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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am pretty much a cheapskate (when it comes to flytying), and am always on the look out for "cheaper" materials or good substitutions for expensive stuff.

However, I have been burnt by this before. For example, The foam from ear plugs does not float, at least, not very well. Nor is it a suitable subsitute for the higher density foam fly shops carry for tying hoppers or stonefly patterns. While the ear plugs didn't cost many anything, the half-dozen or so hooks and time I spent tying them did.

So, in an attempt to learn my lesson I am going ask for some help. I frequently join my wife on trips to "Micheals" (arts and crafts chain) and have found some good materials and ideas, but I just found this aisle full of feathers; specifically, ostrich plumes (dyed), assorted sadle hackles, and even some guinea. I am wondering if anyone has any experince buying natural feathers like these from a store like "Micheals."

Thanks for any suggestions!
 

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Craft Shop Feathers

I often get ostrich at craft stores. An excellent source is Lamp Light Feathers on the web. They have great ostrich in tons of colors, great for intruders. My experiences with other craft store feathers aren't as good. The hackle tends to be just that, cheap and poor quality. If you want about 2 miles of chennile though, Michaels is your place.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks Matt, nice site

Like the color choices. FYI, I paid $3.79 for an ostrich plume of deep purple at Micheals today, so the $4 range at Lamp Lighter seems to be a good deal. Is ostrich all you buy there? Boas not such a good idea?
 

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You can also find.. Embroidery wool/floss, plain wool, braided body tubing in many colors, flash material, and tinsels.
 

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JD
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Craft stores

Nothing wrong with Micheal's as long as you realize you aren't going to find grade A feathers. No Spey hackles, saddle hackles.:tsk_tsk: But if you keep your eyes open, use your imagination, you'll find a ton of stuff.
 

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Jack Cook
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Side effects

You may also see your local full serrvice fly shop go under. The way I see it if you are getting great service somewhere and want to be sure you keep getting it throw business at it . That said I realize many fly shops have tying sections which are wanting.
 

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But not yours, Jack

Holy Crap, if ever there was someone who has the right materials dialed in and at the right price with impeccable service, it's Jack.
 

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JD
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As long as we're talking about it

There is a difference, big difference, between cheap and thrifty. Thrifty is when you can buy a couple of lifetimes supply of mohair yarn at a ridiculous price, and swap about three fourths of it with your buddies for something else you can use. Cheap is when you buy a big bag of feathers, at a bargain basement price, spend hours going through them and find very little, if any, you can use. The fly in your vise is begging for a quality feather, and you realize it was you that was cheap. Not the feathers.

It does not pay to try and skimp on fur or feathers. Poor quality stuff is difficult to work with and the results, at best, will yeald only a poor quality product.

I like to be able to look at what I am buying. Take it out of the bag and play with it. Look it over real close. Only if I can't find what I need locally will I go online. When you have to resort to online purchases of fur or feathers, it pays to know your suppier well.
 

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JDJones said:
There is a difference, big difference, between cheap and thrifty. Thrifty is when you can buy a couple of lifetimes supply of mohair yarn at a ridiculous price, and swap about three fourths of it with your buddies for something else you can use. Cheap is when you buy a big bag of feathers, at a bargain basement price, spend hours going through them and find very little, if any, you can use. The fly in your vise is begging for a quality feather, and you realize it was you that was cheap. Not the feathers.

It does not pay to try and skimp on fur or feathers. Poor quality stuff is difficult to work with and the results, at best, will yeald only a poor quality product.

I like to be able to look at what I am buying. Take it out of the bag and play with it. Look it over real close. Only if I can't find what I need locally will I go online. When you have to resort to online purchases of fur or feathers, it pays to know your suppier well.
VERY well said!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I understand that there is a difference between cheap and thrifty, but sometimes I think we, as a sport, go a little overboard. I am still so new to this that I wonder if I should say anything, but this has been bugging me for awhile.

For example, I was browsing the Clan site a few weeks ago. WOW! That is all I can say.

As a beginner, if I don't employ a little creativity to most of these spey and shrimp patterns, I won't be tying them. Many of the materials are cost prohibitive, and it isn't just stuff like jungle cock. I frequently use materials that are sub-par, I also get a kick out of working out the problems on my own and learning what substitutions work, and what are a complete waste of time. I really enjoy this site and all you guys have helped me, and I have learned tons of stuff on here, so I really try to support the sponsors, but my goal in life is not keeping fly shops in business.
 

