When we camped out in the house last fall, we slept on the floor in the room which is now the bedroom.  We clipped a reading light to the windowsill.  We weren’t sure this would be our room; the room that is now the library had also been a bedroom – and of course there were the three bedrooms upstairs. I have been studying the room and the light for a year now, thinking about how things work, arranging and adding pieces slowly.  This week I finished a pillow cover and decided that the bed was in the right place. That meant my husband could hang the mirror over the dresser and the reading light by the bed.

The bed was made sometime in the 1870s by a local carpenter, of local black walnut, for my great-grandmother Elizabeth Ann Stalnaker.  I thought it was a three-quarter bed, and it is just as well I never ordered a three-quarter mattress for it.  In looking for a reference for three-quarter beds (which are exactly half-way between a twin and a full bed in width), I discovered the “antique” bed size, which is the same width (48 inches), but shorter – only 72 inches, where modern beds, including the three-quarter, are 75 inches. I inherited the bed in 1982, and we have been sleeping in it ever since.  Originally, it would have had a straw tick topped by a home-made feather tick, or possibly, had my great-greats been more prosperous than they were, a horse-hair mattress, possibly over springs.  We use a feather tick made by another great-grandmother, and have put a sheet of hardboard over the bed-slats.  A few years back I added another commercial feather-tick when they became popular. We also use feather pillows, some of which Robert’s mother made from feathers from old feather-ticks.

I use all-cotton sheets, which are easier to find these days than they were in the polyester decades of the 80s and 90s.  Polyester doesn’t breathe or absorb moisture, so that polyester-blend sheets (and shirts) are hot and sticky in the summer, and cold and clammy in the winter. And the cotton in the blends washes out out faster than the polyester, so long before the sheets are worn out, they are mostly slithery polyester.

Everything is part of a system. Poly blends were sold as “easy-care,” meaning they didn’t need ironing, back when clothes dryers were starting to be used, which ended up wrinkling clothes and linens much more than line drying had.  We then needed fabric softeners, to prevent some wrinkling and try to replace the scent that comes from sun-drying. (Fascinating Japanese patent here.) We use cotton sheets and sun-dry them.  They are smooth, crisp, absorbent, and smell wonderful.  Hanging them to dry takes no longer than putting them in the dryer, and the hanging is yet another ritual of mindful homemaking.

The next layer is a cotton quilt made by Elizabeth Ann’s daughter, ny grandmother Maud Hersman deGruyter, and deserves its own post.