Introduction: Sew Very Useful Neck Cooler

Picture of Sew Very Useful Neck Cooler

Boy, is it ever summer here in the Midwest! What can we do to beat the heat other than staying inside like houseplants? Sport a water-activated neck cooler and feel several degrees cooler! Made of 100% cotton material and polymer crystals, these are easy to make and feel great!

Who likes them? Wonderful for sports (both participants and spectators), horseback riding, fieldwork/gardening, laborers such as roofers or construction workers, parking meter attendants, any outdoor activity!

Makes a great gift for anyone whose job or recreation puts them in a warm environment.

Servicemen and women stationed in hot areas really appreciate these. As much as some of them might like bright coolers like the one below, regulations state they must be green camo, desert camo, tan, or military green so keep this in mind if making some to send in care packages.

Also great for dogs (supervised only, please).

This brightly colored neck cooler is available to purchase through Etsy.

Step 1: Gather All Materials

Picture of Gather All Materials

100% cotton fabric (prewash all fabric so that colors will not bleed when cooler is wet)
Water absorbing polymer crystals (see suppliers below*)

Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
sewing machine or hand-sewing needle

*The most common brand of crystals is Watersorb. You can visit their website here: Watersorb. You can also sometimes find them at gardening centers as these are the type of crystals you add to containers to help them retain moisture.

Safety tip: Crystals are nontoxic but if eaten dry, they will expand. If a small dog or child eats a bellyful of dry crystals, it could cause problems. Please keep loose crystals away from pets and kids.

Step 2: Create Fabric Tube

Picture of Create Fabric Tube

Cut fabric into a strip 4 1/2 inches wide by 40-45 inches long. This can most easily be done by cutting from selvage to selvage. (Selvage are the finished edges of the fabric as opposed to the raw edges that fray.)

Fold right sides together along a long edge and pin. Sew along the edge to create a long tube.

Step 3: Turn and Press

Picture of Turn and Press

Turn the tube right side out. Press (iron) the length of the tube with the seam at the center, not at a fold.

Step 4: Stitch Across and Add Crystals

Picture of Stitch Across and Add Crystals

Find the center of the tube and stitch across the center. Make sure to lock your stitches each time by backstitching a few stitches so the dry crystals won't shift.

Using a funnel, fill both halves of the tube with 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of crystals. Shake them down until they reach the center seam. Do not be tempted to use more. The crystals hold a tremendous amount of water and will swell many times their dry size. Too many crystals could put stress on the seams as well as make the gel ooze out of the fabric's weave making it feel slimy.

Meaure 4 1/2 inches to each side of your center mark and stitch across the tube again at these marks. Repeat the addition of 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of crystals to both sides.

Measure 4 1/2 inches from your last stitch lines and sew across to form a second pocket on each side. You should now have four pockets filled with 1/8th teaspoon of crystals.

Step 5: Finish Ends.

Picture of Finish Ends.

Cut your ends at an angle and fold the edges inward to create a hem. Iron flat and sew across this hem to finish your cooler.

Step 6: How to Use.

Picture of How to Use.

Soak your neck cooler in water for 30 minutes to activate the crystals. After the first 10-15 minutes, smoosh the crystals around to evenly distribute them in each pocket, then soak for the remaining time. Once it has expanded, lightly squeegee the excess water off the outside with your hand if you don't want it to drip on you too much.

Tie around you neck (or your dog's neck) and enjoy the cool, evaporative effect. It should keep you cool for 3-5 hours depending on the temperature outside. To regenerate it's cooling effect, simply soak it in cool water for a few minutes (1-3 minutes should do) and replace around your neck.

Your cooler can also be a heating pad. Soak in water as for cooling, then pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds!

Care: When you want to store the cooler, just let it sit out on a counter to dry completely and it will return to it's flat state. Hand wash in mild soap.

