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Any time’s a good time for a little stress decompress. S4H has created a number of rice-filled pillows, from our famous microwaveable rice pads to our soothing eye pillows. This spa-style treat is a longer, double-compartment pad inside a comfy terry cloth sleeve; it’s just perfect to wrap around your neck and shoulders for a bit of welcome relief and relaxation. 

Our Fast Fridays series is all about whipping out something wonderful in no time at all. These neck wraps can stitch together in about an hour.

A combination of rice and flax seed is recommended for the filling with just a light scent added from essential oil. The rice absorbs and retains the oil while the flaxseed provides a smooth, soothing texture.

The 25” long tube is broken into two compartments so the filler stays evenly distributed. You don’t want to overfill the wrap because part of its appeal is being able to gently shift the rice/flax to mold it around your neck. The ribbon loops at either end make it easy to adjust.

The weight of the rice and flax seed is very comfortable. Make one for yourself, and a few extra for any stressed-out pals. They’re always a welcome gift.

Our outer sleeve is made in 100% cotton terry cloth, which is super soft against your skin and super easy to launder as well. The inner tube is quilting cotton and is designed to extend beyond the outer sleeve by about ½” to add a fun splash of color at each end. Our pretty prints are from the S4H Stash, originally part of the Hotel Frederiksted collection by Jennifer Paganelli for FreeSpirit fabrics.

We bound the center seam allowance of the terry cloth sleeve with strips of cotton to match the inner filled tube. This provides a pretty little pop of surprise color on the inside of the sleeve, but the real reason is to smooth the seam so the inner tube slides more easily through the sleeve. Two alternative binding techniques are shown below and we also include a link to our full four-part series on machine sewn seam finishes should you wish to choose a different finish.

Essential oils, white rice, and flax seed can be found in most natural food departments. The oils can be expensive but a little goes a long way. We used about four cups of rice mixed with four cups of flax seed for each of our wraps.

There are heating, cooling, and washing instructions below. As with all our filled pads, they are meant to be carefully heated in a microwave not on the stove or in a conventional oven.

Our Therapy Wraps finish at approximately 25” long x 4½” wide with two 6” handle loops.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

The amounts shown below are for ONE Therapy Neck Wrap.

  • ¼ yard of 44”+ terry cloth; we originally used 62” wide 100% cotton terry cloth in Navy and Fuchsia
    NOTE: The cut is exactly 9” (¼ yard); if you are worried about the precision of your cutting, get ⅓ yard. With the wider terry cloth we used (62″), you’d have enough for two sleeves from one cut. 
  • ½ yard of 44”+ quilting weight cotton; we originally used two prints from the Hotel Frederiksted collection by Jennifer Paganelli for FreeSpirit Fabrics
    NOTE: This amount of cotton allows enough for the optional interior binding. If you choose not to do the binding, you can get away with ¼ yard, but as mentioned above, the cut is 9”, so you need to be precise. 
  • ¾ yard of ⅞” – 1” wide ribbon; we used ⅞” grosgrain in light gray and bright pink – make sure there is nothing metallic in the ribbon
  • FOUR cups EACH of raw rice and flax seed
  • Essential oil; optional to scent the rice/flax mixture – you need just a few drops
  • All purpose thread to match fabric
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors
  • Rotary cutter and mat
  • Tape measure
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Bowl for mixing rice, flax seed, and essential oil
  • Small measuring scoop or funnel for filling the compartments

Getting Started

  1. From the terry cloth, cut ONE 9” high x 26” wide rectangle.
  2. From the cotton fabric, cut the following:
    ONE 9” high x 26” wide rectangle
    TWO 2” x 25” strips for the optional bound seam on the terry cloth sleeve
  3. Cut the ribbon into TWO 13” lengths.

