Heating Pad Tutorial

So this is a project that’s been in the back of my mind for months, but it took finding the perfect fabric to get motivated and get going on it.  When I laid my eyes on Amy Butler’s LOVE flannels, I knew it was time.  I chose this vibrant, yet soothing flannel and got busy.

See, there’s a particular day each month *ahem* that makes me yearn for a good, heavy heating pad, but by the time my body reminds me that I want it….well, I’m just too crabby to sew. ;)  This month, though, I’m prepared.

Gorgeous, right?  If only you could feel, smell and pet it.  It turns out that Amy Butler’s super-luxurious flannel + rice + lavender essential oils = heaven.  In case you were wondering.

I didn’t have the details for the heating pad worked out in my mind, but I find if I just start cutting fabric….it just all works out.  Usually.  This was one of those fortunate times and I’m thrilled that it only took my one shot to achieve the sectioned heating pad glory I was after.  I was nervous that I would fail at achieving the sectioned design that I was picturing in my mind, but I came up with a little trick that makes it super easy.

Ready to begin?  You know you want one!  I knocked this one out in under an hour while still in my pajamas this morning.

Cut two 19″ x 8″ rectangles of high quality flannel.  I bought 1/2 yard of this one and it’s enough to make 2 heating pads.

Serge (without cutting fabric) one of the short ends of each piece.  (I don’t like raw edges.)

Pin your pieces right sides together.

Serge 1/4″ along the two long sides and the other short end.  This short end will be the “bottom” of our project for tutorial purposes.

Then, on your open end (top) start sewing approximately 1″ from the side with a 1/4″ seam allowance.  Continue around the fabric until you return to the top edge and stop when you’re about 1″ into it again.  That makes very little sense, so here’s a pic:

Now you’re nice and reinforced.  We want this thing to be sturdy and never leak so much as a grain of rice!

Cut diagonally across all 4 corners without cutting into your seam.

Turn it right side out, make your corners nice and square, press it and topstitch along the edge.

Starting at the seamline at the bottom of your project, mark the pad into six 3″ sections using a chalk pencil.  My lines didn’t show up very clearly in the pictures, but you get the idea.

I think.

Put 4 1/2 cups of uncooked rice (or flax seed or whatever filler you prefer.  I like the weight of the rice. ) in a large zip baggie and throw in some of your favorite essential oils.  Shake!  Shake!  Shake!

Now, take 3/4 cup of your rice/oil mix and dump it into your heating pad.

My concern was how to contain the rice long enough to sew the barrier seam.  Hmmmmm…..A-HA!  A temporary barrier!  I pinned the rice back about 1/2″ away from my marked line leaving just enough room for the presser foot to pass by.

The problem with that was that it was a tad difficult doing it with the pad lying flat on the table (or my bed as you see in my pics. ;) )  So…..I hung it from my ironing board using my iron to weight it down.  Work with gravity, baby.

Stitch it up and repeat for all 6 sections.

After filling your final section, sew your barrier seam near the top edge and then the folds in and zigzag the very edge.

That’s the toughest part…and it’s not even so tough.  And…you’re done!

You’re final product will measure 18″ x 7″ which is ideal for abdominal cramps, sore lower back or tense neck.

It rolls up nicely to tuck into a bedside drawer.

And I’m pretty sure that my next project will be a cute little drawstring bag in a coordinating fabric.  Perfect for storage and for gift-giving. I’ll keep you posted on that project. :) EDIT: Drawstring Bag Tutorial has been added!

Stick it in the microwave for around 2 minutes.  Of course, this time varies from one microwave to the next.  Just be very careful not to overheat (it will stink and can hurt ‘cha!).

Also….you can store it in your freezer for cold therapy on an injure knee, back, etc…

So…there you have it.  Now get busy! ;)

Comments

    • Sharon Erickson says

      I am going to be making these to sell so if you are serious please feel free to let me know. I hope to have some photos up on Facebook in the next week. I love and use these also. Even made one for my dog (poor little chihuahua are always cold).

  1. Carly says

    This is awesome, and it’s such a pretty fabric!! You are so inspiring… I absolutely can’t sew… so I am with Diane, let me know if you start selling these!! :)

  2. says

    MUCH classier than the tube sock filled with rice that I tout in my CBE classes! LOL I love the channels to keep the rice evenly distributed!!! If you decide to sell them, LMK, and I’ll give you a plug!

  3. says

    Omg, you could not have had better timing with this tute! I was just trying to come up with a good ‘thank you’ gift for E’s teachers!! I’m going to whip some of these up tomorrow. Thanks!

