Wednesday, July 22, 2015

First Ever MYOG: Double Size Down Quilt

I'm straying even further from my usual wardrobe items... my latest "make" is a down quilt!

How did I end up with such a strange project? Well, we were gearing up for our annual camping summer vacation, and revisiting the problem of bed-sharing while camping. At home, we have a king size bed that we currently share with Little Lion and Little Bug. Last year we bought a Big Agnes double sleeping bag (I can't recall which one) but it ended up being far too small for us, and it was huge and heavy (it was some kind of poly-fill). It ended up going right back where it came from. Last fall we just took the comforter from our bed, which actually worked pretty well, but it is huge and heavy and if its cotton cover gets even the slightest bit wet, it will be useless. This year I was lusting after the Accomplice double sleeping bag/quilt from Enlightened Equipment. At $350 it is actually a pretty good deal, but it takes 6 weeks to ship-- I didn't have 6 weeks!

Then I came across several "make your own gear (MYOG)" blogs where people had made their own down quilts. Naturally, I was intrigued!

After considerable research, I ended up making my own version of a down quilt. My quilt is 78 inches high and 86 inches wide, and filled with 18 ounces 850 fill power down, which should give it a comfort rating of about 30 degrees. 

The shell is 1.1 oz DWR ripstop from Quest Outfitters (teal on the outside and purple on the inside).

Edges were finished by simply turning both sides inwards and topstitching them together. Both the top and the bottom edges have channels to insert a drawstring, which I haven't done yet. In the middle of the summer, we definitely don't need to cinch it down at all!

Instead of a sewn-in footbox, I added velcro at the bottom of the quilt so that a kind of footbox could be created, but it can also be used just as a flat quilt.

The velcro that I used is a "hook and loop snag free fastener" from Quest Outfitters. It is sort of cool stuff... instead of a hook side and a loop side, the hooks and loops are sewn together. This made it possible to sew one strip on the inside of the quilt that can be folded in at the sides. There is also a channel for a drawstring, but I haven't added it yet.

I created 18 baffles by sewing no-see-um mesh in between the two layers. Below, you can see me in the process of laying out the baffles on the top layer. I used plain old masking tape as a marker, it stuck pretty well to the nylon.

To make a strong seam, I folded over 1/4 of an inch of the mesh, then sewed it at 1/8 of an inch.

Here you can see the mesh sewn to the top layer.

When I sewed it to the bottom layer, I tried to create a "c" baffle. Actually, I did it the wrong way first... creating an "s" baffle. I figured it wouldn't matter. But then I noticed that the "s" baffles weren't really holding their shape very well. I was halfway done sewing the second side when I decided to tear it all out and try again! I'm glad I did, because the "c" baffles definitely hold their shape much better, and I think it will help the down attain maximum loft.

 The baffles are 2.25 inches high. I calculated the height

 This is a picture of the HUGE pile of tape beside my machine. I tore off the tape as I went along, since any tape that got sewn in would be stuck there forever!

 The down I ended up using came packaged in 1 oz packages (from Wilderness Logistics). I stuffed the baffles using the method described in this youtube video.

First, I cut the packet in half. Unlike the fellow in the video, I had planned on 1 oz per baffle, rather than 1/2 an ounce, so theoretically I didn't need to cut it in half. But when I tried the first baffle, I found that trying to stuff the whole package at once was difficult... it was too large to fit in the baffle and maneuver the down out of the package. So I cut them in half, and stuffed two halves into each baffle.
After I cut the packet in half, I down the side of the plastic bag. Then I stuffed the half packet into the baffle as far as I could reach, and pushed the down out of the packet with my fingers. Then I pulled out the empty (or nearly empty) plastic bag. 
I did the stuffing on our porch, to minimize cleanup. There were a few escapees... like this fluffball. Down is amazing stuff!
 After stuffing, I clipped the baffles shut with binder clips. When all the baffles were full, I sewed them closed.

I did the stuffing out on the porch... it wasn't a huge mess, but there was a bit of down that went off with the wind.

I also made a "sleeve" to stuff our two extra-long sleeping pads in. We have two of the largest self-inflating pads that REI sells, and I LOVE them. It isn't as comfy as our mattress at home, but it is as good as I've had sleeping on the ground. The biggest problem is that the two pads tend to shift around at night, which means someone always ends up on the ground. To solve this problem, I sewed a "sleeve" that holds the two pads in place next to each other. The top is fleece and the bottom is cordura.

The design needs a little re-thinking... it was a huge pain to stuff the pads into the sleeve. Getting them out again was also rather annoying. Sort of like putting nylon stockings on, only with two HUGE pads. Perhaps some zippers on the sides would help....

I finished just a few days before our trip! Overall the sleep system worked beautifully. The sleeve held the pads together brilliantly, and the quilt was super light and plenty warm for summer camping. I'm not sure if it will be warm enough for the fall though. It might work, with the drawcord on top and the velcro footbox sealed up... but we will have to try it out.


  1. Cool. I probably would have just bought cheap down comforters from Ikea.
    I can just see the sneezing fit I'd get into.
    For your pad dilemma - I would either sew a really long zipper down both sides or take the easier route of applying heavy duty snaps along the length. Unsnap, take the pad out, throw it back in, re-snap. Or? Make individual covers that could snap together. Unsnap and just roll the whole pad and cover up. I found camping needs changed as the kids got older.

    Question: I would like to follow you via bloglovin' or email. Is it possible for you to add those options?

  2. I am thinking about the zippers! Snaps are a good idea too. It is totally true that our needs will change, and so quickly!

    Great idea to add a bloglovin button... I did that!