"All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind."
Khalil Gibran

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Making Microwave Heating Pack

I recently visited family and had promised my 8 year old Cousin some crafting time, so I brought my sewing machine with me.

Our first project was a HEATING PACK, a simple design than anyone can do! Filled with rice or barley (I've decided I like barley better because rice will actually have a bit of 'dust' come through the fabric when moving the rice back and forth inside), these go in the microwave to be heated up and enjoyed.

First we took a very fun trip to the fabric store where we picked out material.  Material for this project CANNOT be synthetic; it must be 100% cotton so that it doesn't catch fire in the microwave.

  • 100% Cotton Fabric (size will depend on how big you want your heating pack) I find that a fat quarter (usually sold pre-cut at the fabric store) works great.
    • As an alternative, you can use socks, washcloths, old hand towels, baby blankets...as long as they're 100% cotton.  Be creative...old flannel pajamas, or shirts work well too.
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Filler (my new favorite is barley, but you can use whatever is on sale!)
    • Uncooked rice (not instant)
    • Barley
    • Oatmeal 
    • Feed Corn (not regular dried corn or it will pop!)
    • Beans
    • Flax Seeds
    • Cherry pits (now here is one great recycling idea!)
  • Fragrance *optional*
    • Essential Oil (some popular fragrances are lavender, eucalyptus, lemon, mint, vanilla...)  You can combine a couple if you like, however, I would suggest trying them out in a small batch of your filler first to be sure you like the combination.
      • I was in a pinch once and tried some liquid flavoring from the kitchen and used it as a fragrance and it seemed to work well.  I've used mint and vanilla and the fragrance seems to be lasting just like the essential oils.
    • Spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, etc.)
    • Plant Fragrance (dried lavender, rosemary, crushed rose petals, etc.)

You can make these any shape you would like for your heating pack.  I prefer a rectangle shape so you put it around your neck/shoulders.  You should leave yourself a 1/2" seam allowance, so be sure to cut it a little bigger than you want the finished pack to be.  You can make these any shape or size you want, and because they are so easy and inexpensive, you might want to make several sizes.  

I often buy fat quarter fabric squares and make 2 packs from each fat quarter. I usually fill those with 2lbs of rice or barley.  These are fairly large but a good size for going around your neck and shoulder area.

If you are going to be using fragrance in your filler, it is suggested to mix the fragrance in with your filler and place in a sealed container or large zip lock back and leave for several hours or overnight in order to allow the fragrance to soak into the filler.

1.   Once you have picked your fabric out, cute out two pieces (making sure they're the same size).  
2.   Place the right sides of the fabric (the side with the print on it) together.  
3.   Pin in place and sew using 1/2" seam allowance.  Make sure to leave a 2-3" space open so that you can turn the fabric right side out (like you would with a pillow) and this is also where you will put in your rice or barley. 
4.   Once you turn your fabric right side out, use your finger or a pencil to push out the corners from the inside so they are square.
5.   Now pour your rice or barley into the fabric pack.  Don't over fill!  I usually fill them about 1/2-3/4 full, as you want the rice to move so that it can form around your body and not be hard and uncomfortable.
6.   Now you can sew the opening closed with your machine.  (If you are having a hard time getting the fabric under your machine foot without the rice/barley spilling out, you can shake all of the contents to the opposite end and use pins to pin a line across the pack so that it blocks the contents from spilling into your sewing area)

Now you are done!  


Place your pack in the microwave from 1-3 minutes depending on the size.  I've been told never to go over 3 minutes.  You shouldn't leave it unattended to be sure nothing smokes or catches on fire.  You can 'spritz' the pack with water before heating or place a cup of water in the microwave with the pack to give a moist heat.  The moisture will also help avoid drying out or burning your herbs and fabric. ALWAYS check the temperature before placing on your body, especially with children, as these can get very hot!

If you are giving these as a gift, be sure to place heating instructions with the pack.


You can make the pack out of inexpensive or re-purposed fabric and sew a covering to go over it like a pillow case.  This gives you the ability to wash the outer covering should it get dirty.  

You can also make some of these to go in the freezer for a cool pack.  I don't put fragrance in these.


  1. I love this idea. My neck and shoulders get so stiff, sitting at the computer for hours and hours, and hours, every day.

    Guess I'll have to break down and drag out the sewing machine. While I'm at it, I know a few dozen people who'd love to have one, too.

  2. Jules,

    Beware....once you start giving these out, everyone will want one! ;-)

    I went to Portland to visit family, thinking I would be making 1 or 2 and before the weekend was over I had made 5 heating packs for various family members(and 3 pillows for my little cousin).

    The funny thing is, my Dad came to visit yesterday and had a sore neck from the long drive and my Husband said, "Honey, why don't you let your Dad use one of your microwave heating packs?" And I had to tell him that I don't have one....I've given them all away! Ha!

    So I guess I need to get my machine back out too. *wink*

  3. *side note*

    I just discovered that 'Bath & Body Works' sells essential oils from their aromatherapy line! I've been trying to duplicate some of them and although they still smelled good, it wasn't the same.

    Now you can make your heating packs smell extra good! The bad news is that I just looked on their online site and didn't see it, but they do carry it in my local store.


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