More on Eiderdown

I have been trying to find out as much as I can about Eiderdown.  There really isn't much information around, certainly no books or magazines or website dedicated to the subject.  So I've been left with a few websites of manufacturers, Wikipedia, interviews in newspapers and such to try to gather knowledge.  And I do know that there are probably only about 3 other people in the world who are interested in this subject.

Most of the production of Eiderdown is from Iceland, between 70-90% and I've read that my countrymen are not eager to share the methods of working and cleaning the down with the rest of the world.  That kind of goes against my grain, but it is understandable that people want to protect trade secrets.  But I'm a still curious and I have planned a visit to the fairly new Ederdown museum in Stykkisholmur this summer to try to find out more.  The National Museum also seems to be researching old methods of cleaning down and I want to get those results when available.

Canada, Norway and Greenland also produce some Eiderdown but if Iceland produces about 3 tons every year, that would make the total world production at most around 4000 kilos.  That's not a lot.  It would only take one small truck to transport that.  Apparently the Japanese sell about 20 tons of Icelandic eiderdown a year!  Since the yearly production in Iceland is much less than that and not all the down is sold to Japan, the conclusion is that most of the eiderdown sold in Japan, isn't eiderdown at all.  That might also be an explanation as to why I saw a statement in some ad that eiderdown is always white and that is how you know you have pure eiderdown.  What nonsense!  The eiderduck is brown (the male is black and white) and since it's the female that plucks it's down the down is brown specked with white.  Very easy to recognize once one has seen it.  Just in case someone is interested.

So my advice to anyone interested in buying an Eiderdown duvet is to buy directly from Iceland, preferably directly from the farmers.  Several Icelandic Eiderdown farmers sell them directly and the price is quite reasonable, around 300-400.000 ISK (which makes it about 2.500-3.000 US$) for a single duvet.  It isn't a custom here to have one big duvet for a couple like I've seen in the UK and the USA.  I can't imagine sharing my duvet with my husband.  It's not because I dislike him or anything.  It's just that here everyone has their own duvet, starting with the tiny crib duvets and going up in size as kids get older.  Couples each have their own single size duvet.  That means there is no awkward gap and no tug of war during the night.  And, no! There are no problems in cuddling, you just overlap them (or throw them off - it all depends on the mood :)

I also saw that in the UK eiderdown seems to be a word for duvet or comforter and not refer to the actual material.  Rather confusing!

The reason for all of my information seeking is to try to figure out the best way to clean the eiderdown I have.  It isn't dirty as such, just mixed with straw and plant material and really fiddly work to separate it.  I have tried various things.  One of them is to make a kind of a harp, like I've seen the Norwegian use.  I used a something that I bought in a junk shop and have little idea what to do with.  I think it may be something to do with weaving.  But anyway, I used some fishing nylon to string it and then I weave the down clusters in and out and then use a wooden pestle to vibrate the strings and it makes the stuff fall out.  It's best done outside in little to no wind because the stuff just flies everywhere and also some of the down.  I chase it, can't bear to waste any.  It does help a lot in getting some of the straw and plant material out, although I still have to use my fingertips to pluck out the small stuff.  But I am pretty sure I have the best cleaned eiderdown anywhere.

I did read that the down is alway heated to a 100-120C, probably to kill any pathogens that might be present, but I was also told that it makes the straw more brittle and thus easier to remove.  I have heated a small amount and it didn't damage the down in any way.  And it smelled lovely, just like lichen.  So I assume that some of the plant material is Cetraria Islandica, the Iceland moss.  So now I have to start baking my down to see if that speeds me up.  I almost have 200 g. of cleaned down, so that is 20% of the duvet :)


  1. What a great post ! I had no idea what eiderdown was and certainly fascinated by the fact that eveyone gets their own duvet. Mnay more happy marrigaes I would guess your way than here. Do you have any links for the farmers who sell their duvets directly to the consumer?

  2. Here in the UK when they 1st started to arrive (1970's) they were called Continental Quilts, we were the envy of our neighbours as they still had sheets and blankets :) x

    Lovely post Ambra, I do like your blog very much

  3. I agree Donna, it makes for much more peaceful nights :)
    Here are the links that I have found:
    I don't know the difference between them. Most want you to send an email. But if anyone is thinking about comparing prices, ask about the size and the weight of the eiderdown. For a regular single (140x200) the weight should be 1000grams = 1kilo. 800g is OK. Just don't compare the price of 800g with 1000g. Also check the fabric of the shell. Silk is very expensive and not common.

    Joanna, I'm always so disappointed when I have to sleep under sheets when I travel. It's really hard to get used to not having a duvet :) I can't imagine how people do without. And thank you for your kind words :)

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  5. That is rather fascinating! I admit I've been more and more captivated by Iceland the more I read about the place, and I keep wondering to myself whether or not I'll make a few brave forays there while I'm still able to travel. Eiderdown seems like such a simple thing -but I suppose it's as misleading as saffron or vanilla bean which are very complex things to process for use.


  6. I tell you, Oya's daughter, that my respect for this wonderful material has increased tremendously since I started to clean the down. I never fully realized the amount of time that it requires. As for traveling here, I always say late June and into July is the best time. Most people haven't experienced daylight 24hours and I also love summer :)

  7. Interesting post and so much to learn!

  8. This was a fascinating post and I learned a lot. I was laughing trying to picture you chasing the bits that fly around. Sounds like a big job to clean your duvet but you can feel good knowing it's clean.


  9. I recently purchased 10 pounds of Eiderdown from the Inuit. Good price.
    It's 85% clean and I have connected to a company in Quebec that will clean it up ready for putting in comforters.
    I am willing to sell 2 pounds for $1000.00

  10. I should add my email

  11. Wow, you do have a lot of hobbies! (I can relate). I have been saving down and regular feathers from my ducks for a couple years. When I get to it I will try your method for cleaning it. Bake, then shake over the harp.
    I love reading your blog! I just found it via the comment you left a few weeks ago about me desire to sew an Icelandic costume. Seeing all your posts and progress makes me want to start even more!


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