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The Quickest & Easiest Way To Warm Your Heart & Soul

While very few of us would argue the benefits of a warm heart and soul but what about the rest of your body? What if there was a quick and easy way to warm other important areas – for example your neck, shoulders, knees, hands…

So, once your chilly body parts are warmed it would stand to reason this warmth would naturally extend to your heart and soul as well, right?

Of course!

Now we have the “what” and “why” settled, it’s time to tackle the how = easy and the when = quickly!

HOW ARE WE GOING TO ACCOMPLISH THIS?

In a previous post I hinted at my next project. It would involve these fabulous fabrics that I purchased here:

Quilting Fabric

Fun fabrics plus a need for heat equals – DIY Rice Bags and Cover!

This is a project that is quick and easy because it only involves sewing straight stitches – no piecing together a complex pattern or even true quilting for that matter – unless of course, you want add that extra touch.

These little gems are wonderful! I was introduced to these many years ago from a friend who also taught me a new weaving technique. Over the years we have lost touch but I’ve never forgotten her “microwave rice bags”.

Each year as Christmas draws near and I begin to make my list of gift recipients I try to think of giving something unique yet useful…something I would want to receive. After a little brainstorming, the idea to make rice bags once again surfaced near the top of my gift-giving list.

This is something that can be as easy or as complex you want it to be. They can be customized, personalized and re-used over and over. The cover is removable and washable so they are as easy to care for as they are to use.

The image above shows the single handled striped inner bag (before it was filled with rice) along with the cover made from the snowflake printed fabric.

IS THIS PROJECT AS QUICK AND EASY AS IT LOOKS?

For the most part, yes.

My first attempt with a project like this was about 20 years ago and the only sewing I did was for the cover. The rice filled hot pad was actually a sock that I sewed closed. Very utilitarian – it did the job but wasn’t much to look at.

I’m now at a point in my life where I have the time and resources to bring together a little higher level of form and function. This particular rice bag is, in some respects, better than my first however, during the construction process I began to think of better ways to do this. No doubt, I will probably make several of these and anticipate during the process I will make improvements on both the technique and appearance and will post as an update in the near future.

PART 1 – THE RICE BAG

1. Choose two different fabrics you would like to use. Fat quarters are great size to begin with and for one rice bag you will need a total of (4) fat quarters – or (1) yard of fabric total. This translates as follows: (2) fat quarters or 1/2 yard for the bag and (2) fat quarters or 1/2 yard for the cover. When finished, if a larger or smaller size is desired then it is easy to adjust the measurements.

2. For my project, I cut (2) rectangles, 18″ x 7″ from the striped fabric.

Next, I cut (2) rectangles, 20″ x 8 1.2″ from the snowflake print.

3. The top edge – and only the top edge – of all four rectangles need to be folded and stitched. This creates a finished opening that doesn’t fray. The other three sides will be sewn to the matching fabric with right sides together.

I began with folding down 1/4″ on the short (top) side of each striped rectangle and press. Fold again another 1/4″, press and stitch along somewhere around an 1/8″ from this folded edge.

Fabric Cut Fold & Stitch

This is where I began to have one, of many, “I-should-add-_____-to-make-this-pretty-and-or-more-functional” ideas. This time I felt having a handle attached to the rice bag would be useful and serve at least two purposes.

1. To make it easier to hold the bag steady while sliding the cover on or off.

2. Use the handle to place the bag closer to your skin or keep in place if wrapped around your leg or shoulder.

Another confession: I love fabric selvages – especially those with a nice fringe, written text or sample colors used in the manufacture of the fabric. Since the striped fabric is a woven ticking fabric with a nice even fringed selvage, I decided to use about am 8″ length to create the handle.

Placing the right sides together (with the woven material I chose here, both sides look the same) I stitched the remaining three sides together, clipped the corners, turned right side out and pressed flat.

The top right image above shows the finished bag ready to be filled with rice. Whether you choose to add a handle or not don’t fret about the appearance of the inside edge. Once it is filled with rice this entire opening will be sewn closed and out of sight.

At this point you have a couple of options. The easiest would be to fill the entire bag about 2/3rds full of rice, sew closed and call it a day.

Those who know me also know I’m not known for ending a project so quickly and “calling it a day”. Where is the story in that?

Pondering on the size of this bag I felt the finished bag would be easier to drape and fold if it were divided into separate compartments. I like the number three so I went with that!

Three compartments would only require two additional stitch lines. I simply divided the length of the bag by 3 and used an air soluble pen to mark each of the two stitch lines. One stitch line may be enough but this particular bag is a little large and rice can get heavy AND it’s much easier to prevent ripped stitches than it is to go back and repair later.

A bag like this will get a lot of wear and tear.

Now, back to the bag!

No exact measurements are needed – this is something you can just eyeball.

Once the lines are drawn, go ahead and fill with rice. Again, no exact measurements here – I just filled enough so the rice came to about 2/3rds the distance between the bottom of the bag and the two stitch lines.

