Futon–the name alone evokes images of Japanese homes filled with Tatami and cherry blossoms. In the United States we have had an American version of the futon for hundreds of years but we have called it by different names.
Over the centuries we have called them Feather Beds, Straw Beds, Shuck Mattresses, Feather Ticks, Straw Ticks, Hay Ticks and a host of other titles but they all meant the same thing–a cloth covering sewn with boxed corners containing a soft material for use in sleeping. A futon by any other name….
The modern American futon can be constructed of traditional materials or use more readily-available supplies as desired. Instead of feathers, straw or dried corn shucks the filling can be composed of polyester fiberfill, layers of old comforters or even re-purposed packing peanuts! You could even take the filling out of a worn-out futon and fill a new one with that!
One primary difference between American futons and their Japanese equivalent is that of size. American futons are generally the size of two fabric widths–approximately the same as a full-sized bed.
Things You’ll Need
8 Yards of Feather Ticking, Unbleached Muslin or heavy, tightly woven cotton material (45″ wide)
20 pounds of feathers
1 bale of hay or straw
Dried corn shucks
Old comforters, sleeping bag stuffing, etc.
Repurposed styrofoam packing peanuts
Take the 8 yards of fabric and cut it in half, creating 2 strips of material 4 yards in length.
Place the two strips of material with right sides facing and sew a seam down the entire 4-yard length of one side. This will create a piece of material approximately 90″ wide and four yards long. Double-stitch your seams to make them more durable and open the completed length of material.
Open up the material until you have a long sheet, 2 fabric widths wide with the right-side up. Fold this length crosswise, right-sides together, matching up all ends and corners. The resulting fold will be two layers of material, 2 fabric widths wide by 2 yards long.
Stitch a sturdy seam around the three open sides of the folded material, leaving a 18-inch place open for stuffing and turning on one side.
Fold the material at each corner, making the side and end seams touch. Use the ruler to locate the diagonal area on the corner that is six-inches wide, and mark with a pencil line. Sew a sturdy seam across the pencil line to create the boxed corners on the futon. This creates a futon mattress that is 6-inches thick. For a thicker futon, sew a wider seam and for thinner futons sew a narrower seam).
Turn the futon right-side out using the hole you left in the side. Use your hands or a broom handle to fully open up the boxed corners.
Stuff the futon with the filling of your choice. Some materials like hay, straw or fiberfill will compact after a short time so you may want to “overstuff” a bit if using these materials.
Sew the opening closed.
To make a smaller American Futon (for a single person), use a single width of material. A piece of fabric that is 45″ wide will make a futon mattress slightly wider than a twin-sized bed.
Air out your futon occasionally to lengthen its’ life.
To make the futon you will need to flip the futon over and smooth out the contents of the futon (if feathers or something that does not stay in one place).
You may need more or less filling material than recommended here depending upon your individual preference.
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