Friday, December 17, 2010

Tutorial: Heat Therapy Travel Pillow

Sore muscles and more presents to make in the home of the suburban Greenmom...

Anyone else exhausted? I am. (It doesn't help when I deliberately go to bed early, and then my body is so used to getting only 5-6 hours of sleep that I pop up ready to face the day at 3am...grrr...)

I've had these two ideas for crafty-gifts in my mind for a couple of weeks, and today I realized I could combine them into one: those little doughnut-shaped travel neck pillows, and the lovely heat-in-your-microwave warming muscle therapy pads.

The kids and I will most likely be traveling east the day after Christmas via Amtrak--between the cost, the carbon footprint, and the new TSA annoyances involved in air travel at the moment, it just made more sense, and besides, the kids think it's a Real Adventure. The catch is that we made the decision late enough that we were unable to get sleeping cars even if we wanted to, and they are overnight train rides, so we'll basically be spending the night in coach train seats. I'm already resigned to this being two sleepless nights for me, because I'm a bad sleeper
anyway (c.f. above), but I'd at least like the kids to be comfortable. Plus I like to make them at least one Christmas gift each year and this one has been a dud in that regard. So this morning I decided to make them cute and comfy little fleece travel pillows for our trip. Oddly, I couldn't find a single (free) tutorial for the travel pillows online, so I figured I could make my own here--obviously if you're not interested in the heat therapy option, you could stuff them with whatever you want.

Heat Therapy Travel Pillow Tutorial:

Part I: the pattern
  • measure the circumference of the neck in question. (I made the prototype for myself--not to be selfish, but because if I screwed it up I'd rather it be for me and not a gift!) Divide by 3, and you have the diameter of the neck size you want.
  • Add about 10 inches to this number--that's the total diameter of your circle pattern
  • Using paper, muslin, or whatever, cut a circle in this size; cut out a circle the size of your neck-hold in the middle of that.
  • (the trick to making a very decent if not absolutely precise circle, if you don't want to mess with a compass or whatever: fold a square piece whose sides are the same as the diameter of the circle you want into quarters. Using a tape measure or even string, holding one end at the corner of your folded square, make 4 or 5 dots around the square as you go. The more dots, the more precise your circle will be. Then just cut around the marks you made, and your circle will be pretty darned round.) (See the photo if this explanation made no sense!)
  • Remove about 1/4 of this circle and round the edges; now you have your c-shaped pattern. (Or you can cut in half--or just make half, for that matter--and cut on the fold. I wasn't very scientific about this. Heck, it's December 17, who has time for science?...)

Part II: the inner pillow

  • Using muslin or cotton, or any fabric that's in good shape but which you don't much care about--for me it's a thrift store sheet--and cut two pieces in your pattern shape.
  • Sew together, "right sides" together if it matters (it didn't for me, with the white sheet), leaving a good few inches unsewn; I did mine at the back of the neck, but they could be anywhere. Do not, as I did at first, make the unsewn part too small--it'll be a royal pain getting the rice in. (Note: for this part, I used a fairly tiny seam allowance, maybe only a quarter inch or so, so I could overlock the edges easily. If you want a bigger seam allowance, make your pattern bigger all around.)
  • You may, if you're not using a serger, want to reinforce or overlock these seams; what you absolutely don't want is rice spilling out. Ever. Mess.
  • Turn right-side out.

Part III: the filling
  • This is the fun part. For one adult-sized pillow, I used 5 cups of plain ordinary cheap white rice and 1 cup dried lavender flowers. You can sort of play and have fun here--rice (or buckwheat hulls, or whatever you like--but rice is cheap and smells really nice heated up) all by itself is just fine, and I have to wonder how yummy it might smell if some dried ginger root or orange peel were tossed in there too. But for now, since I have way more lavender blossoms than I ever use, I went with that.
  • If you like, add maybe 5-10 drops of some essential oil--obviously, lavender is my obvious choice, but as you wish!
  • Pour into your pillow. If you have one of those wide-bottomed canning funnels, that's perfect for this. You want there to be enough filling that it's hard to find a completely bare spot when the ends are packed full, but not so much that there isn't some give to it. Use your own judgment here. (And here, if you're not going for the heat therapy route, just stuff with fiberfill or the fabric scraps you've been saving for months figuring you might someday use them for something.)
  • Carefully sew up the opening. Reinforce. Try it on. It will probably feel a little meager still at this point, but don't worry.

Part IV: the case
  • I can't imagine using anything but fleece for this. Okay, I can, but after imagining, I'll come back to fleece every time. (Felted wool, flannel, a nice heavy knit...all would work, but I'd still go with fleece.)
  • Going back to your original pattern, cut two matching pieces out of your fleece, but make these a good couple of inches bigger all around. (Or make a bigger pattern; I just eyeballed it, cutting about an inch outside the pattern all the way around. On my fleece pieces, the circle almost met in the middle and wasn't a 3/4 much at all.) For this we will need a bigger seam allowance, and you don't want the smaller pillow to be packed in there too much.
  • We will be leaving a good 6 inch opening in the center back. Leaving that area unsewn, with right sides together, sew the two fleece pieces together. Then go around the opening and sew the seam allowances down so the opening looks finished and nice.
  • Using velcro tape (or dots, or if you're not all intimidated like I am you could even use a zipper) and sew on each side of the finished opening.
  • Flip right-side out. You may need to clip the seam allowance at the curves, especially the inner curve, to get it to lie nicely.
  • Heat the rice-filled case about 2 minutes in the microwave, and then insert into the fleece case. Press the opening shut.
  • Pour a glass of wine. Settle down in your comfiest chair for a while. Relax until you realize you have too much work to do...
And so on. Really easy--these take no time at all once you've got the ingredients, and they are very comfy. Now that mine is done I'll make a couple for the kids, probably with little matching fleece blankets to take on the train. Maybe I'll even make the blankets with little built-in bags and backpack straps so they can carry the blankets and pillows together...

Then again, since it's December 17 and the busiest time of year for me, maybe...not.

(I guess it's too early in the day for that glass of wine, isn't it? Sigh...)
--Jenn the Greenmom

1 comment:

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

My family took a train from Indiana to Utah when I was a kid. It took two days, and I still remember it as one of the best trips ever. Hope your kids have fun!


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