Thursday, January 10, 2008

Get Crafty: Homemade Heating Pad

As I type this, my back is killing me. Okay, okay, that might be taking it too far. But it's definitely torture of the most despicable kind. Every time I hear, "Mamma, picka you up!" I cringe. Fortunately, I have a secret weapon.

When I was about 10, my best friend's mother made rice-filled bags that could be microwaved and then applied to a sore or cold area of the body. One year she made one for me for my birthday. I was the envy of my brothers and sisters (or at least I like to think that). It was really so simple and easy that there's no excuse for a person with a sewing machine, a scrap of cotton fabric and some rice to go make one right now.

The original "rice bag", as we call it, was just a bag filled with rice, and it had a washable terry cloth cover. It was about 6" x 10" and was about 2/3 full of rice. I have heard of other ones that use feed corn, but the idea is the same. I reasoned, one day, that I should be able to find a way to make it more like a traditional heating pad, larger and flatter to cover more surface area (like the sore back I have right now). Inspiration came in the form of an air mattress.

For the heating pad shown above, I cut two 16"x22" pieces of pretty sunflower batik cotton. Wrong-sides together, I sewed 3 edges (twice, for security) and turned it right-side out, rather like a pillowcase. I then sewed from the closed end to the open end about every 2 inches. What I ended up with were 8 long thin channels. I filled each one 2/3 full with rice, folded the raw end twice and sewed it closed.

To warm it up, just pop it in the microwave (on a plate to keep it clean) and heat for 3-5 minutes. Do not get it wet since the rice will absorb the water and ruin the whole thing. I don't use a cover with mine, but you could get fancy if you want and whip one up too. The rice has a slight earthy smell to it that I like. It can vary depending on what kind of rice you use... the rice I am using now is "naturally aromatic" Basmati, and it smells rather like freshly shucked corn. Strange, I know, but I did work at a roadside produce stand at one point in my past and I would know.

Four years later the first heating pad I made is still serving me well. Actually, I just saw a kiosk at our local mall selling something that looked very similar. We use it for sore backs, for cold toes, for heating the chilly crib before putting a sleeping baby to bed, and for warming the foot of our own bed before we climb into it in the winter. It's wonderful soothing warmth when recovering from childbirth or a traumatic injury. I just cooked up a batch of simple rice bags for several new moms in my circle of friends, and I know they'll appreciate them as much as I do.

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