Thursday, December 6, 2012

Rice Bags - A Tutorial

Rice bags have become a must-have for our house. They can be used to soothe sore muscles, warm cold feet, ice bumps and bruises, and even help relieve headaches. The rice holds both heat and cold, so you can warm these bags in the microwave to turn them into heating pads or keep one in the freezer to use in place of an ice pack if somebody gets injured. The best part about these rice bags is that they are cheap and simple to make!

I use a few different methods to create these bags, but I'll share the one I think looks the best when finished. To make a rice bag like the one above, you need to start with a rectangular piece of fabric. My rectangle for this tutorial measured approximately 11 inches x 17 inches, which made a bag that is approx 5.5 x 16, but you can use whatever size you prefer. We have several sizes and shapes of these bags in the house.

You can also use different types of fabric. Here, I'm using duck fabric. Natural fibers are recommended, since these will be going into the microwave and synthetic fibers can sweat. And PLEASE don't use any fabrics made with metallic threads. Metal and microwaves just don't play nicely together.

Fold your fabric lengthwise, right sides facing together, and pin along the long edge.

Sew along that edge, making a tube of fabric. When making these bags, I like to do a double seam. This way, there's a back up in case one seam fails. Let's face it - nobody wants to clean a floor covered with rice that fought its way out of the bag. I made these seams with 1/4" and 3/8" seam allowances. And since I'm using a fabric that unravels pretty badly, I also used a zig zag stitch along the very edge to help combat that. Fray Stop would have worked, but I ran out several projects ago and just can't seem to remember to pick more up when I'm at the store.

Now adjust your seam so that it's in the center of your fabric tube and press it.

Fold just one end over one inch and press it down.

Time to head back over to your sewing machine. Sew the unfolded end closed. I used the same double seam and zig zag stitch I mentioned above.

Now turn your tube right side out. Use something with a dull point (oxymoron?) to get those corners nice and pointy.

Top stitch a double seam along the closed end of your bag, again at 1/4" and 3/8". This is not needed for functionality, but it will make your bag symmetric when you're finished. You'll see what I mean.

Before I proceeded, I used a zig zag stitch along that last unfinished edge that had been folded over, then tucked that little flap back down inside my bag. You can skip this step if you're not using a fabric that frays so badly (I only do with when using duck fabric).

Now it's time to add the rice. Don't use instant rice for this. You can use corn (not popcorn!), beans, or any other grain to fill these bags, too. I've heard that barley works great, but I haven't tried it yet.

You don't want to fill the bag too full. I only fill the bags about halfway. This leaves the rice plenty of room to move around and form to whatever part of your body you are applying it to. For a bag this size, I used about 4 cups of rice.

Now it's time to pin those folded under ends of your tube together.

Sew a double seam here, with the same allowances you've used throughout the project. This end will look just like the other end and you are done!

 As I mentioned before, these can be made in all different sizes and shapes. Below are a few of them that we use here at my house. The long one is almost 2 feet long and is great for applying heat to sore backs or necks. The medium sized ones are my daughter's favorites. She heats them before bed and puts them under the blanket down by her feet. Nice toasty toes! The little denim one are the perfect size to heat up and put in your coat pockets if you need to go out for a while on a cold day. All of them can double as cold compresses, too. Since I run a daycare, I can never have too many of those around! No matter what you use them for most often, I can almost guarantee that once you start using these rice bags you'll never want to be without one again!


  1. I love that Chevron fabric! Rice packs are a must in this house too.

    1. I don't know how our feet ever stayed warm without them!