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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!