The Ultimate Feather Pillow Buying Guide
by David Smith
Last Updated: 5/18/23
Who is this article for?
Anyone looking for the perfect feather pillow to relieve neck pain, shoulder pain, or back pain? Maybe you’re just tired of not understanding exactly what a real feather pillow is or how a feather pillow can help provide you with the firm and consistent support you need.
How hard can this be right? Everyone knows what a feather looks like and everyone must know what a feather pillow is right? Well, if everyone did, or even if Google did, you would not be here.
Feather pillows have their own personality. And, understanding those personality traits will go a long way in helping you choose the best feather pillow or even if a feather pillow is right for you. Read our guide below, then take the Perfect Pillow Quiz to be matched to your ideal pillow by sleep style and pillow personality!
What is a feather, anyway?
Oxford Dictionary defines feathers as;
“any of the flat appendages growing from a bird's skin and forming its plumage, consisting of a partly hollow horny shaft fringed with vanes of barbs.”
Here you can see a feather. Probably looks like what you thought a feather might look like. A feather has a spine, or a hollow shaft, with filaments that radiate from that spine, or as Oxford calls them, vanes and barbs.
If you look closely you will see that the base of the feather is not sharp but rather blunted and almost round. This will be important later.
I think we can all agree that the Oxford dictionary definition wasn’t all that insightful. I think we would all agree that ‘consisting of a partly hollow horny shaft fringed with vanes of bards’ is consistent with what we all understand to define a feather.
What is a feather pillow? Does feather type matter?
Let’s define a feather pillow as a pillow containing fifty-one (51%) or more feathers. So, a feather pillow is a type of pillow filled with 51% feathers, usually from geese or ducks.
A pretty simple definition wouldn’t you say?
But all feathers are not created equal. Even feathers from the same bird and bird species can be very different depending on age and geography. A goose is a bird and so is an ostrich but their feathers are very different and if used to make a feather pillow those pillows would feel very different and have very different personalities.
In our case, the finest feathers in the world are Hungarian goose feathers. We use them to make our old-fashioned heavy feather pillow. They offer a unique combination of softness and support that can provide a comfortable and restful night's sleep. But most importantly they are resilient and consistent in terms of the way they respond to compression.
What are the benefits of using a feather pillow?
The number of people that get feathers confused with down clusters or call them ‘down feathers’ would surprise you. In fact, this confusion is so pervasive even ‘The Googles’ don’t know or understand the difference between the two materials or their structure.
If you study birds for a living this oversimplification of the difference between feathers and down feathers may be a little frustrating. But for the consumers of luxury bedding and those looking for the perfect feather pillow
So, let’s start with a definition of a feather and what they look like.
How do I know if a feather pillow is the right choice for me?
Feather pillows do have a unique personality type. When the proper-sized feathers are used they are known for their ability to conform to the shape of your head and neck, providing the perfect balance of support and comfort throughout the night.
- If you like a heavy pillow, something solid and weighty.
- If you like a dense pillow.
- If you don’t mind that a pillow might make a sound.
- If you sleep hot you will sleep more “ON” this pillow.
- If you do not like to sink into your pillow.
- If you love a pillow with ‘texture’ or ‘goosebumps’
- If your ears aren’t sensitive to pressure.
- If you like a pillow that basically stays how you left it in the morning.
- If you're going to a pillow fight!
- If you just love old-fashioned pillows …
What makes feather pillows unique is that they are heavy. Typically much harder than a down pillow and they have a unique texture and sound. They are heavy because the quills have a lot of ‘mass’ to them and they are hard for the same reason. The quills are hard and a lot of feathers are needed to make a feather pillow thick enough to hold your head properly while you sleep.
The texture comes from the quills and, what we like to call, the unique ‘goosebumps’ they create. All of these factors contribute to creating a unique personality type.
#1 Feather pillows are heavy and they are heavy due to the fact that feathers have quills. Those quills are a defining characteristic of a feather pillow creating much of what I like to call the personality type of that pillow.
#2 Feather pillows are dense. Almost hard due to the quills that define a feather. Those quills are what provides so much of the support. The quills are what keeps your head from sinking to the bottom of the pillow.
