When I was a kid, winter beds were warmed with a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel.
This worked okay, but inevitably the towel slipped off during the night and the water would slowly chill. It wasn't unusual to wake in the early morning hours with a cold rubbery slab at your feet—not exactly comforting.
Microwaveable rice bags stay warm and don't slip around. I thought I would make a rice bag that's a tribute to the old-fashioned hot water bottle. It's a simple project that can be done in an hour.
Bonus: if you applique a heart onto the bottle, you can give it as a Valentine to someone you have "warm" feelings for (ouch!—sorry).
Step 1: What You Need
- pattern files (.pdf files are included below, though they print out smaller than my original)
- red fleece Red Christmas fleece can often be found in the remainder bin in January. I was able to buy less than half a yard for $2.50—this is enough for 3 bottles. Any remnant over 11" will work.
- scrap muslin or other cotton fabric for the inner bag
- paper and cloth scissors—best to keep them separate
- 2 lbs of dried rice or other grain, such as lentils or beans
- something to sew with: needle and thread, or threaded sewing machine
- optional: felt or ribbon for embellishment, lavender or other essence for scent
Step 2: Cutting the Cover
First, download and print the two pattern pieces from the previous step, and cut them out along the solid outer lines. Photo shows cutting the original pattern—unfortunately, I could not get the .pdf file to print to the edges of the paper, so it will print out smaller. If you want a larger bottle, the pattern is easy to draw on a letter-sized sheet.
Please also note that one of the patterns is actually a template for 3 pieces—you'll have to make a couple of simple folds along the way.
Place the larger pattern on your fleece half an inch from any edges. Use your rice to weight it down, and cut around the pattern leaving 1/2" seam allowance.
Step 3: Embellishments
Now is the time to add any decorations you may want. I played around with adding a felt initial, a felt heart and some ribbon but ultimately the heart prevailed (last bad pun, I promise).
Just stitch whatever you choose to the right side of this main front piece. It can also be left plain, of course, for a more authentic-looking hot water bottle.
Step 4: Cut Out the Back
Fold your first pattern back at the long dotted line. (note: be sure to fold, don't cut, as you will need to unfold it later.) This is now the pattern for the bottom half of the back piece.
The second pattern is the top half of the back piece.
Place these two patterns on the wrong side of your red fabric, and lightly mark around them. I found a regular black felt marker did not show through the fleece but if you are concerned, you may want to use something eraseable like tailor's chalk.
Cut around these 2 pieces, again leaving 1/2" seam allowance.
Step 5: Putting the Cover Together
Roll the two straight edges of the back pieces and hem.
Now place your front piece right side up and cover it with the hemmed top back piece, right side down.
Over this place the hemmed bottom back piece, also right side down. Pin as needed, and sew along the lines you marked. Sew all the way around the lines, overlapping at the end to secure the seam.
Finally, trim your seam allowance and clip any curves or corners as shown.
Turn this right side out. This will be your cover.
Step 6: Making the Rice Bag Insert
Take out your front pattern piece once more and unfold the first crease you made. Now you will be folding down the little neck of the bottle at the dotted line to make the pattern for your inner bag.
Lay this down on the muslin or scrap cotton, mark around the pattern, and cut 2 pieces with the 1/2" extra seam allowance.
Sew along your markings, leaving an opening at the top for filling. Clip the seams and turn right side out, then fill with 2 lbs rice and stitch closed.
Optional step: Lavender is known for its relaxing properties. You can either add fresh or dried lavender petals to the rice in the bag, or sprinkle a couple drops of lavender essential oil on the inside or outside.
Step 7: Using the Bottle
Now all you need to do is insert the filled muslin bag into your red covering and you are finished.
To use, heat in a microwave for about 3 minutes (or until comfortably warm) and slip between the sheets just before bedtime.