Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hand Warmer Tutorial

Awhile back my grandma asked me to make her some rice handwarmers. She had a few stipulations and suggestions of course (this is the grandma who taught me how to sew, she's quite particular about this kind of thing!). She wanted them for driving, so because of that she wanted to wear them on the back of her hand so she could still grip the wheel. Also, they were to have channels so all the rice doesn't gather in one corner. She also wanted them for Christmas, and so I had only a week to come up with something!

Why reinvent the wheel, so I scoured the internet looking for the ideal tutorial. There are plenty out there, but most are no more than a beanbag you hold in your hand. I knew this would never do, so this kept me awake for several nights until the perfect idea popped into my head - a handwarmer with its very own pouch strapped to your hand to hold it in place! It can still fit under a glove or mitten or be worn alone, which is what I plan to do with my own set when my hands get cold from typing all day at work. I decided to make a tutorial during construction of the second set for all you folks out there with hands as cold as mine!

I've put together a sort of photo collage, but there's also written instructions below. The photos seem to have lost some sharpness when I collaged them so if something's not clear let me know!

Materials list

In addition to the usual suspects - sewing machine, scissors or rotary cutter, ruler, iron - you will need:

Rice for filler, I didn't measure but probably half a cup
Two pieces of flannel measuring 9.5" x 4.5"
Four pieces muslin or cotton measuring 4" square
Two pieces 0.25" wide elastic cut to 4" length
Velcro, I used two sets of the little sew-on circle pairs


1. Begin assembling the rice bags! Remember you are making two. Begin by pairing two pieces of muslin (if your fabric has a print these will be wrong sides together) and sewing a 1/4 inch seam around three sides. Trim your seam and clip the corners, being careful not to cut the stitches. Turn and press flat.

2. Sew another 1/4 inch seam around the same three sides. You want to catch the previous seam in this seam allowance so there's no stray threads on the outside. Turn and press again, now it looks normal on the outside - photo 2 - but you have no raw edges inside the bag. (Why do we do it this way? No shoddy seams here! I think a mini rice explosion while on your way to work in the morning would be wrong way to start the day.)

3. Sew the channels for the rice now. I just divided the bag into rough thirds and stitched a straight line, stopping 1/2 inch from the open edge. No need to be exact with the width of the channels. I didn't take a photo of this, but now would be a good time to fold down both sides of the open end 1/4 of an inch and press. You'll be sewing the bag closed here later and it's easier to fold the seam down when the bag is empty.

4. Fill with rice! I used a small kitchen funnel, or you can make a paper cone. Fill so the channel is full but not so much that the bag is stiff. Then using either your machine or a whipstitch, close the bag at the seam you pressed in step three. Your rice bags are complete! If you need to change the rice out in the future, this seam is where you can remove the stitching for refilling.

5. Now we move on to the flannel pouch. Turn a 1/4 inch hem on the long sides and press. On the short sides, turn a 1/4 inch and press then repeat. Topstitch the short sides only.

6. Time for Velcro attachment. On the wrong side of the flannel, place the soft piece of Velcro at one end in the center, as close as you can get to the seam without overlapping and stitch it down. This is best seen in photo 7 actually. You will have stitches showing on the right side of the flannel, so make sure your bobbin thread matches and try to make the stitches look nice. You could also glue a button down later to pretty it up a bit! For the second piece of Velcro, the rough one, you'll have to figure out the placement based on where you put the first piece. Make a mark six inches from the edge without the Velcro. Fold up the flannel into a pouch with the edge at the mark. Fold the flap over, see if it fits. Adjust it until it looks perfect. Now make a mark on the right side of the flannel where the other piece of Velcro should go and stitch it down.

7. Now we close up the pouch and attach the elastic. Fold up the bottom of the pouch to the mark again and pin it in place. Insert the edge of the elastic into one side of the pouch and pin or hold it in place. It should be about in the middle. Starting at the top of the flap, stitch all the way down to seal up one side of the pouch, making sure to catch the elastic in the seam. Flip the pouch over and sew the elastic down again as in photo 8 to secure it to the back of the pouch.

8. Sewing up the other side will be a bit trickier. You should be looking at the back side of the pouch. Tuck in the other end of the elastic, I recommend pinning it into place. The pouch will bunch up. From the back side, stitch down the side of the pouch starting at the bottom this time. I backstitched over the elastic to secure it.

Now heat up the rice bags, pop them into their pouches and wear your new warmers!  Since personal preferences and microwaves vary, I recommend starting with 30 seconds (ouch! more like 15 or 20 seconds) and working your way up. The rice bag fits with the channels horizontally, by the way. Enjoy! I'd love to hear if anyone makes their own!

**Here is a tip now that I've tested out my own set. Maybe add a drop of essential oil or a bit of potpourri. When you heat it up it smells like dinner is ready! Lavender is a nice relaxing scent to try.

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