Filling my Down Quilt

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    Kris Sherwood
    BPL Member


    Locale: Washington State

    Ok, the sewing is almost to completion and I am going to fill my homemade down quilt tomorrow. Any last minute tips or advice for filling? Plan is to use my shop vac and do each baffle section and tape shut until all are filled to what I want.

    Mark McLauchlin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Australia

    My tip, do it in the bathroom, close the windows and doors, buy yourself a disposable face mask and go have fun!

    Travis Leanna
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wisconsin

    Admittedly I have no experience with sewing and filling a quilt, but….what is the purpose of a shop vac? How does that fit into the equation?

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    See our MYOG Quilt article for some ideas.


    Jarrod Handwerk


    Locale: Orwigsburg PA

    i never usd the shopvac to fill mine…please let us know how well it worked….

    i always order mine from stormcrow he packs it anyway you like…so all you need to do is put the bag in the baffle
    and turn it inside out….very fast and clean

    Kevin Beeden
    BPL Member


    Locale: UK

    Another way of keeping the down from getting everywhere is to do the filling in a tent… Put the tent up in the house, take the hoover into the tent, take off your clothes*, and take everything into the tent.

    Once you've done the stuffing, seal the item, and then hoover up the mess.

    * so the down won't stick to your clothes…

    Oh, you can control the down when transferring it from source bag to filled item by stuffing it into a tube, inserting the tube into the item, and then pushing the down out of the tube. Also helps to control the amount you put in.

    Lee Johnson


    Locale: Central Oregon

    My wife and I just stuffed two down hammock underquilts last night. We've found that working in a two person team works best. We put the down , still in it's plastic bag, in a small garbage can. We then put this on a scale and tare (or zero) it out. This way we can fill each baffle with exactly as much down as we want.

    As far as controlling the down–my wife would carefully grab handfulls of down and I would suck up any fly away chunks. I was using a small vacuum with nanoseeum around the end of the tube that enters the vac body. After we have removed the appropriate amount of down from the bag it came in, I would empty the small amount of down in the vac tube. Some folks say to expect a loss of 10%. I'll bet we lost a fraction of that. We didn't have down flying around, because I'd suck up any piece that floated out of my wife's hands.

    We tried the shop vac method by itself and it was a total pain. The down kept getting stuck in the hose, and it took forever to get enough to fill each baffle.

    Lance M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon

    I've had great results with a 'down eductor'. Fast, no mess and accurate.
    Diagram of Down Eductor - revised
    Diagram revised 11/6/10. Extension tube on outlet eliminated as shown in photos and video.

    These are the pieces as they would be used to plumb a double kitchen sink. Piece at left goes from disposal unit to baffled drain tee. Upper piece would connect sink drain to baffled drain tee. Lower right piece is the baffled drain tee.
    Components of Down Eductor

    These are the pieces put together and turned so that the baffled drain tee is horizontal. This is the working position of the eductor.
    Down eductor assembled

    This is a close up of the baffled drain tee. The dashed line traces the internal baffle. Air blowing from right to left has to speed up as it goes through the restriction of the baffle, creating a low pressure zone in the area below the baffle which in turn ‘draws’ down up through the lower tube.
    Down Eductor Close-up

    Put your source of down on your scale. Make a note of the weight. Calculate what the weight will be after the desired amount of down has been transferred.
    Goose down source on scale

    Here is a mock up of filling a quilt baffle section. The opposite edge of the quilt is finished. The outlet tube is inserted into an open baffle section of the quilt and the quilt material is sealed around the tube (held tightly by hand). I sew the section partially shut (in the seam allowance) so it fits tightly around the tube. You can see blower from vacuum at right and source of down at bottom.
    Down eductor and source

    With the blower turned on, use your fingers to ‘fluff’ and coax the down toward the end of the intake tube. Don’t put the end of the tube into the down. It will block air flow and/or plug the tube with down. Any loose down should be sucked up the tube rather than escape into the room.
    Down eductor at source

    Watch your scale. Stop when enough down has been transferred. Sew that baffle shut (in the seam allowance) and continue sewing to partially close the next baffle for a tight fit around the tube. Repeat for each quilt baffle section.

    If you go too fast and the down intake tube plugs, withdraw it from the source and blow into it. The down in these pictures isn't the best quality so it took some 'fluffing and coaxing' to help it into the intake tube. Finer quality down doesn't need much help.

    As you withdraw your hand and the tube, you can use the tube to vacuum up any down clinging to you hand.

    The outlet end MUST NOT be restricted or the blower air will blow out the intake tube and blow down everywhere. This can happen when the weight of your quilt pulls the fabric tight against the end of the outlet tube. Make sure your quilt is supported and the outlet tube is unrestricted.

    The outlet end must be short or back-pressure will reduce suction in the intake tube. Tape the vacuum hose securly to the air inlet tube.


    Lance M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon

    I filled a new quilt today using the 'Down Eductor' described above.

    For those interested, a short video of the process can be seen here:
    Windows Media Video

    Finished differential cut quilt:


    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Hi Lance

    My compliments!


