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:




  1. Naomi lloyd

    And if you’re not going to use it for a while, put it in a tightly-covered container. Otherwise, you may pick it up in the fall and find the rice pouring out through holes helpfully provided by mice!

  2. Eliza

    Eek! Glad I don’t get rodents (just giant spiders, ugh, WHY?) My quasi-longterm college boyfriend’s mom made these before they were a “thing” but she used chicken feed and it is great like rice in terms of holding heat and they’re also nice and heavy. She left heated ones under the linens in the guest room where I stayed when I visited them in winter months and sent them home with each guest I think. The guy was very meh, but I still miss his mom 🙂

    What an awesome craft idea, though, especially as holidays approach during widespread as well as personal economic downturns. I had honestly never thought to make one of these myself. I do have an antiquated (but working) Singer and either filling option is, erhm, economical. Great post!

  3. I have a long one that you use to wrap around my tired and/or sore neck… good for fatigue and back problems. Mine is full of buckwheat. I heat it in the micro and you are right – they are amazing in bed in winter time!

  4. Tim

    I have made these before and my one tip to add is to throw in a bit of pumpkin pie spice with the rice. When you heat it up it smells like pumpkin pie – which kicks the comfort factor up a notch or two.

  5. Thank you. Please keep me posted to your blog. I have been using these/lavendar bags for years. Now you have shown me how to make my own. I have also been wearing hats and ear muffs to bed for years. Helps my head and sinus cold reactions.
    Ps. Iam a big fan of your books.
    Reading crown planet right now!

  6. Thank you. Please keep me posted to your blog. I have been using these/lavendar bags for years. Now you have shown me how to make my own. I have also been wearing hats and ear muffs to bed for years. Helps my head and sinus cold reactions.
    Ps. Iam a big fan of your books.
    Reading crow planet right now!

    1. lyanda

      Hi Jessica,

      Well, the fleece cover is removable, and you actually CAN warm the cotton/rice bag in an oven if you are careful, though energy-wise, it might not be worth it to heat the whole oven for that. Enjoy.

  7. I have been making these for several years, since a friend gave me one. It was filled with deer corn, which I buy by the pound at our local feed store. I understand that anygrain will work.
    I don’t know how i lived without mine. I have made them for everyone I know! Everyone loves them.

  8. I just made this tonight. Thank you SO much for the pattern. I needed a rice sock but went looking for something more creative and pretty than a sock and ran across your site. The pattern was very well written and easy to understand and I love the outcome! I’ve attached the link to a photo I took. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Amy

    Great gift idea!
    I have made little “beanbag” toss toys this way as well, and used rice. My mom cautioned me to use white rice, because that healthy brown rice germ will go rancid with time.

  10. Jeanie

    You should try doing this with flax seed instead! I’ve noticed that it stays warmer longer, doesn’t have as much moisture and feels better (no little pokey grains jabbing you!)

  11. Brenda

    Our hospital auxillary makes these for our patients. We use 2,000 pounds of rice a year. You an also add a few drops of essential oil or flavoring (like vanilla) to the rice- gives off a great aroma. I have had one with lavender aroma that has maintained the beautiful aroma for at least 3 years.

  12. nancy

    Can you tell me how long we should microwave the bag for? Also, you don’t use the fleece cover while microwaving do you? You place that on the bag after it is heated up right? Thanks for any other helpful hints. I plan to make these for Christmas gifts this year and want to attach a tag to each one so the recipient knows what it is and how to use it.

    1. lyanda

      Hi Nancy–I attach a little note of instruction when I give these, too. Yes, just the cotton bag goes in the microwave, the fleece goes over it when after the bag is heated. The time varies for each microwave, but 2-3 minutes is normal. Enjoy your sewing. These are wonderful simple gifts, and now that it’s Halloween, we’ve got ours out again, and don’t think we’d get to sleep without them.

  13. Debbie

    Hi Lyanda,
    I just ran across your site and finding this pattern is a life saver. I have been using this type of heating pack for over six years, having to buy more at least yearly due to using them so much. I have severe fibromyalgia and arthritis as well and the heat really does help. The ones I purchase actually use “feed corn” in them, having priced the feed corn it is fairly inexpensive and now since you have given such a well written pattern I am going to have to atttempt to make both the pack and cover. Thank you so much for such a wonderful example of the pattern to use to make these and the very detailed instructions.
    And you are right, they make wonderful gifts, I have actually purchased several for friends and family since I found the ones I have 6 years ago when we were stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia. I guess I was lucky to be on the right Military post I suppose, because I have not seen another merchant stall at any other Army installation since then, so I have been ordering online. But no more thanks to you.

