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Microwaveable neck pillows

Diane | Posted in The Archives on

I recently tried a pillow that can be heated in the microwave and used on sore body areas and I would love to make one for my aching neck. I presume you could chill it also for an ice-pack. My friend received hers as a gift and doesn’t know what it is filled with. Through the cover it feels like some sort of firm roundish grain, smaller than rice. Does anyone out there know what to use to fill a pillow like this?


  1. Jen_Donnelly | | #1

    I have a small one for the eye area that is filled with lavender buds. Some of the larger ones are filled with buckwheat hulls. I would check with a place that specializes in potpourri supplies to find these fillers. I don't know of any such sources, but the magazine Handcraft always has a great supply list for craft items.

    1. Darlene_ | | #2

      *Some eye pillows are filled with flax seed, which are just placed over the eyes to relieve tired eyes (leave unheated)They are great after sewing or computer use. I just bought a pillow filled with buckwheat hulls - lots of fabric and craft stores now sell them by the pound.

      1. Diane | | #3

        *The pillow I tried was definitely not lavender or buckwheat hulls. I will check out the flax seed and see if that might be the answer. Thanks.

        1. ellen_morgan | | #4

          *I make them out of polar fleece and fill them with rice. Polar fleece holds a lot of moisture (pins will rust if left in fleece too long) so it gets steamy in the microwave and the kids complain about the ricey smell but it does the trick on snowboarding aches and pains. Also keeps the bed warm on very cold nights. A bonus: recently got stuck behind a car that was stuck in the snow on a hill. I cut open a rice bag and used it for sand.

          1. Diane | | #5

            *Thanks Ellen, I have lots of rice here so I'll try it. I'll let you know what I think. I gardened all day today and I wish I had one of these pillows right now.

          2. patty | | #6

            *Diane I have an adress for buckwheat hulls. It is underlined in the ad so Iam not sure if you have to. They are 29.95 for 10 lbs. http://www.jfarrell.com rice is cheaper but tis can tell you more.

          3. Diane | | #7

            *Thanks, Patty, but I have buckwheat hulls and they do not work well for this particular use. They don't retain heat the way grains do. I have now made several pillows with rice and millet and both work very well. Thanks to Ellen's suggestion, I used some leftover polarfleece and I love the results--such a soothing feeling on my neck. They go together in no time so I will be making some for gifts.

          4. claire | | #8

            *My nephew gave me one of these pillows for Christmas that he made in his Cub Scout troop. He filled a men's size "tube" athletic sock with rice, sewed the end shut, and then slipped the other sock over it. (Sewed edge went in first.) A very easy kid project.I have made lavender/flax eye pillows out of sandwashed rayon. I used about 1 T. of lavender with about a cup of flax seed.

          5. Rebecca_Dekker | | #9

            *These rice bags are great. I use a short grain rice that will hold the heat longer and not break down as soon as it tends to be shorter and larger in diameter. Learned about this from my physical therapist. When sewing for long periods of time it really helps to use a rice bag on your neck and shoulders and then do stretching exercises. I had to take a year's hiatus from sewing to recover from repetitive stress injuries to my neck and shoulder. Be careful and relax.

          6. sheri_post | | #10

            *Hi GangI met a woman massage therapist at JoAnnes yesterday, and she was buying all sorts of fabrics, no rhyme or reason, till she toldme they were for neck and back bags. She fills them with corn, or any seedy typething and sells them to her customers. Theywere stated as being good hot and cold.Hope this helps a little also.regards,sheri post

          7. Carol_Rodrigues | | #11

            *Flax seed! I've been using it for a couple of years. The oil in the seed must help to keep the heat in because it stays warm for quite a while. I like to put it around my neck but my mother and sister use it for their feet. Only heat it for about 1 minute in the microwave or it can scorch (my Mom called in a panic for a new one).

          8. Diane | | #12

            *I was worried that the oil in the flax would seep through the cover and stain clothes. I'm glad to hear that that doesn't happen.

