Start Small Followup: Heatpack as a quick Christmas gift

Okay, so this isn't the heat pack, I just wanted to show off. Look at those cute little cocoa packs!

Quick note: today is the last day of Giveaway Day. If you still want your shot to win a  new book, check out this post. I will draw a winner tomorrow.

Promising you guys a tutorial today gave me some really good motivation. Well, that and the fact that I needed to turn in all gifts by today or the family wouldn’t get them. But between those two factors, I went creating crazy last night. I made 2 dozen tomato basil cottage cheese muffins and a bunch of hot cocoa mix for a bake sale at work. Then after that was all done and packed up, I go on to sewing.

As I said earlier this week, some of you may still be scrambling to make someone on your list some thing nice. Cheap and easy too, but still nice. A heat pack may not be totally universal, but it’s darn close. I have made a few of them in varying forms, and I’ve seen every single one used years later. For someone making things by hand, that’s always the best compliment. So now, here for you, a tutorial on making a microwaveable heat pack and cover. 

Materials (picture 1)

Pic. 1: Gathering materials first makes things so much easier.
  •  Fabric, 100% cotton is best in my opinion. Why? Because if you sew at all, it’s the most likely material to be just lying around. However, the only really important thing is that it’s not synthetic AT ALL. Someone made me a heat pack with microscopic metallic fiber stripes that I didn’t even see…guess what THAT did in the microwave.
  • Fabric for the cover. Choose something snuggly, but not too heavy, like flannel. The other bonus of flannel – it’s also cotton and can be mirowaved.
  • Thread, also 100% cotton for the same reason.
  • Filler such as rice, lentils or buckwheat hulls. For this project, I used three pounds of lentils (1 for the channeled pack, 2 for the other). Rice and lentils work pretty much the same. They have a similar weight and behave the same. However, rice has a very distinctive smell when it’s microwaved. I don’t mind it (and really, don’t notice it) but it drives some people batty. Buckwheat hulls can be a bit harder to find, but they may be worth it. They are wonderfully light, so if you are making a heat pack for someone who is sensitive to weight or pressure, buckwheat hulls are the way to go.

Let’s get started

I can’t stress enough how easy this is – it is a great beginner project. If you cut a bit off or your seams are crooked, it still works just the same. Also, the measuring is pretty inexact as far as sewing goes.

  1. To start, wash and iron your fabrics. Why wash? Normally, some people like to wash their fabrics to get the sizing out and keep their hard work from distorting and puckering when they wash after sewing. In this case, you will be putting all this fabric directly on skin for long periods of time. Some people react to weird stuff, so just wash it out.
  2. Cut out your pieces (picture 2). I used the measurements from One Yard Wonders, without the tie. The nice thing is you can alter the size to fit a specific scrap you have lying around. But for this project, I will just tell you what I did. To make two heat packs, I cut two pieces of fabric measuring 19 by 11.5 inches. For the cover, I cut one piece of flannel 24 by 12 inches.
  3. For each heat pack piece, fold them so the right sides are facing and short ends lined up. Pin them on the three open sides and set them aside (picture 3).
  4. For the cover, you want to make sure the short ends are finished nicely. They will be the flaps on the cover, so you want to make sure they are sturdy. To do that, start by folding the short ends over ¼” (wrong sides facing), pinning as you go (picture 4).
  5. Once it’s all pinned, press the fold a bit so it sticks. Take your pins out and fold again, this time just over ¼”. This will hide the raw edge of your fabric (picture 5). Press again, but leave the pins in this time. Repeat for the other short side of the fabric (picture 6). Now you’re ready to sew!
Pic. 2: Cut pieces ready to pin.
Pic. 3: Heat pack pieces pinned and ready.
Pic. 4: Pressing the first fold on the heat pack cover.
Pic. 5: Folding the seam again to hide the raw edge.

Pic. 6: Pressed edge, ready for sewing.

  1. Sewing the channeled heat pack. For reasons you will see later, you want to leave one short side completely open. So only sew along one long and one short open side, about ¼” from the edge.
  2. Turn the pack right side out. Pin the seams and press all four sides so they lay nice and flat. This will make it easier to sew channels.
  3. Starting on the open end, make a mark about every inch and a half (picture 7). Repeat the marks on the opposite end. If you want, you can use a ruler and fabric marker or pencil to draw lines to sew on. Don’t sweat these measurements too much! Just remember – this is a heat pack, success doesn’t hinge on precision.
  4. Sew all the lines one at a time, stopping about an inch away from the open end (picture 8). This will give you the extra fabric you will need to sew everything closed after filling. You will now have a channeled piece of fabric (picture 9)!
  5. Using a funnel (or a piece of paper taped into a funnel shape), fill each channel. I used a pound of lentils for mine. Remember, with any heat pack, you don’t want to pack it full. The filler needs room to move and flex so it’s comfy to use. I stopped about an inch and a half from the top.
  6. Once the filler is in, turn the raw edges of the fabric into the opening and pin in place. I did not get a picture of this, but it wasn’t very pretty. Once again, don’t sweat it. Even if you place this on a table to pin, remember you have 1 full pound of weight pulling on the fabric.
  7. Once it’s pinned, sew ¼ inch away from the open edge, being sure to back stitch at the start and end. Once that’s done, stitch again ½” from the edge. This prevents the filler from moving cell to cell.
  8. One heat pack done (picture 11, left)!
Pic. 7: Making marks for channels.
Pic. 8: Stop about an inch or so from the edge so you can turn the raw edges in later.
Pic. 9: Channels!
  1. Sewing a plain heat pack. If you already did the channeled one, this will be a cakewalk. You want to sew all open sides closed EXCEPT for about three inches next to the folded side (picture 10). You are only pouring beans into one big bag, so you don’t need multiple openings.
  2. Once you’ve sewn up the sides, use your funnel again and pour in your filler. I used two pounds lentils for this one. Once you are done, turn in the raw edges of the opening, pin and sew. You’re done (picture 11, right)!
Pic. 10: Opening for pouring lentils into.
Pic. 11: Completed heat packs. You're almost there!
  1. Sewing the cover. Pick up the cover piece you pinned in Step 5. Run a line of stitching down each fold to keep it in place.
  2. Place the cover right side up. Fold one side in about five inches (picture 12). Pin it in place in two spots on each side (picture 13).
  3. Repeat the fold with the other side (picture 14). The important part here is to get the short sides to overlap while still leaving space for your heat pack. If you want to be safe, lay your complete heat pack on top of the folded piece. As long as the cover is a tiny bit bigger, you will be fine. Pin this second fold in place as well.
  4. Sew both the short sides shut. When you get to the overlapping areas, do a back stitch over the whole thing (picture 15). Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like it keeps it more secure.
  5. Clip the corners just a bit, ensuring you don’t cut into the stitching (picture 16).
  6. Turn right side out and you’re done (picture 17)! 
Pic. 12: First cover fold.
Pic 13: Pin that fold!
Pic. 14: Second cover fold pinned for sewing.
Pic. 15: Backstitch here for added strength.
Pic. 16: Clipping corners.
    1. Pic. 17: Completed cover. Don’t you feel accomplished! You should — you did a great job.

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