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craft shops are fine for some of the materials listed in posts #2 & #4, You would be hard pressed to find quality feathers from craft shops I've found peacock eyes and herl in craft stores just fine, living in st.johns, Newfoundland you have to use resources like these to your advantage either that or go to a man that has a set up in his basement, knows nothing about fly fishing or tieing, that will try and sell you crap for top dollar. sometimes I have to suck it up and go to him for a local solution. Either way craft stores can simply not provide the materials needed for many flys and I'm sure the Sponsors can provide these unique materials at the best price and quality available.
 

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Pullin' Thread
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argos,

Spey flies don't require expensive feathers (like blue-eared pheasant) to tie them and have them look good. For example, take a look at Charlie's Steelhead Fly of the Week for this wee. It is tied with schlappen for the spey hackle and schlappen is one of the cheapest feathers available; however, you won't find schlappen in the local craft store, you will find it at many fly shops (including Jack's) who are our sponsors.

There are also many shrimp flies that use inexpensive feathers. The General Practitioner (or G.P.) is one. The most expensive feather on it is the golden pheasant red breast feathers and you can buy a whole golden pheasant skin for about $10.00 that has a large number of these feathers on it. The Ally's Shrimp is another cheap to tie shrimp fly and the most expensive component on it is the golden pheasant tippet (also known as golden pheasant neck) feather. And the Irish Shrimp style flies are also inexpensive (unless you insist on using jungle cock wings) to tie and are still effective without the jungle cock wings.

Not only are these flies tied with rather inexpensive materials (unless you use jungle cock and blue-eared pheasant), they are all very effective to boot! Granted, it takes some skill to tie spey and dee flies, Irish Shrimp style flies, G.P.'s, and Ally's Shrimp; but they are all worthwhile learning how to tie.

I do buy some items at craft stores; but never feathers. I buy yarn at yarn shops (and make much of my own dubbing from it) because they carry such a huge selection of different types in different colors. But seriously, how many yards of yarn does the average fly tyer really need? I mean there are 144 yds in a skein of yarn, and that ties thousands of flies. It is a lot like buying chenile by the skein, most tyers would not use a skein of chenile in 12 years time. This makes buying by the skein false economy for most.

Some craft stores (those that carry art supplies usually) carry good acid dyes by Jacquard, which is useful to those of us who dye our own material. Beads are another item you might get at a craft store as is craft fur. Some craft stores carry a decent oval tinsel; but it is not the high quality French metallic tinsel I and most very good tyers use.

However, unless you know exactly what you want and exactly why, you are better off getting materials at a fly shop, or you will end up with a lot of "junk" you will never use, and that is a waste of your time and money.

As for feathers, craft stores sell junk as far as fly tying goes with the possible exception of ostrich and peacock. Also, most dyed feathers found in craft stores are dyed with colorfast in water dyes, this means the color will bleed out in water; but of course we never put our flies in water do we?

Yes, some feathers are expensive. If you want to tie good quality dry flies, you need good genetic dry fly hackle, and it isn't cheap; but you do get to tie a lot of flies with a neck or saddle. Likewise, some materials, such as Argus Pheasant secondaries or tails aren't cheap either; but seriously, how many people do you know who fish flies tied with Argus Pheasant wings (sinktip, you are not allowed to answer that).

JD said it best, "There is a difference between cheap and thrifty."

As for the high price of some fly rods or lines, so what if some are expensive like Clan? Some decent casting ones are pretty darn cheap too. I fish with expensive, high end rods simply because I like the way they perform. And like most folks who have been fly fishing for a long time, I saved my money and bought the high end rods one at a time when I had the money to buy one. And over many years time, I have acquired more than a few. But you don't need to start out with them. Also, I promise, those of us who use high end rods and reels will not think less of you for fishing with lower priced (or bargain priced) ones because enjoying fly fishing is the important thing, not how much your equipment cost.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
thanks

Thanks for taking the time to respond to my post. I didn't mean to come across as a whinner. I guess I just wish I could afford Sage let alone Clan, but my Berretta doesn't even cost as much as a Clan two-hander, and don't tell me to sell my auto:devil:


I am interested in dyeing. A guy in a flyshop here asked me if I was married when I expressed interest. When I responed in the affirmative, he suggested I line his pockets by purchasing some of his materials in lieu of upsetting the household. Apparently, it creates quite a mess. Yet, I am still interested in dyeing my own stuff. I find great satisfaction in accquiring the materials that I use for tying. Any good texts/sites to seek information for dyeing?

