Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How to Make a Feather Pillow

Recently a co-worker brought in a feather pillow his grandmother had made for him and asked if I could repair it.  The fabric was worn thin on several seams.  I just tucked the seam in deeper and whip stitched the edge so he could get more years of use from it.  He then asked if he bought the fabric and feathers if I would make 3 more pillows for his children.  Of course I said yes, silly me.
So here's the standard blue ticking he bought.  This stuff is tough and will wear for years.  It is twill, rather like denim, solid cotton and is usually blue & white striped. It is normally 30-36" wide, not the standard 45" that most other fabric is these days.   You'll need to decide what size pillow you want and how many to decide how much fabric you will need.  Any clerk in the fabric shop can help with that.  These were standard pillows so they would be 20" x 26".
Before you do anything else, zig zag or whip stitch any raw edge so that it does not ravel.  Then throw it in the washer to pre-shrink it and to remove the stiff sizing.  Who wants to sleep on a stiff pillow?  Dry as usual.  Then you'll need to iron it to get out the wrinkles.  Next comes cutting the fabric.  Remember to add 1/4" to 1/2" for seams on each side.  I cut a long rectangle, one long side of the pillow is only folded, not seamed.  Once your pieces are cut, zig zag the raw edges first unless you are using a serger.
 Fold your fabric with the right sides together, matching up the stripes and set your stitches to the smallest your machine will do, you don't want those feathers escaping.  Sew your seams about 1/4" to 1/2" wide and on one short side leave an open area like the above photo shows.
Slightly trim the corners so you can turn your pillowcase right side out and have nice looking corners.  And once again iron it so the seams don't sink in and the opening lays flat.  Trust me you need to do this in order not to be frustrated later.  Now to stuff it with feathers!
These are chicken feathers, just the soft down from the chicken's belly, no pokey pins!  But do this outside, not in your house and preferable not on a windy or breezy day.  The feathers weigh nothing and they go everywhere.  These feathers came in a plastic bag in a box.  I put the pillowcase IN the bag and kept it as closed as possible while grabbing handfuls and stuffing the pillow.   The pillow will not be stuffed tight but it will be full, remember it fluffs.
I told you they go everywhere!
Next I whip stitched the opening closed.  No need to be super fine on this as it will get machine stitched.  Last thing I did before bringing the pillows back in the house was to get rid of as much feather residue as possible.  The tiny fluff sticks to the fabric like pet hair.  I brushed them with my hands and beat and fluffed them.  Then I wrapped 2" wide tape backwards around my 4 fingers.  I used this to brush the fabric even more.  I used 2 pieces of tape per side, you could use a lint roller if you have one.  I used packing tape but duct tape would work also.  
Then I brought them in the house, held them by the end that had the opening and shook the feathers down.  Now I could fit the hand sewn area onto my sewing machine to run a top stitched seam to seal in the feathers.
A final fluffing and done!  They turned out terrific but it was a lot more work than I thought it would be.  I spent some time sweeping the porch and really needed a shower too as those little feathers get everywhere!



Carolyn said...

Love the idea of making my own feather pillow as my down pillow is about gone. Where do you get the feathers?

ladyhawthorne said...

My co-worker bought them from a company he found online and talked them into selling him just 5 pounds. There was a local place he could have bought them, but the feather would not have been cleaned and probably not separated. I suggest an internet search or see if there is a chicken farmer in your area. You could also use duck or goose down.

1st Man said...

Ah the memories you brought back. My Great Grandmother had some feather pillows on an old bed in her basement, and I can still remember laying on them. They had the blue ticking just like that. Wow. I've seen 'down pillows' in the store but they just aren't the same. This looks like it might be exactly like hers. I might have to try my hand at this someday.

Daisy Rogers said...

Love the way of making home made duck feather pillows.
Very interesting and info tutorial to make step by step feather pillows.
Thanks for the share step by step tutorial.
Keep it up!!!

Anonymous said...

One thing to watch for !!! All feathers need to be washed PRIOR to stuffing of pillows. This should be done by the supplier. A reputable supplier will have facilities to do that. The caution is that Duck and Goose feathers will have a stronger smell than Chicken. The washing process must be diligent enough to remove the smell of the particular feathers. I speak from experience. I had a pillow stuffed with feathers that had not been washed properly. Washing and airing the pillows, both repeatedly, did not reduce the smell. I estimated that the ticking would have failed before the smell was gone. Sleeping on the pillow was just too bothersome. Sadly, I had to discard a pillow. I would strongly recommend checking the fine print before buying any feathers.

Sprezzatura said...

Would you please be so kind as to tell me of your friend's supplier?Please, I've looked everywhere for chicken down feathers, and cannot find them! My friend is bent on having a chicken feather pillow!!!

ladyhawthorne said...

You will need to do an online search. You definitely want cleaned feathers as opposed to uncleaned. You could also check with local chicken farmers and feed stores. It's amazing who other people may know.

Jan Tr said...

Really looking forward to trying this. Thanks for the explanations.

Joanne said...

Thank you for this information. I may need to make a goose down pillow one day.

crosshatch said...

I see things like 10/90 or 5/90 with respect to down feathers when ordering online. What does that mean? And how much weight in feathers to fill a pillow? They sell by quarter and half pound, but I don't know what that translates into 'pillow talk'. ;-)

ladyhawthorne said...

I was not the one that ordered the feathers so unfortunately I cannot help you with that part.
If you have found a seller of feathers then I would contact them and ask their opinion.

Nadia Cabrera-Milling said...

Hi there I was wondering if I am making a pillow case with a feather down pillow from the store would I need to make it the measurement of the pillow or 2 inches smaller (is what I was told) TIA

ladyhawthorne said...

Nadia, if you are making a pillow case that you take off and wash with your sheets, I would make it just slightly larger than the pillow so you can get it on and off easily. I don't see any advantage of making it smaller, pillow cases are hard enough to get on as it is.

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