12 days of crafting: rice-filled neck warmer

12 days of crafting handmade christmas gifts handmade christmas decorFrom December 1-12, I’ll be blogging about some fun ideas to create a handmade Christmas. Hopefully you will be inspired to craft some Christmas gifts or decor for your own home!

Day 5: Rice-Filled Neck Warmer

Today my friend Janelle is here to share a great crafty gift idea with us! Janelle was my other crafty college roommate, and unlike me, she actually knows how to use a sewing machine. Like really knows – not just getting by with small projects like me. She made me this awesome purse that even strangers go out of their way to compliment. Anyways, luckily for us, the project she is sharing is doable for even us non-sewers! So without further ado, here she is…

“Hi everyone! I’m so excited to share one of my favorite handmade gifts with you.

About seven years ago, I bought a cherry stone-filled neck warmer at a German Christmas market, and it has been my best friend ever since. I love it so much that I decided to make some as Christmas gifts a few years back. I made 25 that year—one for everyone on my list—and that was the first and last year that I’ve given a gift that every single person loved!

Heated neck warmers may be nothing new, but they are still wonderful. I love to put mine in the foot of the bed before I climb in so my toes stay toasty during the night. I have also heard claims that you can also freeze them like an ice pack, but I’ve never tried it.

You can use lots of different filler materials:

  • rice
  • flax seed
  • deer corn
  • cherry stones

Cherry stones are the very best for holding heat, but they’re hard to find. And it takes a lot of eating to save up enough during the summer. If you decide to try it, make sure you clean them really well. Rubbing them under water with a rough towel, then drying them out in the oven should be good. (Or, like me, accidentally spill a giant jar full into your garbage disposal while it’s running, forcing yourself to later fish each individual stone out. The stones will be clean, but you will have a rattle in the disposal for a few weeks!)

Flax seed is a great option if you can find it on sale. It makes a soft-feeling warmer. If you choose this filler, make sure to set your stitches very tight so no flax seeds escape the case.

Today we’ll be using rice, because it’s inexpensive and you probably already have some in your kitchen.

So let’s get started!

diy rice-filled neck warmer

For one warmer, you will need:

  • a plain (inner) piece of fabric, 21” x 10.5”
  • a patterned (outer) piece of fabric, 44” (or width of fabric) x 6”
  • 3 cups of rice or other filler material
  • a funnel or measuring cup with a spout (for pouring the rice)
  • a sewing machine
  • a pencil and ruler

diy rice-filled neck warmer

Begin by making the inner case for your warmer. Fold your plain fabric along the long side, right sides together. Stitch ½” around the long end and one of the short sides. Flip the case right side out.

diy rice-filled neck warmer

Now, draw lines 5” apart on the case, leaving an extra half inch on each end for a seam allowance, dividing the case into four parts. Make sure your lines are easy to see— you’ll thank yourself later.

diy rice-filled neck warmer

Pour ¾ cup of rice into the case. Carefully push all the rice into the bottom of the section, then sew straight down the first line. The rice tends to distort the fabric, so follow your line carefully and hold the fabric tight. Make sure to use a small stitch so the rice doesn’t escape its little chamber!

Fill the next three sections exactly the same way, stitching them shut as you go. Doing this means you can sling the warmer over your neck and the rice will stay evenly distributed.

diy rice-filled neck warmer

When you get to the last section, flip the raw edge inside the case and stitch shut so it looks pretty. Why not, right?

diy rice-filled neck warmer

Technically, you can quit here if you like. But how boring! Let’s make a cute cover. This will provide a bit more insulation for the rice, and protect your tender skin from burns. Plus, it’s fun!

diy rice-filled neck warmer

We’re making a basic envelope-style case. I’m going to assume you’re as lazy as me and want to avoid extra sewing, so we’ll use the selvedges instead of finishing seams. Lay your outer fabric down, wrong side facing up, and put the inner case on top.

See the printed selvedge on the left? Find the prettier side of your fabric and fold it over the end so about 6” of the case is covered.  Now, if you have a white selvedge, wrap it over the other end so it’s the top fabric of the overlap.

See how the ends overlap in the middle? That will keep the inner case from falling out. You should have about 2” of overlap.

diy rice-filled neck warmer

If you, like me, have more than about 2” of overlap, fold the edge back on itself so the overlap isn’t so large. This will make it easier to get the inner case in and out.

diy rice-filled neck warmer

Pin the overlap, and throw a few pins on the long sides to keep them in place while you’re at it. Sew the two long edges together. If you have pinking shears, give a little chop chop to the raw edges so they won’t fray in the laundry. Flip the case right side out and slide your rice warmer inside. You’re done!

diy rice-filled neck warmer

Who wouldn’t want to see this peeking out of their stocking on Christmas morning?

Some final notes:

  • Heat your warmer for about 1 ½ to 2 minutes in the microwave. You’ll want to experiment with the perfect time for you.
  • Microwaved rice smells… odd. So do cherry stones, corn, and flax seed, for that matter. And after a while, you will probably smell that hot rice and think, “Yay! The smell of warmth!” (Or maybe that’s just me.) But if you want to counteract it, try mixing dried lavender or mint leaves in with the rice before you fill the inner case.”

Thanks Janelle! I don’t have a neck warmer (take note, Janelle!) but my mom does, and I’ve been known to use it when I’m over at their house. Seriously, they do make such a nice gift – especially for warmth-loving people such as myself! Whose stocking will you make one for this year?

In case you missed it…
Day 1: Christmas Kissing Ball
Day 2: Vanilla-Infused English Breakfast Tea
Day 3: Iris Paper Folding
Day 4: Paper Circle Garland


14 thoughts on “12 days of crafting: rice-filled neck warmer

  1. Love all your creative ideas, Sara! Now I just wish I would sit down and make some of them! ): Love and miss you lots. Shirley

  2. Janelle made one for me last week and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve already used it. What a great gift… and before Christmas it made a double-good surprise.

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