In my continuing series on simple DIY christmas gifts, we come to a simple project with big heart — the DIY hand warmers. These little sachets of love can be warmed up and put in pockets to keep your hands warm on chilly days. The DIY hand warmers are stuffed with rice and lavender, so you can re-use them over and over… and smell good doing it.
Before I get into the mechanics of how to make a DIY hand warmer, I want to discuss material choice, method, and safety. Reusable hand warmers get warm by placing them in a microwave for about 30 seconds to one minute. This means that whatever you make your hand warmer out of must be safe for the microwave. This is VERY important. The Internet still remembers the time that Martha Stewart put up a hand warmer tutorial online which called for pie weights. Alas, when crafters tried it, some of their hand warmers caught on fire! So my DIY hand warmers tutorial calls for 100% natural ingredients that will not catch on fire, smolder, or melt if put in the microwave for a minute. This is also why my DIY hand warmers are sewn — any adhesive that will keep fibers together is likely to be toxic when heated in a microwave.
DIY Hand Warmers Materials
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- 100% Wool Felt or cotton flannel *
- Cotton embroidery floss or cotton crochet thread
- White rice (uncooked, not instant) or flaxseed
- Lavender (optional)
- Needle with a large eye (big enough to thread the embroidery floss)
- Pins (optional)
- Pinking shears (optional)
* Other options include: 100% wool or boiled wool, an old 100% wool sweater you’ve washed until it felted, 100% cotton or linen (but you’ll need to cut the edges with pinking shears to keep it from fraying),
Avoid: Any non-natural fiber, such as fleece — these synthetics will MELT!
Should you use rice or flaxseed? Here’s the deal — both will work, but flaxseed will work longer. Rice will eventually dehydrate, whereas flaxseed (which has oil in it) will continue to work. That said, most of us have rice, not flaxseed. I chose to use rice for this reason, plus I like the smell better. It’s a good idea to put a moist paper towel or even just a mug of water in the microwave when you heat up a rice-based hand warmer as that will help the dry rice.
DIY Hand Warmers Step-by-Step Tutorial
Step 1: Pour your rice/flaxseed in a bowl and mix it with dried lavender, if you choose to use it. You won’t need much — about 1/4 cup per hand warmer. Microwave it for a minute to kill any living organisms that could be lurking in there and potentially foul up your pretty hand warmer.
Step 2: Cut out the shape you desire from your material. You need two shapes that match — a front and a back. I made a heart, and a winged heart, but you could also make rectangles, squares, circles, and even hand shapes. (Note: The wings in my heat are sandwiched between the front and back heart, and are just one layer.) Pin together.
Step 3: Cut off a piece of floss about one yard long and thread your needle with it (single thread, not double thread). Tie a knot in the end.
Step 4: Put the two pieces of material together, insides in. Begin by stitching in one corner, about 1/4 inch in. Stitch through just one piece of material initially, from back to front, so your knot is on the inside.
Step 5: Continue stitching around the perimeter of your material, stopping when you get an inch from the place you began. I used two different stitches on mine — the white heart has a blanket stitch and the red winged heart is a running stitch. Remove your pins.
Step 6: Fill the inside of the pouch you’ve made with your rice/flaxseed/lavender mixture. You may find it easier to create a small paper funnel.
Step 7: Once filled, continue stitching until the hand warmer is closed. Double knot at the end.
Step 8: To use, place in microwave for 30 seconds to one minute (be sure the pins are removed first). Be careful when picking it up, as it will be quite warm.
DIY Hand Warmers Tips
If you’re not sure if your fabric is 100% natural fibers, try a burn test.
Keep your stitches no more than 1/4″ apart to keep rice/flax/lavender from spilling out.
It took me about 15-20 minutes to stitch each hand warmer.
You can also machine stitch these if you prefer. Just be sure to use cotton or linen thread, not synthetic (which is what most thread is). I just liked the hand stitched look and it really didn’t take all that long to do.
Do not heat longer than 1 minute, or you will burn the rice/flax. And your hand warmer will smell liked it’s been burned — no fun!
You can put these in your boots to keep your toes warm, too!
I hear barley is another option for filling these hand warmers, but I haven’t personally tried it.
P.S. Check out my other fun DIY gift tutorials to help you make wonderful homemade and inexpensive gifts for the holidays this year! I currently have tutorials on DIY teacup candles, DIY candy cane spoons for coffee/hot cocoa, DIY Sharpie mugs, DIY bath bombs, and DIY beeswax ornaments!
These are so cute and would make great stocking stuffers this year! What a great DIY!
Awesome, Logan! Much appreciated!
Angela Tolsma says
I use to have these as a kid but they were ugly and these are adorable!! These would be so cute as stocking stuffers!
Thank you, Angela! I think they turned out cute, too.
Blythe Alpern says
This makes me wish I lived in a colder climate again. I would love to make these. Having cold hands is the worst, but these are so cute and functional.
Thanks, Blythe … but I am glad you do not have to worry about cold hands at all!
OK – I was totally giggling reading about the hands catching on fire from those other DIY ones! Not funny, but omg. Yours are so cute – and bonus: no fires! haha… Totally trying these out!
I know, right? Funny, not funny! Thanks, Karen!
These are adorable! I received one of these for Christmas last year and loved it! I always wondered how they made them! I ‘d love to make some for gifts this year! Thanks for the tutorial!
Thank you, Brittany! They are really are easy to make. 🙂
Oh these are too cute! I need to make some of these for stocking stuffers and neighbor gifts this year!
Awesome, Allison! These would work great for both stocking stuffers and neighbor gifts!
Joanna @ Everyday Made Fresh says
Oh how easy are those?! Awesome! I need to whip myself up some because my hands are always so cold. These would come in handy next weekend for the Christmas parade.
