Sew microwaveable heat packs from colorful fabric for cute and cozy gifts. This project is a super simple way to give affordable presents.
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 the nine years since we moved back to California. (Psst, no one in California actually says “Cali,” so please don’t.)
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.”
How right she was! We had one “corn bag” or microwaveable heat pack 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 their 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!
Microwaveable Heat Packs: DIY on a Dime
Now, let’s go back to Christmas 2007. It was the Christmas of our Great Debt, and the only thing the kids wanted on their list were corn bags of their own. They were so sweet about it. They knew we had NO MONEY to buy gifts, so their requests were humble and modest.
Determined to give them something fun — and super thankful that the grandparents were picking up our slack — I bought colorful fabric in the patterns that I knew would please them (Kansas City Chiefs, dinosaurs, Thomas the Tank Engine, and rainforest lizards). After they went to bed, I sewed up a storm, even making little hand size packs to put in their pockets. And yes, I made my husband hunt down the feed store to buy feed corn.
Those heat packs lasted quite some time until their edges just frayed and broken bits of corn started to poke through.
A few years later, I made the kids a new batch, including making the girls their own custom microwaveable heat packs. I busted out the sewing machine that probably hadn’t seen the light of day in the five years prior. I found flowered cotton for the girls, hockey and Marvel comics for some of the boys.
Instead of hunting down feed corn, I filled our new packs with rice which is cheaper and easier to find in my neck of the woods. Be sure that it is NOT minute rice. Ahem. You can also fill microwaveable heat packs with cherry pits and flax seed as well as the original feed corn.
This is an easy, fun gift to make for your kids or for yourself! A few years ago my friend Anne shared these cute owl heating pads that she made. These microwaveable heat packs are even easier. You just need to be able to sew three straight lines. That’s it!
You’ll need the following supplies:
- cotton fabric
- sewing machine
- cotton thread
- rice, feed corn, cherry pits, or flax seed to fill
- scissors and pinking shears
How to assemble a microwaveable heat pack:
- Cut a rectangle twice the size of your desired heat pack. Mine were 10 x 11 inches. Pink the edges.
- With right sides together, fold the fabric in half, forming a thin rectangle. Sew two sides together. Reinforce with an extra seam. Turn the case right side out. It should look like a skinny pillow case.
- 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!
To use: Just heat the bag for a minute or two in the microwave and use to warm cold beds or sore tummies. It is recommended to place a mug of water in the microwave alongside the heat packs in order to avoid scorching. Store in the freezer to use as a cold pack.
As always, please use common sense and safety precautions. I am not responsible for fires in your microwave. I am merely sharing our experience and what has worked for us.
I could not find specific instructions for bags with the fillings I’ve used. However, I did find these safety reads for bags filled with wheat. I’m not sure how that filling differs from these fillings. Just FYI.
- Safety Guidelines for Wheat Bags from New South Wales
- Safety Guidelines for Wheat Bags from Cheshire, UK
P.S. There is a good round of Q&A in the comments section.
Originally posted February 12, 2013. Updated November 26, 2017.