Feathered Fabrics


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- story by MaterialDistrict

Feathered Fabrics are fabrics with ostrich feathers interwoven into them. The ostrich feather was once a highly valued commodity during the 19th century, as Victorian and Edwardian woman sought out big plumes to decorate their flamboyant hats. Since then, the feather has fallen from grace and now its main use is removing dust or in carnival costumes.

Collecting feathers from the ostrich is the removal of dead material and is the equivalent to cutting fingernails, causing no pain to the bird. It could be a very functional interior textile, as well as a new solution to the fashion industry, as an alternative to fur.

Only the natural uncoloured feathers are chosen to make the fabrics, as they would be found on the bird. By removing the central shaft, and only using the soft, thread-like barbules, the feathers can be combined to make a yarn that is then woven into a fabric. The aim of the project is to bring the manufacturing back to the town of Oudtshoorn in South Africa, also known as “the ostrich capital of the world”, and actually have the feathered fabrics locally produced in the place where it all began. Using the feathers within the fabric differs from the way that ostrich feathers are currently being used in the fashion industry (usually just sewn or glued on top of fabric as decoration). The breathable, washable, soft, warm and incredibly light weight textural qualities of the feathers mean it can be used in a variety of practical ways.

By harnessing the qualities of the feathers and creating a new craft through these feathered textiles, it could not only save many animals lives, but also could create a new industry of economic value to the small deserted town of Oudtshoorn.

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