This is an idea I posted last year, and you can read the whole post here. I’m rerunning it because these really are great little gifts, and very inexpensive. We love ours, and even keep a little microwave upstairs during the winter for reheating convenience.
Basically, we’re talking about a little fabric bag filled with feed corn or rice. Put it in the microwave for a minute or so and it will keep you toasty warm.
My original instructions did not use any thrift store materials, but if you wanted to, you could certainly go the “repurposing” route that I’ve talked about so often. Check the thrift store for a flannel sheet or shirt, or really anything made of fabric that you would like to use for this. No metal threads or buttons, though, since it’s going in the microwave, and in my experience I wouldn’t recommend anything overly thick, like a sweater.
- make it in a U shape if you want it to drape around your neck and over your shoulders (like those travel pillows)
- make it longer and rectangular (kind of like a lumbar pillow) to wrap across the lower back
- try mixing the rice with a few drops of essential oil or dried herbs for a soothing scent (I haven’t tried this personally; I’m also not sure how well it would work with the corn since it already smells like popcorn!)
Originally, I made the bags out of muslin...
...and also made an envelope-flap type cover to make it pretty. I added ribbon ties on some of them.
For this tutorial, I’m just going to make it out of flannel, with no extra cover. This is the finished product, so you can see what we're aiming for. I just used some rather ugly flannel that I already had. If you were making this for a gift, you would probably want to use something cuter.
I didn't have any feed corn on me, so I tried rice, which I know people also use. Now that I'm finished, I can tell you that I prefer the corn. I think it holds the heat better and it does smell a little popcorny. It's cheap; I don't remember exactly but it was something like $15 for 50lbs.
(Update 2009: I actually like the rice fine, and it’s probably a smarter choice if you’re only going to make one or two of these, because you won’t have to buy a huge bag of it.)
Okay, let's get started. First, cut 2 squares of fabric. I did them about 12"x12".
Now, put the squares right sides together, and sew a straight line across three sides, leaving one side open. I used the typical 5/8" seam allowance. I am a lazy seamstress, and did not iron the fabric, or pin it before I sewed.
Now, trim off the two bottom corners and then turn it right side out. Trimming the extra fabric helps to make a sharper corner when you turn it.
Next, you are going to sew two straight lines from bottom to almost the top, evenly spaced, to form three channels. I didn't take a good picture of that, but you can see what I mean in the photo of the finished one. Stop about an inch from the top (open) edge, and backstitch to finish the seam. I tried to show that below.
Now fill the three channels with equal amounts of corn or rice. Don't stuff it absolutely full, you want some looseness for the corn to be able to shift around. If I recall, I think I used about 3/4 cup of corn in each channel. Next, take the open edge and fold it so the raw edges are inside. Go ahead and pin across that edge; it'll make the next step easier and will help keep the corn in. Hopefully the next 3 photos will help you figure out what I'm saying.
Now you've got it pinned across the top, as below.
Lastly, sew straight across the top. Be sure to cross the vertical seams that formed the channels so the corn will not shift from channel to channel. I ran a second seam across the top to reinforce it and make sure that all the raw edges were sewn in.
That's it! Done! It should look more or less (hopefully more) like the first photo. Now put it in the microwave for 1.5 to 2 minutes, and go cuddle!