I love schlappen and what in the world is a skein??
 

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Argos,

Dying is really not very difficult at all provided you take your time and pay attention to the details. I suspect the fellow in the fly shop you spoke of has never dyed, dyed a little with poor results, or thinks dying ought to be left to the professional dyers.

The first thing to keep in mind for dyeing is to used good quality acid dyes. Yes, you can dye with RIT, food dye, and Kool Aid; however, you really are better off using good acid dyes because the concentration of the dye bath is far easier to control with good acid dyes and there is no waste from other materials, salts, or whatever in the dye powder.

The acid dyes I like are: 1) Jacquard's (found in some fly shops along with some craft stores or natural fiber cloth stores, although the easiest place to get it is through Dharma Trading Company, Dharma also has a very nice true fl. hot yellow or chrome yellow that has no green in it that is not Jacquard's). Jacquard's is usually found in 1/2 oz by weight containers for about $5.00 and is available in a lot of colors including fl. chartreuse, fl. fushia (an intense dark hot pink), and fl. orange (they call it deep orange); 2) Fly Dye (found at a very few fly shops; but mostly only available through the company-it is a product of Orco Dye Company with colors named for fly tying colors and sells for about $6.00 an oz by weight). It is available in a full range of fly tying colors including several florescents and has a very nice purple; 3) Washfast Acid Dye (available through Pro Chemical and Dye, sells for from $4.00 to $9.00 and oz by weight depending on color), which is available in a huge color range including fl. hot pink and a wonderful hot purple; and 4) Kiton Acid Dye (available through Pro Chemical and Dye and some craft stores, sells for about $6.00 an oz by weight) that is available in a very nice, but limited range of colors.

Secondly, use stainless steel or enameled dye pots or pans that hold 2-3 quarts of water or you will get contamination of the dye bath by the metal in the pot and it will effect the color you get. Yes, I learned this the hard way 20 some years ago. Also, make sure your dye pots or pans are large enough to hold the materials you are going to dye.

Thirdly, you need to get a bottle of a product called "Synthrapol" (it sells for about $5.00 for 8 oz bottle). It is a cleanser, degreaser, and dye dispersent. This stuff is sort of a magic elexir for dyeing since it is a great cleanser (and you really need to keep you materials clean and grease free for good dye results) and degreaser. And because it is also a dye dispersent, it keeps the dye suspended in the dye bath and prevents splotchiness or uneveness of dye penetration and color; so yes, about 1/4 tsp is added directly to the dye bath after the dye is dissolved but before the material you are dying is added.

Fouth, you need some plain, ordinary white vinegar as the acid to set the dye. There is really no need for any stronger acid than the white vinegar, just remember to use enough of the white vinegar that you can smell it without putting your head over the dye bath.

Fifth, you need some plastic or stainless steel small measuring spoons 1/4 tsp and 1/2 tsp (1/8 tsp if you can find it is useful at times) are all you need with the 1/4 tsp being most used and needed. A dye gath made from 1/4 tsp of dye poweder in 2-2 1/2 quarts of water makes for a great dye bath with excellent color saturation and results. In fact, it will produce a very nicely dyed once of feathers in about 20-30 minutes.

Sixth, when you take your materials out of the hot dye bath, rinse first in hot water then progressively make the rinse water cooler by reducing the hot water and adding more cold at the tap to avoid "shocking" the feathers or fur you are dying. This also promotes an even dye job. Yes, I learned this the hard way too way back when.

Seventh, heat the dye bath to about 140-160 degrees F. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES LET THE DYE BATH COME TO A BOIL because if you do and add the material when the dye bath is boiling you will literally fry your materials and feathers will become useless and ruined, furs will come off the hide, and hair will have its tips burned and ruined. Yes, I learned this the hard way too. If you were careless and let your dye bath start to or just about start boiling, bring down the temperature by adding some cold water to the dye bath before adding your materials. A cheap candy making, cooking, or baking thermometer is very useful for keeping your dye bath in the 140-160 degree F range.

