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December 08, 2007


Hera L

Ok seems to me that the issue is that 5 minutes is too long you should only warm them in 1 to 2 minute incriments I make meck warmers but I use wheat hulls they last a long time plus not real expensive but I amnot sure how long they would stay warm in the cold

Pat Vera-West

I made one with a cotton/polyester blend fabric stuffed with rice, & the fabric melted in spots while heating! (AFTER I had given it to a friend.)
Thereafter, I was careful to use 100% cotton quilting fabric, with rice inside. Have one stuffed with corn that works with no smell--given to me by a friend, but it is very uncomfortable due to hard kernels, if you put it on your back, & lie against it.I also have a commercial one of sock fabric stuffed with flax seed that is very comfortable, but is beginning to smell oddly, after a couple of years' use. Choose fabric & "stuffings" carefully. Corn does not hold heat very long either.


Well dang. I've been making neck warmers for years, using flax seed, pearled barley, wheat berries, millet - they all stink after a few uses. I've gotten to where I like to use cotton flannel, because it's soft and warm and cotton. Today I bought pie weights. Should have googled this first.


I too had the same problem!!!

Sassy Priscilla

Thanks for the in-depth information about how you made yours. I used cashmere instead of felt and it wasnt cheap! I think the pie weights are what caused the problem. The last few years since I blogged this post, I have heard from other people who had the same problem. Yikes! I think Ive given up on hand warmers for now but will keep your suggestions in mind. Thank you! Sarah


i made these almost three years ago, and my mother in law loves hers.
what was in the original magazine article of marthas was to use washed wool,in other words old school felt, not the stuff in craft stores , you can either find 100% wool sweaters,from the thrift store(100% wool only) wash and dry them in laundry bags a few times,they will shrink a lot, but you know they are felt when you can cut them, or at christmas time fabricland carries boiled wool, which is essentially the same thing.
also i have never heard of using pie weights, the article that i had said to use buckwheat, it is cheap and easy(like my husband)(kidding), and i also used embrodery floss to stitch around the outside, after the inside was sewn together.


Make them with flax seed.


I had trouble finding the weights in local crafts stores, but you know what works wonders? Rice, uncooked rice! Just stuff the already made squares with rice and pop in the microwave and you'll have a safe hand warmer that holds its heat for 3-5 min! and it smells good in the process too! Hope it works for you!


you have to use natural fabrics like 100% cotton, and you can still use the ceramic pie weights... I made a fleece velcro cover that you can put the hand warmer into, but make sure to tell the ppl you give it to to take the hand warmer out of the cover, BEFORE you put it into the micro wave, and not for more than 2 mins ... that is usually sufficient! ... you can also make magic bags (larger) that are long and narrow, and fill will regular uncooked rice... good for sore muscles, necks, ankles, or whatever!!


I use brown rice in a cotton sock for a heating pack and have never had any problem with burning or bad smells. Microwave for less than 1 minute, check it, only use more time if it's not hot yet. The way this works is the microwave heats up the tiny bit of water left in the dried rice. As the whole-grain rice cools, it pulls moisture back into it from the air, so you can reuse it indefinitely

For the people who have said the rice stinks, I've never had this problem at all; maybe you are using white rice, or microwaving too long, or are in a very dry part of the country?

Another nice tip: You can put a bit of sachet herbs in with the rice, such as dried lavender flowers or dried lemon basil flowers, etc; whenever you move the rice around, it will rub the herbs a bit, so the scent stays fresh for a long time.

The one disadvantage of rice is that the warmth doesn't last as long as it would with ceramic bits.

Lisa Marie

Holy Cow, I have the pattern and I was just about to make some as gifts . Talk about fate !!!


I did the same and had the same results---I even made sure the thread was 100% cotton. I went on the MS site and couldn't find it today---now what do you do with all those pie weights? Any suggestions?


I made these for shower gifts last week... I had done a test one but for only a couple minutes.. it was ok but didnt get that warm. I thought it was bc I didnt use enough beads.. Well after the shower I put one in for 5 minutes and after 2.5 - it was on fire! How embarrassing to give flammable gifts! They are so easy to make and look so good... Im going to try beans maybe..?


Try microwaving for 2 minutes only (maybe even less for such a small item. I make larger rice and corn bags and microwave those for only two minutes). Four minutes, and definitely five minutes, seems far too long.

Also, check your thread selection. If you are using polyester thread it would most likely melt if left the microwave for any length of time. Make sure to use 100% cotton or some other natural thread.


I am glad that I found this. I had anticipated making a few. I thought about using cherry pits because someone I know makes heating packs using cherry pits so that the warmers can be washed. I purchased Martha Stewart's magazine and so it says that you can use thick, soft wool, corduroy or heavy cashmere. I would heat at short increments and shake it every time. I have rice packs that need replacement insides soon and I shake the warmers in between heatings.