At Your Sewing Machine and Ironing Board

Prepare the outer terry cloth sleeve

  1. Find the outer terry cloth panel and the two binding strips, if using this seam finishing method.
  2. Make a 1” double turn hem along each 9” end of the terry cloth panel. To do this, fold back the raw edge ¼” and lightly press, then fold an additional ¾” and lightly press again.
  3. Pin in place across each hem.
  4. Thread the machine with thread to best match the terry cloth in the top and bobbin.
  5. Topstitch the hem in place, staying close to the inner fold.
  6. Fold the terry cloth panel in half, right sides together, so it is now 4½” x 24”. Pin together along 24” edge. The hemmed ends remain open.
  7. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch together to form a long tube open at each end. You are stitching from hemmed-end to hemmed-end.
  8. Press the seam allowance open.
  9. Finish the seam allowance with your favorite method. We used a bound seam allowance, which adds a little secret pop of color to the inside of the sleeve and also “smooths” the edges of the seam allowance, making it a bit easier to slide the inner tube in and out.
  10. Work with one side of the seam allowance at a time.
  11. Fold back each end of one cotton strip ½” and press. The cotton strip should now be 24″ long, the same length as the terry cloth seam allowance.
  12. Place the folded strip right sides together with one side of the seam allowance. The folded ends of the strips should be flush with the hemmed ends of the seam allowance and one long raw edge of the strip should be flush with the seam allowance. Pin the strip to this one side of the seam allowance.
  13. You are pinning all along the seam allowance, from one end to the other. Adjust the folds as necessary so they are truly flush with each hemmed end.
  14. Thread the machine with thread to best match the binding strip in the top and bobbin.
  15. Using a ¼” seam allowance, sew the strip to the raw edge of the seam allowance.
  16. This seam secures the folded ends of the strip.
  17. Fold the strip away from the seam allowance.
  18. Fold/press back the remaining raw edge of the strip ¼”.
  19. Wrap the binding strip around to the other side of the seam allowance, encasing its raw edge. Pin in place.
  20. Edgestitch the binding in place from end to end.
  21. Repeat to bind the opposite side of the seam allowance in the same manner with the remaining binding strip.

Alternate binding method

  1. You can also bind the edges prior to seaming with a traditional folded binding strip – either one you make or purchased bias binding.
    NOTE: Start with 2” x 26” strips for this method. 
  2. When the panel is still flat, wrap each 26” raw edge of the terry cloth panel with the binding.
  3. Pin in place. Then stitch in place, making sure you are catching both the front and the back of the binding in this one seam.
  4. Make the 1” double fold hem (¼” + ¾”) along each 9” end.
  5. Then, fold the panel in half and stitch the length of the main seam, which means you’ll be stitching along, but not on, the inner fold of the binding.
  6. This method allows you to work with a flat panel, which is easier, but it does make the ends of the bound seam allowance a bit bulkier than with the more traditional bound seam finish.
    NOTE: Remember, binding the seam allowance of the sleeve is optional. You can also choose to use your favorite traditional machine sewn finish. Check out our four-part series on the most common seam finishing methods
  7. Set aside the finished outside sleeve.

Create and fill the inner tube

  1. Find the inner cotton panel.
  2. Along each 9” end, press back the raw edge ½”.
  3. Fold the panel in half, right sides together, and pin along the long edge, forming an open-ended tube.
  4. Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the cotton fabric in the top and bobbin.
  5. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch the long seam.
  6. Turn the tube right side out.
  7. Press flat, and then fold the tube in half and press again to set a vertical center crease line.
  8. Unfold, so the tube is once again flat and the vertical crease line is visible.
  9. Stitch along the vertical crease line through both layers. This is the seam that divides the tube into two compartments. You may want to double stitch for extra security between the compartments.
  10. In a large bowl, mix approximately 4 cups of rice and 4 cups of flax seed. Add a few drops of essential oil and stir. We used just one drop of oil for each cup of rice/seed, so about eight drops total. The strength of the fragrance is a matter of personal preference, but do keep in mind that with most essential oils, a little goes a long way.
  11. You will fill one compartment at a time.
  12. Hold the tube vertically and spoon in the filler.
  13. Let it fall down towards the center vertical seam.
  14. You want the compartment to be full but not tightly packed. It’s best if there is room for the mixture to move around. This will allow the wrap to more easily mold around the neck and shoulders.
  15. Pin closed.
  16. Repeat to fill the second compartment.
  17. Before stitching closed, test the wrap on yourself to see how it feels in terms of “fullness.” Now is the easiest time to add or remove filler to either compartment.
  18. Find the two lengths of ribbon. Fold each length in half so they are now each 6½”.
  19. Place the filled tube flat on your work surface. Shift the rice/flax mixture towards the center seam so each end is as flat as possible. Carefully unpin the ends. It’s best to do one end at a time.
  20. Pin one ribbon loop in place at the center of each side opening. The raw ends of the ribbon should be flush with the folded back raw edge of the fabric.
  21. We simply pinned our loops in place between the layers. You could also hand baste them in place for extra security.
  22. Shorten the stitch length slightly.
  23. Edgestitch both openings. For extra security, you could double-stitch this seam.
  24. Remove any visible basting stitches.
  25. Adjust the sleeve so its seam is at the center back.
  26. Slip the filled cotton tube inside the terry cloth sleeve. The weight of the rice/flax mixture puts gravity on your side and helps make it pretty easy to slide one inside the other. You can also reach in and grab the ribbon loop to help pull the inner tube through the sleeve.
  27. The inner tube is designed to extend beyond the outer sleeve by about ½” on each end.

