DIY Bed Warmer (and Cooler)

Brrrrr..... it's cold outside!

Brrrrr….. it’s cold outside!

You know how it is.  It’s winter and it’s cold, no, it’s actually freezing outside.  It’s time to go to bed and you just know that bed is actually made of ice. Of course after about 15-20 minutes of pure misery (don’t move, don’t move) the sheets will finally warm up and then everything is fine for the rest of the night, thanks to your down comforter.  Right?

Well, next winter you can prevent this scenario with your own rice (or corn or beans) bed warmer!  Just pop it in the microwave for 3-4 minutes, roll it out in your bed under the covers, and in just a few minutes, there you have it:  a toasty warm bed to crawl into!  It is simple to make and very effective!

But wait, there’s more!  So you say “great, that’s wonderful, but winter is almost over”.  Well, just pop the bed warmer (ahem, now bed cooler) into the freezer and there you go – a nice cool bed on those hot summer nights!

All you need is some fabric, thread, stuffing (rice, flax, corn, beans, peas, cherry pits, most anything organic, clean and dry works) and a bit of time!

DIY BED WARMER TUTORIAL

Lets start with the fabric.  I know some of you will run out and buy some thick muslin or fancy fabric, but save your money.  The heat (or cold) comes from the stuffing, not the fabric.  You would be better off spending your money on an organic cotton or linen fabric.  Only buy as much as you need or use what you already have.  I am 5’6″ tall, so I bought 2 yards of 36″ wide organic muslin.  After the fabric is pre-shrunk and the seams are sewn, it will be about 5’6″ long, perfect for me.  Children will need shorter bed warmers.  Prewash the fabric and then press it with an iron.  Believe me, you will be glad you did.

Once this is done, fold the fabric in half lengthwise.  This made mine about 17″ wide (I lost an inch or so to shrinkage).  Before you start sewing anything at this point, however, you should check to see that the fabric will fit into your microwave!  Since my microwave is 20″ wide on the inside, I know that my bed warmer is sure to fit.  Now with the fabric inside out, sew the top and bottom seams.

Sew a seam along the top and bottom, inside out.  Trim off excess

Sew a seam along the top and bottom, inside out. Trim off excess

Turn to right side out, poke the corner out and press the seam down.  Next, sew a seam down the middle to make two halves, and then make another seam down the middle of each half. Use tailor’s chalk to get a straight line.  Some people can just use straight pins to do this.  Me?  I need both!   I just got a new sewing machine and this gave me the opportunity to try out some of the decorative stitches. 🙂  You can sew straight stitches, zigzag, wavy or like I did, you can sew the most beautiful, creative, and awesome (I can’t belive how easy it is now) decorative

Turn right side out, poke corner out so it looks nice, then press the seam with an iron.

Turn right side out, poke corner out so it looks nice, then press the seam with an iron.

stitches.  The only thing that really matters at this point is that you sew a continuous seam from one side of the fabric to the other.  Back tack on both sides so that the stitching doesn’t come unraveled!

First sew a seam down the very middle.  Use any style stitch you want.  It's easiest and fastest just to use a straight stitch, but that wouldn't be as much fun!

First sew a seam down the very middle. Use any style stitch you want. It’s easiest and fastest just to use a straight stitch, but that wouldn’t be as much fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three seams are sewn, not including the ends, making four panels

Three seams are sewn, not including the ends, making four panels

Now comes the math part!  Actually, just get out your ruler and figure about how wide you want each pocket to be – mine are about 2 inches wide (give or take).  Anything less than 1-1/2 inch isn’t really good because it’s harder to get the filling to move around in tighter spaces.  If you are using beans or corn, you may want the pockets to be at least 3 inches wide.  Play around with it.  There is no hard and fast rule here!  Measure between the seams you already have and divide that measurement by how wide you want your pockets to be.  If you have 12 inches between seams and you want 3″ pockets, then you need to sew three seams between each of your first seams.

Measuring between the seams.  Pockets should ideally be between 2-3 inches wide, depending on what kind of filling you are using.

Measuring between the seams. Pockets should ideally be between 2-3 inches wide, depending on what kind of filling you are using.

