Monday, December 13, 2010

Rice bags (second edition)

When you make a project more than once, you find out new ways of doing it.  I just finished making seven rice bags, some for me, some for guests, some for gifts, and this is the way I did it this time:

  • 1/3 yd fleece OR 1/3 yard muslin plus the same amount decorative fabric of your choice with which to make a removable, washable "pillow case" for your muslin rice bag.  You should be able to make three or four bags with 1/3 yard of 45" or 60" fabric.
  • 5-6 cups short or medium grain white rice, or your grain of choice.  See discussion of different grains, #8  below.
  • Large-mouth funnel (makes pouring in rice SO much easier).  A narrow funnel won't work because the rice gets too crowded to flow through.
  1. Measure and cut a rectangle of fabric 12 x 15 inches.  This does not have to be exact, but it should be exactly rectangular.
  2. Fold in half - you choose which way you want to fold it.  Short is good for feet; long is good for warming your neck.
  3. Using a tight and narrow zigzag stitch and 3/8" seam, sew right sides together, leaving an opening on one narrow end just wide enough for your funnel.
  4. Trim corners.
  5. Turn right side out.
  6. Stitch again 1/4 from seams and folded edge, remembering to leave the opening open.  This second stitching is VERY IMPORTANT.  Prevents rice leakage.
  7. Pour in 5-6 cups of rice.  When you fill the bag, you want it floppy, but not so thin that it loses heat quickly. 
  8. Short or medium grain rice works well; it is scent free, and the rounded grains move well and are less poky than long grain rice. Flax seed has a wonderful feel, but smells like linseed oil when heated. Potpourri is an interesting addition for foot warmers, but I wouldn't want that perfume next to my face. I have a buckwheat neck bag that works very well, but it smells like pancakes when warmed. Millet or barley are other options.
  9. Sew opening closed with a tight top stitch, making sure all rice grains are at the other end of the bag! Repeat 1/8" close to the first stitching.
To use:  
  1. Microwave for 2-3 minutes.  
  2. Tuck bag into the foot area of your bed 10-30 minutes before you go to bed.  
  3. Your tootsies will be warm and toasty.  It's amazing how long these bags keep their heat!
I have received warnings and recommendations from several people that the rice can dry out over time and should not be over heated for fear of causing the rice to smolder and start a fire.  The recommendation given by a couple of friends is to microwave for no more than 90 seconds.  I have microwaved my bag for 2.5 - 3 minutes almost every night for three winters, and it comes out of the microwave moist.  I put the bag on the chair by the bed during the day, so it has plenty of access to room air during the day - probably the source of the humidity, which sounds like it's a good thing.  I suspect my rice bags are larger and can therefore take a longer time in the microwave.  Take heed, however.