Down pillows are supremely comfortable, resilient, and adaptable, constantly conforming to your head and neck as you change positions in the night, keeping your spine in proper alignment.
HIGH FILL POWER
The easiest way to determine the quality of a pillow is by the “fill power,” which measures the quality of the down. Look for a fill power of at least 600, which means an ounce of flattened down will expand to fill 600 cubic inches. A higher fill power is an asset no matter what your sleeping preferences. If you’re a side or back sleeper, it will ensure a firmer, more supportive pillow. But if you’re a stomach sleeper who likes a softer feel, the down will loft up nicely instead of mashing down and getting flat. The Company Store offers a 600-650 fill Hungarian goose-down pillow called the Ultimate ($229 for a king). For a truly decadent 800-fill Siberian goose-down pillow, try Scandia Down’s new Ophelia ($690 for a king) or Cloud Nine’s Dynasty ($315 for a king).
WHOLE DOWN CLUSTERS
Every goose-down pillow is a mix of tiny flat feathers, which act as filler, and highly prized down clusters, which are three-dimensional fluff balls that provide airiness and loft. In the United States, down is required to contain at least 75 percent whole clusters. Some high-end companies, such as Scandia and Cloud Nine, however, offer cluster counts that are closer to 85 or 90 percent. Either way, the percentage will be marked on the pillow’s sewn-in tag.
A COLD GOOSE
Most of the down in American pillows originates in China. The best down, however, comes from geese that are raised in a cold climate, especially Hungary, Poland, or Siberia. “The best way to visualize the difference in quality,” says David Pipkorn, general manager of Scandia, “is to think of Siberian down as coming from a big, fat Christmas goose and Chinese down as coming from a Peking duck.”
QUALITY TICKING AND WELL-STITCHED SEAMS
A high-thread-count case with finely tailored seams will keep your pillow from fraying and prevent down from escaping. Scandia down pillows have handsewn piping with two rows of stitching ($85- $550). Cloud Nine custom-fills each pillow from density to ticking, offering up to a 760 thread count ($70-$400).
“People love down because it provides that wonderful sinking feeling,” says Danielle Ebert of Pacific Coast Feather, a marketing director. “But some people need more support.” Their patented 550-fill Slumber Core pillow has two internal chambers of down that are sewn firmly in place, surrounded by more down to cradle your head and neck ($70 for a standard).