Friday 14th March 2014

by Brittany

David and I are dreamers.

Yes, both of us. Which results in a wonderfully interesting, and sometimes, rather unconventional, and adventurous life! For example, for our living situation, we decided on living in a travel trailer, rather than renting an apartment. Less space, yes, but it’s our own little space, and it enables us to save more for a home of our own (someday, Lord willing). We’ve loved our “tiny house”, and we’ve also learned a lot. We have discovered that it doesn’t take nearly as much space as we thought to live rather comfortably. We haven’t had more than a few people over at once (hospitality can take a little more creativity when your living space is small), and we do use outside laundry facilities, but other than that, we can do pretty much everything we need to in our home.

We are interested in living simply. And naturally.

Along these lines, we’ve researched (as I’ve mentioned before on this blog) alternative energy sources (wind, solar, petal- or other powered tools), composting, composting toilets, organic gardening, and healthy alternatives to traditional construction materials (specifically for homes).

Our latest area of research—and soon, development—is a Pennington-produced all-wool mattress. No, we’re not planning to sell or market it. We’re just making one for us. We researched it quite a bit online, first, before deciding this was a project we wanted to try.

I wasn’t a complete stranger to the idea of mattresses made from all-natural fibers; my family owns a few all-cotton mattresses. And while they worked quite well for years, they did compact and compress, which got uncomfortable eventually. According to my research, wool would last longer, would compact less (or at least less quickly) and was springier/more comfortable, and more light-weight. My family’s all-cotton twin mattresses are heavy! A wool mattress, according to my off-the-beaten-path research (i.e. this isn’t standard practice with the commercially-available mattresses), could also be disassembled after several years of use (after which time, the wool would have become more compacted/settled, and less comfortable) and could be re-carded (basically fluffed and combed), and reassembled with a little additional wool fiber, and your mattress would be ready to go again! A reusable mattress? Sounds good to me! Wool is also mold and mildew resistant (important qualities in Texas!), and has the delightful quality of being warm in the winter, and cool in the summer.

I spent hours researching the various ways the commercially available wool mattresses are made, and also those who had done it for themselves (and all of their ideas, and methods). I was a bit wary of making it from wool fluff (raw wool stuffing or fiber). How would I ensure that I got it even and that it wouldn’t turn out lumpy?? Especially with a larger (full/double or queen) size mattress? I thought several layers of wool batting would be an easier alternative, especially for the first attempt at mattress-making, but it was all far too expensive, and too thin. Thankfully, I happened upon a post by Lina at Butterpies, and low and behold, she had made a wool mattress exactly like I was picturing! And—thank you, thank you, Lina—she posted her source for the 3″ thick wool batting! She also posted how many batts she bought, and how thick her finished mattress ended up being, which was a great help when I was calculating what we needed for ours. While I was at it (and since I was already paying shipping), I bought two extra wool batts to make a comforter/duvet for our bed. :) Warm, snuggly, fluffy… *happy sigh*

I found organic muslin fabric at OrganicCottonPlus.com in the exact width I wanted (no need to piecing it together, no need to cut extra off the sides). I found mattress needles (these are some serious needles—they are 10″ long!) on ebay, and button thread (heavy duty cotton upholstry weight thread) on amazon.com. We’re just waiting for the postal service to do their part, and we’ll be ready to get this project started!

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3 Responses to “Mattress-making”

  1. […] back to the mattress… {If you haven’t seen my two previous blog posts about what supplies we bought, and where we bought them, and how much we spent, you might want to read those […]

  2. Riley says:

    I’m so excited! I’ve been researching and looking at that same site (and it actually linked me back to here) where I learned where to get giant needles. Yay! Please please post finished results and any tips you might have after completing :) ? I should be tackling this project in a couple months. Considering buying an organic cotton futon cover, doing all the sewing and then just trying to stuff the bats into said futon cover and zip it shut. It seems like it’d be so easy, but maybe too easy to work?
    So stoked to see people trying this. Thanks a million!

    • Brittany P says:

      No worries, Riley, I’m planning to post pictures of our results. :) Shouldn’t be long now…

      I think your idea of using an organic cotton futon cover is very creative. My husband (or was it my dad?) came up with the idea of putting a zipper in one of the sides of our cover to make the process easier—but this idea surfaced only after we were most of the way through, so it was too late to try it. ;) I would caution you that the wool batting does stick to itself and it also sticks to other fabric, so make sure if you use a futon cover, that the zipper at least opens all the way along one of the long sides. Even better would be a cover with one side _and_ one edge that unzip.

      If you only have one side that opens with the zipper, you’d probably need to line the cover on the inside with something like painter’s plastic (to make it easy to side the batting in), and then have the batting all stacked neatly, fold it in half long-ways (with plastic or a large piece of paper in the center of the batting so it will unfold easily once it’s inside), and then work carefully to get it flat on the inside of the cover, and slide the plastic out.

      I think it would be possible to make it work, but it may be rather difficult to get the batting to lay as flat with this method you’re considering (especially if it’s a larger size mattress (queen, king). If you do try it and it works, I’d love to hear about it.

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