Monday, November 30, 2009

Thrifty Gifty #5—Make a Microwavable Heat Pack

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.

Other ideas:

  • 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!


Destination Seaborn said...

What a great tutorial! A friend of mine, who's a physician, was given one as a gift from one of her patients. She loved it and used it quite often! Since then, I've always wanted one. Thanks for sharing, now I can make my own. ~Lisa

Pam said...

Holly, I must say I am totally loving this series you are doing. I have bookmarked just about all of your gift ideas, so far. I've always wanted to make one of these. Thanks for sharing with us.

Happy Cottage Quilter said...

Holly what a great idea. I am so loving all of your thrifty gifty ideas. Thanks so much for sharing.


Jenny said...

Great idea and tutorial! I could have used one of these yesterday. My shoulder hurt so bad!

Della said...

My sister and I made these last year, they are lovely...I might make more this year if I have time!

Erin said...

Holly, your thrifty gift ideas are perfect. My favorite is the pillows from clothing. I've been looking for pillows or fabric napkins or something to make pillows from for myself, and this is perfect. I'm getting a sewing machine for my birthday (I hope!) so I will be able to make them for myself & for gifts! I think I'll try felted wool sweaters. Thank you!!

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

Good tutorial, Holly!! I like the little covers you make for them. :)

patinamarie said...

Nice tutorial. A friend of mine hooked me onto dried cherry pits too! They hold heat really well!! Not expensive, well, except for shipping to the west coast...But well worth every bit.

Another super-simple, no-sew idea, though not nearly as cute, is to use mens cotton-only tube socks! Fill 'em up and tie the end. They make great neck wraps and are perfect for sleeping with along your body. My boys love them!

Glad to see someone else doesn't think having a microwave near the bedrooms is weird. Lol it makes bedtime so much more convenient....


Erin said...

I know this post is from WAY back in 2009, but I wanted to let you know that I keep going back to your thrifty gifty ideas and I've picked this one for gifts to make for my husband's side of the family. It's a HUGE family and they never draw names, so I usually end up making gifts because I'm way too cheap to spend money we don't have on gifts for everyone. They probably talk about me behind my back as the Crazy Cheap Sister-In-Law who has to make stuff every year. But they never say it to my face, so I'm good with that. :) Thank you for all the great ideas!

Anonymous said...

I love making these! I've never tried corn before though, but I'm totally going to go buy some. I bought a bunch of those super fuzzy socks for $1 each and used those to make the sacks. They were super cute and took seconds to whip up.