair amount of felting history. It is an interesting read and there are a few projects I haven’t come across before.
I would not recommend this book for a complete beginner primarily for the reason that she does not discuss or show how to lay out wool for making flat felt or prefelt. I think that learning how to lay out the wool is vital in making a quality felt and knowing the difference of where you can stop to make prefelt. Although prefelts are discussed in a project, there is no instruction on how to make it. Another reason, and this comes because of experience, there is no discussion on calculating shrinkage rates, which is vital for making certain objects, like hats. My go-to beginner felting book is Uniquely Felt.
Saying all of that, I really like this book. I have learned a bit more about sheep and wool that I didn’t before. I also like going back in history to look back at how felters used to do things before it became a really popular craft/hobby. With the internet, you can pretty much learn how to do anything (except how to dance the Argentine Tango). However, there is nothing like having a book in your hands that you can dip in and out of. The book used to be the first port of call if you wanted to learn how to do anything or you had to take a class. Now it seems as if books have become a supplement to what we can find on the world wide web. As much as I am grateful for being able to take an online class produced by someone on the other side of the planet, I am also very grateful to those pioneers who have written down the processes for posterity – because when there is a problem with the internet or your electricity goes down, at least you have information on your ‘hard-copy’ you can refer to!