Saturday, December 19, 2009

How to: Make a microwave heating bag

My mom got me this microwave heating bag from her church bazaar last year, I believe. Or maybe she got it when she was in Colorado? I don't know. All I know is that it is my best friend, my most beloved companion, this simple craft made of flannel, a little thread and some buckwheat hulls. There it is, posing attractively for you in my microwave.

I use it by heating it for three minutes in the microwave (it's a big bag that is probably twelve inches long, weighing two or three pounds) and then carrying it upstairs and putting in my bed, where the sheets feel like they've been refrigerated during the day. After it has warmed the place where my feet go, I arrange it along my back and I can't even tell you how comfortingly cozy it is, without the oops factor of a hot water bottle. Because sleeping on sheets that are both cold and wet? The opposite of all that is snuggly.

Here are the instructions for making a heating bag of your own, and before I tell you what they are, I want you to promise you won't be a cotton-headed ninnymuggins and heat it up for so long that it catches on fire in your microwave and burns down your kitchen or something. Keep an eye on it while it's in there. And don't nuke it for, like, fifteen minutes. Three minutes max, and three minutes is for a big heating bag like mine, not one that's the size of a Toss Across bean bag.

Here's a list of things you can use to stuff your warming bean bag:

--> Uncooked rice
--> Wheat
--> Feed corn
--> Buckwheat hulls
--> Barley
--> Oatmeal
--> Beans
--> Flax seed
--> Cherry pits

Once you've picked out whatever stuffer you want in your heating bag, pick out a nice fabric -- mine is that cute, woodsy print with the moose and the fir trees, done in a comfy flannel -- and sew a bag in whatever size you want your warmer to be. SEW IT TIGHTLY, for reasons I don't think I really need to explain. In short, this is not one of those fun projects you should let your six-year-old do with a needle and thread unless you really love sleeping on a bed of rice, like the world's biggest piece of grilled chicken.

When you've crafted the bag ON YOUR SEWING MACHINE, fill it full enough so that it can still flop around and conform to the contours of your body -- about half to three-quarters full should work -- and then sew it closed.

If your heating bag is about the size of a washcloth, you should probably only heat it for about a minute to a minute and a half in the microwave. I've heard that you can put a cup of water in the microwave to make some steam while you're heating it and that would reduce the risk of fire, I'd think. Just be sensible, you know? Work with it until you figure out the amount of time that heats the bag nicely without burning either yourself or your lovely home.

While these could be used to warm a child's bed or even a pet's bed, I wouldn't recommend using the bag as an actual heating pad for the very young or for our four-footed friends. Children's skin is so tender, and a dog may be tempted to eat the contents of the bag, although a cat would probably turn up its naughty nose.

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