Thanks, Joanna! These would be great for something like a parade.
Adaleta Avdic says
These are definitely going to become a necessity VERY soon, so I definitely need to consider making a pair for myself. If I’m really feeling good, I may make a pair for my boyfriend HAHA! xx Adaleta Avdic
Yes, the cold is coming! Today was pretty chilly in Michigan … at least the snow has melted. Thanks, Adaleta!
Terri Steffes says
I love them! I made a similar product using rice for a neck heater. Same princple and it was divine.
Yes, you can make big versions for heating pillows. I have one like this I use when I have cramps and it works really well. The bigger ones will keep their heat longer, too.
These are brilliant! I have been using hand warmers at all my boys soccer games and these would be perfect. I also would love a pair for my daughter.
Thank you, Carolyn!
Krystal // The Krystal Diaries says
Hand warmers are a must in the winter and these are the cutest hand warmers ever! I’m going to try doing this.
Thanks, Krystal — I really dislike cold hands, and this is a good solution. Hope it works out for you! Do let me know if you have any questions. 🙂
I hate being cold and these would be great! I totally have to make these sometime! Perfect!
You have my heart literally! I love these hand warmers these are so cute and these can even be used up until Valentines day season! Great DIY!
Ana De- Jesus says
Well these are the cutest hand warmers I have ever seen, I love the little hearts. Plus its DIY which is always awesome as well.
Much appreciated, Ana! I adore hearts. 🙂
Jessica Hughes says
These are so adorable! I love how you used the opposite color when stitching them closed. Such a cute idea.
Thank you so much, Jessica!
okay, these are adorable! I have some winter camp trips planned this year and I’m wondering if there is always a way to heat this at the campfire to use when getting ready for bed at night…
That’s a good question — I think you could put them in some aluminum foil and set them near (not in) the fire to warm them up. Or put them in a foil-lined pan over the fire. You may need to do a little experimentation to see how much heat and how long works best.
What a smart and cute idea to stay warm this winter. I pinned this since it is such a fun DIY!
Chelsea Damon says
I love how these have lavender in them! Definitely one of my favorite scents!
Dawn McAlexander says
That is really amazing. This is one craft that would really be handy for my husband. He works outside a lot and could really use some hand warmers.
THESE ARE AWESOME!! Perfect for this time of year and they even make a great DIY gift for the holidays. Thank you!
Rachel Catherine says
These are adorable! What a cute idea for the winter months! Thank you for sharing these.
Reesa Lewandowski says
How perfect for the winter are these? I would love to make some for gifts for friends!
I never would have thought of this! Super original, thanks for sharing it, it’ll save me a lot of money.
Debbie-jean Lemonte says
This is pretty crafty and resourceful. Atleast now I have a cool idea to try with my siblings and prep for the coming winter.
Nikki Arnold says
I love this diy project! My son visits family up north every Christmas and I think this would be great for him to be able to take outside in his pockets!!
Taylor Mobley says
This is so cute. I am totally not crafty at all. They look really cute though!! If I was crafty, I would try these out.
Tabitha Shakespeare says
I am seriously in love with these! They would make the perfect stocking stuffers! Definitely saving this for later!
Omg how cute are these hand warmers?!?! I live in WNY where it’s cold 24/7 so these would be perfect for me
Yona Williams says
Wow, I learned something new. Had no clue that flaxseed would retain heat longer than rice. That is interesting, and I have plenty of it in my cupboards.
Christina Aliperti says
This is such a genius idea! I have to make a bunch of these for the whole family.
These hand warmers are so cute and so easy to make. I love hand warmers, especially during the cold New York winter but they can be expensive to purchase. I really like the idea of making them for myself.
I made some warmers using flaxseed for my mom. A week or so later, it started sprouting. How can you keep this from happening?
Your flaxseed started sprouting?! Wow, that’s a new one. I did a little Google search and the advice is to keep them away from moisture so they don’t sprout. I would have thought microwaving the flaxseed would stop sprouting, as it would sterilize the seed. Did you microwave them before using them? If not, I’d try that next time.
I have tons of felt will make some thank you so pretty
Rebecca Clark says
Curious how long the heat lasts?
Hiya, Rebecca! It depends on where you keep the hand warmers. If they are out in the open, maybe 10 minutes. If they are in your pocket (so heat loss isn’t so fast), it’s more like 20-25 minutes. 🙂
Georgia Kelly says
Totally love these, was just wondering if you had an idea on how long the rice works compared to the flax seeds? Just found your site and am in love with all your ideas, thank you for sharing!
Hi, Georgia! Happy you like these — I look forward to making more myself when the weather turns chillier. I only made mine with rice, not flax, so I can’t comment. Some other people who tried flax said they didn’t like the way it smelled when it heated. Also, sometimes the flax will sprout if it gets moist. (LOL!) So I’ll probably go with rice again when I made them this autumn.
Deborah Weisblatt says
Great project! What stitch did you use to close the white hearts?
Thanks! I used red embroidery floss.
Deborah Weisblatt says
Blanket stitch – Now I saw that you posted it! 🙂 Thanks!!!
Oh! Sorry, you meant what embroidery stitch, not what type of embroidery thread. Sorry I misread that!
What a cute idea. Too late for this year but bhaijives me time for next year stocking stuffers.
Thank you for aharing your craft ideas I really appreciate it. I am new to cricut but I love the hand warmer email I got.
What a great idea! I just made lavender sachets and put the DIY up on my blog from lavender I harvested in my garden this summer, but I really love this idea (and I have some left, yay me!) Oh, and my hands are ALWAYS cold, so there we go!
Great “Remember Me” gift for my Grandchildren who live far away. Thank You again Jennifer Maker!
I love that sentiment, Diana!