Thursday, 30 July 2009

Drying feathers

Isn't it funny how things come about sometimes, and just turn up when you need them, or are thinking about them? Soem people call it coincidence, some call it serendipity, but I'm just glad it happens - and it happens quite often here, so I think there's more to it than mere conincidence;I came to the conclusion ages ago that everything happens for a reason, and timing is all, whether we realise it or not.
Very wet here yesterday, so I did a couple of hours on the sewing machine, sewing new cushion covers; the larger of the two are for the sofa, the smaller one is another flag one, for a post on the forum about how I do them.
The cushion pad for this one was feathers (the other two being some sort of modern polyester stuff that bunches up into lumpy lumps all the time, but they came with the sofa), and this reminded me of a conversation we had on a forum several years ago about processing feathers for use in cushions etc. No-one had tried it, and the most information any of us could come up with was to dry them in a low oven, but we could find no more information than that, even on the net. There may be more around now, but I haven't looked for a while. A short break was required at 4 o'clock to visit the mobile library, where I came back with a nice selection of reading material as usual; the librarian had put aside three new books on allotment gardening for me, so I took them out and a few others. One of those is "1939 -a year in the rural Dorset landscape". I'm fascinated by books about bygone days in the local area, and read them avidly; there's always things of interest about the local areas, as well as lots to learn about rural ways, farming life, ordinary peoples' lives - of much more interest to me than a lot of things. This one was written by a lady called Edna Rice, who lived at Melbury Abbas, not very far from where I live now.
Lo and behold, on p13 of the book, after a piece about doing the laundry, she starts to talk about home made feather mattresses, and goes on to describe how they processed the feathers.
"The pillowcases were all handmade, as were the night-dresses. Every year, Mum bought a large piece of wincyette for these. It was quite unheard of to buy ready made things. The feather beds were home made too, the feathers were saved from any poultry cooked for dinner, all the big feathers were disposed of, the others were all picked over and the hard bits cut off with scissors. Then a large bag was made by stitching a few sheets of newspaper together and the feathers were put in this, and placed in a slow oven until it felt crisp and hot and the paper became brown, this got rid of any creepy crawlies and germs. Anyone who has never slept in a feather bed does not know what they have missed. The beds are so warm, you just sink into them and there are no spaces for cold air all around. They had to get a good shaking every day, many the times I would help Mum by taking a corner at one end, and she the opposite one and we would have a good shake and often a good laugh as well.Ofcourse, the quilts wer handmade too; Granny made most of these with patchwork."
I think that's a wonderful passage, although the sheer hard work and necessity of it all doesn't escape me. When we visited my granny in Scotland, we slept on feather beds, and Edna is right, they were truly wonderful.
I'm not sure I'll ever be able to gather enough of our own feathers for even a cushion, let alone a whole mattress, but the thought is there and wonderful; never say never. I believe that the feathers for cushions etc these days are imported from China............................


Bovey Belle said...

I've slept in a feather bed too - a great aunty of my ex husband had one in her Dorset cottage. It literally wrapped itself around you - wonderful - but probably wouldn't do for my bad back these days . . . Lovely post.

Saxen said...

It's not a bad thing that the feathers come from china. That's where most chickens live, and better the feathers are used than thrown into landfill of some kind.

I'm just wanting to beat my computer up for want of access to my records about animal byproducts and the practicality of collecting from them enough feathers to make a mattress. I most likely won't be making one, but it would be useful information for those who might. If only I could access the file . . .

(steviesun, whose blogger account is set up for Saxen)