Craft Store Recon

Places where I don't belong...

The nice oldish lady in the bead aisle at the craft store gave me a sideways glance and a funny look as if to say I was obviously lost and probably needed help finding the sporting goods store because I was invading her happy place. I wasn't lost but I was tempted to let loose with a good crop-dusting as I walked by her. The place needed more man-scents but I doubt it would overcome the Martha Stewart-ish smells that dominate craft stores.

Anyhoo...back on task. Whether you want to stick out like a sore thumb, try to covertly shop or show up in drag, craft stores are a gold-mine for the fly tyer. I have three decent sized craft stores within a few miles of my house (Hobby Lobby, Joann's and Michael's) and I usually do tying recon missions fairly often. They bring in and feature new products VERY frequently so you will usually find new things every time you visit.

Here's a quick run down:

  • Feathers: You'd actually be surprised that you can find decent marabou, soft hackles, peacock swords, ostrich and other feathers. Just be careful of the quality and price. The feather boa's (seen to the right) have some amazing marabou feathers and although the fibers aren't super-long, you can work with it.

  • Thread: This is one to be careful with. I know noob tyers will head off to the fabric store to buy massive quantities of ginormous thread. While there are definitely a few good tying threads (Coats and Clark Summer Brown!) don't go in expecting to find anything that compares to your fly shops. There are, however, metallic or decorative threads that will work great. The Sulky brand is a great one that a good friend of mine recommended. They are holographic tinsel, but in very fine and colorful sizes. Works great for ribbed bodies, tails or just adding some flash to a pattern.
  • Tools: If you look in the beading section, you'll actually find a number of very helpful tools. Anything from Bodkins to Exacto knives to tweezers and measurement tools. Mostly a lot of "enchanting elegance"

    Just be aware that you will typically NOT find good scissors there. Even some of the better sewing scissors and nippers just don't compare to the best fly tying scissors. Sure they'll be good for something, but I don't think you can get decent EDC (Every Day Carry) scissors there.
  • Foam: Yes, foam is awesome at craft stores. They sell it in all shapes, sizes, colors and it's a fraction of the cost of what you can find at some shops. However, there are a couple of foam types (Evazote and Crosslink from Rainy's) that I think are a step above craft foam. Just something to keep in mind.

  • Tons of other stuff too...I could go on and on. But hook & bead containers, beads, articulated fly connectors, wire, wing material (organza ribbon and such), lighting, foam blocks for tool caddies, tying station workcenters and yada yada yada. Just go check it out. 
Wing Material from some decorative leaf thingy.
Foam Blocks for tool caddies or cutting into poppers etc.
All variety of cutting tools for foam, feathers etc.
Beads and lots of 'em...
Beading wire for articulated flies, ribbing and such.

Hook and Bead Storage containers
Storage bins for materials and supplies