How do I use an eiderdown?

I have been asked many times "how do I use an eiderdown?" So here is a guide on making up a traditional bed.

Traditional bedding - Sheets, blankets and eiderdown.

Many people find contemporary bedding ie the duvet and duvet cover very bothersome to change with many going back to the traditional way of making a bed with sheets, blankets and eiderdown.  

Sheets - Using a good quality cotton sheet is essential.  Two sheets are required, one for the bottom (either a fitted sheet or a flat sheet made up using hospital corners).  Then the top sheet which can be beautifully embroidered, have scalloped edges or both lies on top (right side down) with the top of the sheet in line with the top of the mattress. 

Blankets - These go on next and this is where you can add more depending on the season or personal preference ie for warmth or heat.  Again, a natural material is best so wool is traditionally used here. Place them 17" to 20" from the top of the mattress so that you can turn the top sheet down and over the blanket, revealing any decorative edging on your sheet and creating a space at the top for the pillows.  You can tuck the sheet and the blankets under the sides and bottom (again using hospital corners).

Eiderdown - The all important eiderdown is then simply laid on top of the blankets creating additional warmth and style to your traditional bedroom.

Duvets and eiderdowns  

Some people prefer to use a contemporary duvet and cover (they don't seem to mind the fight!) in which case an eiderdown can still be used to add extra warmth and style to your bed.  Simply make your bed as usual and lay the eiderdown on top.


A little bit of history from Old & Interesting (History of domestic paraphernalia)

"Having a feather tick on top of you was the perfect way of keeping warm at night during a northern European winter. For some reason the British only adopted the feathers-on-top custom very recently, and the writings of English-speaking travellers in Germany often comment on the "foreign" featherbeds used instead of blankets. Sometimes American pioneers describe sleeping between two feather ticks as a way of coping with extreme cold, and some immigrants must have been used to this custom in their home country. Yet it was only in the late 20th century that the English-speaking world started to adopt the duvet, sometimes called the continental quilt in England, associating it firmly with other parts of the European continent.

Duvets, known as federbetten or featherbeds in German, are loosely quilted. Broad channels stop the feathers ending up in one corner of the tick, while allowing them to expand and hold warm air. One eminent English traveller, Paul Rycaut, who tried and failed to introduce the duvet to his compatriots around 1700, sent his friends six-pound bags of down, explaining that "the coverlet must be quilted high and in large panes, or otherwise it will not be warme". Sixty years later Samuel Johnson described an unusual advertisement for: "some Duvets for bed-coverings, of down ... warmer than four or five blankets, and lighter than one." Still, they didn't catch on on his side of the English Channel, but 100 years later the "eider down quilt" was starting to become better-known.

Eiderdowns, or eider down quilts, were introduced to Victorian Britain as a marvellously light and warm substitute for heavy woollen blankets - but they didn't do away with all blankets. British beds were still made up with a top sheet, a couple of blankets and then an eiderdown: always an ornamental item, even when covered by a bedspread. The typical eiderdown was covered in satin or floral chintz, and tightly quilted. Despite its name it might well be filled with goose feathers, not real eider down from the eider duck."