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in search of organic mattress

 
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Interesting that this post comes up just now. I've finally finished washing and drying all the moss I want for making my own all-natural mattress. Living in the Pacific Northwest I've always thought soft, green moss was just about the most luxurious carpet a person could find. I love it! When I needed to get a new mattress (I moved and it wasn't feasible to bring the old one) I really didn't want to contribute to future landfills by buying a traditional one (or breathe in anything that would be out-gassing from it). I started looking at what is around, decided I wasn't willing to pay the price for a commercially made all-natural mattress and remembered sleeping on a straw mattress for years as a child. So I started looking on the internet.

First I found information on straw mattresses but the ones people were talking about were fluffy, shifted around a lot and needed the stuffing replaced at least yearly, really more like a big bean bag chair. I don't have a truck so even getting a bale or two of straw would require finding a friend to transport it for me. One person wrote that they get dreadful hay fever from straw but washing and drying the straw (imagine that!) fixed that problem. No hay fever from her bed. That started me thinking.

I was walking in the woods one day, enjoying the feel and smell of moss, and decided I'd try making a small (10" x 15") pillow first to see how it went before trying to collect enough for a whole mattress. I collected a nice big bag of the kind of moss that grows on maple trees in cool, damp forests. I washed and dried it in the sun and stuffed my pillow. Since I'm into recycling and repurposing I used an old quilted pillowcase for the pillow itself and a silk shirt (dreadful color but I don't have to look at it when I'm sleeping) to make the pillow case. I love my moss-filled pillow! With use it has packed down to less than half the original thickness but it's soft enough and firm enough for me and with just a little use any small lumps ir originally had have smoothed out. For the first week or so it smelled wonderfully of moss. That's gone now but I still quite like it.  It's my favorite pillow although I may yet add some more stuffing to it.

I thought a lot about the possibility of the moss shifting and decided to make smaller boxes to put inside the actual mattress casing. Somewhere I heard about Big Duck Canvas company online and ordered some muslin and cotton duck from them. As long as I'm going to the trouble I want fabric that will last as long as possible and isn't half worn out already. With shipping it cost around $60 but for an all natural mattress, that's not too bad and I have leftover fabric. Always order more than you think you'll need. Learned that the hard way on other projects.

The inside boxes ended up being 14" squares, 5" deep. I had planned on 13" square but just couldn't help making them a little bigger - just in case. Since I'm single and am not into traveling in my sleep a twin bed does me just fine. I have 15 boxes, enough to lay them 3 across and 5 lengthwise. That will make it 42" wide and 70" long, a little smaller if I crowd them, which I plan to so there isn't any dead space between them. I'm only 61 1/2" long myself so that's fine for me. I made the inner boxes with an open edge and a flap to fold down over it. That facilitates either adding more or changing over to straw if I so decide without having it spill into the outer casing.To begin with each one will have a pound of moss in it. By weighing, I don't have to guess when they are full. Each one will have the same amount of stuffing.  I plan to use the heavy duck fabric to make an outer casing to hold it all together. I found 2, 45" heavy metal zippers to close a side and extend part way around each end so I can easily open it for adjusting, replacing, etc.
Store bought natural mattresses are very expensive and the ads talk about using wool for a flame retardant layer (required by law) so I have an ugly, old wool blanket that I will put over the outer casing and under my mattress pad (if I can find an all cotton one) or maybe just under the sheet. Either way, it should serve the purpose and reduce wear on the outer casing as well.

I have heard that over time these home made mattresses take on the shape of their occupants bodies'. I rather like that thought although I don't remember the one from my childhood doing so. Maybe I was just unaware since I didn't know at the time that I was sleeping on straw. One day a seam popped open and there was - straw inside. It wasn't stuffed like a bean bag, however. It was solid and firm, almost as if someone had taken leaves off hay bales and laid them in the mattress shell. If the moss doesn't work out that's what I'll try next. If the moss packs down more than I like I may add a layer of straw on top of the moss, although washing and drying straw doesn't sound any more appealing than washing and drying a lot more moss. If I should ever need to move it I will number the boxes so they end up in their original position.