Heating, cooling and washing the neck wrap

The wrap can be used as-is. Just the weight of the rice/flax and the light scent is soothing.

If you wish to heat it first, simply put the entire wrap (inner tube and outer sleeve) into the microwave, folding it in half so it easily fits. Heat on a medium setting for about one minute. Test this level of heat. If needed, you can fold the wrap in the opposite direction and heat again for about another 30 seconds. Don’t overheat as it can scorch the filler.

Also, all microwaves have different power settings. It’s always best to start with lower temperatures and shorter time periods. This wrap is not meant to be heated on the stovetop or in an oven.

The wrap can also be used for cooling. First put the entire wrap in a secure plastic bag, then place the bag in the freezer for one to two hours. When ready, take the wrap out of the bag and place around your neck.

As with all heating and cooling pads, these are not recommended for use on sensitive skin, areas with poor circulation or any kind of open wound.

To wash, first remove the inner tube — it can be gently spot cleaned if necessary with a damp cloth. The outer sleeve can be machine washed and dried.


Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild

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Jane Coombs
Jane Coombs
11 months ago

I have several commercially made heat packs that are filled with rice and flax seed. The more expensive ones are waffle knit on one side and maybe minky on the other. I opened them, poured the contents out and washed them. When I refilled them I added an essential oil. I had intended to use lava sand but the lava sand is fine, and leaks through the waffle knit and wherever there is stitching to create the channels. Cotton twill is the best fabric. Lava sand is expensive, but holds the heat longer. The heat pack can be washed in… Read more »

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
11 months ago
Reply to  Jane Coombs

Excellent tips. Thank you!

Amanda Richardson
Amanda Richardson
11 months ago

I’ve been making and selling these bags for years. I did a lot of research before selling, and the consensus was, don’t put ess. oil in them. Fire hazard. Enough people have fires from overheating, that I decided to not use essential oil. I had used the oil for my own use, but after deciding to sell them, no more. Don’t need that liability.

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
11 months ago

Thanks for weighing in with your experience; we really appreciate hearing insight from others. We have not experienced any issues with fires form overheating, but then we’ve never added more than a couple drops as recommended above. It is always a challenge to try to anticipate all the potentials. Have you seen a small beachball lately? One of the colorful rainbow wedges is nothing but a list of things you should not do with it!

Mary H
Mary H
3 years ago

I love this very quick and easy project! I had sufficient stashed fabrics, rice, and essential oil to make a few; I only needed to purchase the flax seed. I cut the quilting cotton WOF x 9”; from this I cut the 26” piece for the wrap and two 4”x13” pieces, using these two to fold and sew into two 1” substitutes for the grosgrain ribbon. The hand grabs match the wrap and I was able to efficiently use my fabric. It worked great!

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Mary H

Hi Mary – It all sounds lovely! We love hearing that you had such fun with our pattern 🙂

Mary H.
Mary H.
3 years ago

Since this is going in the microwave, is it advised to use 100% cotton thread, instead of all-purpose or polyester thread?

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Mary H.

Hi Mary – Because this type of neck wrap is meant to be heated for just short amounts of time, we haven’t had any issues with the standard all-purpose thread. But – 100% cotton is certainly an option.

3 years ago

Is there a video tutorial?

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Renee

Hello Renee – We don’t do video tutorials for our projects at this time although we have discussed it as a future option. We do try to make sure our instructions are as clear and thorough as possible and include lots of helpful photos.

Carmen Montmarquet
Carmen Montmarquet
3 years ago

I love this wrap! Can’t wait to make it especially now with all that’s happening all around us with this new virus! Thanks so much for sharing!

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
3 years ago

@Carmen – Thanks! It’s quick and easy. You might already have fabric in your stash to put it together!

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