Thursday, March 10, 2011

Big Little Felt Universe: A Review AND A GIVEAWAY!!!

I was pretty psyched to open my mailbox and find my copy of Big Little Felt Universe by Jeanette Lim!!


First off: a lot of folks have asked, are these the same pattern sets that can be found on her site at umecrafts.etsy.com?  The answer to that is NO, these are all unique patterns.  There are a few simple patterns that have been tweaked slightly, but these are all original works.  

The introduction to the book offers a tutorial on stitches that you'll need to know, as well as the notions required, generally speaking.  She also makes recommendations on which stitches are appropriate for which steps.  (I have my own personal suggestions, BTW, which can be found here.  More advice on felt crafting from my perspective can be found here and here and here)

Now that we got that out of the way...awesome book.  I think of it as an extension to Umecrafts' Etsy offerings.  The first pattern in the book is for a cake, very elaborate, hundreds of pieces of felt to be cut for extensive, lifelike detail.  Wow.


Everything is laid out step by step with pictures numbered and corresponding to each step.  This is particularly important because if you've never made felt items before, you might be a bit daunted by the images of the final product.  Really, it isn't that bad!  I'd call it idiot-proof!

Jeanette really covered everything in this book.  It's not just food: there are pattern sets for tools, a doctor bag, a purse and all its contents, office supplies, even plants!  (I personally can't wait to make the African Violet.  Finally, a plant that won't wither and die in my presence!)

All the patterns are distinctly lifelike, and the detail is amazing.  Even if you've never attempted basic embroidery before, you won't be daunted, as excellent instructions are included for each stitch, as well as the basics (whip stitch, blanket stitch, back stitch, etc.).

Frankly, this is one of the best books I've found on felt crafting, and there's many to choose from, so that's saying a lot!  So many books on felt crafting are for things that just aren't that interesting or fun - Christmas ornaments, gnomes, holiday items, etc..  Jeanette really brings felt to the mainstream and modern time.  You'll be making these items as either play sets for children, or home decor.  In other words, FUNCTIONAL!  Now that's putting the FUN in functional!!

I rated this book on Amazon as a 5/5, fo shizzle.  An essential book for any serious felt (or otherwise) crafter's library!

If this book isn't enough, check out Jeanette's space on Etsy for even more patterns.  umecrafts.etsy.com

Now....

I only have a few very minor, stupid qualms about the book.  And I'm being super anal here.  The first being that the pattern pieces, if they are close to the spine (the "gutter") they will be very difficult to photocopy without distortion.  I pressed down pretty hard on my copier and creased up the spine pretty good attempting to photocopy one pattern in the center of the book to test it.  For those pieces towards the middle, I strongly recommend you use tracing paper that's tacked down to the original page so you can trace it accurately.  I did ask the publisher if there are any plans for either a spiral bound edition (not really an option at this price point) or a space online where book owners can download .pdf files - as Jeanette sells her patterns - and that wasn't an option either.  However, perhaps in future editions they could offer a CD containing .pdf files, or even a memory card, for the pattern pieces.  In the past, I had the luxury of printing out my own pattern pieces from .pdf files, which is terrific, as I have made some items so many times, the paper looks like it's been on a dartboard!

The other thing (and I'm embarrassed to even write this because it's that stupid) is about the suggestion of using "lemon cream" as a color.  This really depends on your felt supplier. Jeanette uses Sun Felt (page is in Japanese, look out for some translation issues...I personally had a hard time navigating it due to the language barrier). I personally use Weir Dolls & Crafts, and their "lemon" is a pale yellow.  (Bear in mind, I'm in the US.)  My very first felt project ever was one of Umecrafts bananas, and for a long time I was cranking out pale yellow bananas with a darker yellow skin, when, in my opinion, I should have ordered "cream."  Again, it all depends on your supplier; I strongly suggest you order a swatch card BEFORE you order any of your felt so you know what colors are what.  One supplier's sky blue may be another's turquoise.  Don't count on what you see on a computer screen to accurately represent a color.  