          9. Sammie | | #13

            *Where does one purchase flax seed in bulk to fill the pillows? I've searched for it using a couple of search engines and haven't been able to find a supplier of flax seed.

          10. areddy | | #14

            *I was nine months pregnant and the babywas giving me a backache, I was desperate for a hot water bag (which at midnight I discovered I could not find) so I made a bag out of cotton scrap and filled it with rice. Worked wonders. Just smells like cooked rice everytime you use it though.

          11. Darlene_ | | #15

            *You can buy flax seeds at your Health Food store (it is great in bread!) or if you want large quantities at half the price check your pet supply and feed store. I bought a huge bag to use for cooking, eye pillows and feeding my chickens.

          12. Sammie | | #16

            *Thanks, Darlene - next time I'm in town I'll try the feed store and/or the food co-op!

          13. Calvin_Girvin | | #17

            *I made a heating pillow by filling terry cloth with ground corncobs. Ground corncobs can be found at the pet store and are used like wood shavings for small cage animals. The only problem is that when heated they smell sort of "corny." I have been told that birdseed will also work, but I have not tried it.

          14. Margaret | | #18

            *I have made a couple of the rice bags, they are wonderful for sore muscles and children's growing pains, plus heating beds on a cold winter's night. I also added a little simmering potpourri to the mixture, and that helps with the rice smell.

          15. Debbie_G | | #19

            *You can find flax seed, buckwheat hulls, lavender buds, and other misc supplies at San Francisco Herb Company:http://www.sfherb.com/

          16. judi | | #20

            *You can make a washable 'sham" type cover for your pillow. I usually use cotton terry, but fleece would be good too.

          17. Ellen_Chmiel | | #21

            *Hi, I don't need shoulder pads & remove them from ready-to-wear. Is there any way to take up the slack in the shoulder w/o removing the sleeve? Now, I'm just pressing it by ironing, but not safisfactory remedy. Thanks, Ellen

          18. Sandy_ | | #22

            *Just a tip on the grains --Apparently, if you use a mix of grains (barley, flax, brown rice, etc), you get a better heat distribution -- the grains all hold and release heat at different rates, so the heat lasts longer.Happy stitching

          19. Ann-Mari | | #23

            *I enjoy Gatherings and have been lurking since the former days with the earlier format, to which I often contributed. Forgive me if I sound like a perfect "dummy" but I am slightly mixed up as to using the new system of posting. Am I doing it correctly when, on my computer, I reach the NEW posting way at the end of the listing, perhaps 2 months away? I don't want to miss anything, and I might even add something worthwhile when assured that I am using it correctly. As for the neck-pillows--I feel brown rice and/or flaxseed seem the most likely products used, with the feel you describe. A health/food department in a large Mall might be a good source. I will start scrounging!!

          20. Ann-Mari | | #24

            *I enjoy Gatherings and have been lurking since the former days with the earlier format, to which I often contributed. Forgive me if I sound like a perfect "dummy" but I am slightly mixed up as to using the new system of posting. Am I doing it correctly when, on my computer, I reach the NEW posting way at the end of the listing, perhaps 2 months away? I don't want to miss anything, and I might even add something worthwhile when assured that I am using it correctly. As for the neck-pillows--I feel brown rice and/or flaxseed seem the most likely products used, with the feel you describe. A health/food department in a large Mall might be a good source. I will start scrounging!!

          21. Jan | | #25

            *Buckwheat hulls were used in the ones I saw in the stores. A company is advertising them in one or more of the sewing or quilting magazines.

          22. sundragon | | #26

            Re the neck pillows... have you tried Jasmine rice? It has a nice, delicate smell when heated; not "ricey" or grainy at all. You could add dried lavender buds, which are soothing, or rosemary, which is refreshing.

            Hope this helps!

          23. BYDEZINE | | #27

            or try cherry pits. you can buy them in bulk at the cherry pit store .com  (all one word) and I am not affiliated with them in any way.

            I've been making them out of cherry red fabric and giving them to friends, they're fantastic.