And for safety's sake, always wear sunscreen and keep hydrate when you are in the sun!


kellyjo163 (author)2018-01-17

Is it possible to also add essential oils to the crystals? I would be using certified theraputic grade oils that would be safe should they come in cotact with skin

Gmharper51 (author)2017-07-20

Hi. It takes 100-125 dry swelled crystals to fill a 4-1/2" section. I poured dry crystals in a jar and let them swell into a large pea size, then put beads on my section and counted. Wow. Easier to count. I also freeze my scarves to set faster in the high desert heat of 100-118 weather. My pilot friends and civil air patrol members will like them.

douglasse (author)2016-04-22

How do you store these bandanas for future use

WallyC1 (author)douglasse2016-07-27

Hang over a towel bar until totally dry back to a crystal. Then just store them.

AndreaH68 (author)douglasse2016-06-19

Just let them dry out and store them away

This is so perfect. I volunteer at horse ranch and i want to make 10 or so. That way the othef volunteers can grab one and use while they work. Thank you so much.

nanarosie6 (author)2015-09-18







JuneS5 (author)2015-08-15

I have used the railroad version and love them. They are made with a knit fabric that stretches in all directions and doesn't mold. Then I bought a cotton one which ripped the first time I squeezed extra water out and grew mold because it was wet for two days.

ziplock91 (author)2015-06-02

These are Awsome!

Darkknight0667 (author)2010-08-19

In this step, you mention, twice, filling the different sections with 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of the crystals. Then, in the last sentence you say, "You should now have four pockets filled with 1/8th teaspoon of crystals." Can you just clarify if that last line is a typo? Thanks. Great job, BTW! I may have to see about getting some of these made for my Cub Scout Pack.

Wow, I wrote this a long time ago so I'm not sure. I think that last line must be a typo, I am not good at math!

plwslw77 (author)beastbunny2015-04-27

Thank you!

mclaughp (author)Darkknight06672010-09-23

I think the most you should use would be 2 tsp per necktie. I am going to make these to send to our troops. There is an organization collection at the NC State Fair Ground this year and they mentioned these as one of the items to send to our troops. I searched online and saw several places to purchase, and then saw this to make. It would be so much more economical to make! These would also be great for women experiencing hot flashes too!

plwslw77 (author)2015-04-27

There is a contradiction in the amount of crystals in each pocket. The instruction say to put 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon in each pocket, and the summary says you should have 1/8 teaspoon of crystals in each pocket. Anyone know which is the correct amount? Thank

cheryl.young.75685 (author)2015-04-08

i think the Dollar Tree stores has a round cylinder bottle container, but already hydrated, ready to use, but maybe too large as they're round beads, just a tad smaller than a marble...I'm going to try putting a few of these out to "dry"...cant hurt as each container, is only $1...go figure! LoL..and if using a diaper, good idea!

I was wondering about using used diapers for my garden...just pee, no poopered diapers for sure...I worked in a medical lab, so pee doesn't bother me like does most people...but people don't understand that our sweat is also pee, just hasn't come out of our bladders!...poop is different and is why it would never put that in our garden!...Google search what I'm saying and you will see sweat in a very different light!

diana.beardsley.7 (author)2014-10-09

I purchased Miracle-Gro water storing crystals I might have used a little to much. I put it in the refrigerator and it really grew hard and some of the beads seem to melt out through the material, is this because of the beads or that I filled it to full.

tbonilla1 (author)2013-06-03

This is great! May have to modify it though, since I have no money for crystals (still struggling to afford maternity clothes).

