My copy arrived in the mail a few days ago (Thanks Wendy!) and I spent an enjoyable, if brief, time reading it over. Or, I suppose I should be honest and say that I was mostly looking it over. The book has some gorgeous photography, brimming over with lush, vibrant colors in restful and surprising combinations. It definitely inspired me (usually the Queen of Monochrome) to get my colors on!
Despite this, I was left a little underwhelmed by the actual patterns. The main idea of the book is simple: Felting is a versatile activity that, when combined with various resists (objects or fibers that don’t felt and which are joined to the feltable yarn), can create strange and beautiful three-dimensional shapes. To my mind, however, only the portrait scarf, the Poet’s Shawl, the Shibori Fez (from the cover) and the wood grain scarf are particularly new or creative ways of working with felting. The rest of the 20 patterns are attractive exercises in color and texture, but they didn’t particularly excite me– I had seen things like them before.
Part of my blasé attitude was caused by the lack of “before” pictures. The book is obviously meant to be a beautiful, Buddhist-style meditation on the beauty and creativity inherent in fibers rather than a how-to book on technique. Information like the pre-felting dimensions of the objects is completely lacking, as is any discussion of how different color dyes might influence felting. Still, Gina herself mentions in the text that a great part of the excitement of felting is the unpredictable and astonishing transformations that can occur. I was disappointed not to be able to vicariously experience those transformations for myself.
Since I’m in the midst of my year without knitting patterns, I read Shibori Knits less as a book of patterns and more as a guide to using shibori felting in my own knitted designs. This was a frustrating perspective to take, and perhaps I ought to have just sat back and enjoyed the pretty pictures and interesting patterns. But I wish there had been more explanations! There is a brief but fascinating mention that feltable fibers blended with silk will felt with less “halo” than 100% feltable fibers, but I couldn’t tell if that was a property of the silk or a property of blending any felting fiber with any non-feltable fiber.
In addition, all the designs in the book are knitted with the same yarns. While I appreciate that Gina wants to use her own yarn line in her book, I wish she had used a variety of different blends with different fiber contents, rather than constantly combining her 60% mohair 40% silk and 100% silk yarns. The results are beautiful, but I’d love to see what happens if one were to felt an alpaca/silk blend, or even a wool/cotton or mohair/acrylic mix. Even a brief explanation of why she feels that mohair/silk blends are ideal for this sort of felting would have been appreciated.
In the end, I was left with some interesting new techniques (gathering knitted fabric loosely with string before felting and them removing it to create gentle pleats, for example), new insight into the properties of mohair (I’d never considered it a felting staple before), and beautiful, inspiring photographs to make me smile. That’s more than I’ve gotten from many knitting books! Still, I wanted more.
The bottom line: Shibori Knits piqued my curiosity, but didn’t satisfy it.
Not really Shibori: Lined kitty bed, a felting experiment from last summer.