Monday, 4 November 2013

Fabulous plumage and how to clean naturally sourced feathers

File:Types de plumes. - Larousse pour tous, -1907-1910-.jpg
As a milliner its not surprising that I love using feathers in my work, I'm also a bit of a bird and nature lover and  as millinery can be a pretty carnivorous activity in general , this is something that doesn't always sit comfortably with me.
Recently I have been pondering the use of feathers in my work, there are strict laws in place to  stop birds being hunted solely for their feathers, these laws stem from the early 1900's when  extravagant plumage on top of a hat was very desirable and plume hunters killed birds such as egrets to supply the millinery trade with their beautiful feathers.
These days the feathers used in millinery are as a by product of the poultry industry  or from birds like Peacocks that  shed their feathers annually and as these come in a myriad of colours and styles I never struggle to find a selection of gorgeous feathers to use  in my work.

This piece was created using rooster saddle feathers along with goose and duck feathers to create this striking affect
I am also pretty thrifty by nature and have started to collect what I call naturally acquired feathers. This collection comes from  feathers I find out walking and others  that are given to me by family members who find them on their travels or keep birds themselves. (I recently was given some flamingo feathers that a friend found along the path in a the zoo!)
Now these feathers can not be used straight on to a hat they need to be cleaned first , and after a little experimenting I have come up with a pretty good method of cleaning them.
First you assemble these simple house hold items  shown below:
Mix a good squirt of washing up liquid with some white vinegar ( this stops the feather from clumping up)
 Swill the feathers gently  in the soapy water then rinse in a separate tub of clean water ( for really grubby feathers you may want to repeat this a few times.

Pat dry using an old towel ( I can guaranty if you use mums nice white ones you will be in trouble - so best dig out the old grotty one ) resist the temptation to smooth out the feathers at this stage

Then blow dry using a hair dryer on a low setting - this can take a little time so I like to get them about 70% dry  then leave to air dry a little before giving them a final blow and smoothing them out as I go

Once they are all completely dry and you have smoothed them out they are ready to be used, at this stage you can trim them , dye them or  curl them  however you choose to.

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