Fabric of my Life.

Dreaming of a duvet day.

Back in early July I was invited on a very exciting press trip with John Lewis & Partners, planned around one of my favourite activities – sleep! 

Better yet, the trip was up here in the North, and introduced us to the brilliant people who make John Lewis’ sleep products, showcasing the unique materials they use and the tradition and innovation that drives them. Our first stop was Lancashire – Darwen, to be precise – and the home of Herbert Parkinson, the main supplier of John Lewis’ soft furnishings offering. 


Herbert Parkinson first established a business at Orchard Mill in Darwen in 1934 to weave jacquard cloth. On his death, the business was passed to his daughter who sold it to the John Lewis Partnership in 1953. The Partnership had been looking for a weaving mill to produce its own range of bespoke furnishing fabrics and increase its competitiveness, and as the business expanded, fabric woven at the mill was also made into finished product. The site now produces cushion pads and a range of filled products such as beanbags, alongside John Lewis’ own brand duvets and pillows filled with high-quality goose downs sourced from Siberia and Eastern Europe.

A good night’s sleep starts with the right foundations.


Since we spent approximately a third of our lives asleep – and sleep is absolutely crucial to our physical and mental wellbeing – it makes sense that to invest in the very best mattress, pillows, duvets and sheets you can. We’re all fairly attuned to the benefits splashing out for a high quality mattress can afford, but have you spend much time considering the firmness of the pillow you lay your head on every night, or the composition of the duvet you sleep under?


We begun our visit at Herbert Parkinson with a pillow and duvet masterclass, where we were shown samples of the natural fillings Herbert Parkinson use for their products, including Grey, Siberian, Hungarian and Mountain Goose feathers; the latter being possibly the softest, lightest material I’ve ever felt.


All of Herbert Parkinson’s feather and down is sourced from certified farms and has full trace-ability of supply to ensure the very best quality in their products. The filling is first washed and dried to remove any debris, odour and mites, before being sorted mechanically into specific fill quantities ready for pumping into their shells. All of the natural down and feather duvets have a tightly woven cotton cover with a tightly knitted weave construction, which acts as a barrier against dust mites – aka Nomite™ – meaning even people with dust mite allergies can enjoy natural bedding. The shells have a boxed wall construction which means the filling is held in individual sections, allowing for even distribution both during the filling process and once the duvet is in use, to help prevent any ‘cold spots’ from forming. Clever, huh? I’d never given much thought to how a duvet might be filled during the manufacture process but let me tell you, it’s a lot of fun to see!

The cotton duvet shells have their open end fed into the filling machine (possibly not the correct technical term!), which is programmed with the correct amount of filling to pump through the duvet. Each shell is filled one half at a time, which means there is scope for bespoke duvets to be created with different tog ratings per half; ideal for couples sharing a bed when one prefers a lighter and the other a heavier tog! This type of bespoke duvet option is available to order direct from John Lewis & Partners; just ask in the bedding department for further details.


If you’re not familiar with Tog ratings, it simply refers to the scale of warmth of the duvet and the effectiveness of a material’s thermal insulation, using an ascending scale ranging from cool and lightweight low tog duvets at 1.5 and 3 tog, up to the extra cosy 15 tog. Duvets with a high down content are traditionally lightweight but have excellent thermal performance, while those with a high feather content tend to feel heavier but not necessarily warmer.

Filling a pillow with down and feathers follows a similar process; attaching the shell to the machine and watching as it magically blows up as the correct amount of filling is suddenly pumped through into the case.


Have you every wondered how they achieve these different levels of firmness in pillows? Again, it’s not something i’d ever considered before! Down and feather pillows mould snugly round the head and shoulders, whereas the more feather there is in a pillow, the firmer it tends to be. So, a soft pillow is generally filled purely with down, but within a firmer down/feather mix pillow you will find inner panels filled with feathers at the core, which are then surrounded by soft down outer layer.

One of the most important things to consider when buying pillows is how you sleep, since a pillow that’s too soft or too firm can greatly impact your sleeping posture and in turn, the quality of your sleep.


Your body shape and height – as well as the position in which you sleep – will help determine the right pillow for you. If you sleep on your back, you should choose a medium-firm pillow, as it will provide enough support for your neck without affecting the alignment of your spine. If you sleep on your side, a firm pillow is recommended to help keep the spine aligned by preventing hunching, saving you from a painful cricked neck in the morning. If you tend to sleep on your front a soft pillow is best, providing the right amount of comfortable cushioning without affecting your alignment.


Pro tip!

After sleeping on your pillow for a night you can help it return to it’s former glory by punching in the four corners and then plumping it from the middle out to redistribute the down.

A few week’s after our factory tour, my specially filled duvet and pillow arrived, complete with personalised tags detailing the date I’d filled them on-site – how lovely! 


I tend to switch between side and front sleeping but have always preferred a firmer pillow so that’s what I opted for, and since it was the start of summer and we’d been experiencing some wonderfully warm weather, i’d chosen a lightweight 4.5 tog duvet. Having now slept with these past month or so, I’m very happy with my choices!

Along with these specially created Herbert Parkinson sleep products, John Lewis also sent along samples of their beautiful new 100% linen bedding collection, which is available in some beauuutiful hues. I’d opted to mix an orange duvet with blush pink sheet and pillows, but it was a tough choice between those shades and a forest green/loch blue pairing. You know I’m a massive fan of linen bedding already but these sheets really are wonderfully sumptuous and tactile, and if I don’t stock up on more colours in the coming months I’d be surprised!


For now though I love the distinctly Californian boho style mix of burnt orange umber with dusky pink, which pairs beautifully with the rustic rattan and pale wood hues in my bedroom. The perfect way to keep hold of that summer feeling, as the weather begins to turn..

Stay tuned for the second part of my press trip with John Lewis & Partners, as we visit their luxury mattress manufacturer in Leeds, coming soon!

I was invited to visit Herbert Parkinson by John Lewis & Partners, but all opinions and views expressed are, as always, my own.  All photography © Kate Baxter. 

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