In our house, we try to use natural remedies first for ailments, before tapping into the more modern treatments that are available to us. It’s not that we shun Western medicine—not at all—it’s just that we’d rather try to figure out something a little more natural before we turn to more drastic measures. And while there are a lot of awesome home remedies out there, there is one that rises above them all in our house—the rice pack.
If you’ve never heard of a rice pack, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. A pack. With rice in it. Some folks do rice socks (just fill a clean sock with rice, and sew or tie it shut), but I actually like doing pretty little fabric pouches for my rice.
Why rice? Well, the rice is (a) affordable (b) malleable—meaning you can shape the pack around whatever body part is a-hurtin’ and (c) it holds both heat and cold. You can stash your rice packs in the freezer, and they are cold. Or pop ‘em in the microwave for a few seconds, and—BAM—they’re suddenly transformed into a cozy, warm hot pack. I also, personally, find something really nice about the texture of the rice in fabric, too. It’s soothing (kinda like this scene from Amelie). You might find me just playing with these rice packs sometimes. Maybe.
The rice packs work for an incredible number of ailments. Itchy bug bite? Put a rice pack on it. Sprained your ankle? Rice pack. Migraine? Rice pack. Eyes itchy from allergies? Rice pack. Stubbed your toe? Rice pack. Bee sting? Rice pack (after you put onion on it—there is a chemical in onions that helps slow down the immediate sting). Excruciating back pain during labor? Rice pack (or two).
I made my rice packs into boring rectangles, but you could have some fun with these as make them in fun shapes, which I think would be especially awesome for kids. I’m new to this whole parenthood thing, but I’m assuming there are a lot of childhood boo-boos that could be helped with a star-, dinosaur- or puppy-shaped rice pack. You’d follow the same method listed below, just instead of cutting your pieces into squares or rectangles, cut two shaped pieces.
Alright, let me show you how to make some rice packs. For each rice pack, you’ll need:
- 9” x 9” square of fabric
- Scissors, thread, sewing machine, iron, etc.
First up, take your square of fabric, fold it in half, right-sides together, and iron it flat.
Then, head to your sewing machine, and you want to sew all the way around the open edge, except, you want to start about an inch and a half in from the fold. That gives you a little opening to turn the fabric right-side-out and to funnel in the rice.
Now, because these packs are mushed and squished and used pretty roughly, I like to reinforce the seams. There are a number of ways you can do this. You can zig-zag stitch in the seam allowance. You can use a serger. You can use pinking shears. I ended up using one of the overlock stitches on my machine.
Now, turn the pack inside out.
And press to where it looks all nice and smooth.
Then, place the funnel in the opening, and start pouring in the rice.
Don’t fill these up too terribly tight. Like I said above, you want them to be able to mold around your body—you don’t want them to be so full of rice that they are rigid. I used about two pounds of rice for three rice packs.
Go ahead and fold in the opening, and pin it shut.
Thread a needle with some coordinating thread, and start stitching the seam opening closed. There are a few ways to do this. You could use a ladder stitch (which is what I did). You could also just use your sewing machine to close the entire end with a top-stitch (although, the more full your pack is with rice, the more difficult this will be). Whatever you do, I recommend actually going over it two or three times. This little seam will be the one “weak” spot in the pack. And you really want to reinforce it.
And then that’s it. You’re done!
You could also do scented rice packs by tossing the rice with your favorite smelling essential oil before filling. A warm, lavender-scented pack over the eyes would be a great way to help you get ready for bed. And peppermint oil is a natural headache cure—a cold peppermint-scented pack could really help take the edge off your migraine. A scented rice pack would make an awesome gift or stocking stuffer!