Finding Feathers Fast



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I have a problem "eyeing" and plucking the right feather size.....

I have a problem "eyeing" and plucking the right feather size. When first tying a particular pattern this is no big deal because I typically want a range of sizes.... I just pluck a feather, measure it with a guage, and select the appropriately sized hook.

Thatís fine when you're building an inventory of sizes. But as time goes on, replacements are often needed in one particular size. This is when it becomes difficult.  Ask me to pluck a size 12 and I might get a 14 or 10 instead.

A Charlie Collins barred dun saddle before plucking and sorting

My solution for finding feathers fast when I need them is pre-sorting.

Hereís my system:

Step 1: Pull a few square post-it notes off the pad, and turn them sticky-side up on your work surface. With a marking pen, label them 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, etc.

Step 2: Remove a bunch of hackles from a neck or saddle, measure each one with a hackle guage (I have a Griffin guage which slides onto the shaft of my vise), and place the measured hackles so they lay on the sticky side of the appropriately labeled post-it. This will keep them from blowing off the table. Youíll find that feathers taken from the same location on the cape or saddle will often be the same size, and this can speed the sorting process.

Here are a few dun hackles off a Whiting 1/4-saddle

Step 3: Buy two sizes of Ziploc bags.  I use pint and quart bags. I like the freezer variety (rather than the storage variety) because there is an area on the bag for labeling the contents. Use the label area to identify your feathers using a marker. One warning: be sure to use a permanent marker so that the label wonít smear.


Step 4: Use a quart bag for each size and feather type. For example, "12 Saddle" identifies the bag that holds all of my size 12 saddle hackles. Inside each quart bag, place a pint bag containing each feather color. For example, my size 12 Saddle quart bag contains one pint bag for each of seven colors plus one bag for feathers I have died.

A large number of pint bags will nicely fit sideways in the quart bag

Step 5: Finally, use a large black clip to hold all the quart bags together. For my saddle hackles this means eight quart bags (one each for sizes 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20). All of these eight bags are held together with one black clip.


Because the "zip" part of the bag is inside the clip, the bags will not slip out. Use the clip levers as handles if you like to wall-hang your materials on dowels or hooks. Or, as I do, store them in a large Rubbermaid storage box with your other feathers.


I have one clip holding saddle feathers and a second clip holding cape feathers.



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