Gift Making Post #2: Rice Bags for Heat/Ice

Everyone knows about the rice bags for heating in the microwave or throwing in the freezer.  You probably know they’re easy to make… but have you bothered?  Probably not.  I made some for gifts a few years back, but have I made one for my family?  Noooooo.  D’oh.  Still using a bought bag, which needs replacing… the rice is starting to degrade, it feels smooshy.

The cool thing about the rice bags is that you’re not limited to the standard shape or size – you can make it any way you want to.  The only limitation is weight and pocket size.  Well, you’ll see.009

I traced my rice bag, and added more length at the shoulder and in the center back.  It will slip if you don’t balance the weight.  This is as short as it can be in front – an inch or two wouldn’t be a problem.

Now, if I filled this whole thing with rice, all the rice would settle to the bottom and it would fall off.  And it would weigh about 10lb.  Fail.  So, we sew rows of stitching to make individual pockets.

This means that you can’t flip it all inside out and finish it like you would a plain pillow.  So, what do you do with the edges?


I sewed the first one with plain stitches all around, then covered it with bias tape.  This looks pretty sharp – if you don’t look at my stitching.  Bias tape and I don’t get along particularly well, and managing stray grains of rice and tape?  No.  Just no.  So the rest of my rice bags have been finished with ornamental stitches on the edges, then trimmed down with scissors.002003

Filling:  I mixed about 1 cup of lavender blossoms (available at your health food store in the bulk tea bins) with 8 lb of cheap white rice in a big bowl, then filled the tubes.  The smaller tubes are better for not holding too much rice (see above) but are more difficult to fill.   Pin the tubes closed as you go.



1)  Design your rice bag!  Trace an old bag, sketch something around a knee or wrist or neck, use whatever you think would be nice.  Try it out in paper first… does it fit?  Will it wrap around nicely?  Will it stay in place?  (If around a limb, use some sort of ties.  NO METAL findings – so no buckles or loops – must end up microwave friendly).

2)  Sew up all-but-one edges of your bag.

3)  Sew up channels, making sure they open out into the un-sewn edge and that they’re not so small that you can’t get your funnel in. (I had to rip out a few stitches here and there).

4) Mix your rice and lavender.

5) Fill your bag.  Pin loose edges.

6) Sew up the last seam.

7) Make your edges pretty.

Done.  My daughter has been making teeny square bags for her “babies” (stuffed animals).  This is a very easy craft, and people will use and enjoy it – particularly if you show creativity and thought in the design of your bag, so it sits right where your recipient needs some heat.

Happy sewing!

Edited to add…

My husband says (having had sore shoulders and given the beige bag a try) that the pretty-seam finished edges are uncomfortable, so I see bias tape in my future.  I took a picture of the bag in action, so you could see how big this one is.  He likes it – says it really gets the shoulders.  He’s big – 6’4″ and 45″ around that chest… it’s a big bag.

Yeah, yeah.  The edges look awful.  Bias tape it is.

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