Mattress update: Tufting

After lacing, I cut the string so that every desired tuft location had two string ends on the top of the mattress. I loosely tied the ends with a special tufting knot, as described in How to make a cotton mattress.

This knot isn’t hard, but it’s easy to tighten it wrong so that you have to completely untie it and start over.

Before tightening the string fully, I placed rolled up pieces of cotton sliver on the top and bottom of the mattress underneath the string. This helps prevent the string from ripping through the fabric of the ticking (mattress case).

This part was really hard. You have to tighten the string a lot, and each knot has to be tightened the same amount. Otherwise your mattress will be lumpy and uneven. It took me several days to finish this part. My fingers were so sore!!

Finished! I’m not sure what to do about the strings. If I need to adjust the tension of the tufting, I need to keep the strings long. I’ll probably try the mattress out for a while, then decide whether or not I like the thickness/tension.

The final mattress is fine. It’s not amazing, but it’s definitely sufficient. It’s pretty firm, as expected. Unfortunately, there’s very little spring. Maybe I should have added a thin latex core. I hear latex is excessively springy, enough that it’s not usually used alone.

I haven’t slept on the mattress yet, so I’ll report back once the two of us are more familiar! 😀

Mattress update: Lacing

A Victorian rocking chair. Notice the gathers on the backrest of the chair. Those are tufts. Image from eBay.

After stuffing the mattress, you need to lace and tuft it. In a mattress, tufting compresses the stuffing to give it a specific feel (for wool, springier and firmer). It also helps hold the stuffing in place. If a wool mattress isn’t tufted, then as you sleep on it, the wool will tend to shift to the edges of the mattress, leaving you in a ditch. And you need to lace before you tuft.

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Why am I making a mattress?

Why did I decide to make a mattress? Well, I started researching and kinda went down the rabbit hole…

I’d had my eye on Holy Lamb Organics wool mattress for a long time. It seems like a great company. They use organic cotton and organic/sustainably sourced wool. But the mattresses only come in 4″ and 5″ thicknesses (seemed a bit thin for my then-tastes) and are fairly expensive ($1300 or $1600 for twin XL, depending on thickness).

So I started doing more research into sustainable and some conventional mattress options.

I found several other (seemingly lesser) brands, and then I came across DIY Natural Bedding. This is a company that supplies the parts for people to assemble their own mattresses and other bedding, like comforters and pillows (!!!!). So cool!! And almost all of the parts are sustainable. For example, all their fabric is organic cotton, grown and milled in the US. The wool is basically organic (not certified, but still sustainable).Their latex is organic. They also do custom work, e.g. for furniture.

The DIY Natural Bedding website is rife with inspiration. I figured if I were going to assemble the mattress myself, I might as well go all the way and make the parts myself too. You know I love crafts!

I decided to make a wool mattress, as opposed to latex, for a few reasons. Wool can be raised domestically; latex comes from rubber trees, which only grow in tropical regions. The latex from DIY Natural Bedding, in particular, is from Sri Lanka, which is far away. Latex mattresses last a long time (30 years!), but wool lasts even longer (100 years!!!!, with some maintenance). If I ever decide to dissemble my mattress, it would be easier to repurpose wool than to repurpose a rectangular chunk of latex foam. I am absolutely certain that wool is biodegradable; I’m not sure about latex.

Lastly, wool mattresses are traditional. I know, I know, not a great reason. But I am solidly part of the modern reskilling movement, and think that it’s important to preserve traditional crafts. How to make a cotton mattress is an old document I heavily relied on for construction ideas.

Here’s a cute story about how long wool mattresses last. Here’s another cute story.

My personal care routine

I shower every day, but I don’t use shampoo or conditioner. I “wash” my hair with water alone. This involves wetting my head, then scrubbing my scalp as if I were using shampoo. The scrubbing helps redistribute oils, and remove dirt and dead skin from my hair. I’ve been doing this for about two years. It works best if you have soft water. The minerals in hard water tend to bind to sebum, leaving you with sticky, white, waxy buildup.

Before that, I used baking soda in place of shampoo, which works fine. Before that, I used natural shampoo.

