Get your stuff together!
A few months ago, we did a blurb on fly tying stations here and wanted to follow up with a few suggestions on how to organize things once you have a workstation in place. If you read that previous post, one of the biggest takeaways is to plan big and grow into your space (if possible). This is especially important for a tyer just starting out because this will make their collection and organization sooooo much easier down the road. That means pay attention! So with that in mind, here are a few tidbits on getting your space organized...
- Keep materials stored and separated as early on as you can. There was a time in my tying career that I kept all my "feathers" in one bag or box. It won't be too long before you have to dig through a considerable pile of stuff to get what you're looking for. One suggestion is either bags or plastic bin or drawer type containers to group "like" materials together. For instance, I have drawers such as "Soft Hackle", "CDC and Ostrich", "Rubber Legs and Skin", "Marabou", "Hackles" etc, making it a lot easier to find what I'm looking for.
- Label stuff. Ok, I'm anal and a bit OCD -- that's a given. But having my stuff labeled in its various containers saves me a lot of time by knowing where things are and how to get at it. I bought a cheap nerdy hand-held labeling machine at the office store. Works great. I use it for containers, hook boxes, bead boxes and my underwear.
- Keep highly used materials close at hand. Things like threads, hooks, hackles, etc I try to keep within arms length. While I do have a whole closet-full of materials, I try to make sure the most commonly used stuff is right in my reach.
- Store and label hooks and beads in drift-safe containers. I suppose you can keep hooks in their manufacturers packages, but what's the fun in that? I like to use containers like the ones from Craft-Mates. The compartments are individually lockable and the hooks or beads won't "travel" to a new slot when you tip it upside-down.
Also, it's a good idea to label those containers so you can go back and know which hook types to re-order or which bead sizes you used on that pattern you tied up a few weeks ago.
- Try to make sure everything has a home. I used to find myself (and sometimes still do) buried in piles and piles of materials that cover every horizontal surface in my tying area. But when I finally get around to putting things back in their respective spots, I can at least see my desk area because most materials, tools, hooks, beads and such have a place to call home. This can be a tpol caddy, a small bin, a shoebox, a shelf or whatever you want to use.
Whether or not you decide to put them there, is another story, but a clean tying area will increase your tying efficiency and ensure that you're not re-ordering the same materials 10 times over because you can't find them.
- Find a good solution for storing your tools. Whether you stick them in a simple tool caddy or build your own, your tools are likely going to last longer and will be easier to access if they're not sitting on your desk free to roam and get lost or fall onto the floor and break (as I've done with a couple of pairs of good scissors). Because I'm a bobbin hoarder, I have a couple of spots for the bobbins to keep them easy to reach and still keep them threaded.
- Foam Storage. Because of the large variety of colors, thicknesses and types, foam can very easily get out of control. I've found that by putting the foam into containers sorted by thickness and type, I can more easily organize and keep track of it all. And since I buy a lot of foam at the craft stores, I also have a bigger drawer (not shown below) that will store the bigger foam sheets so I don't have to cut them to fit into my smaller containers if I don't need to.
- Know what to buy. Probably one of the most annoying things about not staying organized is that you have a much harder time keeping up with knowing what materials you need. As part of this, I have a running list using Evernote that I jot down a "need to buy" list. I'll update that list when I'm tying or organizing and realize I need a given material. Then when I'm online or in a fly shop and need to buy materials, I can quickly refer to my list. It also helps to make sure I'm not buying double or triple copies of the same thing (as I've been known to do on many occasion).
- Purge. What kind of blasphemy is that? Yes, as hard as it is to admit, if you've been tying for any length of time, you've likely collected a ton of materials -- some of which is useless, dated or just plain crap. I recently went through my marabou collection and found packets of feathers from 20 years ago! Compared to what they're putting out today, it was total junk. I'm sure I could have kept it and maybe used it for something, but the space it takes is worth more than the materials. Don't be afraid to go through and purge things from time to time. Or at the very least, donate it to a local tying club or something to benefit someone else.
- Keep it Clean! I know, I know, that's the hardest part of all and what kind of true fly tyer doesn't have an insanely cluttered work area?? But if you take the time every couple of weeks to put things back into their places and to maybe dust or vacuum, you'll find you can be much more effective tying and keeping track of things. For me, I find that when I have a more organized tying area, I'm actually more inclined to sit down and spend time at the vise. Sounds weird, but it's true.
In the end, I'm sure there are a lot of other organization tips, but this should get you going with some things to consider. If you have any other tips or suggestions, feel free to comment below....