Getting Ready for Winter – making hand warmers to keep in your pocket

Hand warmers

The truth is winter is already here! I made a pair of these hand warmers to keep in my pocket to keep my hands warm when I am out walking. I also made a pair to slip into someone’s Christmas stocking. No, I am not saying who.

These hand warmers have removable rice inserts. The inserts usually last for about a year before they need to be replaced. There is also a good chance that sooner-or-later, an insert will get wet or overcooked before the year is out. I made an extra set of inserts so that any damaged inserts can be easily replaced.

Materials for making hand warmers.

Materials for making hand warmers.

It is important to use all natural fibers because polyesters and polyester blends could melt when they are heated in the microwave. I used 100% cotton flannel for the back and 100% cotton for the inserts. I used an old cotton sheet for the inserts. White all cotton sheets are always worth keeping or picking up for cheap at your local thrift store. They have so many uses.

The front of the hand warmers were made from a wool sweater felted in the washing machine. I used a white fabric marker to sketch the embroidery pattern to the front of the warmer. I also used cotton embroidery floss and a needle. I was very tempted to use metallic floss because I thought that would make a really nice looking snowflake. I remembered just in time that this would be a bad idea for something used in the microwave! Resist the temptation to use shiny metallic thread even though it is pretty and sparkly!

Each insert requires about 4 Tablespoons of regular cheapo rice. Do not use instant or minute rice. I added a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to each insert to make them smell nice.

You will also need the usual sewing supplies – sewing machine, thread, iron, and scissors. A small plastic funnel will also come in useful.

Cut the following:

From the wool felt: 2 squares  3 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches.

From the flannel: 4 squares 3 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches.

From the plain cotton fabric: 2 pieces that are 6 ½ by 3 ½

To make the outside covers:

Transfer the embroidery pattern onto the felt squares. I used a fabric marker. Usually, I would tape the pattern and the fabric to the window but that method won’t work in this case because the wool is too dark and thick. I ended up sketching the design freehand but I only drew the main lines of the snowflake like so:

Stitch diagram

I used a two strands of embroidery floss and a split stitch to stitch the main lines. I also used two strands of embroidery floss for the French knots at the end of each of the main lines. You can find tutorials for split stitch and French knots at Sublime Stitching.

Next, I eyeballed where I would put my Lazy Daisy stitches so that there would be three along each side of the longer lines and two along each side of the shorter lines.  I used a single strand of floss for this stitch. Here is my original pencil drawing where I sketched everything out:

Snowflake sketch

Snowflake sketch

After finishing the embroidery, I set to work on making the back of the hand warmers.  I took each of the flannel pieces and folded one edge up ½ inch and then fold it up again by ½ inch to make a hem, which I stitched down.

Overlap the back pieces.

Overlap the back pieces.

With right sides together, I placed one flannel piece on the wool piece with the hemmed edge towards the center. I took the second flannel piece and placed it with the hemmed edge towards the center. The two hemmed edges should overlap by about an inch or so. I pinned the edges together and stitched around the perimeter using a ¼ seam allowance. When I finished stitching, I clipped the threads and turned the case right side out.

Making the inserts:

Stitching the inserts.

Stitching the inserts.

I made the inserts by taking the plain cotton 6 ½ by 3 ½ strip and fold it in half with the right sides together to make a 3 ½ inch square. I used my sewing machine to stitch up one side and about an inch of the next side before I stopped. I wanted to leave an opening of about an inch to turn the insert right side out and to fill it with rice. After leaving a 1 inch gap, I kept sewing.

Adding the rice

Adding the rice

I clipped the threads and turn the insert right side out. Using the funnel, I added about 4 Tablespoons of rice and a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to the insert before whip stitching the opening closed.


Tuck the insert into the cover.

I finished by placing the insert into the cover.

To use, place the hand warmers into the microwave for about 30 seconds. The time may depend on the strength of your microwave. When they are warm, place them in your pocket and go for a walk.

I am adding an instruction card to the hand warmers before I give them away. I have included a sheet of instruction cards here for you to print out: Hand Warmer Tags

Enjoy! And stay warm!


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