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Mini Heater Tutorial

November 15, 2010

Today I am posting a tutorial for Andrea over at The Train To Crazy.  She is celebrating November with a Make it For Winter series of recipes and tutorials.  I am thrilled to be a contributor.

If you’ve been hanging out over here for a while you’ll know that I love pretty much everything about winter.  I love snow and cold and big coats and warm sweaters and hot chocolate and warm soup and snuggling up with a blanket and a project on the couch.  So I decided to share a little secret for staying warm when it’s freezing cold outside.

What’s better than your own mini heater!  It is basically a flannel bag full or rice, but throw it in the microwave for a few minutes and it will give off heat for a few hours.  And the best part about it?  You can make one in less than 30 minutes, and for under $3.  A perfect gift idea, right!

First gather up your supplies.  You’ll need:

  • a little bit of flannel, chenille, upcycled cotton sweater, or any other soft cotton fabric.  (I used one of Creamie’s little flannel receiving blankets that she grew out of in 3 days)  Steer away from polyester fleece.  Though it is super soft it hangs on to a lot of moisture from the rice.  Which means that you’ll be warm, and damp.  And in the long run that means you’ll be cold.
  • scissors
  • ric rac or ribbon (optional)
  • matching thread
  • plain uncooked white rice

Start off by cutting your fabric into a rectangle.   You can make your bag any shape you’d like.  I have them in several different sizes.  Little 4″ squares for my pockets, one for my lap, a long skinny rectangle to drape around my neck, and one big huge one to lay out under me while I sleep. To make this one a lap size I cut a rectangle about 20″ by 16″ from my blanket, which I folded in half to 10″x16″. (You could cut two pieces 10″x16″ depending on what size your fabric is.)

If you want to add some trim, pin it to one edge (I used my 20″ side, along what will be the bottom of the bag) and stitch them on about two inches from the edge of your fabric.  Another idea is to add a monogram, like the one in my monogrammed baby blanket tutorial.

Match the trim up on the sides and stitch your fabric together, leaving one short end of the rectangle open to fill with rice.

Then it’s as easy as dumping in a few cups of rice.  I used about four or five cups for this size.  You can really use any grain you’d like, but I prefer plain white rice because it doesn’t have a strong odor when it’s hot.  Growing up I had some of these bags filled with dry corn, and some with wheat, but I much prefer rice.  (Don’t use brown rice though, the oils in brown rice will go rancid relatively quickly and then it smells really bad.)

Turn your top edge towards the inside about half an inch, pin and then sew the two sides together, closing your bag.  I like to use a double seam because I don’t want little bits of rice to spill out.  For mine I used the serged edge of the receiving blanket along the top, but you don’t need to finish the inside of the seam, beacause it’s all going to be tucked to the inside.  (If you’d rather, you can make a plain rice bag, and then make a little pillowcase with a strip of velcro to keep it closed.  Then you can take off the cover and wash it.   But don’t wash the actual rice bag, you’ll end up with a big HUGE mess in your washer…)

Just throw your little heater in the microwave for a few minutes and you’ve got the perfect way to stay warm.  Depending on what size of bag you made and your microwave, heat times will vary.  This one needs about 2 minutes in my microwave.  Start with 30 second intervals to figure out what will work out best for yours.  And then plop your cuddly bag of warmness in your lap as you sit at the computer reading blogs and emails till all hours of the night, or on your toes while you sew.  Make some small one’s for your coat pockets.  If you are getting into a cold car, warm one up before you leave and let it heat up your seat for you.  When it’s super freezing I’ll even warm up Creamie’s car seat before I put her in it. (Remove it before you strap your baby in.) But my very favorite way to use these heaters is in my bed.  I’ll lay one flat out under my spine each night and let the heat relax my muscles and ease my near constant back and neck pain.  Sandwiched between me and my mattress it will stay warm for about 6 hours.  (If it’s in your lap, or in a cold car it will lose it’s heat much more quickly.)  I hope this helps you enjoy winter a little bit more!  Now, bring on the snow!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 15, 2010 4:11 am

    Popping in from The Train to Crazy..
    Thank you for this tutorial, I’m planning on making a few of these for gifts this Christmas. Yours is so pretty, I love the soft pink with the ric-rac!

  2. November 15, 2010 8:49 am

    This is such a great inexpensive idea!!! Everytime I read your blog I find something I want to make. (And I only found you a few weeks ago!) So far I have a cute green leaf accent pillow on my couch, 2 giraffes waiting to be stuffed for my girls, and the fabric to make one of the mitered baby blankets for a friend that’s due in a few months.

  3. November 15, 2010 9:51 am


    You are awesome with the tutorials! And Creamie is so adorable.

    xo -El

  4. Kim permalink
    November 15, 2010 11:34 am

    This has been on my list for a long time to get around to making. Maybe I will have to drum up those 7th grade sewing class instructions and make me some of these. I love the one I have but who can’t use more heat providing items when the frigid winter hits us here? (especially in the ever cold office where I’m currently still cold under my blanket) Even a novice like me should be able to pull off something this simple right?!

  5. November 15, 2010 11:54 am

    Great idea! Pocket rice warmers for everyone’s stocking coming right up (as long as Santa gets the message in time, that is). Thanks for sharing!! Hey, I’m sorry you are in pain, I didn’t know that.

  6. Liz Merrell permalink
    November 15, 2010 4:44 pm

    I love this tutorial. I’ve made these before but have always just ‘winged it.’ Now I know not to use brown rice or fleece. I also like the small pocket-size idea. Excellent! I’m making some of those for Cait.

    Can I add an idea? Put a few drops of lavender oil on the rice before you sew it closed. It’ll smell good coming out of the microwave and help you sleep better.

  7. November 15, 2010 6:05 pm

    You make me wish I had a sewing machine! We had one of these growing up and I LOVED it. Of course, I’m always cold so anything that gives off heat is welcome in my book. 🙂

  8. Catherine permalink
    November 16, 2010 2:59 pm

    What a great idea! I love the pocket warmers. . .great for cold hockey arenas. I’m gonna have to make some of those up quick! I happen to have a LOT of rice around, as well as some old receiving blankets. The perfect project!

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