Bag Mark Fill & Stitch

Sewing the first dividing line was easy. Sewing between the second and third compartments was another story. Using one hand to keep the rice pushed to one side of the sewing line was almost impossible. After a couple of trials and twice as many errors I had another one of those “light bulb” ideas.

The solution? A clear glue stick! In fact, after using it for the 2nd and 3rd compartments I’m recommending using it for the first one as well. It’s easier to do than it sounds and will save you tons of frustration and headaches.

Rice Bag Construction

HOW IT IS DONE

1. Use a large scoop or spoon and funnel and pour rice into bag.

2. Fold top of bag down and using one hand as a guide, reach inside with the other holding the glue stick and glide the glue around the bag where the marked stitched lines are located.

3. Pinch and press closed then take to the ironing board and run your iron for 3-4 seconds over the glue strip. It isn’t permanent but will hold long enough to walk to your sewing machine.

4. Position to lay flat and stitch along both lines.

5. Return to upright position and repeat steps 1-4 for the next compartment.

6. The final step is the easiest – glue around the inside at the top, iron closed then stitch.

7. The bag is now finished!

PART 2 – THE COVER

After finishing the bag you may be thinking – “I’m not sewing another stitch… I’m done”.

But let me assure you, this next part is really super quick and easy. Just sew together two pieces of fabric, turn right sides out and call it a day.

I will admit, that was totally my original thought however, as is typical of me, I began to have more of those “how-can-I-make-this-prettier” ideas and one of those ideas involved using some left over piping across the top edge to give the cover a more finished look.

The first image below shows the process of adding piping to the right side along the top (short) edges that will become the opening for the cover.

Once the piping is attached to both edges place right sides of the fabric together and stitch a 3/8″ seam around the perimeter to join three sides (exactly as you did with the rice bag) leaving the top end (with the piping sewn on) open.

Rice Bag Cover

Next, clip the corners, turn right side out, press and it’s ready for use!

Since rice is somewhat large, I hung the rice bag from the handle then slipped on the cover by sliding it up.

When ready for use slide the cover off and place rice bag in the microwave.

For a rice bag this size it may take as long as 2 minutes to fully heat. Start with 1 minute, turn the bag over and heat for another 1 minute. Be careful, as these bags are HOT!

BONUS

If your heart, soul and anything else needs a little cooling down, these bags can also be used as COLD PACKS!

Place them in the freezer for 1 – 2 hours, cover and use as needed!

Has anyone else made rice bags like these? I would love to hear about your experiences – what worked – what didn’t.

Please feel free to share any tips or suggestions to help me and others improve upon this design!

18 thoughts on “The Quickest & Easiest Way To Warm Your Heart & Soul”

  1. Wow!! This sounds great.  I would think all I need to do is go to Walmart.  I would never think of making my own stuff.

    The cool thing is my wife loves things like this so I cant wait to show her.  i love that it can be used cold as well as hot.

    Thank you for taking the time to research and provide us with such great information.  I cant wait to see if my wife is interested in crafting this.

    Dale

    1. Hi Dale,

      Thank you so much for your comment!  The idea to make my own items largely comes from the inflated prices of many items that appear to be very simple and inexpensive to make.

      These are fairly quick and easy to make and if your wife enjoys crafting anything she will love these!

  2. Which country uses this kinda rice bag?  Ohh looks pretty good. I have never seen a rice bag likes this since my life. I have never seen rice bag with a hand. I like the creativity. I think you are innovative. How many Kilograms can this rice bag contains pls. And where can I get such a rice bag? Which country are you based?

    1. Hi Kenechi,

      Thank you for your comment!  I’m in the United States and as is typical of Americans I’m not as familiar with the metric system as I should be however, I would guess the amount of rice I used for each of the three sections of this particular bag is about 3/4th of a cup – 6 ounces (or 170 grams?).

  3. Wow I like this article, I believe my mum would be very happy to receive such a gift, to start with, in the stall you highlighted can I get different sizes of this fabrics? do they train on the sewing? And lastly do the offering shipping services for people who are far? I like the way you linked a may showing the location of the stall.

    i find this site being useful as I used to be studying on how to make some stitched on fabrics in school, I like the way you present the procedure with ryhming images that someone can follow and end up having appropriate sacks and bags.

    on my opinion I think it would be better if you link your images with affiliate links that have the prices fixed on them to make it easy for a customer to purchase via your affiliate account.

    thank you,

    Joy gateru

    1. Hi Joy,

      Thank you for your comment!  

      The nice thing about this project is you can use any size fabric you wish.  Just be mindful of the overall finished size as the seams will use up fabric so you don’t want the end product to be too small.  

      Since this post is primarily instructional, the items I used are not tied to any business that offers an affiliate program however, that is something to consider in a future post.

