Simple Winter Sewing Project: Hot Rice Bags

Warm face, warm ‘ands, warm feet
Aow, wouldn’t it be loverly?
–Eliza Doolittle


Cloth bags of heated grain are great for warming the bed or soothing sore muscles–much cozier than hot water bottles, and a nicer quality of heat.  I kept seeing them in boutique shops with shocking price tags, and whenever I asked what the bags were filled with, the shop proprietors would say it was a secret.   But one day a few years ago I saw one that had a suspicious little pile of rice in its packaging, and as soon as I got home I whipped up a bag for myself using rice from the pantry, and added a fleece cover while I was about it (no wonder the filling was a secret–who would pay $30 for a little bag of rice?).  I made one for each of us, and for my mom and dad and sister and in-laws and sundry friends.  We don’t know how we survived past winters without them.  At our house we put the warmed bags into the bed a few minutes before we crawl in ourselves. It makes such a huge difference.  These make great simple, handmade gifts, and you probably already have everything you need to stitch a few up.  Here’s what you do:

With a piece of standard copy paper as your pattern, cut two 8 1/2 x 11″ pieces  of cotton (muslin or calico works great).  Using a 1/2″ seam allowance, sew them together on three sides, wrong sides out.

Clip corners, turn, and press.  Fold the top edge in 1/2″ and press.

Add 5 cups of dry rice.  Any kind will work–I just use whatever’s cheapest in the bulk bins at the local coop.


Pin, and stitch 1/4″ from the edge.  You will want to hold the heavy bag up with one hand as you sew.


It’s nice to make the bag a cover–keeps it clean, and fleece feels so good.  Cut one piece of fleece 12 1/2 x 20 inches.  Finish the ends:  turn one of the short ends in 1/4″, and stitch.  Turn the other end under 1″ and stitch close to cut edge.  Topstitch 1/4″ inside of first stitching, if you like (this will be the side that shows on the outside).


With right side in, fold the end with the wider, topstitched hem up 5 3/4″ , and the side with the narrow hem down 4 3/4 “.  The edges will overlap in unequal thirds.

My mother gave me this pin cushion when I was seven. She made it when she was a Brownie, just seven years old herself. Sometimes a little of the sawdust filling comes out, but I love it.

Stitch the sides, clip the corners, and turn right side out. Slip the rice bag inside and you’re done!


Take the cover off to heat the bag in the microwave.  We usually heat ours for between 2 and 2 1/2 minutes–the time will vary according to your own oven.  The first couple of times you heat it, the bag will smell like cooking rice, but this is temporary–if the bag is a gift, you may want to heat it a couple of times before you give it, so your friend won’t be alarmed.  But don’t let the bag get wet before you heat it, or the rice really could cook, and then molder (this has never happened to me, but it could, don’t you think?).

Use the bag to warm the bed, snuggle it while reading on a cold winter’s night, or apply to tense, sore muscles.  Between these bags on our toes, and the hats on our heads, we stay warm at night and, here in temperate Seattle, we’re able to turn the heat off most nights all winter.  Enjoy!


You may also enjoy other craft projects from The Tangled Nest:




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