          24. kai230 | | #28

            Cherry pits! Oh my! What one learns on these boards :-) Thanks for the tip, Dinah. I wonder if you could also add some allspice?

            What fabric do you use? I've never put fabric in the freezer or micro. This sounds like a wonderful gift.

          25. BYDEZINE | | #29

            I use a soft medium weight cotton, (usually cherry red or a cotton print with cherries, cute huh?) pack it loosely so the cherry pits can move around and the wrap can drap easily. You put the cherry pit pad in the mircowave for three minutes and it stays warm for about an hour.

            I've made a small one for covering eyes and keep it in the frig, not the freezer.

          26. kai230 | | #30

            Thanks! I'll see what everyone got for Christmas and plan to make some for their birthdays over the next couple of months, once I try it out first. Bet there are a lot of fabrics to experiment with--maybe flannel for something you'll be using for heat, and cotton for cold? Gosh, you might even be able to make some heated slippers, or a slipper-type envelope, hmm.

          27. rjf | | #31

            Heated slippers!  That's the best idea I've heard all day.  I'm going to try that right after Christmas.     rjf

          28. kai230 | | #32

            Not sure how much fun they'd be to walk in if you're a tenderfoot which Mom is, but they could have massage potential, and would certainly be comfy to wiggle around in while seated.

            I'll probably stick to straight seams, but would love to see what you come up with.

            My latest thought is that a foot envelope could be made to also fit over one's head (goofy looking, certainly), but it could cool you off fast (is cold good for headaches?) Then heat it for the feet.

            Don't recall seeing info re washing on the cherrypit site, but I suspect they can be washed?? Or maybe treat the skin-contact side w/Scotchguard or whatever is the latest? Or perhaps that would retard the heat/cold transfer somehow? I don't know.

            I wish I could grow a cherry tree here. I love them raw and the s/pitting is easy :-)

            And thanks for the compliment but your day was young when you posted ;-)

          29. carolfresia | | #33

            Another option (see Threads No.99, "Quick to Make") is to make a separate, removable cover for the microwavable rice/cherry pit bag. We used dupioni, but you can use anything you like-washable or not--to customize yours.


          30. kai230 | | #34

            Thank you, Carol. I've never heard of dupioni but it sounds nice and exotic :-) I am all for removable/washable covers.

            I subbed to threads the first few years it came out, but then stopped due to the fact that I wasn't finding enough time to do projects. My library surely has that issue, but I'll google also for more fabric info.

          31. sewphaedra | | #35

            I made a bunch of those for Christmas, using the Threads pattern from a few issues ago. I found the most practical size to be the smaller rectangle. The neck one didn't work properly, the rice shifted too much and you end up with very little heat on your neck, it all hangs down in front and back. I think channel quilting crosswise (not all the way to the edge so you can fill it with rice) would solve that problem, but I ran out of time. You can wear the small rectancle around the neck.

            I used Jasmine rice and it smells terrific. Some of my covers were knit, some silk and some a fine-whale corduroy--basically I used scraps. Maybe a quilted cover would be nice!

          32. rjf | | #36

            I agree with you about the neck pillow.  The cross-channelling sound like a good idea.    Time to find some Jasmine rice!        rjf

          33. Homebody | | #37

            Where do you find Jasmine rice? I never heard of it.

          34. Jean | | #38

            Any large supermarket should carry it, or be able to get it for you.  I think I bought my last bag at Sam's Club.

          35. sewphaedra | | #39

            I buy it in huge bags at the Asian market.

          36. solosmocker | | #40

            To the top!

          37. evanthiaemig | | #43

            Hi  Ellen,

            I would say no, unless you gathered the sleeve cap to fit the armhole9 that would most likely change the look) which you would be decreasing if you took out the slope that had been added to accomodate your shoulder pads in the first place,  another option, is lower your armhole opening the same amount you "lower the shoulder slope" aslong as it is a reasonable decrease, then your sleeve cap will fit the same, but you will still have to remove the sleeve to do the adujsutments, anf if you only did the slope adjutsments, you woul d alos have to decrease the cap of the sleeve at the underarm of the sleeve the same amount.

