Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Down Quilt Instructions

OK so here's how I made my down quilt...
  • 84" long, 78" long with a "body" inside. (ie. it covers a six-foot person from toenails to bald spot with 6 inches to spare)
  • head is 51" wide, foot is 39" (taper starts at 30" from the foot )
  • 13 channels 7" wide (Sewn through, no baffles)
  • 9oz of 800fp down
  • 2+ inches of loft in the middle, should be good down below 40deg. 
  • Stuffs to 6" x 9.5" (3L)
  • Weighs 17.85oz in the stuff sack
Thanks to:
Jamie Shortt of Lytw8.com for the inspiration to tackle this project. I used his instructions in creating my project, but my sizing, materials, spreadsheet, and down handling system are original. 

For the shell I used 5 yards of 1.1oz ripstop nylon seconds from BackwoodsDayDreamer.com. ($3.20/yd)
Finding down online was a challenge. Thru-hiker.com and backwoodsDayDreamer.com both offer down, though BDD is a little less expensive. ($6.65/oz) I bought mine from "DownByThePound.com" which was about that price, but I do NOT recommend purchasing from them. Slow service I can put up with, but I did not like that they didn't send an order confirmation email, or shipping confirmation. Very unprofessional, maybe that's why they are no longer accepting orders.

To calculate the ounces of down in each chamber, I figured out the total running inches of all the chambers, then divided each chamber length by the total length, giving me the percentage of the total for each chamber (ie. chamber 1 is 8.01% of the total quilt, chamber 13 is 6.73% of the total quilt). Then I multiplied the percentage by the 9oz total of down I used in this project. This gave me ounces-per-chamber. Convert that to grams by multiplying by 28.35 (grams per ounce). Confused?

Here is a spreadsheet that calculates the grams of down per chamber. (Google doc) If you want a shorter quilt, delete one of the chambers, and it will recalculate. Likewise, change the chamber width numbers to recalculate. Still Confused? Ask your question in the comments below.

Step by Step Instructions
Lay out fabric on the floor. Use some cans or some weight to hold the corners tight. Double it over so the top edge of the quilt (by your face) is the fold.

Measure the width (52") and the tapered foot (taper starts at 30" from the foot and goes down to 39" at the foot). Use a straight edge and mark with a sharpie. Cut this out with a sharp pair of scissors. (graphic1)
Graphic 1
Sear the edges with a lighter flame set to low. Move that lighter fast, this stuff is very thin!

Pin the edges all the way around. Sew the two ends and ONE side with a simple flat stitch, leaving 1/2" seam allowance. It's really important to leave one side of your quilt open.

Now sew a roll hem across the long side that you sewed shut in step 4. Sew similar roll hems across the ends at head and foot. Leave a 3/4" seam allowance between your stitching and the edge, so you have room for a drawstring. (graphic 2 and 3)

Graphic 2

Graphic 3: Rolled seam. Good for edges and drawstring channels.
Lay the shell back down on your floor. Measure and mark a line through the center of the quilt. Pin and sew this middle seam. (graphic 4)
Graphic 4
Lay it back on the floor. Measure the chambers on the upper half of the quilt 7" apart. Pin them and sew them. (I like to pin so the head of the pin faces me as I feed the material through the sewing machine. They are easier to remove as you sew this way) (If the last/top chamber is a little extra wide or narrow, it does not matter. Just sew straight!)

Repeat step 7 for the lower quilt chambers down around your legs. (graphic 5)
Graphic 5
Hang up your new quilt shell from a bookshelf, coat rod, wall, whatever. Use some duct tape to secure it for easy access near your stuffing area.

Stuffing with Down (seriously, the easiest part of the project)
Get a scale (triple beam, digital, postal, reloading, etc)

Get a cardboard tube, cover end w/ mosquito netting (picture)

Screened tube method of down stuffing

Zero the scale for the tube or add the weight of the empty tube to the fill weight for each baffle.

Stick the end of the cardboard tube into the bag of down (as shipped from the supplier) and use two fingers to stuff the down up into the tube. It's quite tightly packed, and if you move slowly and deliberately, you will lose very little to spillage. 

This is hard to do with a camera in one hand
When you have "enough" lay the tube on the scale to determine if you need to add or remove down from the tube.

When your down is measured, stick the open end of the tube into the first baffle of the quilt. Gather and hold the excess fabric tightly around the tube. Use your blow sharply (it takes some lung force) through the netting end of the tube. The "plug" of down will POOP! out into the quilt baffle with zero spillage or lost down. It's pretty cool, and very easy.

Blow through the tube to eject the down

Repeat this process for each chamber/baffle of your quilt. The stuffing/weighing/discharging takes about 4 minutes for each chamber.

Take it back to the sewing machine. Sew the open edge with a simple flat seam, 1/2" allowance. Sew it again with a roll seam, 1/2" allowance. (see graphic 3 again)

Finishing Touches

String a drawcord through the bottom edge, and another one through the top edge of the bag, if you like being choked by a thin cord all night. That's not my thing.

Back on the sewing machine, add a 24" long strip of half inch Velcro to the foot box area of the bag. Lay the bag out flat on the floor, and pin the velcro strips in place. Sew them on both sides.

Also add a thin strip of scrap nylon or other flexible cord just above the Velcro closure. Tying these tapes keeps your feet from kicking out the footbox if you toss and turn as much as I do. 

The stuff sack
Stuff the sleeping bag into a walmart sack as tightly as you can get it. Note the approximate length and width of the bundle. Now find a scrap of silnylon 19" by 16" and another one 7" square. Cut the little square into an octagon (much simpler than a circle, and just as effective in cloth.

Sew a rolled seam along the 19" edge for a drawstring. Fold the piece over and sew the 16" edges together with a 1/2" seam allowance. Pin and sew the bottom piece onto the body of the stuff sack. Use lots of pins, this silnylon is slippery stuff! 

Turn it right-side out and thread a drawstring. Stuff your quilt into the bag, and see how it fits! 
As you can see, mine came out smaller than a sheet of paper. 

The Final Result:

Weight: 17.85oz
Cost:  $75.85 (plus shipping)
Time: About 6 hours (My sewing machine is... problematic, knock off an hour if yours works smoothly)

Coming soon: Performance review!

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