Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Quick Craft: Microwaveable Heating Pads

If you're likely to receive a gift from me in the coming year, you might want to stop reading now. This is going to be my new go-to gift, and I'd hate to ruin any surprise.

Last week I caught a few minutes of Martha, just in time for Ms. Stewart to show us all a "good thing" of making homemade heating pads. The video clip and instructions are here. The heating pads are basically just long pillows filled with, in Martha's case, dried cherry pits (available through an orchard) or buckwheat hulls. You can then microwave the pillows and wrap them around whatever body part is ailing you.

The craft is incredibly easy, taking about 15 minutes start to finish, and the dimensions of the piece of fabric you cut to make the pad are just a couple inches shorter and skinnier than a fat quarter (a fat quarter being 18 inches by 22 inches). I still had a short stack of fat quarters from the Anna Maria Horner Chocolate Lollipop sampler I'd bought and made pillows from, so thought I'd try this, but I wasn't keen on ordering and paying for shipping on dried cherry pits or buckwheat hulls. Then I remembered reading or hearing somewhere that you can make little microwaveable heating pads filled with rice. I had a jar of sushi rice that had been in my pantry for, I don't know, a year waiting for me to be inspired to learn to make maki. Hadn't happened yet, and likely wouldn't. So I made a heating pad with the fabric, the sushi rice, and because I didn't have quite enough sushi rice, some additional jasmine rice from a 20-pound bag in the pantry.

The day before I made the heating pad had been Field Day at Max's school, and I'd hauled Sylvia around in her car seat for the morning -- swinging the seat to get her to sleep, carrying her up and down the stairs to an unused room in the basement to nurse her four times, and walking from field to classroom to cafeteria to accompany Max's class. My back was pooped. The heating pad was a good buddy right after I made it; it produces a moist heat that lasts about 15 or 20 minutes, and it's more malleable than a traditional heating pad. Very nice when, say, watching an episode of The War and knitting a long-abandoned scarf. Max also loved the pad, lolling all over it, apparently nursing his kindergarten aches and pains.

Reading comments on the Martha site, I found I could also use feed corn to fill the pads. One commenter even mentioned that buckwheat groats and seeds could be used, but hulls shouldn't be microwaved; I'm guessing they might be flammable. I didn't test this myself, but having set some popcorn-on-the-cob on fire in our microwave, I'm erring on the side of caution and staying away from the hulls.

After a quick and inexpensive trip to our bulk-stocking local health-food store, I made two more heating pads, one with corn and one with buckwheat groats, using some fabric extras I had around. (Yes, the image is on its side; my apologies.)

Here's how this quick craft stacks up financially:
  • My original fabric was about $3, but I've had it long enough that I could probably consider it stash, in which case it would be free. Fat quarters are generally about $1 at basic craft stores, more at specialty fabric stores.
  • The best price I could find on rice is 25 pounds for $15.00 at Costco, or 60 cents per pound. The pad needed about 2 pounds, so rice filling is about $1.20.
  • The dried corn was 80 cents per pound, although it was organic and you could probably find cheaper non-organic if you were so inclined; my health-food store only carries organic. The pad needed about 2-1/2 pounds, so organic corn filling is about $2.00.
  • The groats were $1.25 per pound. Again, these were organic so might be cheaper if you could find a non-organic source. The pad needed about 2 pounds, so buckwheat groat filling is about $2.50. (Martha's source also had groats, but they were $6.99 for 2 pounds, plus shipping.)

I found that the heating pads made with rice or groats need to be microwaved about 3 minutes, and the pad filled with corn needed to be microwaved about 4 minutes.

At around $3 each, I'm thinking that with a cute tag, these little stress relievers are going to be making appearances in the next year as teacher gifts, co-worker gifts, holiday gifts, just-because gifts...


Melissa Lewis-Off The Wall said...

What great tips here. You've got such a cute blog going on over here, so glad you visited mine so I could find yours:)

Thanks so much for the comment. Happy Wednesday:)

Frugal Urbanite said...

Great minds think alike, I was just talking to my dad about making these about an hour ago.

I love making these because they're so easy. You can also add a little pocket on the outside to hold a cotton pad with a drop or two of essential oil or a potpourri sachet. The warmth helps activate the scent for a little aromatherapy with the relief.