#3 Feather pillows make a sound? Yes, whether you notice it or not the quills, which are the defining characteristics of a feather pillow ‘rub’ against each other within the pillow. This can, but not always, create a sound. And, the quills rubbing against the inside of the pillow shell while you fold, scrunch and compress the pillow while you sleep.
#4 If you’re a hot sleeper then you more than likely do not like to sleep “IN” your pillow. In fact, you will sleep more “ON” a feather pillow so air will more easily circulate around your head keeping you cooler.
#5 If You don’t like a pillow that ‘puffs’ up around your head then a feather pillow just might be perfect for you. Those quills actually ‘catch’ your head during the compression cycle so you sleep more “ON” the pillow.
#6 If you like a pillow with texture? The texture of The Original Feather Pillow comes from both the quills of the feathers and the fabric used for the shell. Together they create the pillow's personality and if you like that old fashioned granny style pillow you’ll love it.
#7 Ear sensitivity is a thing and I’m not talking about the sound of the pillow mentioned earlier. But rather the pressure created on the ear for side sleepers can be painful and very uncomfortable. If that’s the case for you then a feather pillow might not be ideal.
#8 If you like a pillow that doesn’t puff up then a feather pillow is what you are looking for. Feathers, once compressed, have a tendency to stay that way, although the size of the feather can impact this feather pillow personality trait. They are not very spongy, if that’s a word that makes sense.
#9 Pillow fights! Only to be humorous but feathers are heavy and hard. If you start swinging your feather pillow around and you hit something, it, or they, will know it. Our standard feather pillow has two (2) pounds of feathers while our king size feather pillow has almost five (5) pounds of feathers. The quill of a feather isn’t something you want hitting you.
#10 I guess this falls into the “if you know you know” category. There isn’t anything like The Original Feather Pillow when made correctly using the right fabrics, fill weights, and properly sized feathers it is timeless.
What should I look for when choosing a feather pillow?
First and foremost you must know what a feather pillow is and what personality traits make a feather pillow unique. Feather pillows are heavy, hard, and loud. The quills of a feather pillow and the ratio of feathers to ‘whatever else is blended with the feathers’ are the defining characteristics of a feather pillow.
What should I look for in terms of a pillow’s feel?
This can be very subjective and not easily defined. But, if you like a substantial pillow. Something with some weight and support for that 8lb head of yours then a feather pillow might be just what the doctor ordered.
Double row-stitching around the perimeter of the pillow gives the pillow some durability. It also has the added benefit of making the pillow look more elegant but that’s just my personal opinion.
What should I look for in terms of quality or ‘construction’?
Another thing to notice is the stitching at or around the ‘law tag’. The law tag is the white crunchy piece of ‘paper’ that all manufacturers are required by law to add to each and every finished good manufactured.
Did the manufacturer use the same double-row stitching pattern for the law tag as they did for the rest of the pillow or did they cut costs and use a single row of stitching? Double-needle sewing machines are expensive in almost every way.
They cost much more than a single needle machine, they are much more expensive to maintain, repair, and operate. If they cut costs using a single needle sewing machine when adding the legally required law tag you have to ask yourself where else did they compromise the integrity and durability of the pillow?
I’m allergic to feather pillows.
I have some really good news. You aren’t allergic to feathers. The Hungarian goose feathers used in our pillows are naturally hypoallergenic, making them a great choice for people with allergies or asthma and looking for a pillow with the personality traits of a feather pillow.
What you’re allergic to is animal dander that is not properly washed from cheaper feather pillow manufacturers.
How long will a feather pillow last?
One of the key benefits of a feather pillow is its durability. Feathers are a natural material that can last for many years, making them a cost-effective choice in the long run. They also retain their shape and fluffiness longer than synthetic pillows.
Look for the Responsible Down Standard
Feather pillows are also a sustainable and ethical choice. I source our feathers from verifiably ethical and sustainable farms that prioritize the welfare of the birds and the environment. Only farmers that have adopted the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) are considered as a source for our feathers.
Down & Feather Company was the first luxury bedding company to adopt the Responsible Down Standard and we were proudly mentioned as the first adopter in the original press release.
