How Down Jackets Are Made? (Start to Finish)

Down jackets are one of the best options for keeping warm during the harsh winter months. They provide warmth for those living in extreme climates or those adventuring outdoors during very cold days. However, have you ever wondered how down jackets are made?

Winter down jackets are made by sewing two components together: an insulation layer on the inside and a windbreaker on the outside. The insulation layer is often made of duck or geese feathers, while the windbreaker is made of heavy nylon.

In addition to the steps above, down jackets need to be designed beforehand. Each step requires an expert tailor and smart machines to put together. In this post, let’s explore how winter down jackets are made, including breaking down what down jackets are made of.

What Are Down Jackets?

A down jacket, also known as a puffer jacket, is a jacket that is insulated with the underbelly feathers of duck or geese. Down jackets are designed to keep the wearer warm during the cold winter season.

The insulating layer of a down jacket creates thousands of tiny air pockets which trap warm air and retain heat, while the outer layer has tiny holes which are big enough to let humidity go out, but small enough to stop water droplets and wind from coming in.

How Winter Down Jackets Are Made

A top-of-the-line down jacket gives you warmth, without the weight. It’s waterproof and comfortable without any bulky stuffing or constrictive styling. Here’s how it’s made:

1. Designing the Down Jacket

  • The designer draws a pattern by computer.
  • A software program then adapts the pattern to different sizes.
  • A giant printer puts it into paper.
  • The tailor spreads out several layers of each of the fabrics for the jacket.
  • The tailor lays out the pattern, then pins it in place.

Next, the tailor cuts several layers of fabric at a time with electric scissors. These scissors maneuver much like a jigsaw, around the lines and curves of the pattern pieces.

The finished jacket will actually be made up of two jackets sewn together, an insulation jacket on the inside and a windbreaker on the outside.

2. Creating the Insulation Layer

The inner insulation jacket begins with a nylon lining, followed by a layer of key components of film to stabilize and protect the insulation. The insulation can be made of down fibers (which come from duck or geese), or synthetic material made of thick polyester.

At this point, the insulation layer is larger than the lining. This is done to ensure that every inch of the jacket will have insulation and can keep you warm.

Working with one piece at a time, the tailor stitches the layers together. Each line of stitching is tacked at the beginning and at the end for added strength and durability. 

Once the tailor is done stitching, he or she will cut off any excess insulation. The tailor then sews an overlock around each piece to hold the remaining insulation solidly in place.

Once each piece of the insulation jacket is completed, the tailor sews it all together.

3. Creating the Windbreaker

The next step is creating the windbreaker. The outer fabric is heavy nylon.

The lining is a special fabric with tiny holes, large enough to let humidity escape, but small enough to stop water droplets and wind from penetrating. This is what allows the jacket to breathe, while at the same time, making it windproof and waterproof.

4. Combining the Two Jacket Components Together

Finally, it’s time to put the two jacket components together.

Using two strong threads, the tailor sews seams into knotted stitches. No seams would go through the jacket because that would break the insulation barrier and let in cold air.

The tailor joins the two jackets together only where they have to: at the collar, the cuffs, the hem, and along the zipper.

Speaking of zippers, down jackets don’t use any ordinary zippers. It’s made of corrosion-resistant nylon, with a nickel-plated slider that lasts up to 7 times longer than a normal slider.

Up to this point, the tailor has been sewing the jacket inside out. During this point, the tailor turns its right side in to apply the finishing touches of the winter down jacket.

Once the two jacket components have been combined together, the tailor punctures snap in the middle part of the jacket which allows the wearer to “button up” the jacket.

Winter down jackets are equipped with heavy-duty snaps that anchor themselves between the fibers of the material, so they won’t tear the fabric with repeated use.

5. Adding Decorative Embroidery

While some jackets come as-is, some jackets have decorative embroidery.

To create decorative embroidery, the designers use a computer program to prepare the pattern. Once the pattern is completed, manufacturers use an automatic machine that can embroider five down jackets at once. 

An intricate pattern may take up to one and a quarter hours to complete.

Once the finishing touches have been applied, the final result is a stylish winter down jacket, whose secret weapon is that hidden layer of insulation. It traps air inside your body, then heats it up, creating a cushion of warmth against the cold of winter.

You may also be interested in How Fur Coats Are Made

What Are Down Jackets Made Of?

The insulating layer of winter down jackets is made of either duck/goose down feathers or synthetic material made of thick polyester. The outer layer of down jackets, on the other hand, is made of heavy nylon, which is windproof and semi-waterproof.

Compared to polyester, premium down has amazing insulating qualities. Not only will it keep you warm, but it is also light and compresses very well, which allows you to roll the jacket up easily if you do not plan to use it for a while.

Down and feathers come from the same place: a duck or a goose. Feathers are the outer covering of the animal, which helps the animal fly. However, feathers contain quills.

Down fibers, however, lie beneath the protective feather covering of the bird. They are located in the underside belly of the bird, which provides insulation to keep the animal warm.

Not only are down fibers light and fluffy, but they do not contain any quills. Because of this, down fibers are considered one of the best insulation materials for winter jackets.

Are Geese Plucked Alive For Down?

There are plenty of outdoor enthusiasts who believe that goose down is superior to duck down. This is because geese are larger birds than ducks, making their down clusters bigger. Bigger down clusters equal a higher fill power, and therefore a fluffier insulation layer.

Because of this, many people wonder: are geese plucked alive for down?

Unfortunately, geese are often plucked alive for down.

The highest grade of down used to make comfortable bedding and high-quality down jackets involves a practice called live-plucking, where the feathers and the undercoating of geese are pulled off their skin while they are still alive.

According to a report by undercover PETA workers to CBS News, they have seen live geese, with their feet restrained or held down by their necks, have their feathers and undercoatings pulled off their skin by farmers. This leaves open and often bloody wounds in the process.

The undercover workers visited nearly a dozen farms in China, which produces roughly 70-80% of the world’s down, and found that live plucking is still part of the supply chain.

While it’s gruesome to imagine, you can do your part for the animals. Before you buy a down product, make sure that it is regulated by your regional down association. In Canada, this is DownMark. In the United States, it’s the American Down and Feather Council.

Bottom Line

And there you have it, the breakdown of how winter down jackets are made, including what materials down jackets are made of. There are many things that go into the creation of one of these things, so expect down jackets to be more expensive than normal jackets.

Related: What to wear with a puffer vest