Our family mantra is that some of the best memories are made outside. We’re an active family, enjoying fresh air as much as possible – all year long. Believe it or not, we do don’t even keep our television plugged in. Along with all of our outdoor adventures comes many owies to tend to, from scratches and bruises to deep muscle aches. Years ago, my mom tipped me off on the kid-safe heating pad/ice pack idea of using reusable rice bags; I’ve adapted her recipe into an anti-inflammatory bag of wonder.
These rice bags are not difficult or expensive to make, but they do take a little time. I have made a simple square one for each of my children, and have given many more shoulder-size rectangles to friends and family. You can use your rice bag as a heating pad by nuking it in the microwave for a couple minutes and you also can keep one in the freezer as an “ice pack.”
Supplies for Shoulder-Size Rice Bag
¼ yard of heavy 100% cotton flannel
¼ yard of heavy 100% cotton flannel in a coordinating color
All-purpose thread to match fabric
Rotary cutter and mat, or sharp scissors
4 cups jasmine rice
1/3 cup whole allspice
1/3 cup cinnamon sticks – busted up into little chunks
1/3 cup black peppercorns
1/3 cup whole cloves
Combine the rice and spices in a bowl and set aside. Then, cut one 9″ x 23″ rectangle from each piece of flannel.
At Your Sewing Machine
1. Pin the fabric rectangles right sides together.
2. Sew all the way around the two long sides and one short side, leaving one short end open for adding rice. Remember to pivot at the corners and to lock your seam at the beginning and end of these seams.
3. Trim the three sides and cut the corners at an angle.
4. Flip the bag right side out again.
5. Fold the bag into thirds and mark with pins.
6. Open the bag and pour a third of the rice mix to fill the first pocket. Note, you want to be able to conform the pad to your neck, so don’t overfill it.
7. Hold the pad up vertically so the rice falls to the bottom of the first pocket you marked earlier with pins. I find it helpful to hold the rice pocket with one hand and guide the fabric as it is sewn using the other hand. This way, little pieces of the rice mixture don’t sneak over and get in the way of your needle. If you need to, you can pin along the line.
8. Sew a vertical line of stitching at the first line to make the bottom pocket.
9. Repeat for the next pocket.
10. Fill the last pocket, then fold the open edges inward and sew the edge shut.
Using Your Rice Bag as a Heating Pad
To use your rice bag as a heating pad, microwave the bag for 1-2 minutes. Test the bag to make sure it’s not too hot, as microwaves vary with how quickly they heat.
Using Your Rice Bag as an Ice Pack
To use your rice bag as an ice pack, simply toss the bag into the freezer for an hour. We keep one in the freezer at all times.
Words to the Wise
You can make any size rice bag you want – simply cut the fabric with a 1” margin. I have made 2”x2” rice bags to use as reusable hand warmers in mittens and boots during the cold snaps of winter.
Be sure to keep the rice bag dry. If it gets wet, your rice will begin to swell and cook and need to be thrown away.
My favorite materials are heavy 100% cotton flannel remnants from our local quilt store, jasmine rice, and a blend of anti-inflammatory herbs from the Bulk Foods section. Alone, whole peppercorn isn’t all that interesting. But when you pair it with allspice, cloves and cinnamon, the combination is incredibly good. It has soothed more achy muscles than I care to remember.
If I could find a way to share how incredibly wonderful this all smells, I would love to send you a whiff through your screen. Once you make your first rice bag, don’t be surprised when you soon find yourself shopping for flannel. These little anti-inflammatory bags of wonder truly are terrific!
Coborn’s, Inc. Communications Manager
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