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This archived content is from Mary Wilkins’ sewing and quilting message board “Sew What’s New,” which was retired in August 2007. It is being provided by “Sew What’s Up,” which serves as the new home for many members of “Sew What’s New.”
From: ktdid56
Date: 09-11-2005, 09:36 PM (1 of 5)
Hello everyone. I'm kt. First time here. Looks like a great place to get some of my questions answered, and learn a few things I never even thought about. Here's my question for anyone that may have an answer:

I inherited an old European down comforter, circa 1930's or 40's. It is very heavy, very large, and a little stinky. I would love to have it cleaned, but I am very concerned about the existing fabric encasing all of the down. It is a heavier weight cotton, pinkish red in color. I feel that it would just disintegrate if I have it cleaned in its current state. (It is kind of funny when I think about all of those feathers flying around the washer and/or dryer - kind of like a three stooges skit, but then incredibly sad to think I just ruined something so important to me.) Anyway, I would very much like to put a new heavy duty frame (material) around it, then have it cleaned, then baffle it to keep the down in place, then make my custom duvet cover for it.

I realize it will be messy and I may sneeze alot, but, is this a stupid thing to do? The comforter has a lot of sentimentality to me and frankly, it will be ever so warm this coming winter (I set a low thermostat setting due to the high fuel prices). It is also the least costly option for me to do this myself because as you all probably know, down comforters are not cheap.

Where to do this repacking (garage, basement, outside shed, outside patio on a windless day), what material would be best to wrap it it (muslin, silk, cotton, linen), double-up the fabric, and how and where to clean it when it is finished (dry clean or launder at the laundromat)? Any thoughts and/or suggestions are most welcome. This is the only site online I could find that could possibly have an answer. I know this seems like a lot to ask, but please help if you can. I truly appreciate it. Thanks so much.

User: ktdid56
Member since: 09-11-2005
Total posts: 2
From: esrun3
Date: 09-11-2005, 09:56 PM (2 of 5)
Hi KT! Welcome to the boards! Hope you find lots of answers here and enjoy your time with us. I have never done this with a comforter but I think personally I would make a new cover for it, go ahead and sew the baffles before cleaning. I think I'd probably use a heavy cotton for the covering and would dry clean it. Hope that helps. Just my thoughts on it and as I said I've not done this before. Maybe someone will come along with some answers that has recovered a comforter.
User: esrun3
Member since: 12-02-2004
Total posts: 2345
From: Chrysantha
Date: 09-11-2005, 11:15 PM (3 of 5)
User: Chrysantha
Member since: 09-06-2002
Total posts: 2414
From: Sancin
Date: 09-12-2005, 12:10 AM (4 of 5)

Here in the north country we wear a lot of down clothing and most people wash them and dry them as with other clothing on gentle cycle with gentle soap or detergent - coats, jackets, vests, etc. Dry clothing in the dryer with a tennis ball or two to fluff up the down.

I have not cleaned a comforter but I have cleaned old down pillows -lots (I have no idea where my mother got them). I did it wrong and then was told the right way to do it. I washed them as I would clothing then I sneezed and snowed on the neighbourhood as I transfered down to new covers on my patio. :shock:

Later a friend told me that I should have transfered the feathers wet!! Makes sense doesn't it? :cool:

For your comforter try enclosing the comforter as is in a temporary pillow case out of sheets or muslin which will catch the down if the original cover bursts. Wash the quilt in a large washing machine. Will have to stand over the machine and make sure you punch down the blanket until it is all wet and all the air is out of it - takes quite awhile. Actually I would wash it a couple of times and make sure it is well rinsed. This is not a quick process. Some of my pillows obviously weren't, and any time they get damp they stained the new covers I had made.

In the meantime have ready the new cover you intend to be the down's final destination. With baffles if you need them or not. Make sure you use fabric with high thread count as down has an amazing way to work through just about anything. Personally, I wouldn't use too heavy a fabric. When you use the comforter as a duvet and put it in the duvet cover it, it gets heavier. Down is very warm as it is.

Put in dryer the new cover with wet down in it and dry with tennis balls - warning -will take a long time and lots of cycles. But will be worth it. Old quilts were made of heavy canvas fabric as no other material was available that prevented down leaking through - we have sleeping bag at our cottage circa 1900 - weighs a ton! I sleep on it, not in it.

About 15 years ago making one's own down coat classes were all the rage here. I am sure you can probably find a site on line that describes the process and in particular the thread count fabric to use - probably a mix cotton with some nylon or poly in it. I used pillow ticking for the pillows but it seems to almost have a bit of wax in the fabric. Try searching for 'working with down'.

Good luck and let us know how it works out - I am tempted to take that old sleeping bag apart!! :nervous:
*~*~*~* Nancy*~*~*~* " I try to take one day at a time - but sometimes several days attack me at once."
User: Sancin
Member since: 02-13-2005
Total posts: 895
From: ktdid56
Date: 09-13-2005, 02:51 AM (5 of 5)
Hi Everyone.

Thanks so much for the advice, especially Nancy. Wow. :up: I would never have thought to transfer down to its new house while wet. It makes perfect sense. And I have no doubt that my neighbors thank you as well. I'll have to figure out what material I want to use first. I will then take it to my local laundromat and use their machines to wash it so as not to tax my own. It's a small price to pay (as opposed to mine breaking down and having to purchase a new one :cry: ).

I recently discovered a textile shop in the town we recently moved to and this little old lady really knows her stuff. I will consult her and hope it works.

Thanks everyone. I will give it a whirl soon and let you all know of the outcome.

User: ktdid56
Member since: 09-11-2005
Total posts: 2
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