World Mental Health Day was just a few days ago, and I know I’m late to the party, but bear with me here. Mental health has such a stigma surrounding it, and while that stigma is starting to become a little less prevalent, it hasn’t quite vanished yet, and that needs to change. So let’s be honest about mental health.
You may have noticed a pretty large chunk of time between my last post and now. What’s worse, my last post started out with the sentence “I’m ready to drop a ton of content!” And then, instead of dropping a ton of content, I dropped off the earth. Without getting into details, just a couple days after that post went live, I received some distressing news, and have been struggling with anxiety since. I’ve never experienced anxiety before so I’ve been trying to navigate this new normal in addition to preparing for some pretty big life changes that are coming down the track. It’s been an adjustment, to say the least.
I’ve started seeing a therapist, and that’s been a huge help. I’ve learned what it’s like to experience panic attacks, how to sense them coming on, and how to calm myself back down. I’ve spent a lot more time with my journal, although sometimes that’s easier said than done when I’m afraid of what’s going to come out on the page. But I’m learning, and I’m processing, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
So what does this have to do with a DIY zero waste heating pad? Like many people, I carry all of my stress in my neck and shoulders. I’ve always known this, and the one time I got a massage the masseuse noticed it immediately. Usually it manifests simply as a little bit of soreness when I stretch my neck a certain way. But in the last couple weeks, it’s been almost a constant stabbing pain, even when I’m just sitting at my desk or laying around my apartment. I decided I needed some way to ease the tension but I didn’t feel like spending the money on a heating pad - so instead I searched my apartment (and the bulk bins of my local grocery store).
My mom and my grandma taught me how to sew at a very young age. Nothing too extraordinary (I left the intricate work to them) - mostly quilts and pillow cases and other small pieces. So when I decided I needed a heating pad I figured I could whip one up pretty easily. What I discovered was that pretty much anyone could do it. Beginning to end the entire process took less than 40 minutes.
I should note that I already had fabric squares laying around my apartment from a few years ago just begging to be used for something. I went with a 100% cotton fabric that was already cut into pieces for me, so I guess I kind of cheated in that regard, because I didn’t need to do any cutting, but hey why make things more difficult than need be?
How to make a DIY zero waste heating pad:
- Fabric of your choosing, in the size of your choosing. You will need one piece for each side of your heating pad. (I chose to use several pieces to make up each side, but if you are new to sewing, I’d stick with one piece for each side). Get creative here! Do you have old sheets or t-shirts lying around that you can repurpose?
- Thread in coordinating color.
- Sewing machine.
- Rice (or beans or other grain).
- Essential oil (optional).
1. Choose and cut your fabric(s). I chose to make a long heating pad that I could drape around my neck and shoulders. Perhaps you want a larger, more square-shaped pad, or smaller pads to double as hand warmers. The possibilities are endless! With the small square fabric pieces I chose, I decided to piece four squares together to make a long rectangle, but choose whatever fabric(s) and size makes you happy and comfortable. You’ll need a back and a front (so all-in-all I needed 8 of my squares).
2. Pin the pieces right-sides together. It should look like your heating pad will be inside-out (because it first it will be). If you only have one front and one back piece of fabric, then you’ll simply pin the two pieces together. If you have several pieces, like mine, you’ll need to pin the pieces together for each side first.
3. Sew the pieces together around the edges, but leave an opening on one end. If you have several pieces like I did, sew the individual pieces together to create each side first, then sew the two sides together. You will need the opening so you can turn your creation right-side out and fill it with the rice. I used a ¼” seam.
4. Turn your creation right-side out. At this point it should resemble some sort of bag.
5. Fill your “bag” with the rice, about halfway full. I purchased my rice from the bulk bins of my grocery store in another fabric bag. When choosing my rice, I went with the cheapest option available, which ended up being a short-grain brown rice. I bought waaaayyy too much of it for the size of my heating pad, but the total cost was around $6 for about 3 pounds. And although I didn’t use it all in my heating pad, it’ll make a delicious side dish for future meals, especially cooked in homemade veggie stock.
Note: If you choose to use an essential oil in your heating pad, mix the essential oil with the rice before adding it to your “bag.” Start with only a few drops, and add drop-by-drop until you reach your desired strength.
6. Fold the open edges of your “bag” in on themselves, and sew the heating pad shut. If you’re super savvy with a sewing machine (or needle and thread), you’re (A) likely not reading this tutorial, and (B) able to sew your heating pad shut in a way that looks like every other side. For the rest of us, I just sewed mine straight across the top. So, yeah, you can clearly tell where my opening was (sorry Mom!), but I think it’s charming. It adds some flair to my homemade creation.
7. Pop your heating pad in the microwave and use repeatedly! Oh and marvel at your creation. Isn’t it pretty?