 

Now just go ahead and sew all of your seams.  This is the part that takes a while if you change thread colors and/or stitches.  I decided to make every other seam using a decorative stitch and I sewed all of these first.  Then I went back and sewed a straight stitch between every decorative stitch.

Once all of the seams are done, turn the already closed edge over once (or twice if you like!) and sew that side all the way down from top to bottom.  This step is optional, but if you want both sides to look the same, you should go ahead and do this.  Besides, the extra fold helps make the bed warmer a lot more sturdy so that it holds up better to wear and tear.

Turn and sew the edge that is already closed.  It isn't really necessary because this side would already hold the rice in, but it makes the whole thing stronger for wear and tear.

Turn and sew the edge that is already closed. It isn’t really necessary because this side would already hold the rice in, but it makes the whole thing stronger for wear and tear.

 

You are now ready to stuff.  I used 1/3 cup of long grain rice in each pocket for a total of 10 cups.  This measured out to about 4 pounds of rice.  I just rolled up a paper plate, stuck it into the pocket opening, poured in 1/3 cup of rice, then went on to the next pocket.  Word of warning:  Make sure when you have poured in the rice that it goes all the way down to the bottom of the pocket and work on a big table so none of the rice that has already been placed in a pocket spills out! 🙁  At this point you might think “that’s not enough filling!”

Trust me, it is.

I used 1/3 cup of rice in each pocket x 30 pockets = 10 cups of rice, or about 4 pounds.  A paper funnel comes in handy.

I used 1/3 cup of rice in each pocket x 30 pockets = 10 cups of rice, or about 4 pounds. A paper funnel comes in handy.

 

Once you have poured in all the rice (or whatever filling you choose to use) you should pin the final side seam over and sew that seam.  It’s essential that the stuffing stay on the opposite side while you are sewing, or the stuffing might spill out all over the place, or it may get in the way of the needle.  So easy does it at this point.

Rice all loaded up on one side of the pockets, with the opposite side seam all pinned and ready to be sewn shut.

Rice all loaded up on one side of the pockets, with the opposite side seam all pinned and ready to be sewn shut.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your done!

Aaaahhhh, a nice warm bed in the winter, cool in the summer!  Just please don't sleep under or over the bed warmer for safety reasons.  It can get really hot and you don't want to get burned!

Aaaahhhh, a nice warm bed in the winter, cool in the summer! Just please don’t sleep under or over the bed warmer for safety reasons. It can get really hot and you don’t want to get burned!

There are so many variations to make this your own.  If you wanted, you could make one for each member of the family using their favorite colors.  You can add a few tea bags to your rice (earl grey comes to mind, or even a nice vanilla) and this will give a gentle scent to the bed.  I read on the internet somewhere that you can put dried mint, lavender, rose petals or even rosemary in with the stuffing, but you have to be very careful that the bed warmer isn’t overheated, lest you burn the herb, which will make it stink!

So, here are a few precautions.  The first couple of times you heat your bed warmer in the microwave, warm it in 30 second increments and test it before you warm for another 30 seconds, remembering that it gets warmer in the middle. Do Not Overheat!  If using dried corn, please make sure it isn’t popcorn. 🙂  To prevent the potential for fires, place a small (I use an old shot glass) container of water in the microwave.  If you have a turntable in your microwave, turn it off.  Do Not Overheat! The first couple of times you heat the bed warmer in the microwave you will smell an odor of….. well …… rice (or beans, etc.), and it will give off just a bit of moisture.  That will eventually go away.  Did I tell you not to overheat the bed warmer?  When putting in the freezer, it’s best to put it in a dry plastic bag first.  That way it won’t stick to anything in the freezer and is less likely to absorb funky odors.  All this being said:  please don’t lay on or under the bed warmer.  It can get very hot and you don’t want burns. Be especially careful with the bed warmer around children.  It’s purpose is to warm the bed and then be set aside.

So there you go.  A perfect homemade gift (Christmas?) or a great beginning 4H sewing project.  I’m sure these bed warmer/coolers would sell like hotcakes at a craft faire or bazaar.  I’m selling them in my Etsy store, once I get it opened, if you don’t want to go through the trouble of making one!

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