Rice Bag Heating Pad

I live in Northern New England. While Autumn hasn’t been particularly cold this year, nights are definitely getting colder. I am too cheap to heat the house much, so I rely on many things to keep warm – hand-knit wool sweaters, socks and shawls, hot soups for dinner and hot drinks.

They’re all nice, but sometimes the cold gets to be a bit much. That’s when I bring out another weapon in my arsenal against the cold. This is the Rice Bag Heating Pad.

Heat this baby up in the microwave, and you can warm your bed, put it at your feet and cover with a blanket or use like you would use any heating pad for aches and pains.

It’s easy to make and incredibly useful. While you can make it exactly according to the directions given, the directions are mostly guidelines. There are only a couple of things you really want to be cautious about and I’ll talk about that.

How to Make a Rice Bag Heating Pad

Materials Needed

  • ¾ yard of 45″ wide cotton fabric. You do not want to use synthetic fibers for this, as they can melt. Quilting cotton is cheap enough. Use that.
  • Thread that will match or contrast nicely with fabric, as it will show when you sew the channels.
  • 4 2/3 cups of rice (The third of a cup thing was only because I happened to grab a 1/3 c measuring cup for this, but it’s about right for the size of the pad and the channels I’ve sewn)

Cutting the Fabric

I actually made a pattern for this just because I was doing this blog post. In real life, I would have simply measured the piece and marked it with tailor’s chalk.

  • Fold the fabric lengthwise.
  • Cut 18″ wide by 13″ long on the fold. You’ll have a piece that’s 18″x26″ when unfolded.

Sewing the bag

  • Turn fabric wrong side up and press.
  • At each 18″ end fold down about an inch and press.
  • Sew folded edges down. You’ll want to do this because otherwise you’ll have to sew a raw edge. This makes it neater.

  • With right sides together, sew a not too narrow seam at both 13″ edges to make a bag.
  • Turn right side out and press. (You always press your seams, right? <stern look>)

  • Using tailor’s chalk, mark channels at about 2 ½” wide. Yes, you’re marking and sewing the right side of the fabric. That’s why you use tailor’s chalk or something that rubs off easily. This doesn’t need to be absolutely exact. It is only necessary that the channels be wide enough to hold decent volume of rice to hold heat, but still distribute it evenly. Getting right angles well is a bonus. I eyeballed it and totally didn’t.

  • Sew along the chalk marks to create channels. This is why you either want thread that makes an attractive contrast or is the same color as the fabric. It’s going to show.

Filling the bag

You don’t actually have to use rice. I’ve known of people using buckwheat hulls and other materials. It’s only that the materials should be able to take being heated in a microwave without catching on fire. If you use rice, make absolutely sure you also put a mug with an inch or so of water in the microwave to heat along with it. Otherwise, yes, you absolutely can start a fire. What’s worse, that fire could start while you’re snoozing under that toasty blanket. Don’t be stupid. Heat it with some steam. You have been warned.

Fill each channel with about 2/3 c of rice. I don’t really recommend eschewing a funnel unless you’re infinitely neater-handed than I am. I’d get rice everywhere if I tried that.

Like my fancy funnel? I have one for liquids, but the mouth is a hair too narrow for rice to flow in well. Never improvised a day in my life…

Now, all you have to do is sew down the open end. Because I’d prepped the edges, I didn’t get too elaborate with this, but just sewed a double seam down the open edge. I suppose if you really wanted to live dangerously, you could just do the single edge. I figure three minutes of sewing keeps me from possibly waking up with a bed full of rice. A chacun son goût.

You will have to experiment a little to see how long you need to put it in the microwave to heat it up. If you’ve heated it enough that it is uncomfortable on bare skin, you’ve heated it too much. Depending on microwave power 3-4 minutes is usually plenty. Remember what I said about using the mug with a little water to heat with it. I was not kidding about that!

If you have any questions, lemme know.

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