Decluttering the Ghosts of Projects Past AND Make Fast Last Minute Gifts!

rice filled foot warmer

Use the cheapest rice this one cost about 40 cents a pound.

Last Minute Gifts that help you declutter from projects past!

We are in the holiday Gift Giving Season! Whatever it is you celebrate – it all comes together this month!

I like to have a stash of last minute gifts for unexpected guests, party hosts or just to fill in a gap under the tree.

This year I  established a practice of daily decluttering my household from past debris and detritus (i.e. old project leftovers).

Since I have an art studio/craft room I have LOTS of leftovers that are too nice to throw away. So for my last minute gifts I am using up small pieces of fabric by making non-electric heating pads. These little gems are great as a replacement for the old-fashioned hot-water-bottle as well as a substitute for the electric heating pad.


Overview: To make this rice filled warmer you need:

  • A piece of cotton material 17 inches by 20 inches, flannel or just a soft cotton will work.
  • The ability to sew straight lines on a sewing machine (I taught my 10-year-old grandson to make these).
  • A sewing machine
  • and some rice.

After you make your first one, you can figure out your own variations in size and shape.

Step 1: Cut your material – for an 8″ X 18″ warmer your piece will need to measure 16″ X 20″. If you are already someone that sews you could make this in an animal shape or any shape you want. Remnants or Fat Squares work well.

Fig1- folding&1st stitching

Step 2: Fold your material lengthwise with right sides facing in. Sew along each short side. (see Fig. 1 above)

TIP #1: Sew from open side towards the fold and sew clear off the end of the material to make sure the pocket will be closed.

Step 3: Turn the sewn piece right side out so the side seams are on the inside. Poke out corners until they are squared.

Step 4: Sew on the right sides starting with the center. This does not have to be exact – eyeball measures work.  Then sew in the center between the first center stitching and the right side. I drew in the stitching and numbered them to help with the visual. Don’t forget TIP #1.

Fig2 sewing the tube pockets

Step 5: Repeat Step 3 on the left side. As you can see from my drawing the tubular pockets do not have to be exactly the same. They can be – but eyeball measuring still works.

Now comes the fiddly part – filling the tubes with rice. You will adjust to personal preferences here, but remember the tubes do not have to be tightly packed. The loosely filled pockets are softer and you don’t want the warmer to fell like a brick on an aching joint or pulled muscle. On the other hand if you don’t put in enough rice – the warmer cools off faster. Here is a picture of the “tools” I use:

Supplies for filling

I made 10 warmers and used 25 pounds of cheap rice. You will use about 2 – 3 pounds of rice for one large warmer (this size). I use a 2 quart measuring bowl to stand the empty warmer in – use what you have – it helps hold the pockets upright and catches spills as you are pouring in the rice. I use a measuring cup for a scoop so I can get pretty close to filling the pockets with one scoop. Use a regular funnel inserted in the top of the pocket to corral the rice.

rice in funnel

Step 5: Insert funnel into open pocket (see above photo) and pour rice into funnel – fill pockets one at a time to about and inch and a half from the top. I stand the warmer in a large bowl until half the pockets are full, then you can take it out and just lean it on something. Straight-sided containers other than bowls work too.

Pinning top of pockets

Step 6: Fold in the unfinished edge and pin the pockets closed. One pin per pocket will work, you may use more pins if you wish.

Step 7: Sew the pockets closed. Go slowly using a toothpick or a straight pin to push wayward rice grains out of the path of the needle. This is very important as one grain of rice will stop the sewing and can break your needle.
Pinning top of pockets

Last step: Snip all the excess thread and check that all pockets are sewn all the way shut so rice cannot migrate.

There you have it – an beautiful warmer that would have cost $30+ at the store. AND you have used up excess stuff from your craft area creating space and freeing up your creativity for the next time around.


Put the rice-filled pillow in the microwave oven for 3 minutes to get it hot. I use heavily patterned fabric because over time the warmer will pick up little smudges from debris in the microwave. Some people like to make pillowcase type covers that can be taken off and washed. My warmer lasted 2 years – nuked 3 – 5 times a day in our cold season – then the rice got brittle and burned a hole in the fabric. I fixed it but it didn’t really work too well after that.

Hooray! You have used up several (I made 10 in one afternoon) scraps of fabric – thus freeing you up by decluttering space in your craft area and in your mind. And you have enough gifts to be very generous this year. I use them for hostess  gifts, birthday gifts, unexpected-guest gifts and plain old “Here you need this” gifts.

BEST OF ALL  – You have joined the green movement by using up what you have AND there is less clutter in your home!


If you have questions about making the warmers, ask them in the comment section and I will answer you – be sure to leave me an email address too.

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