DIY on a Dime: Microwaveable Heat Packs

Sew microwaveable heat packs from colorful fabric. What a cute and cozy gift!

microwaveable heat packs

As you may know, we’re total wimps here in Southern California. Some of you are weathering extremely cold temps where you live and I’m wearing fingerless gloves as I type. I am cold all the time.

I have no idea how I survived five years in Kansas City, but I’ve gotten soft.

In my defense, our home stays quite cool all year long. We don’t have an air conditioner and only really want one a few days out of the year. It’s not that it doesn’t get hot here, but our house stays quite chill.

All. year. long.

Which means it’s quite nippy in here during the winter, thus the fingerless gloves. And the corn bags.

Years ago, in Kansas City, mind you, a friend gave us a cloth pillow filled with dry feed corn. I thought it was crazy.

And then she said, “You know a friend gave me one and I thought she was crazy. But, it’s really amazing how nice it is in the winter.”

She was right! We had one corn bag to share among the seven of us that first winter. The kids would take turns heating it in the microwave and then slip it under the covers to warm up the beds. Once they fell asleep, the parents would snatch the corn bag to heat up their own bed.

Oh, yes, yes, we did.

In summer time, they would store it in the freezer to cool off with!

The Christmas of our Great Debt, the only thing the kids wanted were corn bags of their own. They were so sweet about it. So, I bought colorful fabric in the patterns that I knew would please them (Kansas City Chiefs, dinosaurs, Thomas the Tank Engine, lizards). Those heat packs lasted quite some time until their edges just frayed and then we lost a few.

Recently, I made the kids a new batch, including making heat packs for the girls. I reused some of the old feed corn, but I filled other bags with rice which is cheaper and easier to find in my neck of the woods. I busted out the sewing machine. FishChick6 and I browsed the local Jo-ann Fabrics. I found flowered cotton for the girls, hockey and Marvel comics for some of the boys.

This is an easy, fun gift to make for your kids or for yourself! At Christmas time Anne shared those cute owls that she made. These are even easier.

rice bag filled

 

You just need to be able to sew three straight lines. That’s it!

You’ll need the following supplies:

  • cotton fabric
  • sewing machine
  • thread
  • rice or feed corn
  • pinking shears

How to assemble a microwaveable heat pack:

  1. Cut a rectangle twice the size of your desired heat pack. Mine were 10 x 11 inches. Pink the edges.
  2. With right sides together, fold the fabric in half, forming a thin rectangle. Sew two sides together. Turn the case right side out. It should look like a skinny pillow case.
  3. Fill the bag with with rice, leaving two to three inches empty at the top. Fold the top inside itself, and sew shut. Sew that seam again to reinforce it.

That’s all there is to it. Just heat the bag for a minute or two in the microwave and use to warm cold beds or sore tummies.

DIY on a Dime

This is part of the DIY on a Dime: Valentine’s Day. For more easy and frugal gift ideas, check out the list. For holiday gift ideas that you can do yourself, check out this even bigger list.

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Comments

  1. And if you can’t sew, you can buy cute socks and stuff them full of rice. There are tutorials for that online, too. =)

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Yes, just be sure that they are cotton socks. I wanted to do that with Christmas socks and they all had synthetics in them. Boo.

      • Oooh, why is that? I think I was going to try it with synthetic socks…

        • Jessica Fisher says:

          I don’t have a link or anything, but I remember when I was researching it years ago, it said not to use synthetic fabrics because those could catch fire in the microwave. I could be wrong, that was my understanding.

          • Synthetics CAN be used! I have made these “corn bags” for years now with polyester fleece, which is very cozy! Never had a problem with microwaving them. I usually nuke them for 3 minutes to heat to the best temp.
            Also, about the “popcorn” smell…you can add whole spices to the bag to bring out a nice scent when heated. (anything works…I have used whole cloves, small cinnamon sticks, whole allspice)

    • Yes! Using socks is great. We make little tiny ones (baby socks) with rice to use for ear aches. You don’t even have to sew them if you want them for temporary use. Just fold over the end after filling, and then slip another sock over it. Heat in the microwave in 10 second increments until desired temp.

  2. We love these as well! So easy to make and they will become a cherished item. We live in NH so ours get used a lot this time of year. They also help when I get a migraine.

    On another note, on your advice, I purchased Andrew Peterson’s “Love and Thunder”. It is fantastic and I have already ordered more including “Music for the Lost Boy”. I will also be gifting these out to others I know will love them as well. Thank you for bringing his music to my attention!

