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.
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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.

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.

tbonilla11 year ago
This is great! May have to modify it though, since I have no money for crystals (still struggling to afford maternity clothes).
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.
dsanterr2 years ago
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.
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.
thready20103 years ago
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.
jaasshayes3 years ago
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.
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.
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!
CherylTX4 years ago
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!!
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)  CherylTX4 years ago
I'm so glad you were able to make him more comfortable using these coolers!! Great link to a handy source of crystals!
cupcake19544 years ago
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)  cupcake19544 years ago
Definitely only hand wash! The crystals inside would not take kindly to machine washing.
Mitten7 years ago
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)  Mitten7 years ago
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.
amysonhenry5 years ago
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)  amysonhenry5 years ago
I am so glad you found it useful! What a great summer project and wonderful of you to make enough to share!
parisbabe5 years ago
I didnt see the link you got your crystals from
beastbunny (author)  parisbabe5 years ago
You can find the crystals online or at some gardening supply stores. (They use them to retain moisture in potting soil.)
can you freeze it instead
NO. It will ruin the polymer and make a HUGE mess. Trust me on this. :)
Thank you so much! You instructions are very easy to understand and your pictures are great!
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.
canida7 years ago
I borrowed one of these at Burning Man a while back- they're great for hot weather!
HamO7 years ago
Cool idea! Nice instructable, well done, great pix. I've always wondered what the crystals inside were. Thanks for sharing.
beastbunny (author)  HamO7 years ago
Thanks, glad you like it!