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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

 
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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?






 
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Daniel Worth wrote:So, I'm an avid backpacker and diy gear maker. I've made my own backpacking hammock setup and I want to raise a few points.

Most backpacking hammocks are nylon and super light weight. While no one I know has tested cotton fabric for making a gathered end hammock I would imagine it would be simple with a heavy enough fabric. Where that limit is might be up to being tested. I'm not a fan of rope hammocks as the rope isn't as uniform or comfortable as a solid fabric hammock.

If you hang the hammock properly and know how to lay in it the right way, you lay diagonally, you can sleep just as flat as you do in a bed, e.g. not bent up like a banana. Many people who have back problems have reported them going away by sleeping in a hammock, in fact in the hammock camping community there are a number of these "full time hangers" and one of my friends is in this category.

To keep warm an comfy in a hammock it's important to note that they provide no insulation underneath you. This is corrected by creating goose down quilts that hang tight to the bottom of the hammock to keep your butt warm. I use a 3/4 length under quilt for backpacking. Also for the top quilt it typically has a foot box, think of a big blanket with about 18 inches of the bottom sewn together and gathered with a draw string, sewn into it to keep your feet nice an toasty.

So, IMHO. Hammocks have the following advantages over mattresses.

1. They take up less space as they can be unhooked at one end and hooked back to the other end when not in use, this makes it ECO as less space is required to be dedicated to sleeping area.
2. They are low cost, especially if you have a source for goose or duck down to make your quilts.
3. You don't end up with pressure points over time when using them.
4. Down as an under insulation is superior to even foam or traditional mattresses meaning you can sleep warmer at night and use less resources to keep warm in the cold times of the year.
5. In hot climates you can remove the under quilt and keep cool at night since you don't have any insulation material underneath you. reducing the need for comfort cooling.
6. The height of the hammock can be adjusted to make it easy to get in and out.
7. No expensive frame.

They have draw-backs though

1. They take some getting used to.
2. It isn't as easy to toss and turn in them. Although many people say that it reduces pressure point issues that usually cause the need to keep changing positions when sleeping.
3. I you have partner it is difficult to engage in certain partner based activities.
4. Care needs to be taken to ensure the hanging points of the hammock are appropriately rated for safety.

I'm sure there are more pros and cons I'm not thinking of but since I have experience in this I though I'd share.

Dan



Thanks so much for the detailed breakdown. I’ve been traveling and living in another country. I literally used a whole suitcase to bring natural organic bedding because I knew I’d be renting an apartment and sleeping in cotton/wool was important to me. Many people suggested a hammock but I haven’t had experience sleeping in one (I usually sleep on the floor on an organic wool topper from Holy Lamb Organics.) I was hesitant to even try a hammock because it didn’t seem like it would be as healthy or comfortable as floor sleeping. Seeing the points you listed give me encouragement to at least try it because it would be much easier and more economical for travel than an entire luggage.

Blessings,

Alana
 
Alana Rose
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Carmen Rose wrote: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.



Thank you for sharing all these ideas Carmen! I find your project quite fascinating and am eager to continue hearing about how you like the final product over time.

Are there any concerns you have about mold or decay of the material over a short time? I know for my wool mattress topper that I sleep on, I need to unmake my bed daily to allow the heat and moisture to escape before making the bed again later .

Also, I think the diatomaceous earth would be a good added measure for peace of mind. I used to use ketchup or mustard bottles to squirt the DE into crevices in my home where unwanted insects would come out of. I’m wondering if you could do the opposite type of effect like using a duster or sprayer that would lightly cover as much surface area as possible?

Additionally, I’d love to see pictures if you’ve taken any of your steps and progress.

Blessings,

Alana
 
Alana Rose
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Sonja Draven wrote:

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.



Thanks for the tip Sonja! Is there a place where all tips like this are located? I thought I briefly skimmed over some when I first signed up but now I can’t seem to remember where I read them.

Blessings,

Alana
 
Carmen Rose
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Alana Rose wrote:

Daniel Worth wrote:So, I'm an avid backpacker and diy gear maker. I've made my own backpacking hammock setup and I want to raise a few points.

Most backpacking hammocks are nylon and super light weight. While no one I know has tested cotton fabric for making a gathered end hammock I would imagine it would be simple with a heavy enough fabric. Where that limit is might be up to being tested. I'm not a fan of rope hammocks as the rope isn't as uniform or comfortable as a solid fabric hammock.

If you hang the hammock properly and know how to lay in it the right way, you lay diagonally, you can sleep just as flat as you do in a bed, e.g. not bent up like a banana. Many people who have back problems have reported them going away by sleeping in a hammock, in fact in the hammock camping community there are a number of these "full time hangers" and one of my friends is in this category.

To keep warm an comfy in a hammock it's important to note that they provide no insulation underneath you. This is corrected by creating goose down quilts that hang tight to the bottom of the hammock to keep your butt warm. I use a 3/4 length under quilt for backpacking. Also for the top quilt it typically has a foot box, think of a big blanket with about 18 inches of the bottom sewn together and gathered with a draw string, sewn into it to keep your feet nice an toasty.

So, IMHO. Hammocks have the following advantages over mattresses.