  4. Elise says

    Such a fantastic project. I wish I had your talent. Somehow I don’t think this will ever be something I could do, even if I owned the right machine. I LOVE it though. Fantastic!

  5. Suzanne says

    Great idea, I wish I had a time an d energy for projects like this. I think I’m going to send it to my mom, she is retired and sewing queen.

  6. Jacquie says

    Cute Idea, BUT, you really should have mentioned that you need to wash and dry the fabric first. After you fill it with rice, you can never wash it and if you put that fabric in the micro you stand a chance of releasing ALL Of the chemicals that are on the fabric( mainly insecticides put on it to get it shipped into the USA from Asia), into the air you are breathing!

    Another issue is the rice, if it collects any moisture, and it will in time, it can catch fire in the microwave!

    You should have used buckwheat hulls or crushed walnut shell.
    Or is using rice, make removable pouches that can be dried and stored separately from the pad!

    • abbie says

      Thank you so much for your input.

      I assumed that everyone already knew to wash fabric before starting any project.

      As far as the rice is concerned, I will keep that in mind. Having worked with several different types of similar pads during my work in day spas, I never experienced any type of issue with rice-filled ones that were reheated dozens of times each week. But… I hope that everyone will use caution each time they use their microwaves just in case!

  7. Rhonda says

    Hey Jacquie,

    If you know so much about everything, why is your name not linked to YOUR website that has all of your wonderful things that you make instead of hiding behind a dummy avatar and no link to see who you really are or what you can do?

    Oh wait…because that’s the type person you are. I’m surprised she didn’t delete your comment and mark you as spam so you can’t do it again…I would have.

    • Nina says

      Really Rhonda!!! You don’t sound like a very nice person! If you don’t like her style, don’t log on to her website!

  8. says

    Oooh, great tute! I need to try this one out.
    Never fear on the “wash and dry your fabric” thing. That’s kind of a beginner lesson, isn’t it? Hardly something I think needs mentioned every time.

    I love the idea of the oils in the rice. I never knew how to do it

  9. Sadie Walton says

    Oh, Abs- you are the sweetest thing! Abbie made me a heating pad and drawstring bag to get through my remaining weeks of pregnant bedrest! You are the ABS-olute best!!!

  10. Cynthia says

    nice tut, thanks. I’ve read about all types of fillers and I wonder if any of them ever start to cook in the microwave. I think I’ll make one of these to use while sewing, maybe a little longer to hang around my neck. I get neck/shoulder tension. Now, I’m thinking about how to make one for a sore finger??

    I might adapt my neck coolers to be neck heaters. I don’t have a tut, but I have read lots of tuts online for neck coolers. thanks. Cynthia

  11. Cynthia says

    omg — I went to read other tuts on this site and saw the owl finger things. Could this possibly be the answer to my “finger warmer?” This certainly has some adaptable possibilities.

    Can your heating pad also be a cooling pad and put in the freezer? thanks. Cynthia

  12. says

    What does it mean to serge the fabric? I’m new at this. I’m making one today but I need to know what that means and if its essential to my project or maybe just sewing it would do… Thanks!

    • Dawn says

      Amy, a serger is a specialized piece of sewing equipment. I have seen only one in use, they are cool. No, you don’t have to have a serger to do this project.

      Some suggestings for finishing your edge, not sure which would be best, and not everyone finishes their edges. It just makes it less likely that your project will come apart from fraying. My sewing teacher back in 1999 told me that most times, with good fabric, once the edges are turned to the inside of a “closed” project such as a pillow, this will not happen. But due to the pressure from filling it with rice or whatever you choose, I would finish them. A single or double stitch, I am told, will stop them from fraying, or a zig zag stitch.

      Does this help?

  13. vicky says

    hi. i love your tutorial. and your pictures too. i’ll try making some to give as christmas gifts. maybe i will use the zipper foot to find out if it will make sewing the filler in easier. anyway, thanks for generously sharing your idea. bless you.

  14. JOYCE MOSTARD says

    Hi, I have been making these heating pads for several years. You can make some for arthritic hands from TUBE SOCKS. I take the tube sock, cut the end off, depending on the size of the hand. I fill it with scented rice, lightly filled. I them close the end, to hold the rice inside.