Speidumb (author)tbonilla12013-06-04

Craft stores sell "Water beads" for wedding decoration for really cheap that are basically the same thing. If you're looking for Super duper cheap, cut the absorbent material out of a disposable diaper or three.

dsanterr (author)2012-05-02

1/2 tspn. of fine beads (any hardware stoe, garden center,: "Miracle-Gro Water Storing Crystals") in ea. 4 1/2" section worked best for me.

psbrady1 (author)dsanterr2012-06-03

Thanks for the awesome instructions. I tried small beads from Micheals Store, and 1/2 tsp worked fine. Actually I think 1/2 tsp. was too much. Gonna just try 1/4 tsp this time. Will let you know how that turned out.

thready2010 (author)2011-07-29

I noticed the Watersorb Cyrstals come in different sizes. What size do you recommend I use for these neck coolers? I think these are great and look forward to making many of them.

jaasshayes (author)2011-05-07

Thank you for the pattern. I made a couple of these using AquaGems that I found at Joanns in the floral department. They swell into little marbles about 1/2". I used 1/8 of a tsp per pocket and they worked well. The packett was about $5.99 regular price.

CherylTX (author)2010-07-20

Yay, just what I was looking for! Thank goodness for Instructables writers. My dad's railroad crew used to use these and I think my husband could use these in the iron foundary. Summers are miserable for him. Thank you!!

CherylTX (author)CherylTX2010-07-21

Just wanted to update... instructions were easy to follow, quick to do. I was really worried about heat stroke yesterday because of a text I got from my husband (furnace, molten iron, helmet, jacket, no A/C) so instead of waiting for a trip to the garden center in the city to find the sodium polyacrylate, I bought a small pack of cheap diapers at the dollar store and took some apart till I had enough stuff (good info on that at the bottom here It only took two diapers per neck cooler and I made extra for one of his friends. They've already texted some great comments on them today. Thanks again!

beastbunny (author)CherylTX2010-07-26

I'm so glad you were able to make him more comfortable using these coolers!! Great link to a handy source of crystals!

cupcake1954 (author)2010-07-24

I like the neck cooler very much. I was just wondering if they can be washed in the washing machine or washed by hand. Thanks

beastbunny (author)cupcake19542010-07-26

Definitely only hand wash! The crystals inside would not take kindly to machine washing.

Mitten (author)2007-07-06

I beleive the crystals are sodium polyacrylate.

You can buy it here at United Nuclear

United Nuclear's price for sodium polyacrylate (and just about anything else) is twice Ebay's price.

beastbunny (author)Mitten2007-07-06

Yes, it is sodium polyacrylate. The same stuff that is in baby diapers. It is much cheaper to buy from Watersorb or from a garden center but I suppose if you only want to make a couple and you don't want two pounds of sodium polyacrylate hanging around your house, that site is a good alternative.

amysonhenry (author)2009-07-21

My sewing skills are very basic but from your instructable, my daughter (age 10) and I just made 7 of these! Such great instructions; so easy to follow. I found the water absorbing crystals at my local hardware and gardening store (OSH). I am so excited to share these with family! Thanks for the great instructions!

beastbunny (author)amysonhenry2009-07-28

I am so glad you found it useful! What a great summer project and wonderful of you to make enough to share!

parisbabe (author)2009-07-05

I didnt see the link you got your crystals from

beastbunny (author)parisbabe2009-07-28

You can find the crystals online or at some gardening supply stores. (They use them to retain moisture in potting soil.)

cameronlaferney (author)2009-05-03

can you freeze it instead

NO. It will ruin the polymer and make a HUGE mess. Trust me on this. :)

thefinderofthings (author)2008-06-30

Thank you so much! You instructions are very easy to understand and your pictures are great!

Oryctolagus habilis (author)2008-06-24

Great to see this item as a DIY! I wondered whether those soil amenders were the same as what was used in the bandanas. Those bandanas are quite cheap in themselves, but became very hard to get at the beginning of the Afghan conflict: this means that you could send over as many as you wanted.

canida (author)2007-07-06

I borrowed one of these at Burning Man a while back- they're great for hot weather!

HamO (author)2007-07-05

Cool idea! Nice instructable, well done, great pix. I've always wondered what the crystals inside were. Thanks for sharing.

beastbunny (author)HamO2007-07-06

Thanks, glad you like it!

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