Assuming that you don’t want to sleep in a bushcraft bed of leaves and springy branches for the rest of your days, you will want a more long-term solution to bedding.
Peg loomed woollen underblankets
If you are vegetarian or vegan, using sheep’s fleece poses more complex philosophical questions than buckskin from a roadkill deer, as it is a by-product of a method of farming that involves domesticated animals and which will probably not be aligned with your personal principles. Yet regardless of whether you agree or disagree with sheep farming in general, one of the many realities of our truly disturbing economic, industrial and agricultural systems is that a lot of smaller-scale farmers have no outlet for their sheep’s fleeces and often have to give them away. Synthetic and non-organic, mass-produced fibres, which I’ve argued earlier are also non-vegan despite superficial appearances to the contrary, have destroyed the demand for fleeces. If this is a resource that, for whatever reason, you feel happy to utilise for its highly beneficial insulating properties, I would recommend engaging in a fair relationship with the farmer. This could simply mean bringing over some bread or other food that you’ve produced when you’ve got excess.
Fleece’s have many uses, including clothing, but are particularly good for creating a very warm underblanket for your bed. In order to make one, however, you’re going to have to first construct a peg loom. This is fairly simple and something almost anyone can do. To make the loom, all you need is a beam of roundwood (or planed timber if you have some handy), between 44-47 pegs (0.55in pine dowels are good), ideally an antique, manual hand drill to make holes for these pegs in your beam, some cord and a few spare hours. Once that is done, you’ll have a low impact piece of equipment that will last you many years and on which you will be able to make all the underblankets and rugs you will ever need.(279)
Once you’ve made your pillow case with your fibre of choice, you can stuff it with the fluff of a perennial herbaceous plant called reedmace (Typha latifolia), which grows in temperate and tropical climates alike. If you want to find it, your best bet is to look around ponds, lakes and sometimes rivers and other marshy land. If you’ve filled enough pillows with it, the plant can also be used for everything from mats and chair seats to making your casks watertight and even fireworks.
If you want to have more lucid dreams, add some mugwort to your reedmace pillow and expect your sleeping time to become much more interesting! Be aware that these dreams may instead be rather nightmarish, and that some people are allergic to mugwort. Experiment with a small amount first.
If you don’t fancy lucid dreaming every night of the week, there are other plants which can affect the quality of your sleep. For pleasant dreams, for example, use chamomile and lavender. If you need a good deep sleep try valerian, but as always take all appropriate safety precautions.
Duvets can be made by simply making two sheets of equal sized cloth, sewing them together using an old Singer hand-crank machine, and stuffing it with whatever material you want for insulation. I found all of these components on Freecycle over the years. If you don’t want to actually make the duvet yourself, you’ll find lots of already made ones on there too.
A material which would give you a great balance between insulation and comfort is wool. You could acquire this wool by keeping some woolly pigs (otherwise known as a Mangalitsa, that look like half sheep, half pig) who naturally moult their wool in the summer months to avoid overheating, meaning no shearing of them is required. Alternatively – if woolly pigs aren’t alternative enough – you could collect the wool that gets stuck on barbed wire and save it up to make one foraged duvet – this may take you a long time but it would be a work of real art! This wool should ideally be washed and carded using a hand-carding machine, giving it the desired fluffy effect you will probably want. It is then ready to be quilted.
As is the case throughout this book, the ideas presented in this chapter are just a selection of the possibilities available to us. Undoubtedly many of you will have your own ideas on the production and maintenance of your clothing, and so I invite you to go to the website which supports this book (on which we have released a free online version the book) and post any ideas, articles, practical advice and questions you have on the subject of clothing, bedding, or any other aspect of life for that matter, in the relevant board of the forum you’ll find there.