Waterfowl Down Pillow

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It’s 3AM and you checked into your closest wildlife refuge in hopes of harvesting a few waterfowl. You set up decoys and get situated before sunrise and try to get comfortable in the cold blind before the feathers start flying. Shoot time rolls in and you’re fortunate enough to harvest a few ducks and maybe even some geese. Each bird you pick up you can’t help but admire the beauty of their feathers. But as the morning slows down you start thinking of the work left to do before you get home. By the time you make it into bed, you’ve been awake 30+ hours and all you want is to lay your head down on your comfortable pillow. And what better way to end the day than to rest your head on a pillow made from the down of waterfowl harvested on previous hunts?

This is what I wanted for myself for the past couple years and finally made it a reality. The pillow pictured is made from all my geese and ducks harvested over the last two years. It took some time to collect the down, but man am I happy to have a pillow made from my own wild harvests to remind me of past hunts as I lay my head down to sleep. Interested in making your own wild pillow?

The project itself is actually fairly simple, but the preparation is where it takes a little knowledge and know-how.

Collecting Feathers and Down

Collecting Feathers and Down

Down Collecting:

For a standard pillow it takes about 10-15 gallons of down. So how much down do you get off each bird? Well for Canada geese it’s about 1 gallon per bird. For ducks it is significantly less and will definitely take a considerable amount of birds to gather what you need to make a pillow. On the mixed bag of ducks I’ve taken over the last two years, I had 14 ducks that equated to about 2 gallons of down. For an explanation of how to collect the down from your birds, click here to see how I do it. It is important to note that you want to be as meticulous as possible to collect only the down for this as sleeping on a bunch of quills from feathers would be a complete nuisance to your sleep.

Fabric:

Fabric choice is important when making a down pillow. The fabric needs to be tightly woven to avoid any of the down slipping through the strands. One of the sources I used for information was Plumeria Bay who had a nice write-up about down proof fabric. A Link to this site can be found here. What I ended up using was a Luxe cotton I purchased over at Joan’s Fabrics which came out to $8/yard after a coupon. I ended up purchasing 2 yards just in case I screwed up the first time cutting it but I really only needed the one yard.

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Here's what you will need:

- 10-15 Gallons down

- 1 Yard pillow fabric

(I used Luxe Cotton)

- Thread and fabric scissors

- Measuring tape

- Sewing machine

- Iron and ironing board

- Shop Vacuum (optional)

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Start by cutting your fabric to the proper size. For a standard pillow this would be 20”x26”. If your looking for a different size, just be mindful of the amount of down you need.

Iron each piece of fabric to remove any wrinkles. Stack the two sides of the pillow and sew them together on a sewing machine leaving about 1/3rd of one of the shorter sides open.

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Flip the pillow case inside out and iron the edges to make a crisp seam line. On the open portion, make sure to fold in the fabric to line it up with the rest of the sewn edge and iron it flat. Later you will be sewing this closed and will want the fabric to line up cleanly with the already sewn portion and have all the edges of fabric sewn into the interior.

Stuff your down through the open portion of the pillow case. The easiest way I found was to put the closed 1 gallon bag inside the case and then open it to empty the contents within it. As the pillow case filled more and more I ended up placing the sealed bags into the pillow case, opening it, cut a small hole in the bottom of the bag and used a shop vacuum to blow the material out of the bag and into the case. Be mindful you will need to hold the open end of the case sealed or you could end up spraying out all of your down.

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Continue until the firmness is to your liking. Remember that down compresses a lot! So test your pillow by holding the edge closed and resting your head on it to get an idea of firmness.

Once filled, stitch the final opening closed and take it to your dry cleaner. Get it back and enjoy a good nights sleep!