Pocket warmers are a popular easy scrap fabric project this time of year. They are just bean bags filled with something like rice that can be warmed up in the microwave as used as a heat pack. Kids can make these warmers themselves. Pocket warmers are great to warm and stuff in pockets (jacket or pants) to keep hands and bodies warm, or lay on a pillow before bedtime.
I’ve had it for a few years. Sometimes when it’s really cold out, I heat it up and wear it under my jacket to the bus stop or walking the dog. It’s awesome. My 7 year old and I aren’t totally repulsed that the heated up rice smells something like a cross between sweat and dirty dish water, but the rest of the family can not stand the smell. I find the warmth very worth the stink and sometimes sort of find the stench relaxing associating it with the comfort.
I decided to use up some scraps for pocket warmers to add to my bus stop arsenal and just general warming. A few hours after making these, my boy started complaining of earaches, and these were the perfect size, softness and moist heat for some relief. 30 seconds in my microwave is perfect to get the warmers to a good temperature for putting directly on little bodies.
I’ve seen home sewn hand warmers in many places on the sewing/crafting internet and have picked up some tips/choices/options.
- You can sew warmers into any shape or size (check out these hearts). If they are too small or too many points or arms they won’t be able to hold as much heat.
- You can fill warmers with a variety of dried ingredients. Rice or buckwheat used to to be the norm, then flax came onto the scene. Now barley is big. I’ve seen hulled corn (allegedly the best at holding the heat), all sorts of rice and other dried grains. Do not use popcorn. Heeheehee…
- Some people say heating warmers in the microwave can ruin your microwave since the dried ingredients draw moisture from the inside of the appliance. People that say this, recommend that you heat warmers up with a bowl of water. Others say that’s unnecessary and go ahead and heat them up without water. While the quickest and easiest way is to heat them in the microwave, you can also heat them up in the oven (300 degrees for a few minutes).
- You can put things in warmers to make them smell good or for aromatherapy. Some people say essential oils, however others say essential oils can explode(!) or at least are flammable or will burn the fabric easily. So dried herbs or similar is probably a better way to go. I’ve read lavender, thyme, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and others as some good ideas.
- Fabric choice is important. You want your fabric insulating to hold the heat. You want it not easily melt or burn. And you want it soft and cozy. Flannel is big leader choice, but heavy cotton, fleece, and other options will work as well. Thin cottons are reported to burn easily.
- Most people just sew the warmers right up, but you can also make a bag for the filling and then a soft slip cover over the top (if the bag will get dirty/germs or the slip cover material could burn or melt easily).
- This stuff can get HOT. DO NO BURN YOUR CHILDREN.
I found a strip of thick and soft flannel scrap in my stash. Next to it was some muslin scraps. I’ve made many a bean bag in the past, and like to line them with kids around to keep from leaks, so I decided to line the warmers.
Ever up for a scientific experiment, after looking in my pantry I choose to make two pairs, one filled with white jasmine rice and one filled with lentils.
Then I just sewed these up like a lined bean bag. Some photos below, if you want more complete directions, let me know. I made them to be pocket warmer size (end products are about 4 x 4 inches). But I might make some smaller shapes for gloves. I like the hearts but I thought hockey pucks might be fun for my beginning skaters.
The end result was that the rice warmed up hotter and quicker than the lentils. The rice is more of a “moist heat,” but the lentils make for a softer feel (they aren’t soft, just don’t have sharp edges). The rice perhaps one in the heat holding, however, started off hotter, so they are pretty similar.
- Outer fabric (heavy cotton flannel is recommended)
- Lining fabric (optional) (muslin or light cotton)
- Filling (rice, barley, flax, hulled corn, or other dried grain)
- Cut your outer and lining fabric to the size and shape you want. I chose squares about 4 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ determined by the size of my scrap strips. For one pair of warmers you’ll need 4 lining and 4 outer pieces.
- Stitch along three sides of the lining fabric, along the forth side leave a 1 1/2 inch opening. Turn the fabric inside out through the opening (that’s optional since it will be inside and no one will ever see the rough edges). Fill the resulting pocket with your filling, a little more than 2/3rds of the way full. A real or makeshift funnel makes this easier. Stitch the opening closed. I ran a stitch back and forth across opening side. Repeat this if you are making a pair of warmers.
- With the right sides together, stitch along three sides of the outer fabric. Stitch the fourth side about 1/3rd of the way. Repeat for the second lining in the pair.
- Turn the outside pouches right side out. Insert the filled lining bags into the pouches.
- Fold in the opening. Top stitch along the edges of the bags. I start at the top of the side with the opening, go all of the way around, and stitch the opening side twice ending at the bottom of the opening side.