In spring of 2010, I decided to make my own all natural mattress. I had read about how the common bed a few hundred years ago was made of straw, and wondered if anyone was still using straw for their beds. I found a blog documenting someone's experience making a straw mattress.
It didn't take long for me to decide that I'd give it a try. I was a little concerned about allergies, but I knew that straw bales where packed tightly and densely enough that I would not have to worry about bugs. It turns out the straw was very clean, though it did have an outdoorsy smell and puffed just a little dusty stuff into the air when I jumped on it. It didn't dirty the tick, which is mostly white, it did make me sneeze a little the first few nights I slept on it. After one month, all of that was cleared up, no sneezing, no dust, no smell.
Their mattress cost only $35, whereas mine cost just under $50, which is probably only because I had a seamstress I know make my tick (mattress cover). Below is the break down of the costs.
3 two-string square bales @ $3/bale - $9
However many sq. yds. of duck cotton it took, the large zipper and heavy duty thread - $15
Seamstress fee - $25
If you are handy with a sewing machine, you should try it yourself. At the time I didn't own one, and didn't have the time to sew by hand as the bloggers I found the plan from did theirs. I used a zipper across the bottom as well as I thought that would hold up better than buttons (like they used) in the long run.
You first have to measure the length, width and depth you need the mattress to be, and allow a few extra inches for folded hems. Let the seamstress know the exact dimensions if you're using one. Ask for reinforced seams.
Our mattress is a super single (waterbed size), which is 48x84 and we made it about a foot deep to accommodate the waterbed frame we use. This actually left us some straw to spare and was ridiculously thick. The straw packs down over time, so it won't look so overstuffed for long.
You first have to open the bales and sort of fluff the straw apart, then pack it to the end of the tick using a rake or something. I don't recommend climbing in there with all that unsettled dust. Dumbest idea ever.
Once your tick is sufficiently stuffed (and it should be overstuffed to begin with since it will pack down), you're done!
The straw should be replaced every 6mo - 1yr. We are currently at one year on this mattress and are going to wait longer to replace it as it is still comfortable to us. When you replace, wash your tick at that time and the old straw can go onto the garden as mulch or into the compost!
Be careful not to spill drinks or something like that onto your mattress. If it does get wet, dry it immediately. If you use your tick for a long time, it will eventually need to be repaired and maybe replaced. Ours is still in very good shape.
Straw mattresses are like feather mattresses, they require occasional fluffing. We fluff, flip and turn ours every time we wash the sheets.