Eiderdown

I am the happy owner of 3 kilos of uncleaned eiderdown.  I originally bought a small bag, perhaps 600 grams, of Eiderdown at the Good Shepherd, a local thrift store.  Even if I knew that, cleaned, it would yield only 300 (10,5 oz) grams and a duvet for a full grown person requires 1000 grams (or 1 kilo/35 os/2.2 pounds) I thought it was worth it.  I had to pay a bit of money for it, probably about 60$, but Eiderdown is incomparable when it comes to duvets.  Mine is old and getting to be rather thin.  So I had the idea that I would start to collect eiderdown for the duvet that I would have for the rest of my life.

Just before Christmas I was lucky enough to find some more Eiderdown at the Good Shepherd.   This time it was 2,5 kilos of uncleaned down so I knew that I had all the down I needed for my new duvet even if more than half is straw, seaweed and feathers.  I couldn't believe my luck.  And this time I only had to pay around 40$, making the total outlay for the down about 100$.  Eiderdown is truly a remarkable material.  Somewhere I saw it described as the Fabergé egg of comforters.

Eiderdown is gathered from the nests of Eider ducks, Somateria mollissima.  The female ducks pluck their breast in order for their warm body to get in better contact with the eggs and then arrange the down in the nest itself to insulate the eggs from the cold Icelandic summer.  Farmers watch over the nests, protect the ducks from birds of pray, fox and mink and in return carefully remove a small amount of down, replacing it with straw which keeps the nests dry.  It is generally a happy arrangement for all.  The 4-5 ducklings go to the sea with their parents when they are old enough and the parents return each year to the same nest.  The eiderdown is left for the farmer to pick before it is blown to sea.  Each nest provides less than 20 grams of down.  So it takes down from more than 50 nests to make one single duvet.

I started to clean the eiderdown just after the New Year and soon realized that it would take me absolutely ages.  One needs to go over the down very carefully to extricate the delicate strands of fluffy down threads from straw, moss and a few feathers.  After spending every evening for a week, I weighed the results of my hard labour and lo and behold, I had almost 20 grams cleaned.  That is 2% of the weight I need for the whole duvet.  At the same speed it would take me a year to fully clean all the down.  I now understand why an eiderdown duvet costs thousands of dollars.

I have found someone who will clean the down for me in a machine.  It doesn't cost very much, but picking the feathers has to be done by hand and I have to do that myself.  It takes a skilled worker almost one day, so it'll probably take me a week.  But I'm actually quite excited.  I would prefer to clean all the down myself, but it takes too long.

I am now in the process of trying to find down proof silk to sew the cover.  If I'm to have this perfect, most light and fluffy material I need it have have the most glorious fabric cover.  I read somewhere that silk has the same thermal qualities as the eiderdown.  I have been admiring some photos on the internet that I have have found of vintage duvets.  They have the prettiest flowery material and I have to admit that I would love to find something like that in 300+ count silk.  The traditional color for duvets here in Iceland is a mid blue cotton.  It's nice enough, but I think I have to find silk for this one even if it won't be flowery.  I can't wait to get my new duvet.  I'll probably never get out of bed.



Comments

  1. That's so interesting!! I've never even heard of eiderdown, but it sounds so amazing! So glad you've found some help to get it cleaned. Best of luck finding the perfect silk. :)

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  2. I loved reading this and I admire your patience. It sounds like it will be worth it!

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