COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN
AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
FLORIDA STATE COLLEGE FOR WOMEN
AND UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
WILMON NEWELL, Director
MAKING COTTON MATTRESSES
SUMMARY OF STEPS IN MAKING A COTTON MATTRESS
1. Assemble materials and equipment.
2. Square ends of mattress ticking (never tear).
3. Cut one piece 24 inches long from the 10 yards and then
cut it crosswise into 6-inch strips for side boxing (4 strips).
4. Cut remainder of ticking (91/3 yards) into 4 equal lengths.
5. Cut one 6-inch strip from the sides of each of two of the
lengths for end boxing.
6. Pin the selvedges of one 32-inch and one 26-inch piece, and
stitch, allowing /2-inch seams. Do same with the other
7. Pin together and place on table and mark for tufts.
8. Round corner (while bottom and top are pinned together).
9. Make boxing by sewing one crosswise strip to each end of
a lengthwise strip.
10. Find center of each lengthwise strip and mark. Find center
of ends of bottom of tick and mark.
11. Match marks of bottom of tick and boxing and pin. Join
boxing at center sides, cutting away extra material.
12. Make and insert mattress handles (made out- of material
left from boxing).
13. Stitch boxing to bottom of tick.
14. Beginning at center side pin boxing to raw edge of top of
tick. Continue around the corners for 15 to 20 inches.
Stitch, using 1/-inch seams on machine; this leaves one
side and two ends open.
15. Place 50 pounds of fluffed cotton in layers on the bottom
section of tick.
16. Pin top to boxing, being careful to match marks.
17. Slip-stitch seams, using a heavy thread.
20. Roll the edge.
21. Tie tufts.
MAKING COTTON MATTRESSES
Comfortable cotton mattresses can be made at home at low
cost. The homemaker can be certain that only high grade cotton
has been used, that the mattresses made at home are clean, and
that the construction is strong and substantial. Durability,
good materials and careful workmanship are essentials of a
A good mattress should be sufficiently firm to support the
body, but yielding enough to conform to every curve and to
the movements of the sleeper.
With the large quantity of cotton available now, Florida home-
makers well may give their careful attention to this practical
use of a Southern farm product.
MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT NEEDED TO MAKE A
Ticking.-10 yards 8 ounce feather ticking, 32 inches wide.
Cotton.-45 to 50 pounds of ginned cotton.
Thread.-1 spool No. 40 white and 1 spool No. 20 white.
Twine.-65 yards waxed mattress twine.
Table.-83 inches long x 61 inches wide x 40 inches high,
with solid top, used for measuring, cutting, and marking tick,
and for beating.
Table.-83x61x12" for beating.
Tufting Table.-83 inches long x 61 inches wide x 40 inches
high, with boards spaced 4 to 5 inches apart. (This may be
made out of saw horses and boards.)
Poles.-2 round poles 11/ to 2 inches in diameter and 5 to 7
ft. long. (Broom or hoe handles may be used.)
Needles.-1 tufting needle No. 16 (see Fig. 1); 1 roll-edge
needle No. 7-7 gauge (see Fig. 1); 1 package sewing needles,
Tufts.-92 tufts made from cotton or ticking.
Cards or Combs.-Cards or combs may be made at home from
12-inch pieces of l"xl" lumber. Round one end for the handle,
This information has been compiled in the State Office of Home Demon-
stration Work, Florida Agricultural Extension Service, by Clarine Belcher,
Specialist in Clothing and Textiles, and Eleanor Barton and Bonnie J.
Carter, assisted by other county home demonstration agents.
T" 5 't i n
Fig. 1.-Tufting and roll needles are needed for mattress making.
Fig. 2.-Homemade combs aid in fluffing cotton.
and drive two 6-inch rows of 11/2 inch 4-penny finishing nails
in a zigzag fashion in the other end (see Fig. 2).
Miscellaneous.-1 yardstick or tape measure; scissors (long
blades); 1 package pins; thimbles; pencil; colored wax crayons;
file for sharpening needles; emery paper for polishing needles;
scraps of leather, gloves, or hardwood block (helpful for pushing
tufting needles through mattress); handkerchief or other thin
material for covering nose and mouth; scales.
HOW TO MAKE THE TICK
This circular gives directions for making a mattress for a
double bed 54 inches wide and 78 inches long.1
A good quality of ticking is needed because it keeps the mat-
tress firm and in good shape and lasts longer. Dust cannot
sift into the mattress when closely woven firm ticking is used.