With the commercially made all natural mattress I was looking at being around $1,000 I figure that by making my own I probably earned (saved) at least $25 an hour by making my own out of maple tree moss. It even makes sense financially. Who could ask for anything more? I'd love to hear from others about their experiences making their own mattresses.
Staff note :

Thread on making mattresses: https://permies.com/t/54526/fiber-arts/Straw-Mattress

 
steward & bricolagier
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Something to consider: Put curtains around the beds. If you have an electric warmer of some sort, they will add heat to the room, so constraining that heat with curtains of some sort will help the temp at night.

I don't like sleeping with electric on me, so I use an electric blanket, with 2 other blankets on top of it to insulate it. It sits on top of my bedding, I warm it for a few hours before I go to bed, then remove the 3 of them as a set, and sleep in my warm, no electric field bed. The curtains keep the heat in and I'm quite comfy.

:D
 
Carmen Rose
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As I'm planning to build my own house I was thinking about something similar. I've seen pictures of old fashioned 'bedrooms' which were walls built right onto the sides of the bed frame, no bigger than the bed itself. This was partly to keep one's own body heat in. What an efficient use of space (trying to keep my house to 400 sf). Curtains would facilitate changing sheets, etc. much better and still have that great insulating effect. So far my plans are rather like a studio apartment - one big room aside from the ADA accessible bathroom with the bed in the corner cubbyhole formed by the bathroom wall. I could easily put a pretty curtain there for both privacy and warmth. Thanks for the suggestion!
 
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Your bed curtains could be anything, too. From regular curtains, to insulated or room darkening ones, to blankets, display quilts, to animal hides. The heavier they are, the better they'll insulate - but the stronger your hanging system for them will need to be.
 
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What Carmen said, bedrooms not larger than the bed itself, or 'a bed in a closet', in Dutch we call 'bedstee' (or 'bedstede'). Old houses (both farmhouses and townhouses) had those. More info and some photos here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Box-bed
 
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How's the mattress coming, Carmen?
 
Carmen Rose
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Well . . . life keeps getting in the way so the mattress isn't finished yet. Seven of the fifteen boxes are filled and ready to put into the outer casing but that's as far as I've gotten. I still have to make the outer casing but filling the remaining boxes should be easy enough. Sis had knee surgery, other projects were more urgent, etc. It is almost next on my list though, right after a simple memory quilt. I'm hoping to make a business of memory items - quilts, teddy bears or a pillow from favorite shirts from childhood or a shirt from a loved one, etc. Just such an opportunity arose so I thought I better jump on it while the iron is hot, so to speak. Once I'm into my own home again, or my sis rents out the bed in this room, I will be much more motivated to finish the mattress, seeing as it'll be the only bed I'll have. To be clear - sis rents out her 2 extra rooms at cost to young adults that she knows, trusts and who can't afford to live on their own (or me, an oldster sister who moved from out of state and is trying not to use up all my savings on just living while I'm looking for my own place). Thank God for older sisters!
 
Carmen Rose
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By the way - I can't figure out how to reply to a specific answer to my post. I wanted to say that I checked out those pix on wiki and that looks almost exactly like what I want to do. Think I'll use a tall bookcase or two for walls around the bed so it's a more flexible floor plan but I only sleep in my bed so why waste all that space on it?
 
Sonja Draven
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Carmen Rose wrote:By the way - I can't figure out how to reply to a specific answer to my post.


If you hit the quote button at the top of the post you want to reply to, it will quote that post. If you only want to refer to part of their post, you can delete the other pieces. Just make sure to leave the stuff in brackets (that say quote= person name. Etc) or it won't work right.
 
Carmen Rose
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I posted here about my efforts to create an all natural mattress out of moss and wanted to update that post but now I can't find it. Anyone know why?
 
Carmen Rose
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Carmen Rose wrote:I posted here about my efforts to create an all natural mattress out of moss and wanted to update that post but now I can't find it. Anyone know why?



