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Photos by Lara Neel | The Journal Gazette
The beauty of hot/cold packs is they don’t need measurements and can be made in any size or shape.

Hot/cold packs find many uses

If giving as a gift, include a gift tag with printed instructions for use of the hot/cold pack.

Here’s a different kind of spring craft, one that’s more functional than fun: a hot/cold pack to soothe away the aches and pains of spring gardening.

I have several of these little gems scattered throughout my home and, even one at work. They are perfect for easing tension in the neck, soothing away sore knees or warming the bed.

I was first introduced to the concept of these packs when someone bought me one from a retail store. It was called a “Bed Buddy,” and it looked like a sock stuffed with something (I can’t remember what) with rope handles on the end. If you placed it in the microwave and heated it for a couple minutes, it was perfect for easing the tension in a sore neck (that’s how I always used it).

Over the years, I’ve seen many different takes on these. Some were commercially purchased and filled with a variety of substances (flax, gel), and some were bought at craft fairs, filled with more accessible items like dried corn or rice.

It is the ones found at craft fairs that inspired this column (well, that and the fact I had to make a couple quick Mother’s Day gifts).

As a crafter who has many interests, I also have a large stash (from yarn to beads to fabric) and I’m prone to buy fabric, especially if it’s fleece, off the remnants racks at Jo-Ann and other stores. I find fleece comes in handy for a variety of projects.

The beauty of these hot/cold packs is you don’t necessarily need measurements. You can make them whatever size or shape you like. For this column, I made two (a long one that will wrap around the neck and a shorter, wider one that can be used on the low back).

With fleece in hand, I needed only a couple more items to accomplish my goal. Here’s the list.

What you’ll need:

•Muslin

•Fleece

•Rice (white, brown, red, whatever, amount depends on size of your pack)

•Essential oil (for this project, I used honey almond and sweet orange, found in the soap/candle-making aisle of the craft store, but you can buy it at health food stores as well)

•Thread that coordinates with fleece

•A sewing machine

•Scissors or a rotary cuter

What to do:

1. Pour rice into a zippered plastic bag and sprinkle with essential oil. Set aside. (Note: For the longer one I made, I used about 5 cups of rice).

2. Cut the muslin to the size you want, whether that’s a 24-inch log, 4-inch wide log or a 7 1/2 -inch wide, 16-inch long rectangle or, other size you desire.

3. Stitch three of the four sides of the muslin, leaving an opening to fill with rice.

4. Fill muslin sack with rice but be sure not to stuff so it is bulging. Instead, as you fill, lay the piece down (be sure to keep the end that’s open closed tight) and flatten rice out. The pack should be flexible so it bends around the neck, etc.

5. Fold in edges of open end and double stitch to close.

6. Cut fleece so that it fits the muslin pack a bit loosely (because you’ll remove the pack to chill or to wash the fleece covering).

7. Stitch up all but one end of the fleece.

8. Fold edges in and stitch around opening of the fleece sleeve.

If you are giving this as a gift, you could include a gift tag with printed instructions for use. Here is what the tag that comes with mine says:

For warm comfort: Heat two minutes or more (so it can be handled) in mircowave oven with a cup of water in the oven for moisture.

For moist heat: Spritz with water before microwaving.

For cool comfort: Place rice pack in refrigerator for an hour or so, or in freezer for a half-hour.

Joyce McCartney is not a craft expert. She is, however, interested in crafting of all types. She shares her experiences and those of area crafters. To reach her, call 461-8364 or email craftyliving@jg.net. Also, visit her blog at www.journalgazette.net/craftyliving. There, you will also find the weekly knitting podcast Math4Knitters.

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