  15. JOYCE MOSTARD says

    Hi, I have been making these heating pads for several years. You can make some for arthritic hands from TUBE SOCKS. I take the tube sock, cut the end off, depending on the size of the hand. I fill it with scented rice, lightly filled. I them close the end, to hold the rice inside. I take the other sock and cut it to fir over the filled sock. I finish the ends. You put it together, and it will help relieve cold hands, or pain from arthritis. (I only heat this size about i minute, to prevent burns.)
    I have also made smaller ones for sinus pressure,or long sausage shaped ones for shoulders,back or neck problems. I heat them according to the size and weight of the pad.
    I use flannel material -for its’ softness, tube socks for price and size. I prefer to use rice and the cheapest is best – but regular rice works best.
    Just thought I would share a few ideas. MY children, grandchildren and friends love them!
    Joyce

  16. says

    I have been using rice heating pads for years. They are very cozy and provide warmth for several hours.
    To contain your loose rice, use a new knee high stocking. This technique will make it necessary to rethink the pattern you are currently working with. Mine is similar to a small boppy and I love it. Great for aches and pains.

    • abbie says

      Thanks for the suggestions. :) I used to use the “Boppy-shaped” ones, but I prefer my new design because it’s so much more versatile and the freely-moving rice inside really lets it shape to whatever area of the body needs it. I, and everyone that I’ve gifted them to, use them frequently and love them as is. I’m considering making a quite larger version for larger achey areas, though! :)

      • Sylvia Bate says

        I made several of a similar ilk several years ago, but made them longer to drape around the shoulders and used organic wheat for the filler. We sleep in a woodshed so it can be chilly to begin with and I heat one for my feet every night. The wheat does dry out and needs to spin longer in the microwave after a few years. What happens to the essential oil after a few years continuous use?

      • Judy says

        I LOVE your design. I first received one similar to this some 20 years ago commercially made & filled with wheat. I still use it. About 5 years ago I made some using sorghum. They don’t don’t hold the heat quite as well. My husband is wanting large enough to cover his back. I think I will use your design adding rows of them together. I have used rice or the essential oils but believe that is what I will do to make his larger one. Mine used muslin to hold the wheat then a flannel bag to cover that. I think I like yours much better. Will also be making some for teachers Christmas presents this year. THANK YOU!!!

  17. Kirsten says

    I have made these a couple of years ago. I made one for heating and one for the freezer. I made the bag with wheat grain, and then made a cover with Velcro, so it could be washed. I suffer from migraines, so the one in the freezer is a life saver! I put it in a zip lock bag so it doesn’t stink like freezer. I use the heated one in the winter to warm up my bed! No cold feet anymore!! Ahhh!

  18. says

    A friend of mine was just complaining about how long it takes those store-bought heating pads to kick in, and now I have the perfect Christmas gift to make for her! I may even have a flannel shirt to repurpose. Thanks for the brilliant tutorial!

  19. Jenny says

    LOVE your fabric choice! I’ve made myself one of these before, but I like you choice of flannel and how the rice is sewn in (mine can move around too much). I love the idea of making your own heat pad because you can customize it to fit your problem joint. (like if it is your neck shoulders, you can put a bit of a collar on it, or make it more square, for your back, etc.

    I have some pieces of dried cloves in mine and it smells great. Also, I spritz mine with water a bit before heating (or after) to create moist heat – that really helps relieve sore muscles. My rice is really breaking down in my heat pad (after 3-4 years) so I’m glad I saw this! Thanks

  20. Karen says

    I use feed corn in my bags. I’ve been told that it stays warm longer than the rice. Feed corn is also very inexpensive and it won’t ever “pop.” Corn freezes well also and when put in the microwave, it smells like you are making popcorn.

  21. says

    Love this!! Thx so much. Looking forward to making this! I wondering if you could sew the “sections” without putting the rice in, then just use a funnel to fill the sections? I’m a novice and feel so clumsy when working on my sewing machine that I’m wondering if I could mange the rice while sewing….

    • Heather says

      Hi-This is currently my new obsession so I have made a few pads trying out different techniques.

      For one of the pads I left one of the long sides open inside of a short end. I then stitched all of the sections before filling it with rice. Once filled, I pinned all along the edge I needed to sew and then sewed it up. And, just for good measure, I did a zigzag stitch all the way around the pad.

      Now that I have done a few, either technique works fine. But at the beginning I found that this technique was easier for me.

  22. Nicole says

    Wonderful tutorial! I made two of these today, thank you gifts my sons pre-school teachers, and I will make the matching drawstring bags tomorrow.

    I am also considering making some of the other goodies you make for the wellness gifts :) thanks so much.

  23. says

    I LOVE this I have a serious back injury so I’ll be making this and I just found Fleece fabric for 50% OFF that’s why I came looking for projects. Thank you so much for posting this. I am going to add a link along with the sale I posted on my blog. Smart Moms Saving Money. This will make a great gift for everybody.
    Happy Holidays!
    Laura

  24. Dawn says

    Thanks for the tutorial! I am a mother of 6, and don’t have much time..and on a tight budget. So this would fit my style perfectly! Hubby has a lot of trouble with his neck and head, so we have been using these for years. But we don’t have one in this shape. One boppy shaped, one long one like this with velcro to hold in place for someone like me that is on the go and gets lower back pain. But that one, the seams run the LENGTH of the pillow, so it is impossible to fold up. I like the design of yours I think.

