DIY Reusable, Recycled Heating Pad (try saying that 10 times fast)

Tired of the Mastering posts yet? Well I sure am!

Kidding, kidding…

If you’re not, then I encourage you to laugh at (our) the awkward mishaps that have been happening the last couple of weeks in my kitchen trying to recreate classic dishes found in Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, one of my favourite books.

Onto the explanation of that stellar introduction, I keep forgetting to post on other topics! Silly me, as if I only spend my time in my tiny cooking area. Well, I can at least lie and make it out like I have more of a life than that at least.

I thought I would write a quickie about a neat little project that I came up with last week, and it’s something that is actually quite helpful and useable for people like us. I made my own Microwave-Heating Pad, and it’s super easy if you can hold your own with a sewing needle. Hell, it’s really simple to do a quick google search on stitches and learn a couple quick ones. A lot of different types would work well in creating your pad, so you can change it depending on your ability/comfort level. This project is pretty green and natural as we are (potentially) reusing materials that would just be thrown out when you’re done with them. They’re great for those with constant injuries like Rob and I, and can even be thrown in the freezer to use as Cooling Packs too! A lot of people use them to help them fall asleep (me included), and would also make really thoughtful gifts for a special occasion or as part of a care package for someone who is ill or recuperating.

Because this is the super-frugal, student-friendly version, we reuse materials we have around the tiny apartment right?


  • A needle and thread of any colour, so don’t worry about being a matchy matcherson here.
  • Scissors
  • Some throw-away material. Basically, something large but scrap-like. I used an old T-Shirt that really should have been thrown out or given away ages ago, but I’m such a packrat it’s a riot to think that I’d ever get rid of it. In my stash I also have a pair of jeans that have been repaired too many times to make them worth it, old dish towels, and a collection of random drapery type stuff from my building’s garbage room (yes I’m one of those). The most important part is that your material must be 100% cotton!
  • Something to fill with. I used uncooked rice, and really any kind will work well. I have a theory that white rice would be best over the kind with casings (like Wild or Red), but I haven’t tested it. If anyone would like to help a DIYer out and test with/for me I would be much appreciated.
  • *Optional… something to mark with. Can be removable, like chalk or a pencil, but doesn’t have to be.
  • *Other Optional… pins to keep everything together. If you’re not a pack rat like me, you could most likely use paper clips, or those big honkin’ office clamps… I think they’re called elephant clamps. I may have in fact made that name up without thinking too much about it, but you get the idea.

That’s really it. Really! Really, I swear! Simple! Begin by gathering your materials. I’ll wait…

Figure out how big you want your pad to be. This may be a matter of a specific area you’d be more likely to use it on, or how much material you actually have. This may seem obvious, but you need 2 identically sized portions, so work that into your equations. If you need to, mark out where you are going to cut either with something that can come off (like a piece of chalk or a pencil that can be erased). If you’re like me, you can probably eyeball it pretty well on your own anyways.

Begin cutting! Use sharp scissors if you have them too, as this will make it a little faster going. Work out an extra inch or so on all sides to allow for a seam. This is just as simple as not cutting on your line, but just before it.

Place the bad looking sides on the outside and the good looking sides on the inside. An example would be if you needed to mark them out to cut, than put the marked sides out. If there are any weird seams in your material, these should be considered the bad sides too. Either pin your pieces together, or pray they will stay together on their own. It would really depend on the fabric you’re using whether it can be relied upon to want to cling, but because we’re using cotton (right everyone?), they should be ok if your pieces aren’t too big. Flat, smooth surfaces help too (like the go-to keyboard tray of my desk!).

Now the hard part, and that’s not all that true. Sewing! These directions are for people who don’t have the space to house a sewing machine in their apartment, or that are too lazy to head over town to their parents’ house to steal some quality machine time there (ok… both of those apply to myself, but I digress). If you do have a machine, chances are you’re able to ‘convert my oh-so-complicated steps’ for your own circumstance. Congrats! That means you’ll have to clean up sooner! Muahahahaha!

*Those that don’t know how to hand sew or have any idea what different stitches are, here’s a simple list I found online!

Remember how small grains
of rice are! You’re stitches should
be as small as you can manage.

Basically, stitch together your sides to make a pocket, going almost all the way around your square but leaving about 2-3 inches left undone. This is so that you can both turn it rightside out when you’re done and fill it with your rice. Remember that stuff? Yeah. The set of stitches can be as simple as you want to make them or a complicated as your abilities allow. We want to make the whole finished project as tightly stitched as possible to keep all the ricey goodness contained and not strew throughout your bedding (or wherever else you plan to relax in the cozy bliss). This may mean you do a couple sets of stitches all the way around. I’d recommend doing a line of super-small Back Stitches around the entirety (but saving that little opening remember), then finishing later with a line of tightly spaced Whip Stitches, Overcast Sticthes, or another finishing-type (hemming) style. We’ll be doing a bit of them anyways when we close up the hole, so it’s up to you.

The more stiches you do the tighter the seal will be, and because your pad is probably going to go through a lot of trauma, it’s best to overdo it now then clean it up later.

When you’ve finished sewing the first run (or the only run if you’ve decided to go the simpler route), tie your knot leaving your gap at the end. Pull the shape in on itself, like you were righting a shirt that is inside out. Start off moving carefully if you’re worried about your stitching ability. When you’ve finished, gather your rice because we’re almost done!

You want to fill your package until it’s just about 2/3 full. It may be tempting to fill it more, but if you do it will be harder for it to form around you when you’re using it on places like your limbs or neck. You may be able to use a funnel to help… or you may have messed up your opening size like I did; I ended up making a paper funnel and spooning it down the chute.

Now Whip Stitch your opening close! If you are a stickler for perfection, or again if you are worried about your stitches, continue whipping all around the entire shape. There is no such thing as too much sewing when it comes to filled-items!

You can see how small my opening
was; it worked just perfect if only a
little too small to fill fast. Slow worked

When you’re finished, test it out! I threw my square into the microwave for around 2 minutes and found that to be the sweet spot, but it may be different for you. Just don’t heat it for too long or too high or it will burn. And keep an eye on it in case it starts to smoke…. You don’t want a fire going! That’s not tranquil! To help prevent any roasty-toastisms, you could lightly spray the whole pad with a mister or spray bottle full of water. Just remember not to go overboard or you may actually “cook” the rice!

Different things to try out with your heating pad creations are materials and fillers. Depending on what you’re using it for you could try looking for different textures of cotton (the softer it is the better?). At this point I will say that I cheated on mine a bit… it’s the width (or length, depending on how you look at it) of my t-shirt. This allowed me to skip two spans of stitching as I just used the shirt’s own seams. As stated, you could also try different fillers. I liked using rice as it develops a nutty flavour when you use it, but you could use beans or something else along those lines. You could also scent it with different essential oils or herbs/flowers. I used a combo of oils, the leaves and stems from my at-the-end-of-season Lavender plant, and a couple opened bags of Chai Tea. Did I go overboard? Frankly, yes. HOWEVER, I have been kind of stuffy and sick the past week so the stronger scents are all that could reach my nose 😀

Really, I had both been on a tea kick lately and didn’t want to throw out my lavender trimmings, so that’s what made me think of creating a project like this in the first place! Comment below if my directions were way off base or right on the money! I would love to hear if anyone has made their own too. Any other filler suggestions?



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