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.
  • 059-make-a-jacket-milkweed-seed-01-wild-plant.jpg
    A whole field of material for easy-to-make winter clothing.
  • 059-make-a-jacket-milkweed-seed-02-collecting-pods.jpg
     Gather about four shopping bags full of the ripe milkweed (genus Asclepias) pods.
  • 059-make-a-jacket-milkweed-seed-05-opening-pod.jpg
    The process of opening a seedpod and extracting the fluff.
  • 059-make-a-jacket-milkweed-seed-03-sewing.jpg
    Even a person with no previous sewing experience can handle the stitchery.

  • 059-make-a-jacket-milkweed-seed-04-finished-jacket.jpg
  • 059-make-a-jacket-milkweed-seed-01-wild-plant.jpg
  • 059-make-a-jacket-milkweed-seed-02-collecting-pods.jpg
  • 059-make-a-jacket-milkweed-seed-05-opening-pod.jpg
  • 059-make-a-jacket-milkweed-seed-03-sewing.jpg

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).

8/25/2009 6:02:43 PM

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


Fermentation Frenzy!

September 12-13, 2019
Seven Springs, Pa

Fermentation Frenzy! is produced by Fermentation magazine in conjunction with the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. This one-and-a-half day event is jam-packed with fun and informative hands-on sessions.


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters

click me