This past weekend I made my bed. I know what you’re thinking… “Big deal, I make mine every day”, or “Woopy doo, great accomplishment”. This was certainly the reaction I received from several friends upon telling them about my weekend venture. However, when I revealed that I hadn’t merely smoothed wrinkled sheets back into place, but rather had sawed, sewn, and stuffed an entirely new sleeping vessel, questions arose. “You actually made a mattress?!”, “Aren’t zippers tricky?”, “Is straw comfy?”. There’s a very distinct type of satisfaction derived from a project like this. In a culture that outsources almost everything, it’s an incredibly empowering experience to be able to make something for yourself that you rely on so heavily for such a basic human need. In participating in my place on this deeper level, I am so much more connected to it, to myself, and to this life. I hope the documentation of this project inspires you to take a more hands-on approach towards your own everyday living. Woohoo!
Top Reasons to Make Your Own Bed:
You can make your bed any way really! Depending on your needs, wants, and abilities, your bed could be a simple wood slat frame like mine or a rocket ship suspended from the ceiling! Feel free to deviate from these instructions at any time if you have a preferred method. Or if you just want to try something out. Experimentation! Here’s how I went about it…
Durable fabric (measurements below)
sewing machine or needles and thimble
stuffing material (straw, wool, fabric scraps, etc)
large work surface (I used a big piece of plywood on top of two saw-horses covered in a sheet.)
Preparations and Such!
First decide on the size you want. I chose 46”x78”x5”, though the length ended up being 69” inches somehow. I think it shrank in the wash. It’s okay because I’m short.
Next figure out how much fabric you’ll need and purchase or salvage it. You’ll need two large pieces that are 2” longer and wider than the final mattress size to allow for seems. You’ll also need two width and two length pieces that are 5” wide or however tall your mattress will be. Also include a 2” seam allowance. If you want to add a protective zipper flap like I did, you’ll also need another length strip that’s 4 to 5” wide. This helps keep your stuffing from getting caught in the zipper. You can have the employees at the fabric store help you figure out the yardage.
Once you’ve cut your fabric and ironed it if needed, cut one of the side length pieces in half, length wise. Now sew the two pieces together leaving a ¼ to 1/2 “ edge. Iron down and sew zipper face down on the seam. Next use a seam ripper to open up seam and reveal your working zipper.
Now Iron your zipper guard (I call it my straw guard J) in half lengthwise. Sew it in place on the inside of the zipper.
Sew all side panels together, making sure not to twist any and that the zipper is facing the inside so when you flip it, it will be right side out. Just like sewing a pillow.
Now it’s time to iron all the edges of your side panels so that your seams remain straight and even. It can be a little tricky feeding so much fabric through a regular sewing machine, so this step is important.
Sew one mattress sized piece on to the side panels, then the other. I would recommend reinforcing these seems at least once with a zig-zag stitch.
Now you get to stuff it with your choice of material! I chose straw because it is locally sourced, inexpensive, pretty soft, and when it’s time to re-stuff I can mulch with it! Fantastic! Eventually I may look to using other plant fibers in the area that I can harvest myself. With organic materials, always consider moisture and nutrient levels, as you don’t want your bedding to mold or harbor insects. Fill that thang!
Now you can build your frame. This design is very simple. Measure your finished mattress and cut pieces accordingly. For my bed I needed two 66” long 2x4s, two 46” long 2x4s, four 17” long 2x4s, nine 46” long 5x1s, and plywood for the headboard if desired.
We’re lucky enough to have good tools around these parts, so I cut the wood with a skill saw. However, if you are unable to cut your own perhaps a friend could help you out for a trade. Only use these tools when you’re able to do so confidently and safely. You could certainly go the hand tool route, but it does take a heck of a lot longer. That’s the extra badass way.
Using a pilot bit to create a hole first, screw together the 2x4s and then add legs making sure they are flush with the top of the frame. You can also use 4x4s for the legs and make them however tall you wish.
Now place your slats down atop the frame and pilot drill all holes. Screw in place.
You can add your head board or add it in the room as was necessary for me, or else it wouldn’t have fit through the door. I created an arch in the headboard using a jigsaw.
Put it all together and then add your favorite sheets and blankets. Voila! Congratulations! You’ve made your very own bed!