How to Make a DIY Heating Pad for Shoulders and Neck – Free Tutorial

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Sew a heating pad that is like warm hug around the neck! This cute heating pad is 24” long and 6” wide, just the perfect size and weight to wrap around your neck and shoulders. Heat it up in the microwave for 1-2 minutes and then relax, relieve stress, and ease your tired muscles.

When your muscles stiffen up from overuse, a little heat therapy can be just the thing to help them relax. For more detailed information about the proper use of heat therapy for deep injuries and instructions on how to apply heat (or ice) correctly, consult your doctor or physical therapist.

UPDATE: This blog post has been converted to an optional PDF that’s optimized for printing. Find it here. The pattern in the blog post below is totally free to read, print, and sew! Just hit CTRL +P on your computer to print. The Optimized for Printing PDF download for $3 is totally optional. Did you know you can get ALL the Optimized for Printing PDF files organized in a library for you to access anytime you want? Check it out.


For each basic Neck and Shoulders Heating Pad, you will need:

  • 8 strips of fabric 3 1/2” x 6 1/2”
  • 1 backing strip 6 1/2” x 24 1/2”
  • 3-4 cups of rice (or other grain for filling)

To make your filling scented, you can use:

  • lavender oil or buds for relaxation
  • frankincense or peppermint essential oil for inflammation
  • orange, lemon, or rosemary essential oil for pain reduction
  • eucalyptus essential oil to open nasal passages

This project is a perfect scrap buster but can also be made with less than 1/2 yard of material purchased specifically for this project. Some people like to use flannel because it is soft against your skin and is thicker than regular quilting cotton.

The fabric I used is Riding Hood by Josephine Kimberling for Blend Fabrics. That print on the far left below reminds me of a cozy afghan. And it has all my favorite colors.

Step 1: Constructing Sectioned Front Piece

For my heating pad project, I cut 3 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ pieces that create the compartments of the heating pad. I wanted to use my scraps and end up with a scrappy look. This also meant that I didn’t have to measure the compartments later in the construction when rice was added.  The seam lines determined the size of the sections.

If you decide to use a full length of cloth for both the front and the back of your heating pad, you will need to measure and mark the size of the rice compartments.  I strongly recommend the use of compartments to contain the rice and spread it evenly across the length of the heating pad. This also allows for some built-in bend to the completed heating pad so it contours snugly against your neck.

1. Cut the 8 strips into 3 1/2″ by 6 1/2″ units. Arrange the 8 strips into a combination that is pleasing to the eye.

2. Use a 1/4” seam allowance to sew the pieces together. Use a cotton thread since this is going to be heated repeatedly during its lifetime.

3. Press all the seams to the side in the same direction. Since all of your sections could be dark in color, pressing to the dark side may be confusing so please remember to just press all your seams in the same direction. This is important for when we close each section later in the construction process.

Step 2: Cutting the Backing Fabric of the Homemade Heating Pad

You could simply cut a rectangle that is 24″ x 6″ – the size the finished (pieced) front should. FYI… I don’t really cut my backing strip until my pieced front is done, then I lay the front on top of the backing fabric and cut around it, being careful not to cut the front anymore. It’s easier that way and then they are already RST (right sides together) and ready to sew.

Step 3: Sewing


1. Lay the back and front right sides together (RST), if you haven’t already done so.

2. Stitch around the rectangle with a 1/4” seam allowance, leaving a 4” opening on one short end. The opening should be on the end that the pressed seams face.

3. Stitch again a second time to reinforce the seam.

Note: the seam allowances should all be pressed toward the end with the opening.

Step 4: Turning

1. Clip the corners (without cutting the stitching) to reduce bulk. Turn right side out through the small opening you left at one end.

Roll the seams between your thumb and index finger or use a tool inside the bag to push the seams outward. You want the edges to be nice and crisp without any folds or creases.

Press the seams to flatten them as much as possible. This is the last opportunity you will have to really get a good press done.

2. Press the seam allowances at the open end to the inside. This will create a nice pressed seam for when you close the opening later.

Step 5: Filling and Top-stitching Sections of Heating Pad

1. If you are using an essential oil, measure the total amount of filling and add a drop or two of the oil and mix thoroughly.

2. Measure between 1/3 to 1/2 cup of rice or another filling like barley, buckwheat, or flax seeds One half cup makes a firm section, while 1/3 cup makes a squishier section. I like somewhere between firm and squishy. Adjust the amount as you prefer.

Pour this amount into the pouch you just created. This should be enough to fill one compartment or section. A funnel is helpful with this step although a rolled up piece of paper works pretty well too.

3. Shake the rice so it settles below the seam line.

4. Pin at the stitch line. I pin down the length of the seam (the width of the heating pad) and keep my pins fairly close together.

5. Sew the compartment closed by top-stitching just beside the stitch line you made when you sewed the front pieces together. The seams were pressed so they overlap the stitch line. By top stitching to close the compartment, you are reinforcing the stitch line, too.  Be sure to take your time so you don’t hit any rice with your needle.


6. When you get to the last compartment, fill it with only 1/3 cup of rice. There isn’t room for more rice because it has to be kept away from the presser foot when you sew this closed. Use plenty of pins to hold it closed.

7. Sew all the way across the top to top-stitch and close the opening using a short stitch length. You will want to use your sewing machine rather than hand sew this shut. You want the filling in the last compartment to stay inside the heating pad and with hand stitching, the rice can come out.

Wrap up and gift!

Five completed hjeating pads have been folded into a stacked square, tied with white ribbon into bows and placed into a circle. The circle of heating pads depicts a wreath and each bow is decorated with a brown tag that says Merry Christmas

Now you are ready to gift the most helpful present of the season!

Microwaves can vary, so test how long it takes to heat this up to a comfortable temperature. I usually go about 2 minutes, then test and add more seconds as necessary. Be careful not to overheat the heating pad.

Looking for more teacher gift ideas? I’ve also given them Ribbon & Vinyl Zipper Pouches, Wrist Strap Keychains, and 2 Sided Zips.

You might also like these 35+ Favorite Christmas Sewing Projects – All Free!

Disclosure: some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of those links I may receive a small commission, so thank you for supporting SewCanShe when you shop! All of the opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