I use cotton muslin and flaxseed. They are wonderful bed warmers. However, I never walk away from the microwave. I burned one "warmer" because I forgot I hadn't finished sewing the seam, and I left straight pins in it - not great in a microwave! I once burned a rice bag after many uses. I've noticed the flaxseed bag is beginning to smell. So I think their use has a time-limit . . . maybe about a year. Glad to find this site about the dangers of the MS idea. They looked so appealing. I think the problem is directly related to the fabric not the ceramic pie weights - what do you all think?


That's scary! I was going to make this for my mom.

I remember i had a classmate that burned different types of cloth for an elementary school science project. Wool took her the longest to burn so I guess that's the best choice for making these. Also check if your cloth is made with oil since it burns really easily.

Sarah F.

P.S. Here's the link in case you were wondering: http://www.marthastewart.com/photogallery/handmade-gifts?lnc=6259e0917df4d110VgnVCM1000003d370a0aRCRD&rsc=lpg_col2_holiday&lpgStart=1&currentslide=12&currentChapter=3

Sarah F.

I'm so glad I found this! I have been eyeing these hand warmers on the MS website for days now as a potential handmade gift this year. When I went to click on the directions today, however, the site said they were unavailable. So, I searched and found your site. I'm glad I can learn from your troubles! (Besides, I was already a little skeptical that cashmere was microwave safe!)


Buckwheat. It doesn't stink like rice. I don't know about corn, have never seen (or smelled!) one. Also, microwave with a mug half full of water. the bag stays dry enough that the moisture doesn't become an issue even when it cools down, and the fire hazard is greatly reduced.


I have made bags with rice before but after you use them for awhile the rice burns and starts to smell bad. I use Buckwheat and put a little bit of perfume or other scent and mix it in with the buckwheat. I also use felt for the lining. Hope this helps...

The Chatty Housewife

My mom makes large ones with black tube socks and rice. She closes the tube sock up, sews loop handles to each end and covers it with some nice cotton fabric. They work great!


We have used rice and made rice packs to do warmers for tummy aches, etc. and you can put them in the freezer to help with swelling. We tried the very hand warmers that you are talking about with KIDS! And had the same issue. Try rice and see if that works for you. It works for us.


My mother in law had a microwavable scarf for Christmas, and had it burst into flames while it was round her neck... Luckily only a bit of singed hair. I suspect the issue is overheating, but the difference between the right amount and too much is very little. Be very careful!

Missy Moo

Would lavender work?


This happened to me too! I put them into the microwave for 5 min. Stopped it at 21/2 to flip them and then one minute later one of them had flames coming out of the corner! What the heck!? I was using a cotton polyester blend thread though. I wonder if I replace the ceramic pie weights with corn if the problem will go away, or if in my case it is the thread that is the problem. They were supposed to be gifts (I made 18 of them!) and now I'm nervous to give them even if I change the filler!


I saved Martha's craft issue from last year thinking this would be a great gift. My 7th graders made them with fleece and rice instead of pie weights ( a lot less expensive). I tried one to see what would happen and it turned out the rice really stunk up the room. But it worked and the fleece didn't catch on fire. I've heard that pinto beans work too but haven't tried it yet. I'll let you know.

Helen Griffith

I too had this same problem. I used 100% wool instead of cashmere b/c in MS's Holiday issue last year wool was in bold print, so I assumed it worked the best. Was not the case... I made one and it burned. Thought I did something wrong so made another w/ same outcome. Really wanted to give these as gifts this year and they turned out very charming looking. (before microwaving of course) Don't think my in-laws would appreciate me burning their house down w/ these gifts. Saw someone suggested rice. Does this work? Another thought.. does anyone know if the wattage on the micorwave has anything to do with the mishaps?


Yikes! Sorry to say I am definitely giggling here. I really appreciate it when people share "what NOT to do"!


well, it might be extra work but how about putting the pie weights into some calico or similar fabric and then putting snaps on the cashmere (i don't sew, so this may be problematic, would the cashmere hold up to snaps..maybe velcro?) then the pie weights would be removeable, you could just microwave those and then put them back into the cashmere pouch when they are warm.

my cat has a (non-cashmere, she's isn't that posh) warming mat that work this way. it's been fine so far.


I'm so sorry to hear they caught fire! I would have been a great gift - your post did make me chuckle though.


wow. scary! I wonder if there turns out to be something in the pie weights? What about using rice inside instead?


Oh my, this is definitely not a good thing and I'm so sorry you've had this experience. I honestly haven't a solution to offer but I do appreciate your efforts in seeking one.

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