Wednesday, 7 December 2016

killer bugs in blackberry juice

It's like waiting for a homemade wine.
You need patience to resist opening the jar too early. Let the juice do its thing. I waited four weeks. To the minute. And then my blackberry dubbing was ready.

Readers of my earlier entries will know that I got hooked on a new twist to my fly tying over the summer - something I've tagged as 'folk flies'.. creating fly patterns using materials gathered close to the waterside. It's an exciting challenge turning up at your destination sans fly box - instead, just some thread, a few hooks and basic tying tools. 

I've had great fun this summer catching wild moorland trout with kebari from sheep's wool, seagull and horsehair, all gathered from the local landscape. It got me to thinking how I could perhaps take the concept a bit further. I began to look for ways to obtain colours from the landscape to dye my fur and feathers. After a bit of research I came across a great book on natural dyes - 'Wild Colour' by Jenny Dean

Inspired, on one of our family blackberrying forays I collected and set aside about a pound of reject berries - the ones that don't look good enough to eat. Back home I simmered them in a stainless steel pan with two pints of water for about half an hour. Using a stainless potato masher I made sure all of the juice was out of the fruit pulp then strained off the dye from the solids and into a screw top jar.

Now in went some sheep's wool I collected from a fence wire. The wool was carefully washed with mild soap and rinsed thoroughly first. This is important because the natural oils (lanolin) in the wool will act as a 'resist' and prevent the dye from bonding with the fibres unless you wash it away first.  And that's it, I just let the wool steep in the jar of blackberry juice dye for those four weeks. From my research I was expecting the dyed wool to come out a soft pink colour and that's exactly what I got. Once removed from the dye, rinsed and dried I teased the out the fibres et voila! a perfect dubbing - especially for winter grayling bugs! 



  1. You're really taking this hobby to the next level. I admire your dedication. Nice looking flies as well!