Hello Thursday readers.
I was talking with a friend this morning and I realized that she didn’t have a furnace in her house. She used a lot of other means of heating the place, and I was thinking about something like this as we were speaking. So, I know that there is a Craft Hackers post on making DIY hand warmers. And this is going to be kind of similar except that it is a bed warmer/cooler. What I really like about this project is how useful it is both in the winter, when things get chilly, but also in the summer to keep us folk who don’t have air conditioning cool. The downside is that you do need to be aware of the safety precautions so that you don’t get burned (when it’s hot) and also with regards to how to heat these things. But those will be covered, don’t you worry. I have used photos and directions from Making Our Sustainable Life, and though they’re a little difficult to describe in text, I’m going to try.
This is one of those things where there are several different ways to do it and several different ingredients that you could use. The most important thing is the fabric you choose. You need to have something that works well with heat and won’t get too hot. Flannelette is great, especially for warmers, but any cotton will work also. In my opinion, cotton would work better for a bed cooler since it is a little thinner, but they will both work. Keep your eye open in the remnants bin for fabrics of a decent size you can get on the super cheap. Keep in mind that you can make these any size you like, though I’m going to show you a tutorial that will help you to make one that is sized for a bed rather than just to warm your feet or to hold like a water bottle.
You will want to start with about 2 metres (or yards) of your fabric of choice. I always recommend washing and drying your fabric before using it, as you will lose some length to shrinkage. The second thing that you should do is check to see if all this fabric will fit into your microwave. Remember, it will be filled, so you don’t want to make it so big that it will not be able to fit inside. If you’re finding it is a little too much, trim it down in whichever direction you’d like to get it to an appropriate size. The last step, which will make this process a whole lot easier is to iron your fabric before you work with it – though you can feel free to iron it folded in half rather than ironing the whole sheet.
So, you will start by folding your fabric lengthwise (on the long edge) so that the right sides are together. Next you will need to sew the two short seams on each end, leaving one long edge open. Once this is done, trim off any excess fabric, turn right side out and pop the corners so they look nice and square. I recommend you iron your seams down. They should look similar to that photo above.
Now, you will be making the pockets for your filling. You can make as many or as little as you would like, though I wouldn’t go less than 2 inches wide, otherwise your filling will be difficult to put in and it won’t have a lot of space to move around. If you are using a larger filling like beans or corn, then they should be no smaller than 3 inches. To do this, you can sew a seam across the middle of the fabric (sewing from the middle of one long edge to the middle of the other). That smaller section you can split in half by sewing another seam so that you have 3 seams dividing your fabric into four parts (see photo below). From here, you can continue the process of dividing the pockets with a seam until you reach your desired width.
Once you have all of your pockets sewn, you have the option to nicely finish that folded long edge. This isn’t necessary but it will make the end product look a lot more finished, it will match the other side and it will be much stronger. To do this, all you need to do is fold over the edge by about ½ an inch and stich it down. You can do a double fold if you would like, instead of a single fold. (see below for an example of what this sort of hem should look like.
Now, add your filling! There’s a variety of fillings you can use. Rice, beans or corn (not the popping kind or you’ll be in for a rude awakening when you microwave it the first time). This tutorial I’m using for reference had 30 pockets of about 2.5 inches in width and used 1/3 of a cup of rice in each. This may not sound like a lot, but you do not want each pocket to be stuffed. If your pockets are of a different size, I would recommend not filling them up past half way, as this will provide enough space for them to move without making your warmer too bumpy. If you’re wondering how to get the rice inside… you can use a funnel or make one using paper rolled up into a cone.
After you’ve filled your pockets with all that rice, you will need to finish the open side in the same way you finished the other side. Fold the edge over (twice, if that’s what you did on the other side), pin, and sew. You’ll be moving a lot of fabric and rice around, so beware!
You are now finished!
Though that doesn’t mean that I am. There’s a few other things to note. One is that you can add things to the rice as you fill the pockets. You can add loose earl grey – or whatever nice smelling tea is your favorite- or lavender. These will scent your bed when the pad is heated.
Remember, safety first! So when you heat your pad in the microwave, heat it in 30 second intervals, with the turntable turned off or taken out. You can place a shot glass of water in the microwave with your pad so it doesn’t get so dry and hot that things combust. There will also be a slight smell of whatever you used to stuff your warmer the first couple of times you use it. Don’t worry though, that rice smell will go away after the first few times you use it. If you’re going to put your bed warmer in the freezer, put it in a plastic bag so it doesn’t absorb any odors from food, and so it doesn’t stick to anything in there.
Lastly, please don’t sleep under or directly on top of the bed warmer. Like an electric blanket, it can still burn you. So please use caution. Either remove the warmer before you go to sleep or have something between the pad and your skin.
I know this post is a little long, but for those of you who have terrible heating or who don’t have air conditioning, this will be a lifesaver.