Losing Feathers?


Have you ever been sitting on your sofa casually watching a good movie and suddenly feel a sharp stick as though you’ve just been given an injection? If you have, you may have cores that are filled with feathers. Most people who have down filled cushions in their sofa or chair have experienced this at some point in time. Hopefully not too often because it is painful. You may wonder if you made a bad purchase.

Why feathers and down? What’s the appeal? There is a distinctive look and feel when down and feathers are used in cushions. They also last forever. Most retailers consider this type of construction to be of higher quality due to it’s performance, but it really comes down to customer preference.

As of late, the furniture industry has begun to use feathers in furniture again. Unlike the older stuff, most manufacturers blend the feathers with high loft synthetic fibers, and foam cushion cores. This hybrid will give you the look of a full down core, but with the feel and comfort of foam. This trend has led to some issues though. First of all, let’s hope you are not allergic to feathers. Even though they are extensively cleaned, some people will still have an allergic reaction. The biggest issue today is the feather loss, or as some define it: Feather migration.


Everyone is familiar with down comforters and jackets. Down is light and fluffy and provides “loft”. Feathers, however, are heavier and flat.

Feathers: When feathers are ‘stuffed’ into a pillow shell, over time, the quills start to align with each other and tend to lay flat. The effect on your pillow is that it too becomes flat. So to combat this flattening of the pillow due to the aligning of the feathers some companies add some down clusters to keep the feathers from compacting and the feather pillow becoming hard.

Down: – Last longer, are more resilient, have no quills to poke you and cost more. This natural spherical shape is what gives a down pillow, down comforter or down feather bed its loft. The loft comes from the down cluster constantly wanting to return to its naturally round shape. A shape that is compromised when stuffed into the shell of a pillow, comforter or feather bed.


What can be done? Not much. Some cushions do not have a down proof ticking to enclose the cushion core, but most upholsterer’s will have this fabric which has a very high thread count. They can easily make an encasement for you for around $30 per cushion (depending on the size). It will definitely help prevent migration of feathers.

If you have issues with feathers sticking you, or coming out in large quantities- then the quality of the product comes into question. When making a purchase, it is important to ask what the feather to down ratio is and if the sales person does not know, simply unzip a cushion cover and look inside to see if there are feathers. Feathers can also be easily felt by squeezing the cushion. You won’t be able to feel a quill with down, but a feather is unmistakable in large quantities.

Remember that a feather has a needle sharp quill that can stick you and bring blood. If you have infant children, think twice before laying them on a sofa that sheds many feathers. They can get stuck or swallow a feather. If you’ve purchased an upholstered piece that has a feather issue, keep in mind there is a solution whether you love the piece or not. Some retailers will consider excessive feather loss as a vendor defect and offer an exchange or reselection if the piece is under a year old.


“Fortunately, I keep my feathers numbered for just such an occasion.”

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