  3. Oh, I’m SO happy to see this. You see, we do live in the cold. And I bought one of these for my daughter a few years ago at some craft fair. My so wanted one, so I happened upon another one around Christmas. Well, they both have corn in them. But the second one stinks and I mean stinks when it is heated. I just threw it out. So just plain old rice works too? I think I’ll try to make him another one with some rice in it.

  4. totally forgot about pinking shears!! Thank you! I love to sew but finally gave away my serger because I could never ever thread it right. I was dreading double-sewing all my seams in the dress I’m making. Just ordered some shears on Amazon. Thanks!

  5. So just plain ol’ – buy it cheap in a bag rice? If so excellent! I’ve lost a lot of weight and am always cold now and would love one (or four) of these to warm my bed at night or something along those lines.

  6. Love them. Only our bearded dragon has one though—and his is made of rice dumped in an old sock, tied off with a rubber band! My dh would think I was mad if I made up a nice one for the dragon (when the beardie travels this is his heat source for short trips). LOL

  7. We use them all the time but recently I read this link from an article after elderly womans bedding caught fire ! http://m.consumeraffairs.govt.nz/for-consumers/goods/product-safety/wheat-bags. I still heat the bed with it but don’t leave them in it , just warm the bed for 10 min or so before we get in. I make ours and use buckwheat to fill.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      I’ve never heard of them being made with buckwheat. And I’ve never heard of them catching on fire with rice or corn. Interesting, though. Thanks for the heads up.

  8. Another thing I have done with our rice heat packs were to make them in muslin, then use the cute fabric as a cover that can be taken off and washed. No more grungy looking heat packs!

  9. These are great for headaches too – I make them with rice in a sock (and sometimes a decorative cover) and my family LOVES them – first thing they ask for when they have any sort of muscle pain. Here is how I make them: http://behealthybehappywellness.com/2012/12/frugal-friday-give-the-gift-of-relief/

  10. Misty O'Rourke says:

    I made one using pinto beans and a dress sock from my husband in a color he would never wear. My hubby used to work in a bean mill so they were easy to come by. I like the weight of it. It’s at least 5 years old now and it’s starting to get stinky. Guess it’s time to make a new one.:)

  11. I have also bought and made them with flax.

  12. Has anyone ever heated one in the oven? (we don’t own a microwave)

    • I have not. I would be a little scared to do so. In the absence of heat packs, I have tossed their comforters into the dryer for a few minutes right before bed. :)

    • I would think you could heat it in the oven, well away from the element and at a low temp, maybe 125-150°… Other things to consider would be, of course, to only use natural fiber, and check and shake the bag often as it heats. Just laying it on the rack and not using a pan would probably be more efficient in heating it.

    • Carrie Phelps says:

      I place mine in the microwave for about five minutes, it’s very hot so I place a hand towel over it and remove the towel once it cools and I can use it that much longer.

    • If you’re at all concerned about putting cloth into your oven you could make your bag resealable (with Velcro) and heat the rice separately.

  13. Carrie Phelps says:

    Someone I dated about fifteen years ago gave me one of these for Christmas. I thought he was cheap. Come to find out it was one of the best Christmas presents I ever got! I use mine all the time, I suffer with earaches & sinus headaches. I microwave mine for about five minutes, cover with a towel (I remove the towel once the heat begins to diminish) and either lay it on my ear or place my neck directly on it over the pillow. I love love love my rice pack!

  14. Does the rice eventually cook? Could I sell these to raise money or would they eventually cook or rot?

    Thanks!

  15. Oh, sorry. By heals, I mean does it relieve aches and pains like other heat packs that are used for therapy? I know it’s just rice :) thank you!

  16. Trena cannon says:

    I made 8 of these tonight with my 16 year old daughter. I was making one for dad tonight and she saw it and went crazy thinking of her friends that she could give them to, from her football playing guy friends to her girlfriends that suffer from menstrual pain. It was a fun project to do with her! She was texting her friends to find out when everyone’s birthday is. What a great night! Thank you for the idea!

  17. Barbara Webber says:

    Lentils work also

  18. I like to use flax seed and lavender essential oil

  19. Is there a recommended time for how long to heat these? I put one on “sensor reheat” the other day and got distracted. The rice burnt to a crisp and now our microwave smells of burnt rice every time I use it. As much as I loved it, I’m hesitant to make another one.

  20. My daughter’s Girl Scout troop made them out of out shirt sleeves. You only had to sew one side closed! Any recommendations how to clean them?

  21. I used to make these and Made a little pillowcase to go over them . I took care of the elderly and gave awAy more than I sold buti love them

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