This little hand warmer is an easy way to keep your hands nice and toasty when the temperature has dropped to the point where all you want to do is snuggle up under a pile of blankets all day. After making one or two of these little guys, all you need to do is pop them in the microwave and in less than a minute you have some mini heat packs that will keep warm for much longer. They’re great to keep for yourself and they also make great gifts.
It’s mid-June as I write this, so where I live is a bit too hot to need any extra heat. I was planning on posting this tutorial back in February but because of personal circumstances I needed to put it on hold even though there wasn’t too much that still needed to be done. But instead of waiting half a year or scrapping it altogether, I figured why not just post it now. Hopefully once it gets a bit colder it can be a useful project to anyone who comes across it. Or if you wanted to make some now, it’s never too early to start on Christmas stocking stuffers, right?
What You Will Need for this Project
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It’s very important that your fabric is made of 100% cotton. Because these hand warmers are heated by putting them in the microwave, you need your fabric to be able to stand up to the heat. Polyester fabrics are much more likely to burn or melt, so I would avoid those. I also wouldn’t recommend any fabric that has a lot of glitter or metallic embellishments. The type of thread you use doesn’t matter as much as your fabric, but I would still go with a Cotton thread just to be on the safe side.
Step 1: Cut Fabric Pieces
Before you mark your fabric, fold the fabric in half so you can cut through both layers at the same time. I also like to fold my fabric with the right sides together so that any markings are on the inside and I don’t need to worry about removing them.
Decide how big you want the hand warmers to be. If you’re not sure, 4×4 is a good size to start with. The finished size ends up being around 3×3. This size is big enough that it will cover your palm but is still small enough that it easily fits in your pocket. I have a 4×4 square quilting ruler that I used to measure my squares, but this is optional.
If you don’t have a quilting ruler, you can either make your own template from paper or draw a square right onto the fabric using a regular ruler and fabric marking pen. In the supplies list I marked the fabric pen as optional, and it is, but I would really recommend using one to make sure you get nice straight lines before you cut the fabric. That will help later when you go to sew everything together.
Now cut out your squares. You can use either scissors or a rotary cutter to cut your fabric pieces. In most cases, just a standard pair of scissors will be more than fine. However, if you are planning on making a large quantity of these at once for gifts or to sell, then a rotary cutter may be a better choice. If using a rotary cutter, you’ll also need a cutting mat to put underneath so you don’t gouge a big hole in your table.
Step 2: Sew the Seams
Next, place your fabric squares with the pattern facing inward. That way after sewing you can flip everything right side out and your seams won’t show.
Sew all the way around your square, leaving a small gap of about an inch or so in the middle of one of the sides. The opening needs to be just long enough to turn your square right side out after you are done sewing.
I recommend using a backstitch to sew the seam. If you are unfamiliar with this stitch or just need a refresher, I have a quick video and explanation in my Quick Stitches Guide. I chose to sew this by hand because it is a very small project, but you could also use a sewing machine if you want.
Also, I apologize for using a white thread on a white background fabric. When I started uploading my images I realized it might be kind of hard to see the stitching, but hopefully anyone reading this can still see it well enough. I’ll try to keep that in mind when I do any future sewing projects.
When you are finished sewing, pull everything out through the gap in your stitches to turn your project right side out. If you are having trouble with the corners, use a chopstick, paintbrush handle, or pencil to push them out.
Step 3: Add Filling to Hand Warmer
Now it’s time to fill the hand warmer. I listed rice in the materials list because I figured this is what most people would have on hand anyway. It doesn’t really matter what type of rice you use, but I prefer a shorter grain, like sushi rice. It gives a smoother texture compared to longer grain rice.
Rice isn’t your only option as a filler though. You can fill your hand warmer with flax seeds, dried beans, or even dry corn kernels. I’ve only used flax and rice, so I don’t have an opinion on using beans or corn. In my experience, between the two I used I thought flax was the better choice. It has a very smooth texture and holds the heat a bit better than the rice does. It’s just not something I would expect most people to have on hand. But you can find it at most grocery stores. If your store has a bulk buy area, you might even be able to find it there so you could buy however much you want.
If you left a big enough gap you might be able to carefully pour in your filling of choice by hand. Otherwise, you can use a small funnel. Thankfully I was able to easily add the rice in by hand as my funnel wasn’t being cooperative.
Only use enough filler to loosely stuff the hand warmer. That way once it’s heated it can easily form to your hand and will be more comfortable. It also makes the last step easier to sew if it’s not stuffed too full.
Step 4: Finish Sewing
The last thing you need to do is close the gap at the top of the hand warmer. I definitely recommend using the invisible ladder stitch to do this. If you need it, I have a short video and pictures of this stitch in my Quick Stitches Guide as well. This stitch is really easy once you get the hang of it, and once it’s pulled together, you usually can’t even see that there was a gap in your stitches at all.
When finished, tie a knot around the nearest stitch and push your needle between your stitches and back out somewhere in the middle of the hand warmer. Pull the thread tight to hide your knot and snip the excess thread. Fluff the hand warmer to hide the thread tail.
If you want to have one for each hand, repeat steps 1 through 4 again so you can have a matching pair.
Step 5: Microwave the Hand Warmer
The only thing left to do is warm these in the microwave.
I don’t have an exact heating time because everyone’s microwaves are a bit different, but somewhere between 30 and 45 seconds seems to be what works for me. Especially when heating them for the first time, I suggest heating the warmers in 10 or 15 second increments, checking in between to see how hot they are. Depending on what filling you decide to use may also affect the amount of time you need to heat them, so keep that in mind as well.
When they are nice and toasty, pop them in your pockets and enjoy the warmth.
Just a quick safety note: be very careful how long you put these in the microwave and watch them the entire time they are heating up. If you leave them in too long they could potentially start to burn, which could lead to them catching on fire. If at any point you see or smell any smoke, stop the microwave immediately.
The heat doesn’t last for too long on these little guys, but it’s enough to be worth it. In the past I tried experimenting with adding a muslin lining inside the warmer in the hopes that it would hold the heat a little longer, but it didn’t make much of a difference.
These warmers work great to put in your pockets, but you don’t need to always make them that small. You can make them as big as you like, in any shape too. Make a wrap for your shoulders to ease neck pain, or a wide one for your back. You could even make a mask to go over your eyes (but be VERY careful not to heat it for too long and heat it much less than you would any of the other types of warmers).
As I stated above, flax seeds make the best filler in my opinion, but rice works just fine too. If anyone out there has tried either beans or corn, I’d love to know how it turned out!
I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial and found it helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. I’d love to hear from you! Thank you for stopping by and happy crafting!