DIY Aromatherapy Rice Packs
When I was in junior high my school class did a whole bunch of fundraisers to try to earn money for a class trip to Peru. One of the more original ideas was to sew rice pack bears and sell them at the local craft fairs. I remember many Saturdays in friends basements trying to figure out the most efficient production process for these little bears. I also remember sitting the booth at a few of these craft fairs, trying to push our bounty.
I loved the idea of these rice packs and their cute, cuddly nature. If I remember right I even convinced my mom to purchase one (which in no way benefitted our fundraising) and it very quickly got a hole in it, because inexperienced Jr High kids had sewn them.
And I of course was devastated.
But it would be many years later, not until I was in college, that I would replace this little soothing pack with another handmade one.
And I still have it almost 10 years later.
And now, my almost 4 year old has claimed it as her own.
One night about a year or so ago, she woke in the middle of the night, crying, seeming to be uncomfortable, and we had a hard time soothing her.
Finally I thought maybe her shins were bothering her, maybe she was having “growing pains”. I remember these waking me in the middle of the night and having the hardest time settling back down and going to sleep.
So I gave her some Motrin, and warmed up my trusty rice pack and placed it across her shins. And she immediately calmed down and was fine to take her milk and settle back down.
And ever since that night she wants her rice pack on her legs, warming her tiny body up as she drifts off to dreamland.
And I’ve been meaning to make a replacement, among other shapes and sizes.
Because honestly, they are so versatile.
Of course they are great for aches and pains. But also for menstrual cramps, stomach aches, and cold feet.
And they can be cooled in the fridge or freezer and used as a soft, no melt ice pack, or amazing natural headache soother when laid across the forehead/eyes.
They can also be comforting for little infants, laid next to them when heated to a warm, not hot, temp.
These are the perfect stash busting project to use up some extra fabric, and so easy to make. You can sew them in just about any shape you can cut out, and you might as well make some extras to stash away for future gifts.
I made these with only materials I already had, nothing bought specifically for this project. These things included:
Fabric - stash works great! You can even get creative and piece a little patchwork/quilt pieced one if you don’t have single fabrics big enough for your desired size! The one I made uses two pieces of 6.5” x 20.5” fabric to make a long rectangle. Of course as I said before, you can cut these in just about any size and shape, just make sure you have enough fabric for two pieces, front and back.
** I recommend 100% cotton fabric or some nice flannel would be super cozy! Don’t use anything synthetic that might melt in the microwave**
Rice or other filling - for my regular rice packs I use long grain white rice. Don’t use instant as it will cook and soften over time! You can also use uncooked beans, or flax seed. I have a small flax seed eye “pillow” that is the perfect combination of cold and pressure for headaches.
Basic sewing materials - sewing materials I used were a standard machine and setup including thread and bobbin, iron and ironing board, pins, a rotary cutter, and a straight edge fabric ruler.
Optional - essential oils or dried lavender for scenting the rice. You can use lavender, orange, eucalyptus, or any other relaxing/soothing scent or blend. A funnel for filling the rice packs. I don’t have a kitchen or craft funnel, shocking I know. Instead I simply rolled a piece of paper into one and taped the corner in place. You can also use a paper plate and fold it in half.
This project can be done same day, however if you have time for a bit of prep I would recommend it. If your fabric is new, I would wash, dry, and iron it before sewing since it will come into contact with your skin, and will only be spot clean-able.
If you’d like to add essential oils to your rice, pour your rice into a ziplock, add the desired amount of oils (slightly stronger than desired as it will dissipate with microwaving and use) and seal in the ziplock. The longer you can let it sit, the better the rice will take in the scent. I would shoot for a minimum of 24hrs.
Cut out two pieces of your desired shape/size. If you are doing an asymmetrical pattern, make sure your pieces match with right sides facing.
While right sides are facing, sew along your pack edges using a 1/4” seam allowance. Leave one edge open for filling with rice. I left a long edge open, as I will be sewing “Sections” into my pack to help keep the rice evenly dispersed. I would highly recommend this for any packs larger than about 4” x 4”. Decide before sewing which direction your divisions will go. Then leave an edge open perpendicular to where your divisions will be. So your open seam will run along the top of the sections.
Turn your pack right side out through your open section. Make sure to fully turn all corners. I ironed mine so my seams were pulled tight. I also folded in my open edges and ironed them so I won’t have to fight with them when sewing it closed.
Now divide your pack into your sections evenly. For this one I chose to do four sections, dividing about every 5”. Mark each division with a pin. Then sew the length of your divisions through both layers, back stitching on both ends. You don’t need to go all the way to the edge, just close.
Stand your pack up with the open sections at the top. Use your funnel to fill each section equally (it doesn’t have to be perfect). I filled mine about 1/2 - 3/4 full. How full you’d like yours is up to you, I prefer a medium fill. Too much and the pack will be stiff and won’t conform to you very well. Too little and the heat won’t hold and disperse evenly.
Once your sections are all filled, use your pins to pin your two layers together and hold the rice in place. Be sure to leave as much room as you can for your sewing foot.
Now sew the open section closed using only about a 1/8” seam allowance. Make sure to catch both layers.
**Alternatively you can hand stitch this section closed for a more “invisible” seam.**
And that’s it! Heat in microwave for warmth, depending on desired heat level. I use 45 sec - 1 min for a warmer but not scalding hot to be used over clothing or a sheet (Please keep in mind that microwaves vary and always test on yourself before using on a child, baring in mind that their skin is much more sensitive than yours.) Use it to soothe those aches, pains, and bones on cold days. Or cool it for some soft relief.
And be sure to make extras for gifts!
Have you ever made/used a rice pack before? If so, what’s your preferred filler? And if you like them scented, what’s your favorite relaxing scent?
Let me know in the comments below! Or, tag me in an Instagram post with @Peoniesandcream or #Peoniesandcream.
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