Monday, May 2, 2011

Tutorial: Heat Therapy Pillow

Awhile back you might have read this post about heat therapy pillows I made.  If you didn't read before, basically they're small pillows filled with rice or flax seed that you can keep in the freezer and use as ice packs or microwave to use as heating pads.  They make wonderful, inexpensive and thoughtful gifts for a variety of occasions.  I think they're perfect for get well, Christmas, Mother's Day (hint!) and "just because" presents.

I've received lots of positive feedback on mine, so guess what?  Today I'm going to teach you how to make one for yourself!  My heat therapy pillows feature removable pillow shams for easy cleaning.  Join me after the break for the tutorial by clicking "read more."

Ready?  Here we go!  Here's all you'll need:
  • Two 10.5 in. x 6 in. rectangles of muslin
  • One 10.5 in. x 6 in. rectangle of main fabric
  • One 7 in. x 6 in. rectangle of main fabric (I usually use regular cotton prints, but I recently discovered flannel makes them nice and snuggly!)
  • One 5 in. x 6 in. rectangle of main fabric
  • 1 pound bag of rice or flax seed ( Note: flax seed feels a little nicer, but rice is cheaper and almost as good)
  • Sewing paraphernalia

    First, let's make the pillow cover.  The cover is removable so that it can be washed if it gets dirty or germy from, say, cooling off a fever.  It's just like making a removable pillow sham for a regular pillow.  But if you've never done that before, I'll walk you through it. :)

    Step 1:

    Take your 7 in. x 6 in. and 5 in. x 6 in. rectangles of main fabric and fold them over on one of the 6 in. edges about 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch.  Iron the folds, pin down and sew to finish off the edges that will be exposed when the pillow is finished.

    Step 2:

    Next, take your 10.5 x 6 in. rectangle of main fabric and pin it to the 5 in. x 6 in. rectangle with right sides facing together.  Make sure your finished edge on the smaller rectangle faces the inside of the bigger rectangle (rather than touching one of the edges of the big rectangle).  Sew around the three touching edges, but do not sew the finished edge of the smaller rectangle.

    Step 3:

    Now, take your remaining main fabric rectangle (7 in. x 6 in) and place it right side together on top of the 10.5 in. x 6 in. main fabric rectangle.  It will overlap with the piece you just sewed on.  This is how it's supposed to work!  :)  Pin down and sew around the three touching edges.

    Step 4:

    Cut the corners off your pillow cover, being careful not to cut any of your stitching.  Flip the pillow right side out.  Poke the corners with a pencil from the inside if necessary and iron the whole thing flat.

    Congratulations!  You made your pillow cover. :)

    Now on to the easy part--the actual pillow.

    Step 5:

    Take your two 10.5 x 6 in. muslin and pin them right sides facing together.  Sew around the edges, leaving about 3 inches on one of the 6 in. sides open.  Be sure to back stitch!  You'll want your stitches to be nice and secure so rice/flax seed doesn't end up everywhere.

    Step 6:

    Cut your corners and flip your pillow right side out again.  Iron the seams.  It's a good idea to tuck the un-sewn side under and iron it down, too.  It'll make it easier to close the gap later.

    Step 7:

    Now open your 1 lb. bag of rice/flax seed and start funneling, spooning or pouring it into the muslin pillow you just made.  This part is personal taste.  You can use the whole bag or just part of it, depending on how full you want your pillow to be.  I usually fill mine about 2/3 full.

    Step 8:

    Once your pillow is full of rice/flax, pin the 3 inch opening together and sew it shut.  Be sure to back stitch and close the whole gap securely.

    Step 9:

    Now, what you've all been waiting for!  Stick your rice pillow inside your pillow cover and ta-da!  Pop it in the freezer to have on hand for next time you need an ice pack.  (Hint:  You can easily go from cold to hot by putting it in the microwave, but it's hard to go from room temperature to cold, so always store in your freezer.)

    Step 10 (optional):

    If you're making this for someone as a gift, you might want to consider making little tags that describe what it is and how to use it.  I like to print mine in a fun font from the computer, cut them out and paste them to pretty cardstock.  Then you can either safety pin them to the pillow or hole punch and tie it on with a ribbon.

    Now you're all set to whip up a bunch for yourself or your friends!  Happy sewing and please feel free to contact me with questions, comments or pictures of finished projects.  I'd love to hear from you.  :)


    1. Thanks for the pics and directions on making the "pillowcase". I just couldn't wrap my brain around the process of doing that, but your pictures and explanation made it easy! ~Donna

    2. Glad I could help you, Donna! Hope your pillow turned out fabulous! :)

    3. Thank you for the great FAST and EASY project. I am making them today for teachers gifts to present tomorrow. It's a terrific idea.

      Also the fabric requirements are great for FAT QUARTERS or 1/4 yd. My daughter chose from my fabric stash and we were on our way.

      Thanks so much for sharing and the beautiful well-detailed tutorial is extremly helpful.

      1. Thanks for the feedback! I'm glad you found my tutorial useful and I hope your teachers love their pillows! Thanks for stopping by!

    4. I am a beginner sewer and I didn't have any problems at all. It was easy and fast and mine doesn't look as good as yours, but it works :)


    Your comments brighten my day, so comment away! (Hey, that rhymes!) As always, thanks for reading. :)

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