Overall, feather pillows offer a unique combination of comfort, support, and durability that make them an excellent choice for a restful and rejuvenating sleep. Whether you're looking for a pillow that conforms to your head and neck, a pillow that is hypoallergenic, or a pillow that is customizable to your needs, a feather pillow is an excellent choice.
Understanding Pillow Feather Types
Feather pillows are known for their ability to provide a comfortable and restful night's sleep. But not all feather pillows are created equal. The type of feathers used in the pillow can greatly affect the quality, firmness, and overall feel and personality of the pillow.
The size of the feathers used in the pillow can greatly affect the quality, firmness, and overall feel of the pillow.
Small feathers are much less expensive to source and much more abundant. and typically used in the cheapest of feather pillows. They are not as soft as a larger feather and create a much more dense and hard pillow. Smaller feathers may cause more prickling sensation, tend to flatten more quickly, and lose their shape and fluffiness faster than larger feathers.
Large feathers are considered the highest quality feathers. They are known for their softness, warmth, and pliability. Pillows made from large feathers provide excellent support and consistent comfort without creating a pillow that is too dense and hard.
Hungarian goose down is considered the “The Gold Standard” and the highest quality feather known for being soft and subtle, warmth, and having great durability. It is also much more expensive than other goose down and certainly more expensive that the much less expensive duck down.
Learn more about the differences between goose and duck down here.
What are feather and down blends?
If a pillow has 51% or more of the materials used to make the pillow are feathers it would seem to me that it’s a feather pillow. And, this is where so much confusion is created in the market for both feather and down pillows. When a pillow is made using both materials it would be accurate to call the pillow a down feather pillow. But, very few, if any, consumers actually understand what they are buying and the industry isn’t all that interested in educating the customer to help them make the right choice.
In fact, most ecommerce websites and marketing materials refer to all pillows, whether they are all down, all feather, or a combination of both feather and down as down feather pillows.
Another type of feather used in pillows is feather blends. These pillows are made by mixing feathers from different birds, such as geese and ducks. The feathers used in the blend will depend on the manufacturer, but the most common blends are goose-feather and duck-feather blends. Feather blends are a great option for those who want a pillow that is both affordable and comfortable.
When choosing a feather pillow, it's essential to consider the type of feathers used. Goose down is considered the highest quality feather, while duck down is a more affordable alternative. Feather blends are a great option for those who want a pillow that is both affordable and comfortable. By considering the type of feathers used, you can find the perfect pillow to support your sleep and improve the quality of your life.
Feather types: pros and cons
Down feather blends, defined as mixing feathers and down, create a unique pillow with their own personality. When blended properly and not used in a pillow with a down core surrounded by feathers design which we intentionally do not use, you get a pillow that is soft upon initial compression as one might expect. But as you compress the pillow the blended feathers catch your head to provide just the right amount of support.
80% feather 20% down
75% feather 25% down
50% feather 50% down
Each one of these ratios creates a different pillow personality. As a pillow designer and manufacturer, I absolutely can tell the differences, or more accurately, the similarities of these blends to an all down or all feather versions of these pillows.
Given that feathers are significantly less expensive than down, hotels around the world typically choose this type and style of pillow for all the rooms on a given hotel property, spa, or hotel chain. This significantly decreases the cost for a hotel given the number of pillows required for the extensive amount of rooms, the additional pillows required and stored in the hotel room closet for those guests needing more support or requesting a different size pillow.
All of that to say we use a larger Hungarian goose feather for The Original Feather pillow and all of our feather pillow blends like the Classic 25% down 75% feather pillow. This creates a more consistent pillow corner to corner when used inside a traditional tapered edge pillow like all of the pillows we make.
Check out our in-depth guide, ‘How To Choose: Down vs Feather’, to learn more about comparing feather pillows with down pillows.
Why do feather pillows seem to go flat?
Everyone knows what a feather looks like. Feathers are soft even though they have a spine down the center, called a quill, with hair like strands radiating from the quill like a sail or filament. Feathers, depending on the bird, help the bird fly, keep warm, and stay dry.
But 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. To combat this flattening of the pillow due to the alignment of the feathers, some companies add down clusters to keep the feathers from compacting and the feather pillow becoming hard.
