More on Eiderdown
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 :)