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Matt Arciaga
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
How do you work your berlin wool?

How do you work your wool?

I like to split 1 strand from the 4 strand piece and wrap it in that way, it take about 40+ wraps to the front but well worth it. No bulk, but you must have a nice solid smooth base layer below it so there isn't all these big lumps in it.

Thanks

Matt
 

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Berlin Wool. There is a local vendor at a nearby farmers-market selling bulk worsted wool-roving. I picked up three 1/2 oz baggies at 2.50 a piece in jet-black, natural, and white for dyeing. It's just Cotswold worsted-wool that will shred or pull/stack like any other dubbing or spin into a yarn in an open loop. Not the same wool as the softer wools used to spin yarn for Berlin wool-work but more than suitable for our use as a dubbing.
 

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Matt Arciaga
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Discussion Starter #3
Berlin Wool. There is a local vendor at a nearby farmers-market selling bulk worsted wool-roving. I picked up three 1/2 oz baggies at 2.50 a piece in jet-black, natural, and white for dyeing. It's just Cotswold worsted-wool that will shred or pull/stack like any other dubbing or spin into a yarn in an open loop. Not the same wool as the softer wools used to spin yarn for Berlin wool-work but more than suitable for our use as a dubbing.
That stuff I ordered from feathers mc came in 4 strand yarns, utc, make a "wee-wool" that is single stranded, nice stuff. I fancy something I don't have to process, unless I'm making a multi colored dub and then well of course id like the loose stuff
 

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i have the feathers mc stuff which i rarely use - if i'm doing anything with wool, particularly on classic flies, I hold the strands under a razor blade (dont press hard) and pull the wool under the edge, this creates a 'dubbing'

I can only think of one classic pattern that uses wound wool, and that is Lady Caroline from the Pryce Tannatt book
 

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I prefer to dub it onto my thread in long strands. I find I get more control on when using this technique and end up with nicer bodies. If I'm simply after a large bulky body for fishing, I'll just lash it on and wind it forward. Depends what you are after I suppose.
 

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Matt Arciaga
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Discussion Starter #6
All of the classic spey patterns were tied with wool bodies. Some had accented silk strands but, Berlin wool was the must for classic spey flies.
 

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Was it a must??? "Must'" is simply too restrictive IMO. Not a single spey is tied with the spey saddles these days and there are several suitable alternative dubbings for the bodies. Besides, what - exactly - is Berlin wool anyhow?
 

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Was it a must??? "Must'" is simply too restrictive IMO. Not a single spey is tied with the spey saddles these days and there are several suitable alternatives. Besides, what - exactly - is Berlin wool anyhow?
see here:

http://www.speypages.com/speyclave/showthread.php?t=68793

Also, note that the term "Berlin wool" as used in discussion of fly tying materials has been simply adopted from the phrase "Berlin Wool Work" which is a style of embroidery similar to the modern cross-stitch, and this style arose in Berlin in the 1830's, just after the perfection of excellent 'fast' dying techniques for wool in a large range of bright colours. The wool itself is not 'special', but is natural good quality sheep's wool, dyed in many different shades and colours, and often presented in 4 strands and wound into a ball, or, in smaller amounts, a hank.

For preference of handling and the 'rough' or tousled look of a fly body (less picking out to do), I use mohair....which also comes in 25 or 50g balls, and in a huge variety of useful (including bright and fluo) colours & shades.


Mike
 

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Matt Arciaga
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Discussion Starter #10
Was it a must??? "Must'" is simply too restrictive IMO. Not a single spey is tied with the spey saddles these days and there are several suitable alternative dubbings for the bodies. Besides, what - exactly - is Berlin wool anyhow?
In regards to hackle.

Brown (fishing gazette" 1891)

"Hackle. – The hackle is perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the Spey fly, and the greatest puzzle both to amateur and professional fly-tiers. It is not, properly speaking a hackle, but it is taken off that part of the cock which might be called the ‘saddle,’ or near the tail. The best feathers hang with a graceful curve from the root of the tail down the side of it, and when the fibres are extended to right angles with the stem, they will be found to be of equal length butt to tip, not tapering as in a hackle. The feather thus described is very soft in fibre, and when dressed on the fly, has a very different appearance to the ordinary cock’s hackle, and a very different effect in the water.

These feathers still exist today.
The "spey cock" I believe was simply and rooster found near the river spey.
 

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seaterspey
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My wife is a fanatic about knitting and lucky for me I get to pick through her yarn. Go to a good knitting store, not your run of the mill craft store they won't carry the wools. As mike would say pick strong wools that won't lose the coloring and won't break down. You can find many,many different colors most of the time you can find the exact or very close to the color you are looking for. You can also mix strand colors together to make a certain color.

As for the Spey hackle found back in the days of old in Scotland those birds are gone and many have tried to copy but no one can be sure if they have. I believe those hackles are gone for good but there are many subs out there.

My 2 cents.
 

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Matt Arciaga
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Discussion Starter #12
Fair enough to all points given, as always to everyone its your hook, your rules.