            Clear as mud, yes?




          38. kkf | | #44

            I made several of these for holiday gifts. Used an inner bag of cotton fabric, filled halfway with jasmine rice and serged shut. Then the outer bag was cotton velveteen or polar fleece, with an envelope closing. I made a removable herb pack -- 2 X 2 silk organza filled with allspice, star anise, cloves and cinnamon bark. Easy-peasy and very well-received.Kristi

          39. Aliceann | | #45

            I love the idea of the added sachet.  At the moment I have some brown rice which was given to me by a son who didn't  like it.  Also have what's left of a 25 lb. bag of jasmine rice which can be purchased for about 5/6 bucks at your local Oriental market.  I hope I don't end up with "popped" rice, teh, heh.  I was afraid to use this in the microwave but what the heck, it's worth a try.  Can't wait to try your idea of the sachet spices.  Thanks

          40. user-61024 | | #52

            I've been making these bags for several years, based on an idea I found in Threads! I use plain white rice, and no misting of water before heating. I think you could get burned, if the bags were wet. I run them on high in the microwave for two minutes and the bag keeps my toes nice and toasty as I'm falling asleep.

  2. SewNancy | | #41

    The one that I have is filled with small beans. I have made a few as gifts and filled them with the smallest cheapest beans. You can't fill it too full, or it won't mold to your body. Threads had an article on making them.. It said that you could also use rice, but I found it to dense to mold well.

    1. martagon | | #42

      I used white navy beans, but I find that they are shrinking.  I guess as they heat up, they lose moisture.  I like the idea baove to use several different seeds, to get delayed heat release.

  3. creative7570 | | #46

    When I lived in New Zealand, wheat packs were very popular.  A couple of minutes in the microwave (with a cup of water to prevent the wheat burning) and they were perfect for sore muscles. 

    When I made them, I always had an inner bag with the wheat in calico or similar, then covered with an attractive 100% cotton.


    1. offerocker | | #47

      Do you or anyone else have a pattern for these neck pillows?  Or aren't they 3-D?  do you just use 2 identical pieces, or is there a 3rd?  Thanks!

      1. promdressesrme | | #53

        I made one just like a pillow, but I put channels in it -- like 4 of them -- to keep the grain from shifting quite so much.  Two minutes in the microwave, no water, and voila toastie pillow for my feet.  I suppose you could also make one long skinny tube and wrap it around your neck.

        1. offerocker | | #54

          I really like your idea of the channels!  I wish that more 'production' items were made that way.  No problem of 'spilling the beans', ha ha.  Good idea.

  4. vreed | | #48

    I have three of these bags I purchased at a nice craft show.  They are filled with dry corn kernals.  It's important to lightly mist both sides of the bag with water before microwaving to keep the kernals moist.  This also helps to give a moist heat.

    1. SewNancy | | #49

      Thanks for the tip on misting the bag. I have one that I bought at a health food store in Asheville, NC filled I think with small beans. I have had the most luck in making them with beans.

      1. artzyval | | #50

        Is there any general time for microwaving these? I would like to make some being preggers with awful back pain this sounds just fabulous,  but I am afraid i will blow them up in the microwave.

        1. vreed | | #51

          The directions that came with mine said no more than 30 seconds.  Longer than that will dry out the beans/corn.  Just make sure you mist both sides of the bag before microwaving:)

        2. SewNancy | | #56

          I think that it depends on the microwave. I use any where from 2-3 minutes depending on how thick my clothing is. I also have taken to actually running some water on one side. Becareful here, can get even hotter.

      2. sewfar | | #55

        I have been putting flax seed in my microwave neck bags.  The seed is small and therefore the bags are quite flexible.    It seems to contain just the right amount of moisture on its own without additional spraying.  The flax lasts a long time without abrading and it is not heavy.  I sometimes add some dried lavender for a soothing scent. 

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