Make a Jacket With Milkweed Seed

Don't spend a lot of money for winter garments insulated with goose down. Make a jacket yourself and stuff it with milkweed seed.


| September/October 1979



059-make-a-jacket-milkweed-seed-04-finished-jacket.jpg

A finished milkweed seed jacket might look something like this. You don't have to make a jacket from scratch, a trainer's jacket with a seam opened will do.


PHOTO: ARMAND LIONE

You don't have to spend $20 a pound for goose down—or even know much about the intricacies of stitchery—to make a jacket, an inexpensive, toasty parka. First, however, you'll have to locate a plot of land that contains a big patch of milkweed plants (genus Asclepias). Then—just before the first hard frost—gather a few grocery bags full of the perennials' seedpods. These will yield a pound or more of lightweight, water-resistant insulation to help protect you against the coming winters chilling snow, ice, and bluenose winds.

A Milkweed Primer

The value of milkweed seed as an insulating material has been recognized for a good many years. During America's colonial days, for instance, the silken fibers were used to stuff pillows and comforters. Yet with the exception of a brief period during World War II, when school children collected the pods for use in military life jackets, this nation's supply of the valuable plants has been largely ignored.

When you take a close look at the plant's tiny "parachutes," you'll see that they're very similar in structure to goose down. Both the vegetable and animal "fluffs" consist of numerous fibers that radiate from a central core And—while goose insulation tends to be the denser of the two materials—milkweed plumes are composed of longer filaments. Furthermore, once you've collected a small supply, you'll see that the "weed fiber" springs back after being crushed with much of the same resilience (also called "loft") which gives goose down its insulative quality.

Better yet, milkweed "cotton" is both free and a whole lot easier to come by than is goose down. The demand for the latter material has made it difficult to find, while milkweed plants can be located in any number of fields, fence rows, railroad right-of-ways, and vacant lots. Or—if you'd like a large supply of the seedpods and have a little extra land—you could even collect enough wild seeds this year to establish your very own milkweed farm!

However, most folks won't want to wait through another round of seasons to collect some free-for-the-taking jacket stuffer. Now's the time to get out and gather wild milkweed pods for both this year's projects and next spring's garden!

The first step, of course, is to locate your foraging grounds. It should go without saying that you'll want to seek permission rather than trespass on anyone's property. (Most landowners will be all too glad to let you gather their milkweed if you've been courteous enough to ask).

grace_8
8/25/2009 6:02:43 PM

Do you have pix of the correct milkweed Asclepias to use in the down jacket project?






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