Introduction: Homemade Hand Warmer: "A Fire in My Hand"

When you're caught in the grip of winter and your fingers are growing numb, this is just the thing to ward off the chill. This fuzzy hand warmer fits right in the palm of your hand, so it's the perfect size to slip in your pocket. Make it slightly smaller and you could tuck it right in your gloves! (And if you need a last-minute gift idea, they don't take long to make. I whipped up a batch of them this afternoon to hand out to my coworkers.)

Step 1: Design Pattern and Gather Materials

First, sketch out the pattern. If you want to make it palm-sized, it helps to lay your hand on a piece of paper, trace around your palm, and use that to mark the curve of the bottom. You want to draw two parts to the pattern: the outer line will be the main part of the hand warmer, while the inner line will be a piece appliqued on for detail. Don't make the points on the outer line too sharp, because when we turn the fabric inside out later, they'll all be rounded anyway. You can make the points on the inner portion as sharp as you like. I drew a face on this pattern because I was considering making it into the fire demon Calcifer from Howl's Moving Castle, but I soon decided to make it a generic flame.

Next, gather your materials. To make this hand warmer, you will need:

  • Your pattern
  • Fleece or felt in two colors (I used red and yellow, but you could use any other two colors you like)
  • thread
  • pins (shown in a pin cushion)
  • sewing needle
  • optional: sewing machine (not pictured)
  • scissors
  • plain uncooked rice (for the stuffing)
  • fabric marking pencils or pens (not pictured)
  • optional: things to add face details, like white fleece or felt, or fabric markers or paint
  • optional: a funnel, or piece of paper rolled into a funnel (not pictured)

I have heard that you can also use dried beans, barley or feed corn (NOT popcorn kernels) to fill hand warmers, or similar projects like hot compresses. I used rice because that's what I had handy.

This is a great project to use small scraps of fabric that you aren't sure what else to do with. I used some remnants from an earlier project.

Step 2: Cut Pattern and Fabric

When you cut out the pattern, cut around the outer line as closely as you can. Then, while leaving the outer part of the pattern intact, carefully cut out the inner portion, all in a single piece. It helps to use a smaller scissors for this, since it allows for more precise cuts. To help start the cut for the inner potion, it helps to lightly fold the paper in half, then make a small snip along the line. From there you can slip your scissors through the hole and continue cutting along the line.

Next, cut out your fabric. If one size of your fabric looks or feels different from the other, decide which size you want to be facing out when you're done. That side will be the "right" side of the fabric, and you'll trace the pattern on the other side, which is the "wrong" side.

Lay the fabric so that the wrong side is facing up, then put the pattern on the fabric and trace around it with your fabric marking pencil or pen. Make sure to leave at least a quarter of an inch of fabric all the way around each piece you trace. You will need to trace two pieces of the main part: one with the pattern face up, and the other with it face down. The inner piece of the pattern should be traced face down, but you do not need to leave any extra space around it.

Then cut out your fabric. Remember to leave space around the main pieces, but cut the detail piece as closed to the line as you can. If you mistakenly trace the detail piece face up like I did, check how to remove marks made my your particular type of fabric marking pencil or pen. Mine are chalk, so the marks brush right off with a little effort. Others disappear when washed, or simply fade away in time.

(If you want to add a face to your hand warmer, now would be the time to do it. Turn the detail piece right side up and add on the face in any manner you choose.)

Step 3: Pin Detail Piece to Fabric

Now you need to pin the detail piece to the main piece. For this you will use the piece of fabric that will be the front of the hand warmer (the piece where you traced the pattern face down). In order to get the detail piece positioned correctly, you can use pins to mark along the line on the main piece, then flip it over and place the pattern face up on the fabric, lining it up to the pins. Then you can fit the detail piece on the cut-out portion of the pattern and pin it down. Remove the pins from the main part of the fabric before sewing.

