My current bed is my lifetime favorite. I sleep in a nest . . . all flannel and feathers tucked into an alcove. It is get-out-of-here comfortable, with fresh air head and foot.
Besides my large, regular down comforter I have a mini one, more like a down throw, that floats on top of it all. When everything is properly fluffed, the covers are 8″ to 10″ deep. I live in a microclimate with cool to cold nights year-round and no central heating so I’m always comfortable in this nest. Yum.
Feathers are lightweight, great insulators, and can be compressed into very small packages. They’ve been used for warmth for centuries by certain peoples, mostly northern Europeans. My Austro-Hungarian Grandma raised geese both to pluck for “feather ticks” and to eat, and Hungarian Goose Down is still considered some of the finest in the world.
Probably the most familiar use of feathers in the USA today [besides in pillows] is in down sleeping bags. They have all the right characteristics for adventurers: lightweight, warm, compressible.
Down items need to be washed sometimes and that scares the bejeezus out of most people, but I’m living proof that the process is easy and healthy and safe . . . if you do it right.
First of all, let me address “dry cleaning.” In the ways of the world this is a new process, only about 100 years old, and it uses chemical solvents. There are certain, tailored items, like suit jackets and slacks, that contain multiple types of fibers processed in different ways. If you were to wash them you could remove the additives that keep them “crisp” and might cause parts to shrink at different rates . . . in other words, you could ruin them.
However, there are many other items that you can wash. They have “dry clean only” labels because if you wash them the wrong way they’ll shrink or felt and the manufacturers don’t want the responsibility of teaching you how to do it right. Personally, I don’t want to wrap myself in chemical residue.
BUT ON TO CLEANING YOUR OWN FEATHERS . . .
Put your sleeping bag or mini-comforter or feather pillows into the washer. Add cold water and a little soap. I use whatever “eco-friendly” brand that was on sale at the co-op the last time I ran out and I use only a little. Use the “Delicate” setting.
When the washer has finished its job and buzzed at you, remove the items and put them into the dryer. Now this is where you have to pay attention. You need to add a couple of clean tennis balls or those dryer balls. You could use a new, unworn pair of tennis shoes too, but who has those? Run the dryer on air/fluff (i.e. no heat) for about 15 minutes, then switch to the coolest heat setting for 15 minutes. Continue to alternate between the two until your item feels dry.
I like to wash a down item on a sunny, windy day so that I can take it out of the dryer after an hour or so and hang it from a line or drape it over the porch railing. When the sun goes down I return it to dryer at the lightest heat setting until done.
I’m very fond of simple, creature comforts. I find settling into clean, fluffed bedding that smells of sun and wind to be luxurious . . . healthful . . . and downright delicious. Yum.