Cutting.-Accurate measurements are necessary and material
must be cut true and straight. Square the ends of the mattress
ticking by cutting (never by tearing, which tends to stretch
the cloth). Cut off 2/3 yard, or 24 inches, from the 10 yards
of ticking. Now cut this 24-inch piece crosswise into 4 strips
6 inches wide to be used for the side boxing (see Fig. 3, left).
'Beds may vary in size, and the dimensions of the mattress will need to
be adjusted to fit the special size of the bed. The ticking for the mattress
should be cut six inches longer and six inches wider than the inside dimen-
sions of the bed to allow for seams, tufting, and making the roll.
Cut the 91/3 yards of ticking into 4 equal lengths of 21/3 yards,
or 84 inches, each. From one side each of two of these lengths
cut two 6-inch strips to be used for the end boxing. Two lengths,
one 26 and the other 32 inches, are to be joined for the top and
the other two for the bottom of the tick. This uses all of the
material for the cover (see Fig. 3, right).
Strifs ior Side Bolin;
-ig. 3.--Divide the ticking in this way
for the top, bottom, and boxing of the
Strips icr Siide Boiln(
Tor and B.ttom r Ma-ttress TicK
Making and Marking.-Make the top of the tick by pinning
together the selvedges of one each of the 26-inch and the 32-
inch lengths. Stitch a 1/2-inch seam on the machine, using
No. 40 thread. Do the same with the other two lengths to
make the bottom of the tick. Both the top and the bottom of
the tick will measure 84 inches long and 58 inches wide.
Place the top and the bottom together, right sides out, and
pin. The next step is to mark for tacking or tufting.
To locate the position for tacking and placing the tufts,
measure an 8-inch square in each corner. Pin through the
top and the bottom of the tick at the corner of the square which
is nearest the center of the tick. Using this pin as a starting
point, follow the stripe and place pins 111/3 inches apart; this
gives 7 points on the side. Repeat for the other side. From
the same starting point, measure across the tick and place pins
14 inches apart. There will be 4 points across the end; repeat
for the other end. Thus, the
tacking are located.
points for the outer rows of the
&- --- -4$-1--
/ I / I
-" -- ---- -4--
Fig. 4.-Mark the top and the bottom of the tick for placing the tacks which hold the
cotton in place.
Begin with the side points and measure across the tick, plac-
ing pins 14 inches apart. Now, points are marked for 4 length-
wise and 7 crosswise rows, making a total of 28. With a yard-
stick find and pin the center of each rectangle formed by the
lengthwise and the crosswise marks. This gives 18 more marks
for tufts, totalling 46 on each side (see Fig. 4).
The tick is ready to be marked with colored crayons at the
While the tick is pinned together mark the center of the sides,
the ends, and the corners for ease in fitting and sewing the top.
Slightly round the corners (see Fig. 5).
Remove the pins.
Fig. 5.-Rounded corners are easy to make
Boxing.-Take one of the lengthwise boxing strips and sew
to each end one crosswise strip. This completes half of the
boxing. Do the same for the remaining 3 strips.
Determine the center of the boxing strip and pin to the bot-
tom of the tick at the end center. Continue to pin the boxing
around the bottom of the tick to the center mark on the side,
working from the center end to the center side. Be careful to
place the pins at right-angles to the seam without stretching.
Repeat for the other end.
Where the boxing strips meet at the center sides, pin together
and cut away the remaining material. This material will make
4 handles. Fold each piece lengthwise, stitch and turn. Stitch
on the edges for additional strength. Insert and pin 2 handles
on each side of tick at the point where the lengthwise and the
crosswise boxing strips meet.
Use 1/2-inch seams to stitch by machine the entire boxing to
the bottom of the tick. Avoid drawing or puckering. By sew-
ing with the boxing on the top, drawing will be avoided. The
stitching will be durable if No. 40 sewing thread is used. Double
~;titch where the handles are inserted.
If cotton in layers or bats is used, follow directions given below.
Find the side center (along the raw edge) of the top of the
tick and pin to the center of the side boxing. Working from
this center, carefully pin together the boxing and the top until
a point 15 or 20 inches beyond the corner is reached. Stitch
by machine. This leaves one side and a part of the two ends
open for placing the cotton.
The tick is now ready to receive the cotton in layers or bats.
Fig. 6.-These Floridians are delighted to make their own bed . and lie in it .
because it means a more comfortable, durable, cleaner mattress.
If cotton is fluffed by hand, stitch the boxing and the top
together, leaving 14 or 18 inches at the center end or side for
stuffing in the cotton.
FILLING THE TICK
Preparing the Cotton.-When using baled cotton it should be
fluffed. If left standing from 24 to 48 hours after the removal
of the steel bands it will naturally fluff up a great deal. Plac-
ing in the sun for several hours will also aid in this process.
