Northwest Renovation Magazine

A Home Improvement Magazine

Futons are here to stay. People have been sleeping on cotton-filled mattress for thousands of years. The ancient Babylonians, Mesopotamian, and Egyptians used cotton as a bedding material because it is comfortable — it has good loft or springiness to support the body; it breathes, which helps control temperature and it’s easy to produce.

The word “futon” comes from Japan and means bedding. Japanese futons are quite a bit different than what we now use in America. During the 1970s a furniture designer, William Brouwer, designed a bedframe that was standard height and in three parts which would slide together to convert into a wide chair or couch. Futon makers created mattresses that were twice as thick as the original Japanese futons.

Today’s mattresses have evolved as have the uses for futons. They are not only found in the bedroom, they are used in the office/guest rooms, on porches, in family rooms, in dens, and in lofts.

Neal from Cotton Cloud Futons & Furniture lays out the cover for a twin-size futon, split into a chair and ottoman. The steps involved in this how-to here apply to any size or shape of futon. The shells can be made at home or bought pre-made (figure 1).

Lay out a layer of cotton which is 2” thick and follow with another layer of cotton. When constructing a two-piece futon apply the fill as if it’s one piece at first. Roll out both layers in the opposite direction to obtain evenness in these layers. (Cotton comes in a roll and tends to flatten so it’s important to alternate the layers.) A little stretching may also be necessary to adjust to the needed size (figure 2).

Separate the Flexi (or eggcrate) foam into two pieces. The smooth side is placed on the bottom layers of cotton. The second eggcrate is placed again with the smooth side down. Reversing the eggcrate gives the mattress more loft so the futon can bend. It is suggested that the foam be 3” smaller than the shell (figures 3, 4, and 5).

Carefully separate the bottom layers of cotton. This step only applies to a two-piece futon (figure 6).

Another two layers of cotton are applied over the Flexi foam and stretched or pulled to size. Be gentle and do not tug hard to pull apart the cotton (figure 7).

Separate the top two pieces. “It’s like parting of the seas,” Neals says (figure 8).

Start at the zipper end bringing the shell around the mattress carefully making a nice boxed edge (figures 9, 10, and 11).

Using a flat hand helps to get a nice flat shape (figure 12). Zip slowly and feel for tightness (figure 13).

The final step is the tufting. Neal uses a stencil. The tufts need to be symmetrical and equal in distribution. Neal makes a 2 1/2” mark with a pencil where the tufts are to be applied. This holds the cotton in place, as cotton tends to move (figure 14).

Using a 10” diamond-tufting needle which should be as long as the mattress is thick (the needle can be found at any upholstery shop), using elastic thread keep the thread long enough to complete the tufts on one run. Push the needle through the mattress at one end of the mark and back up to the other end of the mark (figure 15).

Cut and tie the elastic thread once all the tufts have been completed (figure 16).

Now that the tufts have been completed and individually cut and tied, make sure the tufts are not too tight nor too loose. You want a voluptuous look and a rustic feel.

How Much Will It Cost?

Making your own double (54” x 75”) futon or chair costs (costs are subject to cahange):

Shell $35, Cotton ($15 per layer x 4) $60, Flex Foam 5” thick $55, Total $145

Store-bought Luxury Cotton Foam Core $200.

Do-it-yourself and save $55.

All components to make a futon chair or bed can be purchased at;
Cotton Cloud Futon and Funiture
701 NE Broadway, Portland, OR 97232

















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