Bath brush. Picture from Ancient Industries. I bought mine at a cultural fair in Sweden. It was made by the Onslunda Borstmuseum (brush museum), a working museum in southern Sweden.

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Heat wave alert!

California is having a heat wave today and tomorrow. Around San Jose, it’s supposed to get up to 102°F or so! Whew! It’s time to take extreme evasive maneuvers, which means camping out in air-conditioned buildings!

J and I rarely use the air conditioning (or heat, for that matter). My preference is to leave the windows open at night to bring in the cool air or just tough it out if it’s too warm. If it’s too hot to sleep (usually > 83°F), we turn the AC on for a few hours before going to bed. If it’s too hot during the day even for sitting at a computer, though, I would rather just go somewhere else.

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How to go low-waste in the bathroom

This includes bathing and skin-care, mostly.


  1. Use less shampoo. For example, focus on shampooing your scalp rather than the length of your hair.
  2. Shampoo less often. If you shampoo every day, try every other day, then every third day. You’ll find that you can go a whole week with no shampoo!.
  3. Buy shampoo that comes in a returnable, refillable, or glass bottle.
  4. Buy your shampoo in bulk (and bring your own container) if you have a extensive bulk store nearby.
  5. Make your own shampoo. This can be as simple as using bar soap or liquid soap on your hair, or you could make really fancy concoctions.
  6. Go low or no ‘poo. There are many alternative haircare routines that generate less (plastic) waste, are cheaper, and are better for you.
  7. Take navy showers. Only have the water on to get yourself wet and to rinse.
  8. Make your own exfoliating scrub. A classic is sugar and/or baking soda in oil. Commercial scrubs often contain plastic microbeads, which aren’t removed in the water treatment process and end up polluting the environment.
  9. Use a washcloth, bath brush, natural loofah (compostable) in place of plastic loofahs (those mesh scrubby things).
  10. Use less soap on your body. Soap up less often. The oils you’re taking off keep your skin moisturized.
  11. Use bar soap for washing your hands and body in place of body wash and liquid soap. Bar soap can be bought loose (no packaging) or in paper, which can be easily recycled.
  12. Use oil as lotion. But if you’re using it on your face, make sure to check comeodogenic ratings first. These tell you how likely an ingredient is to cause acne. The lower the number, the better.
  13. Use a menstrual cup and cloth menstrual pads (or use prescription birth control to get rid of your period).
  14. Use a straight razor of double-edge razor instead of a disposable razor or razor with disposable heads. Here’s help to get you started!
  15. As always, don’t use disposables. Question if you really need that disposable item. If you do, then see if you can find a reusable replacement.

It’s been so long since I de-wastified my shower and skincare routines that it’s hard for me to think of suggestions for this. If you have any questions, like what to replace a particular product with, just ask!

Purisima Creek Trail

A few weekends ago, J, friend A who likes bugs, friend S who is a friend of friend A, friend S’s college friends, and I took a trip to the Purisima Creek Open Space Preserve. We hiked on the Purisima Creek Trail a total distance of 12 miles!! That was much longer than anticipated, but J and I were surprisingly not in bad shape the next day. My calves were a little sore, but that was it. J and I do walk a lot now (at least 2 miles a day, just to the train station and back. If we do any extra activities, like on the weekends, then we easily reach 6+ miles in a day.).

We saw a tooon of banana slugs. They’re famous for being yellow and living in  redwood forests. It would seem that they have aposematic coloration, but they’re not toxic. In fact, there’s an (annual?) banana slug recipe contest in Russian River, CA.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of this trip. J brought his fancy camera, though, so I’ll have him upload something soon.

Mattress update!

I worked on my wool mattress last Saturday. I was just stuffing it (and worked all day!), but got barely halfway done. I can’t imagine making wool mattresses for a living…

It’s been taking up so much room on the floor. And the wool I’m using is really dirty, so there’s dirt and wool everywhere. The apartment is going to get a thorough cleaning once I’m completely done with the mattress. There’s even wool fluff under the sofa.

Despite all the work, I’m glad I didn’t buy a commercial wool mattress. Mine is almost certainly going to be higher quality than most of those available in the US. And now I know how to make a mattress!

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