What is feather fill power?
Feathers do not have a fill power rating. Fill power measures the amount of space one (1) ounce of down will occupy in cubic inches. While feathers do not have a fill power rating the quality can and does vary as a function of size. Different size feathers create pillows with different personalities.
Larger feathers are typically considered higher quality while smaller feathers are so numerous and abundant they are typically used for much less expensive and cheaper pillows one might find at a big box retailer.
All about pillow construction:
Pillow makers like myself took a lot of time and consideration in the design and construction used for our pillows knowing the designs can greatly affect the quality, firmness, and overall feel and personality of the pillow.
That is why I chose traditional tapered edge pillows are considered to be the most supportive and traditional pillow design, while baffle-box, gusseted and cored pillows are also good options, but may not conform as much to the shape of the head and provide the same level of support as tapered edge pillows. It's important to consider your preference for support, durability and fluffiness when choosing a pillow and how it was designed.
Pillow design and construction: types, pros and cons
Baffle-box construction is a technique that uses sewn-in fabric walls (baffles) to keep the feathers, or whatever material is being used, in place within the pillow. These walls create separate compartments for the feathers, preventing them from shifting and clumping together. This construction method or design ensures that the pillow maintains its shape and provides even support throughout the night. Baffle-box pillows are also known for their ability to retain their fluffiness and shape over time.
But, the baffle-box designed pillow has one very significant flaw. Depending on the density, the pillow becomes a lot less malleable. You no longer have the ability to push and pull, shape and fold the pillow in such a way that it provides you the flexibility and support needed to reach that perfect spot between the nape of your neck and your shoulders. I view this as a significant drawback to this design and the personality of the pillow.
Gusseted construction is similar to baffle-box construction in that it also uses sewn-in fabric walls to keep the feathers in place. The difference is that the walls (gussets) are thicker, creating a higher loft and more pronounced edges. Gusseted pillows are known for providing excellent support and maintaining their shape over time.
However, gusseted pillows also have one very significant flaw. Besides the fact that they may be less fluffy than baffle-box pillows and are primarily designed for side-to-side sleepers only. So few people are only side-to-side sleepers that gusseted pillows are marketed to side sleepers which I believe is a bit of a gimmick. More than 70% of sleepers start the night on their sides but those 70% + percent then rotate to their backs and even fewer still rotate to their stomachs. A gusseted pillow is now the wrong design and thickness for these two additional sleep styles.
How to choose the perfect feather pillow for you
Choosing the right feather pillow is essential for a comfortable and restful night's sleep. A pillow that is too thin or too thick can cause discomfort, leading to tossing and turning throughout the night.
As both a designer and manufacturer of ultra-premium luxury feather pillows I have the expertise, knowledge, and skill to share with you the technique, the three (3) steps and in which order, I use on the phone with customers during a “pillow fitting” to help them pick the perfect pillow.
Well, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3. Let me show you.
‘Comfort Gap’. Your physiology and the width of your shoulders are critical to making the right pillow choice. Specifically, what I like to call your ‘Comfort Gap’ is defined as the area from the crown of your shoulder to the side of your head. That is the area we need to fill with your pillow.
Sleep Surface. In my opinion, the most overlooked aspect of choosing the right pillow. Are you sleeping on the floor? Or, are you sleeping on a waterbed from the 1980's? If you know, you know. But these sleep surfaces are very different and will significantly impact your ‘Comfort Gap’
Now we can talk about your ‘Sleep Style’. In a nutshell, you are a side sleeper that sleeps from side to side, a side sleeper that rotates to your back or a side sleeper that rotates to your stomach. Yes, an oversimplification but from here we can incorporate pillow stackers, scrunchers, folders, corner sleepers, center-cut sleepers, and of course arm tuckers, those that tuck their arms in between stack pillows are under one pillow.
The right feather pillow will provide the perfect balance of support and comfort for a given thickness, keeping your spin as level as possible while you are lying on your side just as if you were standing with perfect posture ensuring a good night's sleep.
Now to determine your preferred level of support or thickness. But how is a pillow's thickness determined? Feather pillow thickness is determined by the number of ounces of fill, referred to as the fill weight, to create a given thickness.
