Brains the Best Ingredients to Use in Work - The Importance of having a Comfortable Bed - Dangers that Lurk in Cheap Bedding - The Elaborate Processes of Mattress Making - White Bedding p. Black - Bolsters and Pillows - An Expanding Bedstead - Hangings and Coverlets - The Continental Care of Bedding and Its Advantages
"What do you mix your Paints with, Sir Joshua?" inquired a friend of the famous artist.
"Brains, sir," was the laconic reply. And there can be no doubt that most things would be better made if, in the making, they were mixed with the same precious ingredients.
Certainly the above doctrine applies with much force to the all-important subject of beds, bedding, and bed-furniture.
Some wiseacres declare that we spend too much time in bed, and write of the golden hours that many of us waste in unconsciousness. This may be so, but in our strenuous age a good night's rest is one of the first necessities of existence. And most of us will agree that the comfort of one's couch has much to do with securing this same. To obtain it we must acquire a certain knowledge, and be ready to spend time, trouble, and money on the enterprise.
According to my wont, I have been the round of the shops, and can give my readers the best results of my peregrinations.
First, we will take a look at what should be avoided. Even when economy is an object, there can be no doubt that a so-called cheap article is, in the long run, the most expensive. If one buys "cheap" bedding one may save a few shillings, but one stands to lose in both comfort and safety.
By the use of a smart-looking cover, the poorest and commonest articles can be made to seem the equal of the best and finest productions. In this lies the danger of low-priced bedding. For it must be remembered that the old term, "buying a pig in a poke," applies with much aptness to the purchase of beds, mattresses, and pillows. For instance, a cheap mattress is a menace to health as well as a source of discomfort. Few of us think of the inside of our mattresses. Their composition is quite unknown.
Unless one goes to a good shop and buys a reliable article, one must not shut one's • eyes to dangers of a most unpleasant description. Common bedding is filled with "hair"or flock. The hair is often composed largely of vegetable fibres, stiffened by a certain amount of pig's hair, the whole mixture being dyed of a dense blackness. This mixture, instead of being "carded," is rendered short and lifeless by machinery.
But now comes the most deadly danger. Cheap flock is made from rags - any sort of rags - picked up anywhere, which are put into the flock mill just as they are received, without disinfecting, and, more often than not, without even washing ! In an examination of samples taken from one of several thousands of beds in use in a certain big city it was found that nearly five-sixths were filled with flock that was teeming with microbes. The results of a chemical analysis of the material are indescribable.
A perfect mattress is a work of art, and its making a most intricate matter. The hair used undergoes a severe preparation. It is first scientifically sterilised, and its fats and impurities are most carefully removed. An exceptional springiness is the result of an elaborate process of "curling," and wonderful softness is obtained by finger manipulation of the hair after the above-mentioned cleaning has been completed.
The hygienically treated hair is stranded into long cables when moist and pliant, a permanent "curl" being obtained by prolonged heating and preserved by careful "carding." When unravelled, the hair so treated resembles minute watch-springs, and has the same marvellous property of recoil. This quality makes the finished bedding soft to the touch and so responsive.
The wool for good bedding is as vigorously treated. It is cleaned by special processes, "masticated," as it is called, by special machinery, and "carded" into a fleecy softness. Long white wool is used for the best mattresses - natural white wool, not rendered dull and lifeless by bleaching, as is the common custom.
But it is not enough to have the best quality of materials. The right use of them demands care, thought, and experience. It is quite possible to have "too much of a good thing" - even good wool or horsehair in bedding. And the coverings of beds and mattresses need much care in the making. For instance, ticking from which the materials escape is a feature of poor workmanship. And the stitching - upon which hangs the life of a bed - depends upon the conscience of the worker.
In a word, time, thought, and trouble are what the buyer pays for ; and the watchword of all good trade is as follows : "Principle in manufacture and the manufacturer." The best bedding in the world can be secured in London.
There is another first-class invention. This is a patent form of box-spring mattress, made in three parts for the sake of cleanliness and portability. It has no top stuffing to afford a nest for moths - another strong point in its favour. This is also somewhat expensive, but those to whom economy is an object can procure a good box-spring mattress of the ordinary sort for two guineas.
Bedding de Luxe
White bedding is the bedding de luxe, and consists of white horsehair, white wool, and white eiderdown.
The horsehair used should be fine, long, and carefully curled and "carded." At the timeof writing the price of the best hair is about 9s. a pound.
White bedding is the rule, but there seems to be a difference of opinion as regards the use of white instead of black horsehair. An expert says that for his own part he would prefer a mattress made of the best black horsehair. And for the following reasons. As already stated, in cleaning the hair every particle of animal fat has to be removed with strict care, and if the hair is dyed black, the dyeing process makes an extra safeguard in this direction.