Published May 10. 2017 - 5 years ago
Updated or edited Oct 8. 2020

The mothers’ yarns

I have recently had a pretty decent injection of fly tying material to my stock. I call it the mothers’ yarns because it came from my own mother and my mother-in-law.

Martin Joergensen

My in-laws are in their late 80’s and have just moved from a large apartment to something smaller and more manageable. That has meant emptying their almost endless storage of things that they had saved because they could be “nice to have”. The amount of stuff that they had put aside was nothing short of overwhelming to themselves as well as the rest of the family, and the number of bags and boxes that had to be moved out from he old apartment has been staggering.

Like many elderly people they aren’t the types who throw out things, which have just a hint of usefulness. As a consequence they have simply saved everything except what was obviously totally and utterly useless. OK, they had also saved quite a bit that was actually totally and utterly useless... especially after having been stored for a long time.
Recently while talking to my own mother, who turns 80 this summer, I touched upon the subject. I mentioned to her how much we, her children, would appreciate if she’d slowly start getting rid of things with no value or use. She immediately produced a handful of small pieces of cardboard with darning yarn. Not much, not the best colors, but absolutely useful. I immediately did my duty, bagged it and brought it home and added it to my stash of fly tying material.

Instigated by this experience, my darling wife Birgitte saw the potential in a handful of similar cards in her mother’s sewing table, and brought them home to me. So I’m now fully stocked on yarn. Since most of it is for socks, the colors are quite subdued. OK, I know that socks can be colorful, but the socks of our parents' generation weren’t quite as colorful as modern socks. So we’re talking earth colors, grays, browns and tans, a few red, light blue, burgundy and green hues also, but basically all useful in fly tying.
And there are several original Chadwick’s cards in the bunch. For those not in the loop: Chadwick's is the holy grail of yarns for fly tying, the stuff that Frank Sawyer used for his famed Killer Bug. OK, it’s not the exact color – Chadwick's 477 – but I could still feel a whiff of history as I realized what I was holding.

I could still feel a whiff of history as I realized what I was holding

The rest of the cards were also from times long gone. From a time when you would get a small card of matching yarn for repair with every pair of good socks you bought. From a time where you could buy little cards of mending yarn in hundreds of colors and qualities to match any sock. Heck, from a time where people would actually repair socks with holes in them! When was the last time you mended a sock?
No wonder that the genuine Chadwick’s 477 has become as rare as truffles and almost as expensive – if you can find it at all. Mending yarn isn't exactly a big item these days.

When was the last time you mended a sock?

But I now have an ample supply of small cards with different colors yarn in my fly tying materials.

My kids are so gonna hate me for it!

PS: This excellent article by William Anderson shows you a bit about the importance of getting the right yarn for Sawyer's Killer Bug.


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