Eigth, use newspaper (unprinted packing paper or black only ink) to put your dyed materials on after rinsing. Soak up most of the water in the wet materials by putting paper towels over them and pressing your hand against them. You will probably have to put down some fresh newspaper and do this several times. Then simply let the material air dry overnight. You can speed up the drying by using a common hand-held hair dryer; but you have to be very careful when doing so or you will end up burning the edges of many materials. Therefore, it is simply better and easier to just let it sit on newspaper overnight after you have pressed most of the water out.

When dyeing, don't worry about the dye bath losing its color, in fact, that is exactly what you want because it means that the dye is being mostly absorbed by the substrate (the material you are dying).

The final color is dependent on how deep a shade of color you want, how long it has been in the dye bath (within reason, anything over 40 minutes is probably too long), how strong you made the dye bath (i.e. how much dye you put in it); and the temperature of the dye bath (don't forget hotter is not better).

To get a shade not available in the acid dye you choose to use, overdye rather than combining colors for two reasons: 1) it is very difficult to predict the color you will get when combining two different dye colors; and 2) the different colors made by of two different acid dye types, which means one will set faster than the other or even prevent the other from setting. Overdying is simply dyeing the light color first and then after rinsing out the excess dye, dyeing it once again in the darker color. When overdying it is best to check the progress of the color change every minute or so to keep from making too drastic a color change.

Black is a pain to get good and dark. To get a good black with acid dyes use a dye bath twice as strong as normal (i.e. use 1/2 tsp dye powder to 2 quarts of water and use more vinegar than normal. I mean use enough vinegar to make it really stink like vinegar), leave it in the dye bath about an hour, and don't worry about how much dye appears to be still in the dye bath after the material turns black.

Follow the above, take your time, take notes of how much dye of what type you used, and you will have no trouble duplicating the color every time you wish to. It really is fairly simple.

And don't forget to cover any counter tops and flooring with newspaper or else you will have dye spots on them no matter how careful you are. Also, NEVER, EVER RINSE MATERIALS OR POUR A DYE BATH INTO A FIBERGLASS SINK or you will have the wrath of spouse and others for dyeing the sink to deal with. Only stainless steel, enameled, or porcelin sinks please.

Hope this is useful to you. And if you or others decide to try dyeing, happy and safe dying.
 

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loco alto!
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unless you are trying to revive excess feathers for good use, or dye large quantities from bulk purchase, I will suggest that dyeing is not an economical proposition. Fun, experimental, and potentially productive, yes, but not economical.

I once took ALL the feathers in my desk of various colors that didn't seem immediately appealing and played "all or nothing" with a dye bath. I dyed them purple then overdyed by blue (thanks FT for the sequence) using RIT and created a motley batch of awesome deep purple feathers that have found many applications. This deep purple is unavailable in stores, and blends wonderfully with black. Basically I took $50-$100 worth of feathers lying around, not being used, and made them very useful by addition of $6 of RIT.

I could have failed just as easily, but there was nothing to lose, since the feathers that I dyed were just taking up space.

I used an aluminum pot with RIT ... wrong pot, wrong dye, excellent results - just don't ask me to repeat it!

... I'm still married ...
 

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Pullin' Thread
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Steve,

Love it!

Thanks for the first person account. Sounds like you lucked out and aluminum reaction with the dye baths didn't alter the color.

My wife leaves the house when I'm going to dye something as she mumbles something about her "tetched" husband better not mess up her kitchen. :Eyecrazy:
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
WOW! Excellent Thread!

Wow! Thanks! Excellent thread. It is apparent you spent some time writing this. I was completely scared of dyeing my own materials untill I read this. Thanks again...this is a huge help for me! I am going to give it a shot tomorrow
 

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Argos,

Thanks.

Let us know how it went and turned out.

Dying really isn't that difficult and I'm glad to hear you are going to give it a try.
 

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argos said:
cost many anything, the half-dozen or so hooks and time I spent tying them some guinea. I am wondering if anyone has any experince buying natural feathers like these from a store like "Micheals."

Thanks for any suggestions!
I get many items from these stores. You have to know your application, and ofcourse choose wisely. But things such as Ostrich- well ofcourse-- it's Ostrich herl. Especially for fishing flies. I found some wonderful dyed goose shoulders once in a craft store for about 5 cents on the doallr versus the going rate.

Most of the marabou I see appears to be of mediocre quality at best however. But would work well for clump type dressings, muddler wings etc.
 
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