    I was actually thinking that I would sew the pocket seams before filling it, leaving just one end open for each. Fill the pouches, then do a rolled hem the full length of the pad, possibly double stitching for reenforcement.

    I think I would use buckwheat or flax seed instead of rice. And we have a hobby lobby 20 minutes drive, (and a Goodwill) :D So I could kill two birds with one stone!

    What do you think?

  25. Emma says

    I made one of these last night, thanks for inspiring me! I couldn’t find my flavored oil, so I scented it with crushed anise, and that turned out to be perfect. Thanks again, I hope my mother whom I made it for will cherish it :)

  26. Andrea says

    I have the unfortunate trait of doing tons of research before I start the most simple project and yet still some things go wrong. Because I was making my rice pads for teenage boys and they are not washable, I made the bags out of simple muslin and then made a washable cover with a Velcro closure. I made the covers of flannel on one side and fleece on the other. This would have been great if I could have found 100% cotton fleece, which is not easy to find. The polyester fleece sweats, and gets too hot. So remember to use 100% organic fabrics.

    I left out the essential oils because the boys think it’s stinky (really, what is more stinky than a teenage boy). I also added a heavy grosgrain ribbon so they could tie it in place as they often use theirs for knees, elbows and other small areas. Boys think mom’s crafts are usually silly, but they loved these! We store ours in the freezer in a Ziploc bag, but I LOVE the idea of the matching drawstring bag!

  27. Anna says

    Thanks for the detailed instructions. I made this last night using regular fabric. It turned out well. I stenciled a word in fabric paint on there too. not even sure if that will hold up in the microwave. I hope so. I did had a hard time sewing the compartments shut with the rice in it and because of that some of the seems turned out a bit crooked. I should add that I am just learning how to sew. I will definitely make these again. Thanks again!

  28. Elaine says

    Hi, I love the heat these rice pads put out. I made several years ago and used essential oil however I found it lost it’s fragrance after a while and some of the fragrances did not blend with the smell of cooking rice. This last time I bought some Chai tea and used 2 bags per 1b of rice. It smells heavenly and I hope the herbs will keep their fragrance longer than the oil did. Chai tea has cinnamon, cloves, cardamon and other fragrant hearbs in it.

    • Pam says

      Love the idea of adding tea for scent! I have the tea for soothing..gah can’t recall its name atm. Am thinking that would make a heavenly fragrance since the tea puts off such a heavenly aroma. Great ideas all in one place! Also great idea to make with muslin then make flannel covers so its washable

  29. says

    Thank you for such a wonderful tutorial! I made one of these this morning, and it took less than an hour. (For my skills, I’m impressed.) Already have it on and love it! I got several different essential oils, so I am looking forward to making more with different scents!

  30. says

    I have been using rice bags for years, I like this idea so it will curve around so easily to my knee. I have arthritis. I also use them for my sinus headaches. Ya cant beat them, but I was wondering how long does the oil stay in them. Never tried using oils, sounds like a winner. And you did a good job with the tutorial, lots of them on the internet you really cant understand them, but yours was very clear. Thank you so much!

  31. Lystessa says

    I made one tonight! Made as written it even folds out a little to fit around my neck and shoulders (which is great, because my shoulders get sore a lot).
    Thanks for the instructions! It was really nice not having to reinvent the wheel, and your pretty fabric was so inspiring. :)

  32. Janine says

    I just made my first one as a present for my Mother-In-Law. This was an awesome tutorial, you did a great job! Thank you so much!! :) That last section was hard to sew but it works and I’m sure she’ll love it (I kind of want to keep it for myself!)

  33. Heather Lewis says

    Well, it doesn’t look as beautiful as yours (even with a pinned wall, I had issues getting the presser foot by; so I’ve got a bit of curvage on my divider seams); but, scented with allspice berry, a bit of ginger, and a few drops of clove… it smells amazing and was just what the doctor ordered. Thanks for sharing!

  34. Cheryl says

    I love this and the fabric is gorgeous! I will definately make some of these. As I was reading through your tutorial, I thought that you could use a zipper foot to sew this. It takes up less space than the reg foot. Anyway, thanks for tute! I love it!

  35. riverat1 says

    Wow thanks for the tute. It was a little harder than it looked. Tough sewing the seperate sections. I did sew a ribbon at each short end to gather it up neatly. I liked this idea. Thanks,

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