My whole family loves using these easy-to-make flax seed pillows for everything from sore necks to foot warmers (on cold nights it’s a treat to slide into bed with warm toes!). And they have been one of the most popular gifts I have given as well as one of the most popular things I sold when I had a craft business.
Why flax instead of rice or other grain? It is superior to rice or other grains in many ways:
- Flax provides a gentle, moist heat which promotes healing.
- The weight of flax is gentle and comforting.
- Flax seeds are flower seeds, rather than grain. Thus they contain 30-40% oil which remains inside the seed to be warmed again and again. Other products loose their ability to retain heat as the water cooks out of them over time.
- When heated, flax seed pillows retain half their heat after an hour. Under covers (think about those toes…) the pillow will still be warm hours later.
- Flax never has that “cooked grain” smell other grain based products have when heated over and over again.
- Flax pillows can also be chilled in the freezer to sooth fevers or slight inflammations, though they don’t get cold enough to provide the numbness needed for things like sprains and back injuries.
I have been making these rectangular flax “pillows” for a number of years now, and people are always surprised by how sturdy and professional they are.
Here are the steps and some tips to make your own sturdy flax seed pillow gifts:
1. Gather 100% cotton, heavy-weight fabrics like ticking, barkcloth, and home decorating fabrics (similar to the the fabrics pictured above). This is the key to making them a step above the ubiquitous flea market rice pack.
2. Make a pattern. This is optional, but If you’re going to be making a lot of these, it’s helpful. Make it out of brown kraft paper in any size you’d like. I mostly use a 12″ x 20″ pattern for a finished pillow of 5-1/2″ x 20 which is a great size for draping around your neck or back. I find it easiest to cut only one piece that I fold before sewing.
However, if I’ve got a piece of fabric that is close to that size I’ll use it, especially if it’s wider and shorter (like the red plaid pillow in the first picture) because that’s a nice size for using as a foot warmer. That size would be more of a square at about 14″ x 15.”
Play around with sizes to find the one you like best- just don’t go too big or it will be too heavy and take too much seed to fill.
3. Fold the fabric with right sides together and start sewing on one of the short ends (folded side farthest from you), keeping the edge of the presser foot at the edge of the fabric, as shown, for the seam allowance.
4. When you come to the corner, make sure the needle is in the fabric, lift the presser foot, and turn your fabric. Lower the foot and sew all the way to the other short end, keeping the same seam allowance and ending at the open short end.
It’s helpful to go back and forth a time or two (called “bar-tacking”) with the thread to lock in the seam, since we’ll be turning the pillow right-side out.
6. Turn the pillow right-side out.
7. Fill with flax seed to just over half (about 2/3 full). This allows for ample movement of the seeds when heating in the microwave and for a comfortable pillow to drape (too full and the pillow becomes like a rock…).
Optional: At this point, I like to add about 1/4 cup dried lavender buds. Lavender is a soothing scent that’s not too overpowering, so I find it works for lots of people. Alternately a few drops of lavender essential oil could be rubbed into some of the seeds before adding to the pillow.
Just don’t add too much scent. It can be pretty overpowering when heated.
8. Fold the open end inward 1/4″ to 1/2″ and pin as pictured and sew the closed end close to the edge. I use the inside of my presser foot as my guide, and lock each end by going back-and-forth with the needle and thread.
And that’s it. Pretty simple, huh? For gift-giving, I like to fold the pillow and tie with a wide ribbon. Sometimes I will add a tag with these instructions and why flax is awesome:
Warm in microwave 45 seconds to 1 minute, shake, and warm another 20 to 30 seconds until desired temperature. Flax retains half its heat after an hour or more under covers and can be warmed again and again unlike grain products.
And with flax seeds about .70/lb., a little fabric and lavender (maybe that you grew yourself?), you’ve got a wonderful, inexpensive gift that people really appreciate.
Have you ever made these for gifts? How did the recipients respond?