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These microwave hand warmers are the perfect gift for your local police department for Law Enforcement Appreciation Day – and they’re super easy to make!
I don’t know if you noticed or not, but I may have failed as a police wife blogger this January.
Why, you ask?
Well, I knew about law enforcement appreciation day in May. But then, on January 9th, I logged into Facebook and, boom. All sorts of “Happy Law Enforcement Appreciation Day!” graphics.
I had a moment of panic, then decided… oh well.
It’s not that I don’t care – not at all! But I figure if I’ve hit at least one of them a year (plus national donut day), I’m probably good.
Plus – who needs a prescribed day to show appreciation? #rebel
So with that in mind, I decided to get off my butt and share a project I’ve been thinking about for the better part of the last few months – but never got around to.
These super-cute, easy-to-sew, great-for-fabric-scraps reusable DIY microwave hand warmers 🙂
While they make a great (and budget-friendly) gift for pretty much everyone, I whipped up a handy printable tag to attach to these that make them perfect for law enforcement appreciation day. Yay!
Bonus, if you actually remember the January 9th law enforcement appreciation day, winter is the perfect time to give these out.
How To Make Microwave Hand Warmers
Step 1: Gather your materials.
You’ll need the following to make these:
Flannel and fleece are great choices for holding in heat, but there’s no rule against using other fabrics. That being said, this is a great opportunity to use up your scrap fabric or rummage through the remnants bin at your craft store.
I also used up the rest of an old sweater I had turned into cold weather gear for the kiddos – which I’ll admit turned out to be my favorite fabric! It made a delightfully squooshy hand warmer.
Sewing machine and thread.
I’d highly recommend a sewing machine rather than hand-sewing these, because the rice will stay in better. Plus, it’ll be 1000x faster.
This one is similar to what I currently use – just a newer version of it, since I bought mine 6 years ago. But it’s still going strong after all that time!
Hand sewing needle
That being said, you’ll need an old fashioned needle for sewing the opening after you fill them with rice. Don’t be intimidated by this if you’re not already a big sewer, there’s a tutorial linked below!
You can grab some on Amazon if you don’t feel like heading to the store.
Whatever rice you’d like to use is great. I’ve heard rumors jasmine rice is the best smelling option for microwave hand warmers, but I’ve never tested to see whether it smells better than any other option. I just trusted what I read and so far, so good!
I’d recommend going somewhere you can buy this in bulk, because you’ll need quite a bit. And why not get it cheaper? Winco is generally my go-to, but if you have a trusted resource you prefer, go for it.
I used about 2 ½ pounds of rice total for about 50 hand warmers.
Gift tags + ribbon/yarn/string to attach them.
This is technically optional, but I think it makes them a lot more fun to give as a gift – and, again, perfect for law enforcement appreciation day! They’re best printed on cardstock. I personally chose to get them printed at Office Depot – easier, and if it screws up, I’m not out paper, they just fix it for me 😉 Especially since I printed 10 pages of these babies.
Then I decided to go into my yarn stash and use that to attach them to the warmers. You can use anything you’d like for this, but I liked the “thin blue line” aspect of this yarn, personally!
Note: When I make microwave rice bags for people I know, I’ll sometimes add essential oils, but in this case I would highly recommend against it in case anyone at the department is allergic. Or even just not into it! The more generally appealing, the better 🙂
Step 2: Cut your fabric.
This will be most easily accomplished with a mat and rotary cutter, but there’s totally nothing wrong with regular ol’ fabric scissors.
Note: If you plan on doing any considerable sewing, I would totally recommend investing in Gingher tools. They LAST – and you can use 40% off coupons from JoAnn to make them more affordable!
However you want to do it, cut your fabric into approximately 4” squares. As you go, go ahead and match up the squares and pin into pairs with right sides together – it’ll save you time later.
Better yet, fold the fabric and cut two at a time – perfect fit, even if your cutting (like mine!) gets a tad wonky.