Wrap em tight,

Matt
 

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I have found and wish that I could again where the German brand name Berliner Wollen-Werks ( similar Pendleton Woolen Mills) is explained as I did back then, in that other thread. That now defunct name-brand which produced stitch work patterns has morphed, if you will, into "berlin wool work" used when referring to "wool work" embroidery as Mike stated. Still though, Berlin wool is nothing more specific than a wool selected for soft texture. Merino wool, from the breed of sheep of the same name, would be one likely source. So when a claim to genuine Berlin Wool is made one should know that it is nothing more than quality wool and can be sourced elsewhere.

Matt, I have read that passage before and see many barn-yard fowl that would fit the description according to what is sold these days as spey hackles. It's in the website you mention before.

In his book "Advanced Fly Fishing for Steelhead", Deke Myer writes that"The first spey flies where tied from a specific rooster (breed), the spey-cock, that lived in the Spey River Valley. This chicken has since attained a certain mystical quality because it is now extinct." He goes on to explain how the breed was "raised for it's hackles." He offers a very similar description as William Brown did about the saddle or side tail feathers and states that the last of the "spey roosters died before World War II." Bob Veverka makes essentially the same statement that "these rosters are believed to be extinct today." I'm not entirely sold on "mystical" properties having never laid eyes on the real thing. But I'm siding with the printed text on this one.
 

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Matt Arciaga
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Discussion Starter #14
Lol, magical chickens and hackles. When I spoke to Bob regarding this subject, he referred me to either schlappen or the sides. Favoring the side tails approx 7-9" in length. The larger lengths seems to have a fat non supple vein. My own findings on the sizes.

Thanks

Matt
 

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Concerning wool, this from John Shewey, who knows as much as (and probably more) than anyone about the history and development of Spey flies:

Patterns for Berlin wool work (a form of embroidery) in colour were first published in Berlin, early in the 19th century. They were soon exported to Britain and the “Berlin work” or “Berlin wool work” craze was born in the 1850s, especially after the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations of 1851 (held in London) and by the advent of ladies magazines. By the early 1870s, as one author noted, “Berlin wool is a household word throughout Great Britain.” (Berlin even held an annual Berlin Wool Fair). Fly tiers were quick to adapt the Berlin wools—available in myriad colors—and Speyside tiers found them especially useful in creating the fine-diameter bodies they desired on their indigenous patterns. They used these yarns in strands and also by picking them apart for the dubbing. Because there were so many colors to choose from, they could blend strands and also blend dubbings made by picking apart the strands; the “barber pole” effect of using different colors in strands is traceable to flies I found in two private collections in Scotland and they are entirely authentic is period and origins. One of these flies even used orange strands twisted with brick-red strands (perhaps they were bright red when the fly was tied about 130 years ago). Though a somewhat laborious process, picking apart wool yarn to create dubbing allowed tiers a virtually unlimited supply of dubbing colors. (This may be why Berlin wool became so popular with Speyside fly dressers in the first place: the “wool work” craze had resulted in the availability of so many different colors of wool yarn, that mixing colors to obtain the proper shade of dubbing became less and less necessary). In any case, when it came to separating out fibers to make dubbing, essentially the method is that recommended by Thomas Best, in A Concise Treatise on the Art of Angling (1794): “There is very good dubbing to be got from blankets, also from an old Turkey carpet; untwist the yarn, and pick out the wool, then separate the colours, wrap them up in different papers, and lay them by.” With the ultrafine Berlin yarns, the process was more laborious, but still the same process, and the resulting dubbing is extremely fine. The different colored dubbings from the yarns can then be blended by hand. As Bob V notes, loose wool eliminates the need to pick apart strands, and on Speyside, in the 19th century, at least two prominent carding mills sprung up and no doubt proved a source of loose wool to Speyside tiers.
 

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Pullin' Thread
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If you read the description of where on the "spey cock" the "spey hackle feathers" were located (or from), it is clear the feathers were either the large schlappen feathers or side tail feathers of a fairly large rooster. One side of the feather was stripped before it was tied-in and wrapped. In other words, it isn't difficult at all today to procure feathers that work properly and that for all purposes (other than the lack of the spey cock name) because both schlappen and side tail feathers are easy to find and purchase.

And as is usually the case, with schlappen you must go through the 1/4 oz or so strung package of it to find the feathers with the fairly long, little taper from but to tip feathers that make for good spey hackle. The rest of the feathers in the package are best used for something else, given away, or simply tossed in the waste.

We fly tyers are masters of invention. When we cannot find a material we need, we find something that makes a good substitute that we can find and use it. When spey cock feathers got hard or impossible to procure, tyers moved on to things like heron, crown pidgeon, or pheasant feathers.

Syd Glasso used to say he bought strung saddle hackle by the pound, sorted through it to find the feathers suitable for spey flies, and discarded the rest. What he did with his sorting through such large quantities of saddle feathers was look for and sort out the small number of schlappen feathers that invariably get included in strung saddle hackle. He wasn't using saddle feathers at all, but he didn't realize it because he discovered that they were included in the strung saddle hackle he bought; hence, he said he used large saddle hackle that he had to sort through strung saddle hackle by the pound to find the few proper feathers.
 
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