A few years ago, when I was newly-married and all wrapped up in taking care of my first daughter, I decided that to be a proper housewife I needed to take up sewing. I got a sewing machine for Christmas that year, went out and bought some cute fabric, and decided to make myself an apron. It took me days and involved extensive internet searches of words like “selvage” and “grain,” but I struggled through. I was so pleased with myself at the end that I decided to make my daughter a dress.
I cut out all the pieces, did some of the sewing, and then I got to the sleeves. The horrible, curved, confusing sleeves. I made a mess of them, too. I ruined the fabric and got my sewing machine all tangled up. I immediately branded myself a sewing failure, and I was so frustrated that I packed it all up. I didn’t look at my sewing machine for over a year.
I did eventually get it out again, but all of this is just to say that I’m not a seamstress. I have what I would call utilitarian sewing skills – I can use my sewing machine for very basic sewing. I don’t like following patterns and I have a hard time sewing anything that isn’t in a straight line, so don’t expect anything fancy from me.
Out of the few projects that I have successfully completed over the years, though, my very favorite is a homemade heating pad that I made from an old pillowcase. The heating pad is one of the simplest projects I’ve ever completed, but it’s also the most useful. We’ve used it for:
- menstrual cramps
- muscle aches
- warming up on a cold day
The Easy-Sew Homemade Heating Pad
You won’t need much to make this bag. Just a few supplies, many of which you probably have at home:
- Lavender essential oil (find 100% pure organic lavender EO here)
- Funnel (like this)
- Sewing machine (find a highly rated machine here)
- Needle and thread
That’s all. If you have the most basic sewing machine skills, you can make this bag. Trust me – I made this bag, and I still get confused threading my machine.
Note: Before you begin the sewing, go ahead and mix your rice with your essential oil. I used about two pounds of rice for my bag, and about 4-6 drops of lavender oil, but the amount you use will depend on how big you make your bag.
Find your fabric. There’s no need to go to a fabric store – you probably have something at home you can cut up and re-use. I’ve used pillowcases, t-shirts, and sheets. I prefer to use cotton because it withstands heat well and is easy to sew. (A good rule of thumb when choosing your fabric is to think about whether it could withstand being ironed on high heat. If so, it’s safe to use for this bag.)
Cut two equal-sized rectangles from your fabric. I traced a book and cut around the lines. The size is up to you – just think about what you’re going to use this heating pad for, and plan accordingly.
Place your fabric rectangles together, making sure that the “good” side of the fabric is facing inward. It should look like your bag will be inside-out. Actually, once you sew it, it will be inside-out at first.
Pin one side of your fabric together. Make sure that it’s straight and that the fabric pieces are matched exactly.
Sew the pinned side. Keep the line as straight as you can! I used a simple single-stitch.
Repeat steps 4 and 5 for two more sides.
For the last side, do the same, but leave approximately an inch un-sewn. This hole will be used to turn your bag right-side out, and then to fill the bag with rice.
Pull the bag right-side out. This will take a little patience, but it shouldn’t be too hard.
Using your funnel, pour the rice into the bag. Depending on the size of your funnel and the type of rice you use, the funnel may have a tendency to clog. If that’s the case, pour very slowly.
There’s no rule for how much rice to put in your bag. This is your project, meant for your body – decide what feels right for you. Do keep in mind that the more rice you use, the better your heat pack will hold heat.
You’re almost finished! The only thing left to do is close up the hole. You can do this on the sewing machine, but that didn’t work well for me. The bag was heavy and didn’t move well. I found it much easier to just make a few stitches by hand with a needle and thread.
Your finished product
Once you’ve gotten through all of that, you should be holding a lavender-scented, homemade heat pack. Congratulations! You just sewed something useful.
To put it to use, put in the microwave for one minute. Experiment with the heating time – it can vary depending on the size of your bag and your microwave.
NOTE: Although we do not encourage using a microwave for food, because many folks still have one in their home they would be fine to use to warm this heating pack.
If you thought this was fun and simple, you might like to try it again. Remember, these homemade heat packs can be inexpensive, thoughtful gifts!