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I Learned Firsthand How Much Work Goes Into Making A Mattress

Inside a trip to the Stearns & Foster factory.

I Learned Firsthand How Much Work Goes Into Making A Mattress
Courtesy of Stearns & Foster.

If we're in bed for about one third of our lives, you would think that finding out what's inside our mattresses would be a top priority. But if you're a normal person, you likely have no clue how one is actually made. You may have learned certain designs are better for particular kinds of sleepers or have a very strong opinion whether you like a soft or firm bed. But if you get into the details of coils, foam, tufting, and layers, it's easy to get a little lost. So when I was invited to see how a Stearns & Foster mattress got made out in North Carolina, I was ready for an education.

When we were first brought into the facility, we were led to a showroom filled with beds. Stearns & Foster is the top of the line of the Tempur Sealy mattress brands and I could easily see why. When I hopped up onto the Lux Estate bed to test it out, I'm pretty sure I audibly sighed. It was probably the comfiest thing I have ever been on. Now throughout the rest of the day, I was going to get to learn how it was made.

I Learned Firsthand How Much Work Goes Into Making A Mattress
Courtesy of Stearns & Foster.

This mattress is a product of some seriously inspired engineering. Everything from the coils to the fabric is designed with hundreds of questions to consider.  How will the mattress wear? Will you be able to feel when someone gets on the other side of the bed? How can we make mattresses safe during a fire? 

For each of these hypotheticals, a series of intense testing takes place. For one, a robot simulates a person getting in and out of bed for ten years, cycling 5,000 times over four days. In another (which was very fun to watch), a bed is set on fire and researchers analyze where and how fast it spreads. Seeing all these tests take place really helped me realize how much science goes into crafting what we sleep on.

After all the materials are created, a team of master craftsmen actually build each individual mattress. To keep standards high, they take an average of two times longer than other Tempur Sealy brands to make a bed and limit their production to 30 per day. So it was quite exciting when we were lead into the special facility where the craftsmen expertly make the Stearns & Foster products and I got to put my own personal (not-so-perfect) touch on an actual mattress.

Stearns & Foster master craftsman Gabriela Estrada. 
Stearns & Foster master craftsman Gabriela Estrada. 
Courtesy of Stearns & Foster.

In the first part of the process, the craftsmen use high-powered sewing machines to create embroidery for the label, attach leather side handles, and stitch a quilted top layer for the mattress. It looked so easy watching the experts zip through these tasks with precision. But then I tried it myself at an eighth of the speed,  quickly had the sewing machine going off track, and realized how much skill it takes to pull off this job.

Next, the mattress build took place. On the base of the bed is a patented IntelliCoil system that tailors pressure to your weight and shape. Then foam and spring layers designed to add comfort are sealed on top with a super-strong glue gun. I passed on trying to do this task myself because I realized it would probably be in everyone's best interests not to give me control of a hose with searing hot liquid inside.

I Learned Firsthand How Much Work Goes Into Making A Mattress
Courtesy of Stearns & Foster.

Next, the craftsman have to do the trickiest job, which is sewing the mattress together with a special tape. I wasn't given the option to try this myself, and I was perfectly happy to let the experts do their thing. The process also adds in a label which the craftsman normally sign themselves. During my visit, I got to add my own John Hancock to the bed.

Finally, come the hand tufting. The mattress is turned on its side and the pillowtop layer that was quilted earlier is placed against it. Then using a sword-like needle, you literally stab through the bed to secure the mattress together. This task I could do — and really enjoyed. After, the bed was finally complete.

I started the day knowing very little about mattresses apart from the fact that they are my favorite piece of furniture to hang out on. Yet after the day was done, I truly learned how much science, talent, and craftsmanship are required to create this essential. I took beds for granted. After all, there is at least one in pretty much every home. Yet seeing how much care and dedication it takes to make a high-quality design gave me an entirely new perspective and appreciation for where I rest my head each night.

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