For example; soft density pillows are actually thinner than extra firm density pillows requiring almost twice the number of ounces to create an extra firm pillow.
The good news is that our Feather pillows can be customized to suit different needs, with a range of thickness levels available. If you sleep on your side, a pillow with a medium-firm to firm level of thickness is recommended. If you sleep on your back, a pillow with a medium to the soft level of thickness is best. And, similarly, If you sleep on your stomach, a pillow with a soft to medium-soft level of firmness is ideal.
Feather pillow care and maintenance:
Always use a pillow protector (pillow protectors have zippers). Spot clean when possible. Place in the dryer on LOW heat to refresh the down or hang it outside on a clean line. If the feather pillow loses its bounce you can always hand 'fluff' it before use. Use a professional launderer familiar with cleaning luxury products.
How to care for your feather pillow
You should do everything you can NOT to wash your feather pillow. If it’s an emergency and the cat has done something unspeakable to the pillow, then yes. But, the feathers inside a feather pillow have natural oils that wick away moisture, protecting the feathers from becoming dry and brittle. Repeated washing of a feather pillow will strip the protective oils from the feathers, making them more likely to break, become sharp, and poke through the pillow shell.
The other issue with washing a feather pillow is ensuring the pillow becomes completely dry. If the pillow is not completely dried after a wash, the humidity can remain trapped inside the pillow and cause molding. When possible, avoid washing your pillow.
Check out our blog, How to Wash Feather Pillows, to learn more about washing your feather pillow properly.
Tips for extending the life of your pillow
First and foremost your first line of defense should be a pillow protector. Remember, pillow protectors have zippers. And, always use a pillowcase. Every weekend you should use both the pillow protector and the pillowcase with the rest of your bed linens to remove the oils and lotions that have accumulated over the last week.
Choose Down & Feather Co. today
Old fashioned Hungarian feather pillows are unique. They are unique in their feel, weight, and sound. Actually, feather pillows are very difficult to find as most are blended as we discussed. But, The Original Feather Pillow is an all-feather pillow designed as it should be using the proper amount of feathers coupled with the right cotton woven just right to give The Original Feather Pillow its unique personality.
With over 100 years of pillow making and design experience, the Down & Feather Co. Original Feather Pillow is just like the one at grandma's house. This old-fashioned heavy feather pillow is filled with premium quality 100% Hungarian goose feather and wrapped in an old fashion blue and white striped cotton shell and sealed using original knife-edge stitching.
This Old Fashioned Feather Pillow is filled with premium quality 100% Hungarian goose feathers and wrapped in an old fashion blue and white striped cotton shell. Using higher quality Hungarian goose feathers means fewer feathers will poke you while you sleep at night. If you are looking to replace the existing feather pillow that you have had for 25, 30 or even 40 years well here it is.
Just remember the one you are replacing has probably become very soft and broken-in after decades of use. This one is brand new and may require both love and patience to feel like the pillow you are replacing.
Our Original Feather Pillows: The best feather pillow on the market
If you’re looking for the Original Feather pillow that hasn’t been blended with other materials look no further than our Original Feather Pillow. Available in standard, queen, and king sizes and of course four (4) densities; soft, medium, firm, and extra firm.
With so many options available it doesn’t matter whether you're a side sleeper that rotates to your stomach, rotates to your back, or even a side to side sleeper we can make the density that’s perfect for you. Neck pain or back pain? We just might be able to help relieve the pain and discomfort by helping keep your head and spine stable while you sleep.
What is the Original Feather Pillow?
What is the Original Feather Pillow?
D&FCo.™ Original Feather is back. Just like the one at Grandma's house this blue and white striped all feather pillow started it all. Great side sleeper pillow, back sleeper or stomach sleeper pillows in your choice of densities. Filled with premium quality Hungarian goose feather. Our Down & Feather Co. corner sash is your assurance it's from us.
|All Hungarian Goose Feathers
|All Hungarian Goose Feathers
|All Hungarian Goose Feathers
|All Hungarian Goose Feathers
|Back And Stomach Sleepers
|Back And Side Sleepers