Reviewing the book Crafting With Cat Hair: Cute Handicrafts to Make with Your Cat resulted in, hands down, two of the most bizarre projects that Iâ€™ve ever made. Strangely enough, they also ended up being two of the cutest. Keep on reading and youâ€™ll see what I mean!
Crafting With Cat Hair: Cute Handicrafts to Make with Your Cat was written by Kaori Tsutaya, and was translated from the original Japanese by Amy Hirschman. The book is 96 pages long, contains 10 projects, and retails for $14.95 US. This book was published by Quirk Books, who definitely stayed true to their reputation for focusing only on the fun and the odd with this one! (Quick Books is distributed by Random House).
From the Random House site:
Got fur balls?
Are your favorite sweaters covered with cat hair? Do you love to make quirky and one-of-a-kind crafting projects? If so, then itâ€™s time to throw away your lint roller and curl up with your kitty! Crafting with Cat Hair shows readers how to transform stray clumps of fur into soft and adorable handicrafts. From kitty tote bags and finger puppets to fluffy cat toys, picture frames, and more, these projects are cat-friendly, eco-friendly, and require no special equipment or training. You can make most of these projects in under an hourâ€”with a little help, of course, from your feline friends!
Once I got over the initial yuck factor and started getting sucked into the projects and techniques, Crafting with Cat Hair suddenly stopped feeling so weird, and started feeling like any other cute-focused craft book. In my opinion, the reason that this book ultimately ends up working so well is, in large part, thanks to its fantastic translation and editing work. Clearly, a lot of care was taken to preserve the flow and feel of the original Japanese text, and it made all the difference. I found that the familiar (to me) amigurumi-like style in the writing and in the projects really helped to balance out the strangeness of using cat hair.
For my projects, I tried to strike a balance between odd and useful. First, I went all-out ridiculous and made a cat-shaped finger puppet (p. 12). For my second project, I got a bit more practical and settled on a pincushion (p. 60).
What I loved:
1. Both of the projects that I tried were really fun to make. Perhaps it was just the novelty of working with cat hair, but I really had a good time trying out new techniques and learning how to work with an entirely unfamiliar medium.
2. The projects are quick, the instructions are straight forward, and anything in the book can easily be made in one afternoon.
3. The required materials and tools are common and easy to find. Many of the projects can also be made using recycled fabrics and accessories that you already have on hand.
4. There is a lot of room to customize your projects with different colors and designs.
5. Most of the projects in the book, including the tote bag (p. 42), the coin purses (p.48), the pincushions (p. 60), the badges (p. 66), the mittens and gloves (p. 72), and the hats and scarves (p. 78) are not just decorationsâ€”theyâ€™re made to be worn and used.
6. The wet felting process was so much faster than expected. Once I finally got the hang of wrapping my pattern, it took no time at all for my finger puppet to come together.
7. Cat hair allergies are addressed in a very responsible way in the book, and the author encourages people who make cat hair crafts to, at the very least, ask people if they are allergic to cats before allowing them to touch a project. The author also goes on to suggest different ways that cat hair crafts can be displayed in enclosed cases and frames when in public places. As a person with nasty allergies, I think this section is very important. (p. 58-59)
What I didnâ€™t love:
1. If, like me, you donâ€™t have previous experience with felting, some of the instructions can be a little unclear. For example, in the Finger Puppets project (p. 19-20) I had a lot of trouble figuring out the best way to get the cat hair to stay around the waterproofed (tape-covered) cardboard pattern, and I wasnâ€™t really sure how thick the layer of hair needed to be.
At first, I wrapped the hair around the pattern in sheets like the instructions suggested, but this method simply didnâ€™t work for meâ€”I ended up with a very baggy cat! Eventually, I figured out that, for my catâ€™s fine, short hair, wrapping the hair around the pattern in horizontal strips was the best way to get a good, tight fit. (This is likely due to the fact that different cat hair types behave in different ways, and is not necessarily indicative of a problem in the book.)
2. The book doesnâ€™t say that you should only try to felt your cat shapes onto wool or other animal fibers. When I made my pincushion (p. 60), I used an old knit hat for the fabric, which happened to be acrylic instead of wool. Though it did eventually work, it was much harder to felt my cat shape onto acrylic, and the hold was not as secure as it should have been. Plant and synthetic fibers do not lock together in the same way that animal fibers do, so keep that in mind when starting your own projects.
3. There are quite a few cat photos and captions that aren’t really related to the content of the book. The intent may have been to add more context to cat hair as a material, but I found them somewhat distracting.
4. It probably goes without saying, but, by the time I was done with the second project, I had cat hair absolutely everywhere. This might not be the right book for the neat freaks among us.
I had a great time reviewing this book. I thought the projects were creative, fun, and well thought through. Even if it seemed a little strange at first, it was actually kind of nice to use piles of cat hair to make something pretty instead of just throwing it away!