Two days, two spe­cial­ist ar­ti­sans and yards of white silk: who knew craft­ing a mat­tress would be like mak­ing a wed­ding dress?

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Style Sleep -

Across Bri­tain, mat­tress-mak­ing is an an­cient ar­ti­san skill that con­tin­ues to thrive. In­side the Som­er­set fac­tory of bed-mak­ing brand Re­lyon (re­ sewing ma­chines hum, while busy hands tease fluffy clouds of mo­hair into king­sized pan­els and tug 12-inch tuft­ing nee­dles out of a foot-deep mat­tress. Ply­mouth-based brand Vis­pring (vis­ up­holds sim­i­larly high stan­dards of hard work and her­itage, while Hyp­nos ( hyp­nos­ is a fam­ily busi­ness in its fifth gen­er­a­tion. Smaller-scale mat­tress man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies are also pros­per­ing, such as in­te­ri­ors in­sid­ers’ favourite Good­child & Palmer ( good­child­ We asked some mat­tress mak­ers to talk us through the prac­ti­cal­i­ties and in­tri­ca­cies of this en­dur­ing art.

HIS­TORY Founded in 1901, Vis­pring brought the pocket sprung mat­tress to Bri­tain. The de­sign was com­mis­sioned to fur­nish the First Class rooms on the Ti­tanic, and to­day, Vis­pring is the bed brand of choice for the Dorch­ester Ho­tel. It’s not the only com­pany with a past to be proud of. Since 1929, Hyp­nos has held the Royal War­rant, mean­ing it has kit­ted out no­ble abodes from Buck­ing­ham Palace to Bal­moral, while Re­lyon has been pro­duc­ing, in its words, ‘ beds you can rely on’ – prin­ci­pally by hand – since 1858. TECH­NIQUES

A top-of-the-range mat­tress can take around 32 hours of labour to pro­duce. ‘The ma­jor­ity of mat­tress man­u­fac­ture can’t be done by a ma­chine,’ says Paul Lit­tle, head of sales at Re­lyon. ‘ We’ve tried, but the re­sults are ei­ther too re­stric­tive or sim­ply not in­tri­cate enough.’ Both Re­lyon and Vis­pring run ap­pren­tice pro­grammes to train each new re­cruit in ev­ery spe­cial­ist bed-mak­ing skill, some of which can take up to a full year to mas­ter. The four key pro­ce­dures are: WOOL TEAS­ING Trans­form­ing balls of raw wool into rec­tan­gu­lar mat­tress-shaped pan­els. TUFT­ING Hook­ing a rib­bon from one side of a mat­tress to an­other to hold it com­pactly to­gether – crafts­peo­ple wear cus­tom- made white cou­turi­ers’ gloves for this, to keep the fresh cot­ton pris­tine and to pro­tect their hands. TAPE EDG­ING This is the process of sewing the mat­tress’s top panel to the side border. SIDE-STITCH­ING Hand-stitch­ing the side wall of the mat­tress to an in­ner row of springs, in or­der to pre­vent the side from col­laps­ing out.


‘ Find­ing the perfect mat­tress formula is a bit like magic,’ says Lit­tle. There are a lot of tests in­volved – a mat­tress sam­ple the size of a cush­ion is man­u­ally bumped in a pump­ing ma­chine for 12 hours to test its re­sis­tance – and also a lot of trial and er­ror. On top of the cen­tral plat­form of pocket springs ( coils of wire com­pressed and housed in a tightly- sewn ‘pocket’ of 100 per cent cot­ton calico) go lay­ers of horse­hair, lamb­swool, a cash­mere and silk mixed fi­bre and soft mo­hair. To en­sure proper con­sis­tency through­out, all of the lay­ers are weighed by hand us­ing hang­ing scales.


Mat­tresses are sewn into a hard-wear­ing cot­ton – Good­child & Palmer use her­ring­bone tick­ing or Bel­gian cot­ton damask. Like Vis­pring and Hyp­nos, this brand spe­cialises in up­hol­stery, mean­ing that it can cre­ate your head­board, di­van or mat­tress in any fab­ric you like – a task its staff rel­ish.


Re­lyon sources from near and far: horse hair from China, merino wool from New Zealand and fab­ric wo­ven by Fox Broth­ers, a Uk-based tex­tile mill lo­cal to the brand. Sup­pli­ers on the Shet­land Isles sell their sheep’s wool ex­clu­sively to Vis­pring – the brand prizes the Che­viot- Shet­land breed for the pre­mium springi­ness of its fleeces (sup­pos­edly down to how much seaweed the sheep eat), and the brand vis­its ev­ery year to award a tro­phy to the ram and lamb with the springi­est wool.


Heal’s mat­tresses ( have al­ways been de­liv­ered to the door by an in-house team – via horse and car­riage un­til 1925, and now a fleet of vans. If you buy a Vis­pring mat­tress from Har­rods ( har­, you’ll ex­pe­ri­ence the re­tailer’s free ‘ white glove’ de­liv­ery ser­vice – a team of two will bring, un­pack and in­stall it, and take your old one away for re­cy­cling.

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