Beating helps to fluff the cotton and to distribute it in layers;
keen switches or long smooth strips of lumber may be used.
To avoid loss, the beating should be done indoors.
If beating does not fluff it sufficiently the cotton may be carded
or combed. The latter process has been found satisfactory when
it is necessary to use cotton which has been released from the
bale only a few hours. A home-made device for combing is
illustrated in Fig. 2.
Cotton which has been ginned so that it comes out in a large
continuous bat is in the most satisfactory form, as it is ready
Spread the open tick on a flat surface, such as a table. Turn
the top back over a chair. Place 50 pounds of fluffed cotton in
layers on the bottom part of the tick, being careful to fill the
corners. Always place cotton in layers, however small the pieces
may be; never stuff or wad it into place.
FINISHING THE MATTRESS
Sewing.-The tick is ready to be closed after the cotton has
been evenly placed. Draw the top covering over the cotton and
pin the top of the tick to the boxing, matching the center
marks. Always work towards the corners, and avoid puckering.
A straight seam may be insured by following a stripe while
pinning. Now slip-stitch the top of the tick and the boxing
together with a 1/-inch seam, using No. 20 sewing thread.
Make the stitches short and as nearly invisible as possible.
After sewing, beat the mattress to fluff and distribute more
evenly the cotton. Beat for 30 minutes from the center toward
the edges and the corners, turning the mattress over often.
Tacking strengthens the mattress, evens it, and holds the
cotton in place to prevent lumping. The 50-pound mattress may
be tacked 46 times (see Fig. 7).
*IatI~s__ - -_ _
Fig. 7.-After tacking the mattress, make the roll edge.
The mattress is placed on a tufting table. (Boards may be
removed if temporary table is made by placing boards on saw
horses.) Use a tufting needle which has been threaded with
a 2 or a 3-yard length of mattress twine. It is advisable to
place the center row of tufts first and work toward the sides
of the mattress. Push it through the mattress at the place
marked for tacking and let it pass through the corresponding
mark on the under side. Bring the needle back through the
mattress about 1/ inch from the place it passed through first;
this leaves a loop for holding the tufts on the under side. Lace
in rows down the length of the mattress, using one continuous
thread for each. Now tie each end temporarily with a slip-knot.
A roll edge finishes the mattress by squaring it off, taking
out all the slack in the cover and reinforcing the boxing seams.
It also helps to keep the cotton in place.
For making the roll edge, a roll edge needle should be threaded
with 8 to 10 feet of mattress twine, leaving a loop in the end.
Begin in the center of the end or the side of the mattress by
inserting the needle 1 inch below the seam which joins the box-
ing and the top. Bring out diagonally 11/ inches over through
the top 2 inches above the seam. Insert in the top 1/ inch to
the left of where the needle came out, passing it through the
Fig. 8.-Method of making rolled edge.
boxing in line with the first stitch on the under side. Dig in
a little with the needle in making each stitch to pull the cotton
into the roll, and draw the twine up tight every 3 or 4 stitches.
Keep the stitches uniform and straight to make a neat finish.
Whenever possible use the stripes of the ticking as a guide, or
pencil lines may be drawn. The roll should be firm but not hard.
Continue the roll around the mattress. In rounding the corners,
take shorter stitches on the top of the roll than on the bottom.
After one roll is completed the mattress is turned and the
other roll is sewed. Place the stitches opposite those in the
other roll (see Fig. 8).
Tying the Tufts.-Place the mattress on a solid table, or floor,
for tying the tufts. The tufts may be made either by rolling
a small bunch of cotton between the fingers to make a roll 1 inch
long and 1/2 inch thick; or, by cutting small rectangles of ticking
1 inch wide and 2 inches long, and folding them in the center.
Insert a tuft under each loop of the twine on the under side
of the mattress, turn the mattress, clip the threads and the
tufts. Begin tying on the inside rows. Draw the twines so
that the tufts are the same depth as the roll edge of the mat-
tress. Tie the twines with a slip or square knot after drawing
tight and placing a tuft next to the tick. A slip-knot is pre-
ferred because it enables the workers to adjust the tufts more
CARING FOR THE MATTRESS
When first made a mattress should be sunned and beaten for
30 minutes each day for several days. Afterwards, the regular
care includes sunning, beating, and turning from side to side
and end to end.
Greater protection from soil and stain can be given a bed by
using a mattress cover and a pad. A muslin cover which can
be easily laundered may be made at home. Additional protec-
tion for the mattress is provided by using a lightweight quilted
cotton pad. A cleaner, smoother, and more attractive bed re-
sults from using a cover and a pad on the mattress. A well
made mattress provides greater comfort, thus contributing to
better health for the rural family.