1. They take up less space as they can be unhooked at one end and hooked back to the other end when not in use, this makes it ECO as less space is required to be dedicated to sleeping area.
2. They are low cost, especially if you have a source for goose or duck down to make your quilts.
3. You don't end up with pressure points over time when using them.
4. Down as an under insulation is superior to even foam or traditional mattresses meaning you can sleep warmer at night and use less resources to keep warm in the cold times of the year.
5. In hot climates you can remove the under quilt and keep cool at night since you don't have any insulation material underneath you. reducing the need for comfort cooling.
6. The height of the hammock can be adjusted to make it easy to get in and out.
7. No expensive frame.

They have draw-backs though

1. They take some getting used to.
2. It isn't as easy to toss and turn in them. Although many people say that it reduces pressure point issues that usually cause the need to keep changing positions when sleeping.
3. I you have partner it is difficult to engage in certain partner based activities.
4. Care needs to be taken to ensure the hanging points of the hammock are appropriately rated for safety.

I'm sure there are more pros and cons I'm not thinking of but since I have experience in this I though I'd share.

Dan



Thanks so much for the detailed breakdown. I’ve been traveling and living in another country. I literally used a whole suitcase to bring natural organic bedding because I knew I’d be renting an apartment and sleeping in cotton/wool was important to me. Many people suggested a hammock but I haven’t had experience sleeping in one (I usually sleep on the floor on an organic wool topper from Holy Lamb Organics.) I was hesitant to even try a hammock because it didn’t seem like it would be as healthy or comfortable as floor sleeping. Seeing the points you listed give me encouragement to at least try it because it would be much easier and more economical for travel than an entire luggage.

Blessings,

Alana




About hammocks - I was in the medical field for a while and we moved some very heavy people using nothing but the sheet they were laying on. I don't know about long term durability but I'm sure a hammock of nothing more than a good quality sheet would be strong enough. Just a thought. It would be lighter than heavy fabric and less bulky too.

 
Carmen Rose
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Alana Rose wrote:

Carmen Rose wrote: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.



Thank you for sharing all these ideas Carmen! I find your project quite fascinating and am eager to continue hearing about how you like the final product over time.

Are there any concerns you have about mold or decay of the material over a short time? I know for my wool mattress topper that I sleep on, I need to unmake my bed daily to allow the heat and moisture to escape before making the bed again later .

Also, I think the diatomaceous earth would be a good added measure for peace of mind. I used to use ketchup or mustard bottles to squirt the DE into crevices in my home where unwanted insects would come out of. I’m wondering if you could do the opposite type of effect like using a duster or sprayer that would lightly cover as much surface area as possible?

Additionally, I’d love to see pictures if you’ve taken any of your steps and progress.

Blessings,

Alana




A quick update - As expected, the stuffing has packed down to 1/2 its original height - a little more at heavy points like my hips. When the weather warms up and dries out enough to wash and dry more stuffing I'll add to it but for now I find it quite comfortable. The edges are still higher than the middle, of course, but I'm good with that. It kind of cradles me and keeps the heat in quite well. It's hard to believe that so thin a mattress (as it is now) keeps me so comfortable - and I've had severe back problems in my past so it's not just that I'm all that tough.

The strong foam pieces on the sides, which I may well replace with 1" x 4" boards, tended to turn on their sides as the stuffing packed down and the mattress became less full so I propped 1" x 4" boards up around it. Once I get to my permanent home I'll be sure to get a bed frame that's made with edges that hold the mattress in and keep it from sliding around, like many bunk beds. I hope that makes sense. That should keep the edges from flopping over. Of course, adding more stuffing will also help.

What I'd really like to try as padding is tule reeds but, alas, they don't grow here. Tules have a kind of natural springy foam in their core and native Americans used them quite a lot. Since I've used most of the available moss in my immediate area, I'll consider the next layer being straw, washed and dried if I can't find more moss. That will take a while to accomplish - the washing and drying but if you're going to do something, take the time to do it right so you don't have to redo it later! I know I don't want dirt and dust in my mattress.

Thanks, everyone, for your interest in my project. As many of you, I imagine, my family thinks I'm crazy! I did take pictures along the way, thought I might be able to turn it into an article some day, but I'm not very tech savy - how to put those pix on the computer. Some day I may get to it.
 
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 A couple years ago I did a bunch of research into the various options for a healthy mattress. I came to the conclusion that a latex mattress was likely the best option for what we wanted, but when looking at the various price tags I thought “there’s no way that we will find one that will even come close to our budget.” So I let go of the idea for the time being.

 Within a year we were shopping for a new mattress at our local furniture store, expecting to invest around $500 in a conventional mattress. The Universe was looking out for us and the store actually had organic latex mattresses! And huge bonus, they were on sale because they simply weren’t selling in our poor rural community.

 We did end up investing $1,000 in that mattress, which I believe was at least 50% off. That’s seriously one of the best $1,000 investments I’ve made in my life! It’s the best mattress I’ve ever slept on!!! One of my great joys in life is creating a cozy “nest” out of my bed, and this is the best nest I’ve ever created!

 I believe our mattress is a Omi, but I so seldom get to see the mattress itself (it has a mattress cover on it to help keep it clean) that I forget what brand name is written on it. I will say that I absolutely do not find it easy to move. It’s one huge piece of latex, not several pieces with a removable cover. So it’s kind of like moving dead weight. But I would happily deal with that one short coming for the few times a mattress has to be moved in it’s life.

 I would highly recommend a latex mattress to everyone. It’s such an amazing sleeping experience!!
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