  4. This is creativity in display. It is amazing how rice bag can be used to cools off parts of our body. I love this and I am hearing it for the first time.

    I am the type that gives room for new thing, I am definitely going to try it. The procedure is very simple and straight forward. If it works for me, I will comment about. 

  5. In my search for learning more about quilting, I came across your wonderful site! 🙂 I recently renewed my interest in learning how to quilt (in fact, I put it on my list of 50 things I want to learn to do in the next 10 years). I’ve had very simple rice bags made for me before, just using an old stocking, but this is so much nicer and probably a very easy way for me  to “break” into re-learning to sew. (I haven’t sewn much in the last 30 years.) 

    I need a new sewing machine. Do you have any recommendations on a lightweight, inexpensive, yet sturdy machine? Also, do you have recommendations on where to buy material? I am thinking for this project, I could use some clothing that is no longer being worn. What are your thoughts on that?

    How well does the glue hold for the compartments? Another thing I’ve always wondered is, do you have to ever change the rice? or do you just throw the whole works away if it gets “stinky?”

    Thanks for the extra idea of using the bag for an ice pack! I never thought of that. Does it work to do both things hot and cold? Thanks!

    1. Hi Karen,

      Thank you for your comment and for finding my site!

      The sewing machine I’m currently using is a Janome DC2014.  It’s not top of the line but not at the bottom either.  I’ve been using it for almost 4 years without any complaints.  It’s sturdy yet lightweight enough to carry to quilt groups (I belong to a group that sews charity quilts for a local hospital).  I have an article on my site where I describe my “dream machine”.  Feel free to check it out when you have time! 

      There are many sources for quilt material – the big box stores and local fabric shops as well as online.  A quick Google search should provide suggestions based on where you live.  And yes, used clothing is an excellent option for this type of project especially the heavier cotton like oxford cloth or even denim.

      The glue that is used is only temporary – just to hold the compartment together until it is sewn.  These bags are generally cheap enough that when they get stinky – like if they are microwaved for too long and have an almost burned smell, it is easy enough to throw them out and make new.  If you make a bag that is not divided into different compartments, you could use a seam ripper to open one end, throw out the rice, wash the bag then refill and re-sew the end.

  6. Hi! Januaries are cold here. And I greatly appreciate this great idea to keep warm (and thanks for also giving the hint it can be used as cold packs too).

    I don’t have very much experience sewing but you have encouraged me by telling us your only project like this was 20 years ago. As I read along all the details I feel confident I can do it. It really seems easy! Thank you!

    1. Hi Henry,

      Thank you for your comment!  Yes, this is an old idea that I’ve decided to re-do and make new!  

      Go ahead and give it a try!  I’d love to see what you create

  7. Great and highly educative post, So nice of you sharing your experience on here with everyone, you have really provided a great insight and step by step guide on how to go about sewing the rice bag fabrics. How were you able to manage four quarters for a rice bag, because I remember that my aunt used around four and half, how long did the whole project took you? 

    1. Hello Again!

      Thank you for your comment!  The nice thing about this project you can use ANY size fabric – just be mindful of the overall size of the finished project.  If it is too big, cutting it down to the right size if fairly easy however, if the size is too small, you either have to live with that or go through some extra time and trouble to sew on additional fabric.

      To make one bag and the cover took about an hour.

  8. Whoever thought about making your own warming bag, or cooling bag for that matter.  What a delightful idea. And yes they do seem easy to make.  One thing I am curious about–about how big do you make them? Or is it just personal preference? 

    Your directions are clear and should be easy to follow if one is familiar with a sewing machine. The illustrations are excellent. I will have to say that I am not a candidate for making them. I got rid of my sewing machine a number of years ago. But I know a lot of people who would love to have one of these when the cold air begins to filter into our homes around the windows.

    However, there is a trend toward DIY,now and I would think there is a market for items like this. Ideas for decorating and colors and patterns can go as far as the creative mind will take you. This is a delightful article and a very pleasant read. What creative talent you have. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Barbara,

      Thank you for your comment and a special thank you for you first question – I see where I omitted a couple of key dimensions!  

      The finished size of the bag measured 16″ in length by 6″ wide but this is also a personal preference.  I wanted a size that would place comfortably around my neck however, these dimensions can be changed and customized to suit your own needs.

  9. I must say, your rice bag are altogether breathtaking. I Thought I would include two additional tips. Decrease the sewing stitch on your machine somewhat to give an additional solid seam. On the off chance that you are getting rice verify that it has not been treated with synthetic and finally replace your rice bag each year or something like that. They can develop mold and so forth, which can cause an irritation to the skin

    1. Hi Favour,

      Thank you for you comment and for your suggestions!

      I wish my machine could use two needles at once – that would easily create a more solid seam.

      I never thought about the possibility of rice being treated with anything synthetic – something to be watchful of for sure!  My rice bags rarely last an entire year but if they did I would certainly throw them out!

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