Suggestions for working with Down

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    Chad Ware


    Locale: Northwest Georgia

    I am working on a few MYOG projects at the moment, and several of them involve working with down fill. I am hoping to get some ideas on how to make this process easier. I started out with a simple pillow just to get a feel for it, and ended up with more down on the floor than in the pillow (not to mention the fact that I quickly realized that a high quality down pillow is too compressible to be of any use to me).

    I am using the 900 fill power down from thru-hiker. Please let me know if you can assist with any of the following:

    1. Do you know of a good method to get the down from the packaging (3 oz plastic bag) to the project (down booties and/or quilt) without it 'floating away' or dropping everywhere?

    2. For a sewn-through project, is it better to sew the baffles before or after filling with down?

    3. Any other tips and tricks you can think of for working with lofty down?


    John Donewar
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeastern Texas


    This is from Jamie Shortt's website

    You can scroll down to page 11 to see how Jamie transfers the down from the bag to the sections of the quilt.

    I recommend reading all 20 pages of the instructions.

    Party On,


    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    I've made a couple down items but am no expert

    Sew baffles first

    Make sure and weigh down for each baffle. Scale needs at least 1/10th ounce or 1 gram resolution.

    Small disagreement with Jamie – you want more down per area for short baffles than long baffles. You need extra down at the ends of a baffle to push it out, than in the middle portions of a baffle. To simplify, just have the same amount of down per baffle, even though some of them are shorter.

    On the other hand, maybe you want more loft around your torso than your legs, so maybe Jamie's calculation is fine.

    No need for complicated contraption for handling down. Just use a large plastic tote. Put your clothing, down, and scale inside tote. Also a small container to put down in when it's on scale. Zero the scale with empty container.

    Then, just move very slowly and don't sneeze. Weigh out down. Grasp between fingers. Stuff into baffle. Poke it further in with a chop stick/spoon handle/or similar.

    Ryan Smith
    BPL Member


    Locale: East TN

    "Then, just move very slowly and don't sneeze. Weigh out down. Grasp between fingers. Stuff into baffle. Poke it further in with a chop stick/spoon handle/or similar."

    My process is exactly like Jerry's except for the very last step. Instead of going straight into the baffle from the scale, I stuff the down into a tube that is of smaller diameter than the baffle(note: while still on the scale). Then, put one end of the tube into the baffle and push the down into the baffle with a chop stick/spoon handle/etc. I found I wasn't steady enough to keep from losing down w/o puting it into the tube first.

    Just completed a quilt using this method & didn't lose a single cluster.


    Chad Ware


    Locale: Northwest Georgia

    I like the shop vac method described there. Seems pretty simple to arrange, as well, given that you have some noseeum mesh handy. I don't at the moment, but I'm sure that I can find something suitable (perhaps sneak out a pair of the wife's stockings).

    It seems to me that it be possible to reverse the direction of the vacuum to fill the baffle without removing the tube each time. Of course, it's also possible that I'll end up creating a down snow machine by using so much filling pressure.

    I agree with his assertion that the baffles should be sewn first in a quilt, and I wonder if this still applies for smaller items (like down booties) where the baffles would be difficult to fill. Does sewing through after filling cause the down to escape the fabric?

    Patrick Matte
    BPL Member


    Locale: N. Georgia

    Chad, I just finished a down quilt using the plans/system John D. linked.My first time working with down and I found the process as described;long but very efficient as in no down lost.From my bit of sewing over the years, I have to say that sewn thru was easier in anticipation of my perceived agony sewing baffles.
    "that's all I have to say about that"

    Ivo Vanmontfort
    BPL Member


    I use two PET bottles. Which I slide over one another.
    In the bottle with the white neck, I made ​​a hole.
    I close it with a piece of fabric (Breathable).
    From the bottle with the green lip I have cut off the bottom and slid it over the first.
    I suck the down with my mouth or with a vacuum cleaner (low level!!) and blow it into the baffle

    Van zelfbouw
    William Zila
    BPL Member


    Locale: Albuquerque

    for quilts i leave 4 inches on each side of the baffles so there is a baffle running down each side. i tape nanoseeum over the first section of my 3 section 3 inch 5 hoarse power "clean" commercial shop vac. it sucks about a ounce of down up each run. i change the vac to blow put the hose down to the bottom of the quilt and blow it in. when all the down is in i sew up the bottom " all sides are sewn except the bottom" i then roll around on the quilt to move the down around. job done and done quick

    Jared Dilg
    BPL Member


    Locale: Texas

    This has to do with your first question:

    My first down project was an underquilt for a hammock. I borrowed a friend's large shop vacuum and built a "down eductor"(search BPL) out of PVC plumbing to blow the 750-fill down into the channels.

    The eductor worked OK but was a pain to set up and to clean up errant clusters later. It also once backfired on me. I recently made a 900-fill baffled summer quilt based on Jamie's design but opted to use nothing more than a paper towel tube with Nanonseeum mesh on one end. It worked very well!


    First, suspend your sewn quilt from its corners as Jamie illustrates. Gravity and open channels are your friends here.

    Lay two pieces of Nanoseeum mesh on top of a paper towel tube's end, one layer 45 degrees off from the other. Tape these down with any decent tape. It's a good idea to tare out the weight of the tube on your scale, or at least weigh it and write on the side of the tube with a Sharpie.

    Place your 3oz bag of down in a *PAPER* grocery bag. I found that the paper bag had low static cling, so the loose down clusters would gently settle on the bottom where I could reclaim most of them later.

    Open the top of the down package and stick the open end of the cardboard tube into the opening and use a couple fingers on your free hand to stuff the down up into the tube. You can get at least 35 grams of down securely into the tube.

    Transfer the tube to on top of your scale, open end facing down. It will stand upright. Weigh it.

    When you're satisfied that you have enough for your channel, stick the open end of the tube into it, gathering up a good length of the channel around the tube and sealing with one hand. Blow with a quick, short breath against the mesh end and the down will blast into the bottom of the channel. You can now roll the hem on this section and clamp with a paper binder.

    I filled my quilt with 7 ounces of down in about 20 minutes. Clean up was a matter of rolling closed the top of the paper bag. I may have chased two down clusters, but that was it!

    Chad Ware


    Locale: Northwest Georgia

    Thanks, all. It sounds like there are a lot of variations on essentially the same concept (a tube covered with noseeum and some sort of suction). I don't have any noseeum at the moment, but was planning to pick some up anyhow.

    My booties are just about ready for filling, I'll let you all know how it goes. I'll give the pantyhose thing a try first, since I'm too anxious to wait on the mesh. If they lose down or block suction then I guess I'll have to wait a while.

    Evan Cabodi
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    Women's pantyhose work really well in place of the noseeum. It's what I use on all my down contraptions… :) Just don't tell my wife.

    Small rubbermaid bins work really well too for storing and working with the down. I used to work with the 3oz bags and would just pull a few handfuls out and directly into a medium sized tub. From there I'd either hand pick the down and weigh it or vacuum out a certain amount.

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