Pearsalls Color Chart

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Re: Pearsalls Color Chart

Post by Greenwell » Tue Dec 04, 2018 10:51 pm

John, do you know the approximate year when Pearsall's switched from spooling their Gossamer threads from wooden to plastic spools?

To the best of my recollection it was in the 1980's but it may have a bit later. I've used Pearsalls since I learned to tie as a kid and all the spools were wooden through the mid 1980's at least. The packaging changed too, first small cardboard boxes of several different types, then plastic covered boxes. Plastic tubes were used for a while also in the 1990's. I'll try to take some photos of different packages and spools but my camera skills are rudimentary at best.

It's important to remember that Pearsalls was not the only silk used, especially on North Country Spiders. Yorkshire was the center of silk thread production with many factories manufacturing silk suitable for fly tying so there would have been innumerable shades and variations available over the course of a couple centuries. Best not to get too wrapped around the axle when it comes to silk colors!

In the Catskills, Beldings was one of the brands that was used. It came on 200 yd spools and we just used white and black. They made a 6/0 that was beautiful to tie with and an 8/0 that broke if you looked at it wrong. I think I still have some spools of it somewhere.

One last observation. Because of the dyes used different colors had different breaking strengths. Black is always the weakest and I've been frustrated by it many times, even with fresh spools of black. The light colors usually have higher breaking strengths and as I stated elsewhere Orange is especially strong.
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Re: Pearsalls Color Chart

Post by Theroe » Wed Dec 05, 2018 7:29 am

Ah, Belding Corticelli....great stuff. As are Champion, Gudebrod, etc. And Reed Tackle - I don’t know who he bought his cell chrome, but I liked it the whole lot better than herders. I still have a couple of dozen spools in sizes 2/0, 3/0, 4/0, 5/0, 6/0 and 8/0. And yes, the white 8/0 is very fragile, unless you happen upon a “good” spool.
Most all of those wood spools hold 500 yards too!

IMHO, silk thread is head and shoulders above all others.....there is just something special about how it handles and wraps.....and the sheen is second to none.

Soft and wet - the only way....
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Re: Pearsalls Color Chart

Post by daringduffer » Wed Dec 05, 2018 7:56 am

PhilA wrote:
Tue Dec 04, 2018 2:49 pm
A shade of yellow is probably the most commonly specified color of silk in old fly patterns.
I have read in different texts that if the colour of silk is omitted you can be almost certain that it should be yellow of some kind. (That can be used as a hint for Stewart's Dun Spider).

I agree about how many different yellow shades Pearsall have produced. I had a spool of rich yellow with a marvellous 'sheen', aquired about forty years ago, that is empty by now. I should have left a few turns on that spool but it was such a pleasure to use it.

Regarding the photo of number 4 and number 5 in one post, I have to agree with Master Shuck. The paler yellow is number 4, Light Yellow, and the richer yellow is number 5, Yellow. When I compare what I see on my screen, (weak argument, I know) with my reference collection with numbers written on the spools and with my Pearsalls reference chart with authentic silk, that is my pompous verdict. ;)

(My reference collection comes from EMTE in Vessigebro who was the Veniard wholesaler in Scandinavia and Margrethe Thomsen (EM TE) was the professional fly tying lady in Sweden, with close connection to Preben Torp Jacobsen).

I also wonder if there can be a difference in silk quality, and how it takes the dye and reflects the light, as part of explanation to how we see the shades. As I have mentioned before, I have or have had, a couple of spools with a much richer 'sheen' to them. These are/were number 5 yellow and number 19 hot orange but also number 12 Cardinal and number 13 Crimson. Those rich spools I collected from old stash in the early eightees. I wish I had more of them left.


Edit, added 'and reflects the light'.
Last edited by daringduffer on Fri Dec 07, 2018 3:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pearsalls Color Chart

Post by daringduffer » Wed Dec 05, 2018 8:21 am

Some of the silk sold lately comes from a project in recreating the correct shades by Langley and it is my opinion that the result is a bit off, compared to the silk sold on wooden spools. I seem to remember that Phil Holding from Fly Tying Boutique was involved in this project. Disclaimer; I haven't compared spools in hand. I just wonder if the number 5 Lemon yellow in PhilA's photo could come from that dye lot. I seem to remember that they changed the name of number 5 from Yellow to 'Lemon Yellow'. I'm old, and my memory has bad days. Use salt liberally.