Here's yellow, lemon, and cream, from left to right, photographed with flash, it's pretty accurate for coloring here:


Here also is a banana with cream for the banana, lemon on the inside peel, and yellow for the outside peel.


Again, these are minor, petty differences.  Always order the swatch card, and you will save yourself a lot of frustration if your are ordering felt from a supplier other than Sun Felt. 


That brings me to another point...for the love of all that's holy, don't use craft felt, especially "Eco-fi" when making felt items.  It sucks.  Yes, you can find it at any mass merchandiser for a quarter a sheet, but...just don't.  If you're going to put this much work into handcrafting something, you need to use quality materials.  You may also find wool felt by the bolt at places like JoAnn but it's often mixed with rayon and the color selection is extremely limited. You'll have better luck always when you purchase felt online.  I personally prefer 100% wool felt because it rebounds nicely from stretching and doesn't pill.  It wears much much better than blended felt, IMO.  When I was first starting out with felt crafting, I made a few test pieces with Eco fi.  And they are long gone, because the stitches pulled out, the item stretched and just disintegrated.  Even better?  100% wool has no grain because it's, well, felted, so you can place the pattern pieces any which way, resulting in FAR less waste of material.  If you have material on which the grain has to match, there's going to be a lot of waste.

I also stuff my items with wool mill ends instead of polyfill, but each to their own!   Polyfill is certainly easier to find, but I have found while making items for my children stuffed with polyfill (before I sourced wool mill ends from The Sheep Shed Studio) that polyfill compresses over time.  Wool holds its shape much better.  The items I make from wool are 100% natural, sewn with cotton thread.  Rarely, I'll use polyester thread for detail stitching, but from me, you get a 99.9% natural product that's CPSIA certified.  I've even machine washed my felt items (I have kids that barf at the drop of a hat) with no discernible difference!

So, you're interested in felt food, but not interested in sewing?  Hey, did you know I sell it?  Check me out at www.puckleberry.com .  I make all my items on demand so they'll take a week or two, but believe me, it will outlast the best that a baby, a toddler, a tantruming kid, and a sexually frustrated cat can deal out (And I've had my items challenged by all 4 of those, trust me)!  And they're gently machine washable!  Top that!  Your grandkids will be playing with my items someday, get yours!!

Now, here comes some fun:

1.  On Friday, March 10th ONLY, download the Sundae pattern (featured in Big Little Felt Universe) for FREE from Lark Crafts.   

2.  I am offering a giveaway!!  Get a free copy of Jeannette Lin's totally awesome book Big Little Felt Universe delivered straight to you from the publisher, Lark Crafts, an imprint of Sterling Publishing.  How do you enter?  Make a comment in the comment section of this post.  Contest ends at midnight EST on March 13.  Do not comment more than once, that will toss your name out of contention altogether.  (And don't be a jerk and make up a bunch of sockpuppets to vote, I can see your IP.)  One winner will be chosen at random on March 14!  Winners will be named here on this blog on March 14, so if you are commenting, be sure to have some sort of contact info in your profile.  If I can't find you by March 16, an alternate winner will be chosen. 

Good luck and HAPPY CRAFTING!!


Many special thanks to Linda Kopp of Sterling Publishing, and editor of Big Little Felt Universe, and Jeanette Lim for being an awesome inspiration and a creative genius!!!

23 comments:

  1. How very cool! And thanks for the honest review - it's nice to see the not 100% positive mixed in with the good ...even if it's only anal stuff :P

    And thanks for the chance at a win!

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  2. I want one!!! These are so awesome :) My kids would love them.

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  3. I would love to win a copy of this book! It looks fabulous! :)

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  4. I'd love that book. I'm just starting to venture out of knitting play food to wanting to sew it! :)

    -Pickles

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  5. ooo, book looks amazing:) I am a felt-food crafting junkie- thanks for the giveaway!

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  6. Ooh! Ooh! I want to win! <3 This looks like an awesome book!

