DIY on a Dime: Microwaveable Heat Packs

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

DIY Microwaveable Heat Packs - Sew microwaveable heat packs from colorful fabric. What a cute and cozy gift!

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.ย 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.

DIY Microwaveable Heat Packs - Sew microwaveable heat packs from colorful fabric. What a cute and cozy gift!


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

Youโ€™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.


Looking for more ways to enjoy simple pleasures this holiday season? Grab my ebook A Simpler Season. It’s chock full of all the ideas and inspiration to help you refine and pare down to make your year end celebrations exactly what you want them to be!

Head here for more details.

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  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)

        • Synthetic socks melt and burn. And then smell bad.

        • Denise. Small says:

          Polyester and acrylic fibers will melt and maybe even catch fire in the microwave. Must use 100% cotton.

        • they can catch fire!

      • doodle70726 says:

        Down here in Louisiana we use rice and they are great for earaches. Just be sure to wrap the heat pack in a towel before you lay your sore ear on it.

    • 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.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Yes, about a dollar for a one pound bag at Walmart. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • linda hunt says:

      You can use dried beans, split peas, feed corn, rice and add lots of dried herbs. Add a scent that is soothing. When your heat bag is warmed it sends a wonderful smell through your home.

  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 ! 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.

      • If bags are constantly reheated without being cooled down first the grain (whatever you use) gets too crispy and burns. Allow bags to totally cool off before reheating.

  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!

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Yes! I’m just so lazy….. especially when it comes to sewing. I am a Jo March if there ever was one.

      • Stephanie says:

        Or you could simply rip a seam and empty the rice (our whatever you used) into a bowl, wash the fabric and fill it back up once laundered. This works great if the rice our what-have-you starts to smell or if you want to add some spices or essential oils to the mix. Then just stitch back up and viola like new again! ๐Ÿ˜˜

  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:

  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. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I would think you could heat it in the oven, well away from the element and at a low temp, maybe 125-150ยฐโ€ฆ 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?


  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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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

  22. I wonder if these could be used to keep my kids lunches warm??

  23. Heidi Holmes says:

    These are wonderful if you suffer from arthritis and in the summer pop it out of the freeser for when a bee sting happens it is a quick remedy.

  24. jan aduddell says:

    These are very cute sewn shut, but eventually the rice will dry up and get “old.” You can just cut across the top and re-sew, or you could just leave the top tied very tightly with a rubber band and then for extra security a very tight piece of string. For yourself…use the men’s large tube socks, fill and tie, and then place upside down inside another tube sock and tie it…you can then easily reuse…and refill. I wet the sock before a more intense heat.

  25. Stephanie says:

    Super excited to try making these again! I think I must have used minute rice the last time and it sure stunk! Suggestions on amount of essential oils to use per say cup of rice? don’t want to overdo it. Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Hello! I just wanted to let you know that this craft post is featured on my blog and I’ve got a link back to this post so readers can follow it. Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. i received one as a gift several years ago. i live in the tropics so we don’t suffer from cold… but ยกoh how nice it is on a crampy belly or lower back in pain…. thanks for the ideas! you can put some lavender flowers in there along with the rice or corn for some soothing scent.

  28. I wonder if this would work with Terry cloth kitchen towels?

  29. Katie Thomes says:

    When my daughter was born she often had an upset tummy the nurse told me to make a rice bag and microwave it about 10 sec and place it on her tummy. I actually bought a bag of lentils and filled a sock, tied it shut and we use it all the time. My daughter is now 2 and we keep it in the freezer and it’s her “boo boo sock” for when she gets hurt.

  30. Do you think it would work with cracked corn feed. I wondered if it would be more likely to catch fire when heated.

  31. Thank you for the clever idea! My daughter and I went right out and picked fabric unique to each recipient. However, when we tried it at home, the rice really smells after being in the microwave for two minutes. Any suggestions? Have you had this issue? Maybe put in Lavendar? Or use corn kernels? Thank you!

