How to Make Your Own Futon Mattress

When you're trying to save money and the environment at the same time, making a futon frame from reclaimed barn wood or old boards sounds like an easy project. But the mattress to turn that frame into a bed gets more complicated. You need to stuff a fabric envelope and then cover it with a removable, washable cover and ensure the whole thing is both firm and supportive, and thick enough to provide cushioning. Expect to spend some money when you buy new high-quality fill. But expect to save, compared to the cost of a store-bought futon, when you make a traditional cotton mattress yourself.

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Determine the size of your mattress -- stick to a standard size unless you are customizing for an unusual space. Twin futon mattresses measure 39-by-75 inches; full are 54-by-75 inches; queen are 60-by-80 inches; and king measure 78-by-80 inches. Futon love seats and chairs require different mattress sizes.

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Lay out sheets of cotton batting in the size that corresponds to the size of your mattress. Stack the batting 4, 6 or 8 inches high; cotton batting doesn't compress as much as foam fillers, but a higher mattress might work better for a heavier weight.

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Tuft the stacked layers of cotton with an upholstery needle and sturdy thread to keep the batting from shifting during use. Draw the thread through all the layers about every 6 to 9 inches and knot it off underneath. For a very high mattress with many layers of batting, tuft a few layers at a time and tack adjacent layers together at the corners.

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Stitch a fabric envelope to contain the batting from muslin or a couple of cotton sheets. Sew two rectangles of fabric, right-sides together, on three sides, double-stitching at the corners. Turn the envelope right-side out. Fold under the two raw edges of the open end and hem.

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Stuff the batting into the envelope, pushing it into the corners and smoothing it out. Blind-stitch the envelope closed at the open end. This cover stays on the filling permanently. The outer cover is the one you remove for washing.

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Make a fancier, removable cover with a zipper, button or tie closure that will slip over the futon mattress and is washable.