It wasn't there a minute ago but voila! There it is.

OK, so I slept in my new bed for the first time last night and, as expected, it compacted quite a bit. It went from at least 6" of fluff to about 2 or 3" of packed moss. There are a couple of blankets that I store under it and an old camping pad - why waste that space? - for an additional inch of padding. I slept well (but, then, I like a firm mattress). Of course the edges didn't pack down very much. I'll be interested to see whether they ever do pack down as much.

So, spurred on by the recent inquiry as to how it was going . . . sometimes I need a bit of gentle spurring . . . yesterday was the day to assemble. Thank God I didn't have to make the actual mattress case! With these old arthritic hands I wasn't looking forward to sewing up that canvas! Pretty sure my wimpy sewing machine wouldn't do it so I had planned to sew it by hand, and was regretting the 2 zippers I got to add in along a long edge and part way around the ends. Would have made assembling it so much easier but I just couldn't face it, and the likely pain in my hands for days to come.

Ironically, (that's the word we use when we mean "God provides"), my extremely un-environmentally-friendly job site was throwing away 2 pieces of the densest styrofoam I've ever encountered. It had been at the preschool for as long as anyone can remember but no one knew what it was for. It was the perfect length for a mattress and 5" wide. Amazing! I asked them to 'throw them away' into my car and brought them home. I had been concerned about the small area of the edge that I get in and out of bed from getting smushed much more than the rest of it and making it uneven. This is perfect! It also keeps the mattress more solid and easier to move around for making the bed.  

Also 'ironically,' my niece brought a mattress 'cover' to us that she had planned to throw away but thought my sister might use. It's very heavy with a zipper just across one end (not so easy to load but pre-made and free), a padded surface on the top side (only 1/4" but it helps smooth out any lumps) as if it was really part of the mattress, not what we think of as a cover of thin, padded cotton with gauze around the sides. Except for the backing, which has a small rip and I will eventually replace, it was in very good condition and quite sturdy. It's not all natural but it's old enough to have out gassed about as much as it can and I don't feel badly about reusing something headed for the landfill even if it is synthetic. My thought is to not be responsible for the production of toxicity or uncompostable materials but, if it's already been produced and bought by someone else, I'd rather it be used to its fullest extent than sent to the landfill simply because it's synthetic. That said, it was the perfect size so I snagged it immediately, filled the rest of the small boxes yesterday and assembled it in an hour or so. It looked just like a typical mattress so I covered it with an old wool blanket (fire barrier), put a regular, thin mattress pad over it to hold the blanket on well, put sheets on it and slept there last night.

It feels so great to have finished such a long project! I started collecting the moss, washing and air drying it, last spring. And then to sleep on it - heavenly! I like a firm mattress and it is, indeed, firm but not too firm. The internal boxes ended up being just about exactly a pound each. I numbered them in their upper left corner so that if I move it I'll know where to put each box and avoid mixing them up. It's a little bit sloppy because the boxes aren't packed tight and slides around more easily than I'd like but I'll plan to put more stuffing (weight) in it next summer - when the weather is more conducive to washing and drying it all. I may go with straw if moss isn't readily available. I picked most of the easy-to-get moss this year. Or maybe it will have regrown by next year. This is the Pacific Northwest, after all. Or maybe someone near here has moss they'd love to have removed from their maple trees . . . ?  I actually think the fact that it's more fluffy on the edges and sunken in the middle will keep me warmer this winter, a little like a feather bed that comes up around you to seal out cold air, and I expect the sides will pack down more with use.

So that's my lengthy experiment in making my own mattress. I call it a success, and one I can feel really good about sleeping in. One final thought - should I put a spoonful of diatomaceous earth in each box? I wouldn't expect insects to take up residence but I find it comfortable and cozy so might they also? Would that diatomaceous earth just settle to the bottom and be ineffective anyway? Any opinions on that?






 
He's dead Jim. Grab his tricorder. I'll get his wallet and this tiny ad:
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