Soothing Heating Pads

These little bags are made from cotton scraps or flannel, and can be filled with almost any natural grain product. When heated for a few minutes in a microwave oven, they warm to a soothing temperature and can be used to relieve stiffness, stress, or headaches. They also make great gifts.

What you'll need:

for the bag:

~ 1/4 yard of plain muslin or cotton fabric
~ 1/4 yard of printed cotton or flannel, or equivalent scraps (a pieced quilt block is nice and decorative)

for the filling: (pick one) rice (not minute rice) cherry pits, feed corn (not popcorn), whole wheat (not wheat flour), uncooked barley grains, rolled oats (*NOTE* -- I get asked a lot about the cherry pits. I know they sound more romantic than saying "the filling is cheap rice" but I have no idea where people are getting them. I live in the city and I use ordinary supermarket rice. It's easy to find.)

Note on my note: Jill wrote and told me she found a place online that sells cherry pits for use in heating pads and other crafts. I haven't ordered from them, but I thought I'd pass the link along.

optional filling additives: lavender, cloves, coarsely broken cinnamon sticks, whole allspice

These grain bags can be made in different sizes depending on their intended use. Make a longer shape to lay over the shoulders and neck, or a square one to be laid on arms or legs, or applied to the lower back. Make your grain bags as large as you want!

Melissa wrote to suggest:

"I've been thinking about your instructions on how to make a grainfilled bag and got an interesting idea I wanted to share with you. What if a person were to take a sleeve from a cotton (flannel?) shirt, removed the cuff, sewed it closed, then fill with grain, and sew up the other end?
"I thought a thrift shop could offer many nice patterns at a very good price, or even from ones own wardrobe."

Assembly Instructions:

Part one: The rice bag

  1. From pre-washed cotton muslin, or similar fabric, cut a piece 8" x 22".
  2. Fold the rectangle in half so now it measures 8" x 11" and sew the two longer edges. You can use your serger, if you have one.
  3. Turn right sides out, so you now have a nice little fabric bag. Iron if necessary.
  4. Option: if you are making a large bag, consider sewing channels about every 2-3 inches along the length of the muslin bag in order to give more structure to the bag. This will keep the rice evenly distributed while it is being used. Note: don't sew any closer than 2" apart, as it will be very difficult to fill the bag wih your grain. Leave an unsewn space at the top and bottom of the bag, about 3", to allow the rice to move a little and let you fill the bag.
  5. Fill the bag with about 3 C. of grain (rice, barley, whatever). It should be pretty full, about 2/3 filled, but still have some give to it, like a bean bag.
  6. Sew or serge the end of the bag shut. You may want to turn in the ends so there are no raw edges, and use pins to keep the grain from sliding out on the sewing table. Of course, you can also whipstitch the opening closed by hand.

Part Two: The Cover

You can use either cotton flannel, a small towel, or regular quilting cotton for the cover: anything that will be soft and comfortable against the skin. Do not use synthetic fabrics, or fabrics with metallics in them. This is going to be heated in the microwave, remember!

  1. Cut your cover with dimensions one to two inches wider than you cut your grain bag, and three to five inches longer. In this example, that would be 9x25 inches.
  2. Lay the fabric wrong side up on your table, and fold over one end about half an inch to hem it. Fold the opposite end over the same way.
  3. Sew both end hems. (separately, not together)
  4. Lay the cover out again, right side up. Take one hemmed end and fold it back a few inches. In this example we should have 2 inches to fold. Finger press into place. Fold the opposite hemmed end over the previous fold, so the hem meets up with the first folded edge, like this:

    The length of the cover should be one inch longer than the measurements of the grain bag. If it is not, adjust your first fold so it is.

  5. Sew the two long edges of the cover, being sure to sew through all the layers.
  6. Turn inside out. You should now have something that resembles a fabric sandwich bag, with a flap at one end. When the grain bag is inserted, fold the flap over the open end to close it.
  7. That's it! Remember that the cover can be taken off for cleaning, since the grain inside can't get wet.

    Part Three

    Heating Instructions:

    To use, heat your bag in the microwave for about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes. Alternately, put it in a plastic bag and store in the freezer, for those times you need a cold pack.

    The rice retains heat or cold for about 20 minutes. The rice gets a warm, toasty smell when heated. You might notice a slight dampness when the bag is heated, this is just normal moisture in the grain.

    The bags can be re-heated indefinitely, although you can certainly replace the filling when you feel it is no longer holding warmth. I've had some going for over a year now and they are working fine.

    IMPORTANT! Be careful heating your grain pack. Do not heat them more than a minute or two, and be certain the heat is evenly distributed. Overheating the bag can result in severe burns to the skin.

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