Here is a quick "how to" for an inexpensive Christmas gift -- wool and rice microwaveable hand warmers. Not only is it a present that is absolutely perfect for the chill ridden season, it is also a fun project to get you into that Christmassy mood! If you don't have a wool sweater laying around your house, head to the local thrift store and give them a sale for the holiday season. :) Purchase a 75% to 100% wool sweater that is dry clean only (the ingredients for a great felting sweater ;) ). Next, wash the sweater with some detergent on hot. Once the washing is done, you should see that the knitting stitches are almost lost in the intermeshing of fibers. Finally, throw it in the dryer and get ready for a wintery project.
Here is an oversized vest that I felted from my local thrift store. It came to the store with a few holes in it. The ladies are smart enough to still put it out for sale, because us wool lovers are waiting to snatch up a deal! ;) Just think of how many warmers a crafty seamstress could get out of one oversized vest... *sigh*
Originally, my thought was to do two different sizes of warmers. But after getting the first set made, I decided the second size would be too big for my needs. So, the template size for my hand warmers was 3 by 4 inches. Four rectangles will be needed to make a pair. Place them wrong sides together and fastened them well with pins, since wool has a tendency to shift shape while sewing.
The best thing about this project is that you simply just sew around the outside edge of the rectangle, leaving a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Start sewing your warmers by going forward and reverse to lock your thread and start to head around each side. Stop within a half of an inch of the starting point, lock your thread again and cut your piece free of the machine. Using a funnel (I bought a cheap 3 pack from the dollar store.), fill your little bag 3/4 full of rice (also purchased at the dollar store). To finish, you can either sew the hole by hand or use your machine.
How much simpler can it be? (This project would be great for me to use up some of those sweater remnants that are in my stash. Yay!) They are perfect for holding in ones hands, placing in pockets or sticking inside mittens. All one has to do is pop them in the microwave for 30 to 35 seconds to warm them up. I know it doesn't seem that long, but they can get REALLY hot... Trust me. So, be careful handling them and make sure that they are not damp- prior to heating- in any way. These of course are not washable but can be cleaned on the surface with a wet cloth.
This particular pair is heading to the home of my younger sister for a test run. She works for her local school system (First through third grade... YIKES) and her normal routine has her outside with the kids for short periods of time. Similar hand warmers have been rumored to hold heat for up to 25 minutes. I will let her put them to the test! ;)