I've had a growing bag of washed feathers from my chickens, and I decided to make them into a down jacket. I love wearing a down jacket, and I often borrow Paula's jacket, but I find it has a yucky, plasticy feeling to it, and an associated plasticy smell which I hate. I decided my jacket would have to be all natural materials so that it would breathe and smell right.
My friend Jenine suggested japara as the fabric, since that's what doonas are made from - the weave is very fine so the feathers don't poke through. Unfortunately I could only find white japara at my local fabric store, so I bought that and some black dye. As you'll see from the photos, the "black" dye wasn't very black at all, but actually a rather pretty mulberry colour. C'est la vie. I'm quite happy with the colour, though the dye job came out a bit splotchy and looks decidedly handmade. I'm not too fussed about that, since for me the jacket is to wear around the house, like a dressing gown, so that I don't need to turn on the heater, and can be snugly warm while doing art, washing the dishes and getting my jobs done.
In order to make it easy to get the jobs done, I ended up making the sleeves quite short, and having a long woollen cuff that would roll up. This reduces the bulk around my wrists and makes dishwashing and art easy tasks to undertake while wearing this jacket.
You can see the finished jacket here. Paula forbids me from leaving the house in this jacket, and I have to agree that it's not the most stylish thing ever, especially when teamed with my homemade ugg boots, which they usually are. (I'm wearing them in this photo.) However, the jacket wins a lot of points for being very warm. It isn't as warm as my doona, despite being significantly heavier, so it's not perfect, but it really is keeping the chill off my winter.
To make this, I used the pattern from an old jacket that fit me perfectly. I should have added a bit more ease since the down forces the fabric to bulk out. I sewed the lining to the outter fabric (both japara), and then added all the horizontal seams, so that I had a series of pockets ready to fill with feathers.
When plucking the feathers, we plucked them straight into a bowl of warm water. I then rinsed them in the sieve in the kitchen sink, and stuffed them into a pilowcase which I hung on the line to dry. I sewed them into the pillowcase for security, and saved them up until I had about 5 pillowcases-worth. By that time they'd developed a bit of a smell, so I soaked them overnight in white vinegar and water. Then I washed the "pillows" in the machine on hot wash three or four times until they were fluffy and had no trace of the weird smell. Next I unpicked the seam, removed the damp feathers, and sorted them. I found that by squeezing in my palm I could quickly identify any wing feathers which were too stalky for a jacket, and I set those feathers aside.
What was left got stuffed into the pockets of my down jacket. The first batch I worked with when dry, and they made a hideous mess of the house, despite my most careful efforts. The second batch I stuffed while still damp and that definitely made them easier to control. I then sewed up the jacket and dried it thoroughly.
Finally time for a test wear: and it's WARM! Very snug! I don't feel hot in this. I just feel like my body is at its own temperature, which feels just right. But it's a bit heavy. I think I stuffed too many feathers in some of the pockets. But I'm a bit nervous about the mess involved in trying to extract them, so not sure if I'll make it a priority to renovate!