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Re: Pearsalls Color Chart

Post by tie2fish » Wed Dec 05, 2018 8:54 am

The following link will take you to a post in the Reference Material section of this forum, which in turn will allow you to download a pdf document showing a Pearsall 's silk reference presentation put together several years ago by a couple of our currently active members (Ray "Letumgo" Tucker and Stefan "daringduffer" Thorsen) and the originator of the forum Mark Libertone. Hopefully this will shed some additional light on the topic.

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Re: Pearsalls Color Chart

Post by PhilA » Wed Dec 05, 2018 9:24 am

Yes, No.4 and No.5 could be switched, but it would have been a clerical error of at least three different vendors. That is possible. Like all Gossamer spools, The suspect spools did not have numbers on them, only the vendor’s assurances.

The spool I have the highest confidence in is No.4-H, because I received it directly from Langley’s.

I’m away from home for the next few days, but will compare my spools with online photos upon returning home. I would like to sort this out. If needed, I would gladly mail spools to someone for comparison to a reliable reference collection. Many thanks, Phil
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Re: Pearsalls Color Chart

Post by joaniebo » Wed Dec 05, 2018 11:01 am

Here's another Pearsall color chart. I don't remember if I had scanned it or if someone sent the pic to me a bunch of years ago.
OldShadeCard1.jpg (261.87 KiB) Viewed 393 times
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Re: Pearsalls Color Chart

Post by daringduffer » Wed Dec 05, 2018 11:13 am

Phil, you are quite right, somebody in the chain may have mixed up the spools, even my spools, but those in my reference collection that Bill linked to match my Pearsall Reference Chart with actual silk, just like the one John scanned and showed in the first post in this very topic. On my screen the scanned colours are somewhat off but that might be due to me using an old laptop (Thinkpad X200). Modern calibrated screens will probably do a much better job, if the input is good. Me, I just check my chart ;) .

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Re: Pearsalls Color Chart

Post by William Anderson » Thu Dec 06, 2018 2:15 pm

such a fantastic thread. (no pun). I'm not sure why, but the subject of Pearsall's silk is one of my favorites. Thanks, John, for scanning your card. I'm not sure where I got mine, obviously the extraordinarily generous offering of a friend and when I recall who gave it to me, I'll feel like a heel for not having that someone like that as part of my nightly prayers and blessings. :D

As far as the yellows go, they give me a headache as well, but the colors on the cards are quite clear, the #5 being much darker than #4. Count me in as one who wishes these spools were marked as well. As tough as the yellows are, I have a terrible time with #6, #11 and #20. between these three colors on the cards and the number of spools I have of each, both wooden and plastic, I think I have 7-8 shades in a range. Seems kind of arbitrary to put some of these in one group or the other.

What a cool and seemingly definitive conversation on these threads.

BTW, if you ever get the chance to hear Rob Smith go on and on about the silk industry in the North Country over the centuries, it's very compelling. As John said, it makes the nuances of silk shades irrelevant and highly important at the same time.
"A man should not try to eliminate his complexes, but rather come into accord with them. They are ultimately what directs his conduct in the world." Sigmund Freud.
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Re: Pearsalls Color Chart

Post by bearbutt » Fri Dec 07, 2018 2:07 pm

Greenwell wrote:
Tue Dec 04, 2018 10:51 pm

The packaging changed too, first small cardboard boxes of several different types, then plastic covered boxes. Plastic tubes were used for a while also in the 1990's.
This is a terrific thread--and it's about time I started sharing some stuff with everyone here.

John's right, the packaging changed--these green boxes were used for a while, though I dont have the years for them:



The plastic tubes that Wisconsin John showed earlier in the thread are also important. Mine aren't lebeled, but I think John has some that are?


Happy to join you guys,
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