Step 4: Sew Detail Piece, Pin Main Pieces, Sew Main Pieces

The detail piece will be appliqued on to the main piece. If you have a sewing machine, use a zigzag stitch to carefully trace around the outer edge of the detail piece. Go slowly, and if the fabric starts to bunch up, stop sewing, lift the presser foot, and smooth out the fabric before lowering the presser foot and continuing. To make the sharp turns needed for the points, lower the needle into the fabric, raise the presser foot, and turn the fabric so you'll be sewing in the correct direction. The fabric will pivot around the needle, and the stitches will continue to be spaced correctly when you lower the foot and resume sewing.

If you don't have a sewing machine, this can be hand stitched using a whip stitch. Click here to see an Instructable that shows how to sew a whip stitch.

Once the detail piece is on, remove the pins and turn the fabric over. If the lines from the fabric marking pencil have rubbed off, you may want to go over them again to help guide your stitches. Place the two pieces of the main part together with the right sides facing each other, then pin them together.

Using a straight stitch (with either a sewing machine or by hand), sew along the line marking the outer edge of the hand warmer. Make sure to leave a gap of an inch or two along the bottom. Then trim away the excess fabric. You can cut very close to the stitches, since fleece and felt don't fray. Make sure to cut as closely as you can around the tips of the points to make sure they come out well when you turn it inside out.

Step 5: Turn Inside Out

Now turn the hand warmer inside out by pulling the fabric through the gap you left. If you're having trouble turning it, a pair of pliers can help you grip the fabric and pull it through. You may want to use something long and thin to help turn the points, such as a pencil, chopstick or knitting needle.

Step 6: Add Filling

A funnel can be useful to help you add the filling. If you don't have a funnel, you can take a piece of paper, roll it into a cone with a hole at the bottom, and use a piece of tape to secure it. Place the point of your funnel or paper cone in the gap of your hand warmer, then pour in the filling a little bit at a time. You may need to shake the hand warmer a bit or massage it to get the filling to settle in.

Add filling until the hand warmer is as firm as you wish. The more filling you add, the longer it's likely to hold heat. On the other hand, if you leave it a little loose, it feels like a fuzzy bean bag and has a great texture for kneading in your hand, making it double as a stress ball.

Once it's filled to your satisfaction, fold the raw edges of the fabric inside the gap and pin it closed.

Step 7: Sew Closed

If you knew how to sew a ladder stitch (also called a slip stitch or a blind stitch), you can use that to hide your stitches when you sew the hand warmer shut. If not, the photo shows a simpler way to close it off. It can leave visible stitches, but if you fabric is fuzzy and your thread is a matching color, the stitches may be hard to spot anyway unless you're specifically looking for them.

Thread your needle and tie a knot at the end. Start your stitch by poking your needle from the inside out. Then loop it around the outside of the fabric, pinch the fabric together, and push the needle through both layers of fabric. Pull the stitch tight and repeat until you've closed the whole gap.

To knot off the thread, start by pushing the needle through the fabric as if making another stitch, but don't pull the thread all the way through. Pull it only until you have a small loop left, then twist that loop half a turn clockwise. Thread your needle through the side of the loop facing you, then pull the thread tight. If you want to make extra sure the knot will hold, repeat the process once more to make a second knot.

To hide the end of the thread, push the needle through the fabric and out a short way away. Pull the thread tight, then cut the thread close to where it exits the fabric. Knead the fabric slightly and the end of the thread will disappear inside.

Step 8: Complete! Now Warm It Up.

Now your hand warmer is done! To warm it up, just heat it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. The hand warmer can be quite hot when it first comes out of the microwave, so either let it cool for a short time before handling, or use caution when picking it up and don't leave it on bare skin for too long until it's cool enough to handle without being uncomfortably warm. Then slip it in a pocket, tuck it in a mitten, or simply cup it in your hands to warm them up.

In warmer months when you don't need a hand warmer, it's still a fun little bean bag. Play catch with it, use it as a paperweight, knead it like a stress ball, or anything else you can do with a bean bag.

Thanks for reading! If you like this Instructable, please vote for it in the Soft Toys Challenge and Homemade Gifts Contest!

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