Eider down: A process from the farmer to a finished product
In April, many farmers begin to prepare the laying. The preparations vary in accordance with the nature of the respective area. In some instances, the farmers prepare the laying by making nesting places, building small houses or installing tires or setting up sideboards. Necessary maintenance work on the boats is carried out and monitoring trips undertaken to see whether the female duck has started settling down. In other colonies, farmers need to be on guard all around the clock in order to protect the colony from mink and fox. In this way, the
perfect collaboration of man and nature begins, man protecting the duck and getting her down in exchange.
At the end of May and in the beginning of June, the down gathering begins and normally lasts until after mid-June. The eiderdown farmers walk their colonies and gather the eiderdown. It varies significantly how the eiderdown is gathered and how the number of nests is counted. Each farmer has his own tradition. Some cover the same nesting ground twice, the first time early in the nesting season at the end of May and the second time around the middle of June. Some farmers always leave a down wad in the nest, whilst others take all of the down and put dry hay instead. Most farmers count the nests in their colonies, and some count the eggs as well.
As soon as the down has been gathered, it is dried, usually distributed on mesh frames and using hot air. When the weather is good, some farmers distribute the down on the grass and leave it for drying in the sun. It is very important that the down be dried well immediately after gathering. Otherwise, there is danger of the down rotting and thereby losing its unique qualities. Down, which has lost its qualities, is not good enough to be used. When the down is distributed on mesh frames to dry, it is simultaneously shaken and the biggest pieces of dirt are plucked from it.
When it is dry, it is packed into bags. Preferably, it should be baled but not put into plastic bags, in case it was still a bit damp. Then it is sent to cleaning.
Crude refinement: After the eiderdown has reached the refinery, it is crudely cleaned in a rough cleaning machine. Thereby, considerable amount of dirt is cleaned from the down.
Mechanical feather picking
Heating: Then the eiderdown is heated for at least 8 hours at 120°C.
Scratching: When the eiderdown has been heated, it is put into a cleaning machine, which is sometimes called a “scratcher”. The machine rids the down of most of the dirt. The heating has the effect that all grass, seaweed, heath, moss and other external natural phenomena in the down become very dry and crumble easily and fall from the eiderdown.
Mechanical feather picking: The eiderdown is then put into a feather-picking machine, which picks a considerable share of the feathers from the down.
Manual feather picking
Manual feather picking: Manual feather picking: In the end, the eiderdown is cleaned by hand. Then, the feathers, which the feather-picking machine did not manage to pick, straws and other things, are picked manually.
Washing: Before the eiderdown is used for duvets or clothing, it must be washed in water. If this is not done, it smells, especially where the climate is humid. To ensure that the eiderdown keeps its unique qualities after washing, it is washed extremely carefully by hand at Queen Eider. The wash removes smell and fine dust, which was not removed in the cleaning process.
At the end of this process, the eiderdown is ready to be used in finished products. By far the biggest part of Icelandic eiderdown is used for luxurious duvets. Icelandic Eiderdown is also used for some part in high quality clothing, mainly fashion and outdoor clothing.