For Valentine’s Day, we got snow. Which made Brianna say “it’s Christmas again!”. We don’t get much snow, and she saw a lot of it over Christmas when she stayed in NY with my in-laws, so in her mind snow=Christmas. Sadly, I had to burst that bubble. But lucky for her, they’re having their (second) Valentine Day party today at daycare so it’s almost as good as Christmas.

Because I seem unable to plan ahead, I realized yesterday morning that I hadn’t gotten anything for Brianna’s teachers for Valentine’s Day. I’m not sure on the etiquette of these things so I thought at least a token something would be nice. But I have an aversion to giving useless stuff (like cards) because, damn, cards are getting expensive and I might as well just take my $4 per card and throw it in the trash since that’s where most cards end up.

But I’d seen this post on making hot/cold rice bags and I decided it was something quick and easy I could do. I should note that I didn’t follow that tutorial, but hodge-podged three or four together so I could have a rice bag that 1)had an outside cover that could be removed and washed 2) so I could make an outside cover from fleece which could be removed. Fleece cannot be microwaved because it’s synthetic and flammable and the fibers will melt/burn/start to smell bad, but does make for some coziness against your neck 3) and I didn’t have velcro, didn’t plan on going to the store to get any, and really didn’t want to sew it on anyway, so I needed a design that would keep the inner bag securely in the outer bag without the use of any type of fastener.

In the end, for the two bags I made for Brianna’s teachers, I decided not to use fleece because it was packed away in a bin in the attic and because I had this cute flannel that was perfect for a VD theme. The picture on the left is the two finished bags. I have the top bag turned over so you can see how the middle looks with the “pocket” to slip them in. The picture on the right shows you the inner rice bag with the compartments. Click on either picture for a larger view.

Here’s a short hot cold rice bag tutorial (this weekend I’m going to add pictures of each step, if you’re a visual learner):

What you need:

1/4 yard cotton, muslin, etc for the inner bag
1/4 yard flannel, fleece or something cozy for the outer bag
4 cups of rice (less or more depending on your taste)
essential oils (optional)

How you do it:
1. I cut two pieces of cotton for the inner bag (again, use natural fiber cloth like cotton or muslin so it doesn’t burn in the microwave). These pieces I cut 21 inches by 6.5 inches.

2. I cut three pieces of flannel for the outer bag. The long piece was 22 inches by 7 inches (you want the outer bag to be slightly bigger than the inner bag so it fits inside). The two shorter pieces were 13 inches by 7 inches, each piece. I’d originally cut two pieces that were only 12 inches long and that wasn’t quite long enough so I did them with extra, which is better than less.

3. With right sides together, sew the inner bag together, two long sides and one short side, leaving one short end open (so you can pour the rice in). Turn right side out and set aside.

4. Take the two short pieces. On one short side of each piece, turn under about 1/4 inch and then turn under again 1/2″ to 3/4″ (whatever looks good to you). Sew this “hem”. You now should have two short pieces which each have a hemmed short side.

5. Lay the long piece for the outer cover right side up. Lay the two shorter pieces right sides down on top of the long piece, with the hemmed edges going towards the middle and overlapping each other by about an inch. Pin all three pieces together (make sure you have the right sides facing each other) and sew all the way around–sew all edges. You don’t need to leave an opening because you’ve created one in the middle of the pouch. Turn right side out and set aside. Your outer cover is done!

6. Now you’re ready for the filling. I used rice because I had a 5lb bag of jasmine rice on hand that I don’t like so was looking for a way to get rid of. You can use flax, barley, corn. You can add essential oils to the filler, so it releases a nice aroma when it’s heated. If you’re going to do this, mix up the rice and the oil before you start cutting and sewing so it has time to mix together and soak in, and doesn’t leave any greasy spots on your fabric. My essential oils are packed away in some unknown place so I improvised and added some peppermint and chamomile loose tea. Just a small amount (a couple teabags worth) to soften some of the “warm rice” smell.

7. I used 4 cups of rice per bag. To start, I poured one cup of rice into the bag and shook it to the bottom. I didn’t use measurements on this next part but you easily could measure your inner bag and divide it by four and put a little mark at each spot. I just eyeballed it and sewed where I thought 1/4th of the way up the bag was, creating a rice compartment. **Note, you don’t have to do this, you could just fill the bag with your desired amount of rice and sew the top closed. I used compartments to keep the rice evenly in place, instead of all pouring to the ends of the bags** I did this three more times, for four compartments, four cups of rice total. For the top of the bag, I folded the raw edges of the fabric in and then topstitched. Your inner bag is now done!

8. Now, using the pocket in the middle of the outer bag that you created, tuck the inner heat bag into its flannel cover. Print off these directions, or rewrite them and give them your own flair, and you have your ready-to-be gifted hot/cold bag. Easy, right?

Acknowledgments to: Melissa Rambles who has this pdf on her live journal, which is where I got the idea to do a pocket cover from, as well as where I got the original printable instructions from, which I adapted and made pretty for my use.

Blair at Wise Craft for the rice bag post, which was my original inspiration for making these.

Random person I can’t acknowledge because it was on an old cached message board, for suggesting making rice compartments.

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