Researching, designing, sewing, and filling my own mattress has been very rewarding. Having a filling that’s just organic plant matter is really comforting and the way that it feels to lay on is better than anything by far.
I think there are a lot of products on the market to be cynical about so I rarely get a chance to share about something I like, this post is an affiliate / sponsored post and I’m happy to help you figure out what you want by explaining my experiences. Everyone has different preferences for sleeping so it’s nice to make something based on what you personally like.
Years ago now, more than I can remember I started researching tinyhouse life and ways I could simplify my life for the sake of the environment, cost, health and of course aesthetic. Beds are always a waste of space to me. I never liked any mattress and was always uncomfortable from the “hammock” feeling of the bed warping under me. One day I gave away our bed to a local summer camp and just put a pillow topper and some blankets down and slept on that. My back loved it but it was certainly not aesthetic. I got a duvet cover and put all the blankets in it so it was one solid fluff, and like a Japanese futon, I could roll it up. That frees up a whole room every day. We even shot our clip for Ryan Cassata’s “Gender-Binary” song in the same room the bed is in, we just rolled it aside.
Obviously it’s not an ideal set up though, so I kept dreaming of getting myself a nice filling that made it softer but still firm. I was even considering going to the local wash and hand sifting and washing sand to have a sand mattress. I was really trying to find non-flammable fillings because I wanted to have a tiny home with a mini wood burning stove. When I calculated how heavy even a 1″ thick bed of that would be, I realized I needed a lighter filler if I ever hoped to adapt it to a tiny home or to be able to move it as a futon at all.
Eventually, I came across a website selling buckwheat bedding and kits to make your own! They’re called Open Your Eyes Bedding and run by a very eco-minded and creative person. I love the idea of buckwheat, too. It’s one of my favorite plants and it’s a really interesting texture that I think makes it very suitable for bedding. When I was in Japan, our pillows were buckwheat and I always remembered them, so when I found this site I knew it was going to be the perfect fit for my mattress idea. Not only is it a sustainable bedding, I was really impressed with the Fire Testing that they had done for it. She said that she’s the only one the lab ever given materials back, ie. she reused the buckwheat from the fire test for her own projects later because it was unscathed.
How I made it:
I figured out that based on their kits which are very thick (about a normal mattress thickness) I could order less and make it thinner. I sewed two Queen size top sheets together (top sheets are bigger than the fitted and flat so it’s easy to do). I did one sheet solid cotton standard sheeting and the other side a jersey knit cotton so that it would have some stretch and give.
After I sewed them together on all but one edge, I sewed channels into it about 1.5″ thick. I knew it wasn’t going to be the 2″ thick I wanted but I was worried once I got them how heavy they were that folding up my bed would be a challenge. (Now I don’t think that’s a concern, I’ll be making a second one and just stack them).
Once I had all the channels sewn in, I hung it on my shower curtain rod with several strips of fabric pinned in place. I used a water bottle with the bottom cut off for a funnel and filled each channel, going back to refill as they settled. It was quite a lot of work for a day or two.
After it was full I pinned the channels closed and laid it down to test it out. I think I’m going to add more buckwheat, the stretchiness of the fabric allowed it to settle in more, but I will also likely be adding to it over the years as well. The hulls will break down and get smaller and I can fluff it or add more as needed.
Don’t forget a pillow!
I was very glad I had extra for a pillow, I just filled up an old zippered pillow case of mine to test it out, but I will likely be buying the organic Pillow Inserts and Lavender hulls next. The pillow is so nice because you can form it exactly to your shoulder/neck/head and there’s plenty of softness to it.