Straw ticks came up in conversation recently--a topic that deserves exploring.

First, a hasty clarification that the subject does not deal with live things in the biological classification with spiders, mites, and other undesirable parasites. We are talking about a strong, tightly-woven fabric that was sewn into a shape that could be stuffed with straw to make a mattress or pillow.
For younger and innocent readers, straw ticks were a homemade forerunner of the elaborate (and MUCH more expensive) mattresses that outfit beds today. Even if a family owned a cotton mattress of those days, it was often enhanced with a feather bed or straw tick.
In winter, we laid the feather bed tick on top of the mattress, as we liked to snuggle into the looser stuffing of feathers for warmth. In summer, either kind of tick was stored directly on the bed springs with the mattress on top for a cooler surface.
My grandmother had straw ticks. I remember well the wheat threshing season--a busy time. Not only did the women of the family cook large amounts of food and take it to the field for the threshing crew when they came to the farm, but also they had to be ready to capture armloads of new straw as it spilled out of the threshing machine to replace the old filling.
They prepared ahead by ripping a span in the side seam of the old tick, emptying the crushed straw in the barnyard, and washing the tick. It was boiled and punched with an old broom handle in the iron wash pot, further washed in a tub, and hung on the clothesline to dry thoroughly.
Some years the straw tick was too soiled or worn to recycle, and my grandmother would have anticipated this and used her egg money to buy new ticking. She cut and sewed a new casing on the treadle sewing machine and had it ready.
At the threshing site, we children and grownups alike worked to stuff the tick with clean, shiny handfuls of straw. We made sure the corners were filled well, and it was amazing how much straw could be packed into this tick the size of a bed. No way could we stuff too much because it would flatten quickly as it was slept on. The fresh, sweet smell of the clean straw filled the bedroom and lingered for weeks until the “new” wore off.
The ticking fabric was used to make pillow ticks as well, but my grandmother stuck with feathers to fill them. However, she did fill chair cushions with straw and a long bolster that lay under the counterpane at the head of the bed to give it a smooth made-up finish.
The rest of the straw from the thresher was piled in a stack and hauled to the barn/stable as needed throughout the year. It supplemented rations for the livestock when hay was running low. Straw also served as bedding for the animals but was loosely scattered in the stalls with a pitchfork.