    • We have used corn and rice. The initial heating may be when extra moisture in the rice is evaporating. It goes away. With the feed corn, I had to heat and cool for several times in order to get it all out. Just be sure not to use Minute Rice! I had someone do that once. That doesn’t work. It goes mushy. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Good to know… Ugh
        I just ran out of the rice I bought and filled the top of the socks with minute rice ๐Ÿ˜”
        Also the socks I bought are 92% Polyester, 8% Spandex will that work or do I need to get different socks

  32. My daughter is going to make one for her dad for Christmas. She was trying to come up with something should could make him and this is *perfect* for him. She just asked him about what scents he likes, like herbs, and he said citrus scents. Do you think we could put lemon and orange peels in it? How would that work? Do we need to dry them or just use a certain part of them?


  33. Years ago I made a wrist rest for those long periods at the computer. I used a mans sock, filled with lentils and rubber banded the end. Folded over the sock so the band wasn’t exposed. Works great.

  34. Fyi split peas work great as well.

  35. Use the legs of old jeans they last for ever

  36. I like to add dried lavender to my rice bags. Makes them smell comforting.

  37. I am new to sewing and will probably make some of these this winter. We have, from my MIL in Upstate NY, two “cherry pit pillows.” They are exactly the same as this, except filled with cherry pits. They give off a wonderful moist heat when microwaved and smell nice and earthy. A lady makes and sells them in lots of sizes and shapes, such as one that can sit behind the neck like a travel pillow. Anyhow, I tried to save cherry pits last summer to use, but it got to be too messy. Rice will be a Lot more expedient!

  38. I worked many years in veterinary clinics (including an emergency clinic) and we used socks filled with rice to use as warmers for puppies, kittens, or other small animals. They were also used to warm animals who were recovering from surgery. Lots of uses and easy to replace when needed.

  39. I’ve had a rice tube with plastic? or nylon? rope handles; have used it for nearly twenty years and it smells a little “foody” but not unpleasant at all. The sock material it’s made of has sprung many leaks so now it’s wrapped in a piece of old, thin towel and tied at the ends with string. It’s shaped to be a neck pillow, but I use it on my knees and boy, does it feel good! I’ll use some of your fantastic ideas and make some that are better shaped for knees and give them as gifts. Everyone in my family has arthritic knees and they’ll love these. I just happen to have old beans and lentils I never cooked. Love the thoughts about putting herbs and oils in!

    btw, one blogger shows how to sew rice pads with sections, or pockets. This would be a good way to keep the warm rice/beans/other where you want it–so it’s not all sagging or squishing to the sides.

  40. Just a question my daughter gets really bad leg cramps and heat usually helps however my cats just chewed threw the cord…. would this be warm enough to help with her leg cramps? Or should I just stick with a heat pad since it has the high heat setting?

  41. I just made 30 of these as teacher gifts for this Christmas but 2 so far have sprung a leak. I wanted to try them out before gifting them and after 3-5 times in the microwave the seams started coming apart. I used flannel fabric. Is it possible the heat from the microwave is melting the fabric or the thread? I don’t want all that work to go to waste (not to mention the fabric and rice) but I also don’t want a gift that will break after a couple of uses.

    • Oh no! I have not made them with flannel, but my cousin sent me some that she made from flannel and they were fine. Did you sew double seams and backstitch?

    • Joyce Spurr says:

      Did you use nylon or poly thread? You may need to use cotton. And make sure you double stitch and backstitch because the Weight of the filler will push through the seam.

  42. Thanks for shaing this gift idea with us. I’m wondering about how much rice you used per bag? Thanks for your help!

  43. I’m excited to do this! Can I use frabric glue?

  44. Shelly Flinn says:

    I’ve seen posts about filling knee high stocking with rice before sewing in cotto . Anyone heard of this?

  45. Please let everyone know to put a mug 1//2-3/4 full of water in the microwave with the packs when heating. It prevents them from scorching. My dad who is a fire marshal is adamant about us doing this. We’ve always done and never had problems. Just want everyone safe. ๐Ÿ™‚

  46. Is it possible to use Jean matireal for the bags. I have tons left from making my quilt.

  47. Don’t overheat or you will have a fire!! I thought I put mine in the microwave for 2 minutes, hit 20 minutes by accident. Luckily I was in the kitchen and looked at the microwave
    around 4 minutes. It was smoking and stunk to high heavens… removed it with a tong directly to outside – 10 degrees that day. burnt the cotton fabric and what every was inside. It took 3 weeks of cleaning to get rid of the smell.

  48. But I love these hot packs. Making more this week end!

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