    From a very thankful Army wife and mom, Again thank you from the bottom of my heart 🙂

  14. Bethany

    I have made these before and I like to add Cinnamon powder into the rice before I add it to the bag. I have been using one for 3 years that I made and it still smells great.

  15. Mallory

    I make these with perl barley – I think any grain works (I’ve even used lentils in a moment of desperation).

    Make little 10x6cm handwarmers for chilly days. Just microwave them, and pop them in your pockets. There’s a microwave in the breakroom at work – perfect for the cold trip home. Much better than the click ones that you have to boil and cool before reusing.

    1. lyanda

      Mallory, I LOVE the handwarmer idea! Why didn’t I think of that? I want to make about a million of them–what a perfect little gift. And also much better than those disposable chemical handwarmers that are so popular. Thank you!

  16. Ellie

    Every year growing up my best friend’s mother would make these for her kids and my sister and I for the winter. We called them “bean things” and there was a point in my life when I could not go to sleep without one. I had been sleeping with one for years when I started seeing them on kiosk carts in the mall. She used what I believe was dried corn and used flannel or fleece for the outside. You can microwave the fleece without a problem, but it does tend to sweat a little more than cotton or flannel. Glad to see other people are catching on to this trend!

  17. Lauren

    My grandmother used to make these all the time for my siblings and I as kids! I am definitely going to make some of these for the future cold winter nights to come! 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  18. Belinda

    My mom makes them with raw oats
    Microwave them for about 2-3 minutes depending on your microwave. Also let them cool completely before you reheat other wise you cook/burn the filling. Which does NOT smell pretty trust me!
    I would disagree with heating them in the oven and toasted her fillings

    Also try keeping one in the freezer for use as an ice pack

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  20. Sarah

    Thanks so much for this! I juts got done making 4 of these for my mom for her birthday. I even got inspired to make inserts for her socks and mitten warmers. I better not hear her complain once about being cold this winter! Now I need to make some for me and my husband. 🙂

  21. Jenni

    I’m loving all the replys, good ideas! One tip for keeping them in the freezer….put them in a ziploc bag to store, or the rice will absorb the “freezer” smell.

  22. Susanne

    This is the first thing I sewed EVER and it looks rather fine. Thanks so much for the easy explanation. It was a great one to start with while still feeling like I made something ‘real’. Happy holidays!

  23. Dot

    These are made with wheat in New Zealand and called wheat bags, go figure :o) We heat in the microwave with a cup of water to keep the wheat from popping…don’t know if rice would eventually do the same thing. They go into beds to warm sheets and are great for sore muscles! Great use for scraps of fabric, I like the idea of a washable cover and adding scent.

  24. kathy

    Consider making it narrower and longer for achey neck & shoulder muscles. While you’re at it, divide into 3 sections with stitching to keep the rice in their own pocket. Now it will natually fold on those seams and wrap around the neck and stay there, rather than slipping forward.
    Just a thought!

  25. Lora

    Hi. I have been looking for a way to make these rice bags. I have heard of them but never used one. This is a great tutorial and I hope to try. I am not a sewer! But you have inspired me 🙂 We don’t use our microwave, so I was thinking I could heat it in the clothes dryer a few minutes??? Thank you

  26. Laurie May

    I’ve used expensive store bought bags for years…only thing that has saved me when I get bad headaches…my grandchildren say they hate the smell….not sure if it’s the added herbs or just the grain smell..I will try making my own and see…love the idea…maybe the added lavender or cinnamon will cure the bad smell…be carful not to overheat because they can burn and then try REALLY stink!

  27. Mary Lou

    I have a purchased rice bag and it has some spices in it, I can taste the spices in my mouth and don’t like it so want to try to make one with Lavender Oil or something that will smell better then mine. I’m going to make some for family and for fund raisers. Thanks to all for giving all kinds of advice.Going now to pick up rice at Costco

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