    Marco A. Sánchez


    Locale: The fabulous Pyrenees


    Seems pretty precise and clean!

    Thank you for sharing this technique and the video!


    Jared Dilg
    BPL Member


    Locale: Texas

    Brilliant! Such a clean process! Now I don't have an excuse for delaying my quilt project. Thanks for sharing!

    Jared Dilg
    BPL Member


    Locale: Texas


    Have you had any issues filling the last baffle with this method? I filled an underquilt with the "down eductor" last night and found the vacuum only worked as long as there was an open baffle to exhaust air from. Even as I worked my way through the empty baffles the vacuum would decrease as the options for venting decreased. As the last baffle would all but seal the airflow, how did you handle this?


    Frank Deland


    Locale: On the AT in VA

    Nice job, Lance.

    I just hung the open tubes on a bathroom rack and stuffed by hand. I kept chalk dust (found among climbing gear) on my hands to prevent the down from sticking to them.

    I kept the down on a scale and just kept an eye on the weight used.

    Joe Clement
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southwest

    Wow, I thought I was being tricky by putting down in a cardboard tube and weighing it. The down eductor blows that away.

    Lance M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon


    "Have you had any issues filling the last baffle with this method?"

    I haven't noticed any difference between the first and last baffles filled.

    I temporarily sew each baffle shut after filling and before moving on to fill the next baffle. Even at the last baffle, plenty of air enters the baffle being filled, spreads to many adjoining, closed baffles and dissipates through the fabric.

    I've filled two quilts and later added more down to one of them using this method. The first quilt used breathable down proof ripstop nylon and no-see-um netting from The Rain Shed. The second quilt used ripstop Momentum and Nanoseeum Netting from Thru-Hiker.

    The first prototype 'eductor' had a rather long 'discharge' tube and didn't work very well. A shorter tube worked much better. I would guess that a shorter 'eductor' tube would help too.

    Perhaps we're using different materials or different size vacuum/blowers?

    Glad to see you had some success.


    Note – revised diagram of eductor to show outlet without extension tube.

    Jared Dilg
    BPL Member


    Locale: Texas

    "The first prototype 'eductor' had a rather long 'discharge' tube and didn't work very well. A shorter tube worked much better. I would guess that a shorter 'eductor' tube would help too."

    Ah, I only caught it this morning that you had used a shorter output tube in your photo – I used a longer extension like what's in your illustration and not photos. Glad to hear it worked for you on Momentum. This project was with DWR rip-stop 1.1 but my next quilt will be with Momentum. I'll chop down the eductor end and give it another go. Thanks for all the info!



    I’m reviving an old thread here to enhance the collective wisdom…

    I’ve used the eductor method to move down in the past and was amazed/thrilled at how well it worked. So I tried it again for a hammock underquilt project. The air pump had no problem completely inflating the quilt shell like a blimp, but no down was moving. Big bummer! I had no choice but to switch to the sucking the down into a tube with a vacuum cleaner and then blowing the tube into the quilt. But the down plugged off the filter and the suction stopped after only loading about 1/10 of an ounce or less into the tube at a time. I quickly shifted to stuffing down into the tube by hand, which allowed moving nearly 1/2 of an ounce at a time, but was more messy. It was also tedious and reminded me of how efficient the eductor is when it works.

    Inquiring minds might ask: What was the difference from my successful past use of the eductor? Calendered fabric. While the tight weave of the fabric will help keep me warmer while using the quilt, it didn’t allow enough air to move through the fabric to get the venturi going. This quilt may turn out to be too warm, so if I make another quilt in the future I’ll consider one of the following:

    1. Make the quilt with uncalendered fabric. This should allow more air to flow during filling, but I assume would also reduce performance of the quilt.
    2. Temporarily sew a netting “pressure relief strip” into the opposite end of the quilt, then cut it off and stitch that end closed after filling. I have no doubt that a small amount of down would stick in the netting relief strip and be lost when it’s removed.
    3. Try the “pooter” method in reverse. Measure the down for one chamber into the container, seal the lid and use the higher pressure of a vacuum cleaner exhaust to move the down instead of the air mattress pump of the eductor.

    I’m leaning towards #2.

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    It seems like if you use method #2, it will take more time in total than if you just do it by hand.  Or making a suction/blowing device will take more time.

    I weigh the down for a particular baffle in a plastic container.  Then squeeze the down into a blob between thumb and fingers.  Stuff into the baffle.  Maybe use a stick or whatever to push it further down.  Maybe it takes 15 minutes to do a quilt.  Much less time than measuring, cutting, sewing,…

    Make sure you’re in a closed room.  Turn off AC/heat so you don’t get a blast of air.  No other humans or animals allowed in the room.  Have the vacuum ready for when you’re done.  A tiny weight of escaped down will create a huge mess of down.  I use my hands to herd into a pile and use it for the next baffle, but I don’t get it all.

    If I was a quilt manufacturer and had a lot of quilts, I’d make some eductor like device.  It is tedious to do manually and an eductor would be really cool.

    I wonder if quilt manufacturers weigh out the down for each baffle.


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