Note that if you’re using fabric that’s naturally pretty “sticky” (like the flannel/fleece I mentioned), you don’t need to go crazy with pinning the edges prior to sewing. One pin in the center just to hold it together while it’s in a stack is fine! The fabric will stay together enough naturally that pinning carefully around the edges is really just a waste of time.
Step not pictured: Realizing your rotary cutter is dull to the point it just makes an indentation on your fabric and having to order a new blade on Amazon. Ha! Thank goodness for one-day Prime shipping.
Step 3: Sew.
With right sides together, sew around the edges of the paired-up squares. I used ¼” seam allowance, but it isn’t technically a huge deal. You choose. A bigger seam allowance will just make for minutely smaller microwave hand warmers.
Be sure to leave a 1” opening or so for turning. I made this too small on a few and had to use a seam ripper to make it bigger. Oops! Fortunately, easy to fix, but again – the simpler you can make this, the better 😉
The best part about this project, IMO, is since you’re turning these babies inside out, it’s not a huge deal if your seams are a little messy.
That being said, if you’re pretty confident in your straight/non-messy seaming ability, you could totally cut your squares with pinking shears (the ones with the zig-zag, right? You can tell how much I do anything quilting related) then seam, fill, and finish with the sewing machine.
But it was fortunate for me I didn’t do this, since my machine kept acting up. I’m guessing I need to replace my needle, but I was trying to whip this part out during naptime and I didn’t want to have to mess with it yet. In hindsight, doing so probably would have helped me finish faster…
If you’re fancy, you could also use a serger – but I don’t own any such machine.
But I figured you should be aware of all your options 🙂
Step 4: Turn.
This step is great for doing in front of the tv after the kids go to bed. It’s also simple enough you could easily enlist their help!
Turn the hand warmers right side out, using a pencil/other long, thin object to crisp up the corners.
Note: I didn’t bother clipping the corners before turning. I tested first to see how it would look, and I didn’t mind the corners being less than razor sharp. If you’ll feel bothered by this, you’re welcome to add in this extra step!
Step 5: Fill.
Now for the messiest part of this whole thing: filling the bags with rice.
While you could use a legit funnel for this step, I couldn’t find one around my house. So I used some junk mail and scotch tape to rig one up, and it worked just fine.
I found this step easiest to accomplish by putting the rice in a mixing bowl and using a ¼ cup measuring cup to scoop it. I filled over the bowl so if I spilled, it went right back into the bowl.
I put about ½ a cup of rice in each microwave hand warmer, making sure to shake it around a bit as I filled to make sure it was nice and plump (but not “hard” – just nicely filled. Use your own judgment here!)
Note: I “batched” the last steps, but this step, I started filling then sewing one at a time because I had kids around. The last half, I was able to fill them all, line them up, and then stitch because the kids were out of the house. That was preferable to me, but either one works fine – do what you have to do!
Step 6: Finish
With the thread and hand sewing needle, use an invisible ladder stitch to finish the edge of each hand warmer.
By the way, if you’re nervous, trust me when I say it’s a super simple stitch to learn and SO useful. I use it all the time for fixing stuffed animals around here!
After this step, voila! Your warmers are finished. Yay!
Step 7: Attach tags.
Of course, if you’re gifting these, they are definitely 1000x cuter with gift tags.
Plus, the gifts make more sense when labeled. After all, my husband asked why I was making a ton of bean bags…. So their intended purpose as microwave hand warmers may not be all that obvious if they’re given on their own.
You can download the ones I used in my free resource library, or make your own. It’s up to you!
Once you’ve signed up and gotten the password, go to the resource library, download, and print.
Cut them up (again, easier with a paper cutter, but scissors will do), hole punch them, then attach with your chosen string.
Note: I cut mine into approximately 10” lengths, but again – no hard and fast measurement needed. Just cut one, test it, and adjust as necessary.
Step 8: Gift ‘em!
Hooray, you did it! Give yourself a pat on the back, then bring these to your local police department for a nice pick-me-up, whether it’s in honor of law enforcement appreciation day, Christmas, or just because!
If you follow this tutorial, I would love to check out your projects! Feel free to email me or just leave a picture in the comments 🙂
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