February 24, 2003
More Ways to Make Rice Bags for Comfort
Alicia, Alexandra Andrews. Judy Lipshie, Sharon Robbins, and Glenda Strieter
Quick Rice Bag
An extremely quick and effective way to make a homemade neck warmer is to take an old cotton sock (large size) fill it with rice and tie a knot in the end or have a friend with a sewing machine stitch across the end. I have one and it works fine....just pop it in the macrowave for 90 seconds or so when you want to use it. Just be careful not to burn yourself....they can get surprisingly hot quickly depending upon the strenght of your microwave.
The Sweet Smell of Comfort
Rice Bag Instructions:
I make mine in chambers, out of unbleached muslin. I determine the width and length I want (wider for the back area and narrower for the neck) then divide the space in quarters. Sew both long sides and one short side, then fill the first quarter with rice and whatever herbal tea (or aromatherapy essential oil) you want, then sew it so that the rice won't spill into the next chamber, and so on until all four chambers are filled. Then, I make a case (or sleeve) of whatever soft, washable fabric I choose and slip the rice bag inside. (Think of it as a pillow and pillowcase.) This allows me to wash the outer case whenever it is needed without wetting and possibly damaging the rice and tea.
I started using herbal teas because I already had them on hand in a variety of flavors (scents), but the essential oils would probably work just as well or better.
Be sure to use long grain rice, rather than instant. When heated in the microwave for around 3 mintures, it will retain the heat for about 30 minutes - sometimes longer. I also keep a much smaller one (about 12" x 6") in the freezer. Sometimes the cold feels better on my neck than heat. Other times, I alternate a hot bag, then a cold one.
Rice Bag Warmer
Start with a towel - most are made with a fingertip (guest) towel, but I've also used hand towels. Fold in half right sides together - vertically or horizontally - whatever dimension is best for the part you want to warm up. Vertical is nice for neck wraps, horizontal on a hand towel is great for achy knees or ankles.
Sew two sides, leaving one short side open for filling. Turn the bag inside-out. Get the cheapest rice you can find - generic, bulk, etc.
Pour the rice into the bag till it is filled to your liking. If it's a little bit underfilled, it will form better to your body. Packed too tight it will tend to roll off.
Sew up the last side from the outside. Might have to use a zipper foot if the bag is more on the full side.
A variation of this basic recipe is to cut a piece of muslin the same dimensions as your towel. Make a bag out of the muslin, fill with rice and sew closed. Use the towel to make a 'pillowcase' for the muslin bag of rice. Sew some velcro to the 3rd side so that you can remove the inner bag -- allowing you to toss the outer bag into the wash.
You can add rosemary or lavender, etc. to the rice which makes it an aromatherapy bag too. I like to do this, the smell of hot rice isn't the greatest in the world.
If you want to be fancy, embroider the towel or do some other kind of embellishment before sewing it up.
Quickie or emergency rice bag: grab a tube athletic sock from the unmatched sock pile in the laundry room. Fill the sock with rice, and sew the top closed. If you don't sew, you could probably just put in a bit less rice and tie a knot in the top of the sock.
All rice bags: Heat for 3 1/2 to 4 minutes on high heat, depending on the power of your microwave and how hot you want it. The rice bag will stay warm for quite some time (up to an hour). Also great as a footwarmer! I gave one to my parents several years ago - they had achy knees and backs - but their favorite thing to do with it was warm their tootsies after being out shoveling snow.
Great subject for a cold Minnesota day!! Think I'll go heat my big one up and put it on my feet....
Herbal Rice Bags
I can't really think of a quick way to do them. The tube sock isn't bad. But I like them longer for around the neck. The way I do them is to take a strip of muslin, fold it, stitch the two sides, leaving the top open, fill it with the herbs and rice and stitch it closed.
I use lavender and chamomile in some, spearmint and calendula in others. I personally like the lavender best. I have one that's over a year old and has been in the microwave a zillion times......still get that great scent every time I heat it.
I have made the bigger, longer ones with channels. It keeps the rice (and heat) up around your neck rather than all settling at the ends.
I do a different size....about 12 by 12......for the doc's office. Great for bringing up those veins.
Other variations are to use popcorn kernels, oatmeal or a combination with rice. Remember! If the ricebag is too hot to touch. It is too hot to put next to your skin. You want it warm not burning.