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  7. I got my first felt patterns from Umecrafts! LOVE her work! sewcatsew(at)gmail.com

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  8. Remember, y'all. If you're in it to win it, be sure your contact info is in your profile somehow, or include your e-mail address in your comment in the format of blahname at whatevermail dot com unless you want spam forever!

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  9. Nice, thorough review! Thanks!!!! :)

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  10. What a good review and perfect giveaway! I would LOVE to win - that would be an awesome gift since it is my birthday on 13th!!!

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  11. Would Love a chance to win :D
    I love making felt food for my kids!
    DaynaEarth(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  12. Ooo I want :) Loved the "don't be a jerk and make up a bunch of sockpuppets to vote" I promise I'll keep my sockpuppets in check
    disintegratingstarr@hotmail.com

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  13. I love the Ume patterns on Etsy! Can't wait to get my hands on this beauty!

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  14. what a fabulous book! i've been sewing some felt food for my daughter using a japanese pattern book, but man it's complicated having to figure out everything without understanding the text :) if i don't win i'll buy it anyway!
    marille(at)restrealitaet(dot)de

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  15. Ooooooh, I want that book!

    One comment on felt - I find I have to use wool/acrylic blend for felt crafting because more than about 5 minutes handling pure wool and my hands are itchy for hours afterwards. Blends seem to be fine, and the items I've made from blends for my kids have lasted quite well. I buy a premium quality blend, though, that is quite thick.

    I was also able to buy a bunch of acrylic felt ends from a local felt manufacturer - this is some premium stuff, I have to say. It's much, much different from the craft store/fabric store felt. Very very tightly 'felted', and it wears best of any felt I've ever used (as in, I have items I made with it my kids have been playing with for 4+ years, and they look the same as the day I sewed them). Unfortunately the manufacturer doesn't sell small quantities, you have to buy it by the bolt (it's meant for industrial/manufacturing purposes). And the bag of ends I bought contains mostly narrow strips in a limited range of colours, so I can't use it for as many things as I'd like!

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  16. i do love this artist ~ but yes, agree with your comments vanessa! in general i find with most crafting from patterns, your second and subsequent try will be much better. looks like an awesome and inspiring book! meganwoodwilcox@gmail.com

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  17. Purple Lizard - interesting note about the wool! I'm so so allergic to wool. In fact, I have to wear my glasses when I'm stuffing items because if a strand gets in my eyes, my eyes will swell shut. I've heard great things about wool/rayon blends, and 100% wool. Everyone who does serious wool crafting has a strong opinion, for sure!

    I was so tickled when WC sent me some wool that was a smidge extra thick - I actually got out calipers and measured; it was 1.5 mm. And I was mega bummed when my next shipment was exactly (and only) 1 mm. More so because I couldn't mix pieces in an item with different thicknesses, so my scrap bag contains 2/3 of a banana peel! But one thing I'll give props to Weir Crafts for: their colors are spot on in terms of matching. I bought some lots a year and a half apart, and they matched colors indistinguishably!

    I've found some very interesting felt crafting books written in German and Japanese. Dammit, I speak neither! Why can't they be written in Spanish instead, I can read that!

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  18. Thanks for sharing the book review. I've seen her patterns on Etsy as well as what you've made and they are wonderful. I didn't know about all the different kinds of felt. Thanks for the heads up on that. I mostly crochet toys, but I'm branching out to sewing too.

    Anotherjen

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  19. Whoa I'd love to win this book. Is it open to everybody anywhere? I'm a felt crafter myself. And I know I can learn a lot from umecrafts founder :)

    wiwi3d(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  20. Book is being shipped direct from the publisher, I'll ask if international winners are acceptable. I'll post back with a reply.

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  21. If non-US residents are allowed to participate, I'll try my luck.
    Lovely felt creations, I can't wait to get started.
    oontjesblog(at)gmail(dot)com

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  22. It looks like such a great book, I'd love to win it, provided that non-US residents are allowed to enter your giveaway. I'm pretty sure it won't be available in Hungary anyway.

    Edit
    szilagyi.edit@freemail.hu

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