How (And Why) To Make The Best Flax Seed Pillows

How to make flax seed pillows

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.


The sewing on this is super-simple: three straight lines.

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.


5. Clip the corners of the seams you’ve just sewn, as pictured, to reduce bulkiness when it’s turned.

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?

-Jami

This is linked to Thrilling Thursday, Hodgepodge Friday, Everything But the Kitchen Sink,Favorite Things Friday,and Saturday Nite Special @ Funky Junk.

Comments

  1.  says

    Several years ago someone gave me a pair of slippers filled with seed. Never used them as slippers, though they are great for neck and back pain and keep the heat for a long long time. Thanks for the tutorial!

  2.  says

    Oh,Jami,this is perfect!!! I have bursitis in my right shoulder and the pain just rears it’sugly head at the most inconvenient times. The hot water bottle helps,but doesn’tdrape very well over my shoulder. This is fantastic…andthe photo by photo tutorial I LOVE,too!!! This looks very easy to follow. There is no microwave in my home,just an oven. Is it possible to “bake”thesein the oven? Thanks for the fantastic project!!! Love and hugs from Oregon,Heather :)

  3. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says

    Heather- I’ve not had someone ask about heating without a microwave before! This is what I found at motherearthpillows.com:

    “Though we ONLY recommend microwave warming, we have heard that some have used Crock Pots on low setting, but turn and move the pillows about in the pot as the hot sides will scorch the fabric and damage the pillow if left to sit. We have been told that some use a heating pad to wrap up the flax pillow if no other option is available. It has been reported to us that a flax pillow can be warmed in an oven at very low setting and checking frequently. Extreme caution is advised as oven heat may inflame fabric. Make certain you do not over-heat in an oven as this is NOT the recommended method for warming our pillows.”

    Vicki- Thank you! I’ll stop by. :-)

    Alyson- I hope it helps. :-)

  4. Gina says

    Love these! I’ve made simple hot packs before but never thought of using flax seed. Thanks for sharing the advantages.

    My packs stay in my freezer at all times and are used daily or many times a day for boo-boos.

    Gina

  5. says

    Very interesting information about flax seeds. I had thought about making some herbal pillows but using rice since we had so much on hand. However, after reading your post, I’m going to use flax seeds instead.

  6. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says

    One Thrifty- Great ides- sure wish I were one of your kids teachers if you give gifts like that! :-)

  7. Tami says

    Jami, where do you buy your flax seed? Azure carries it but closer to $2 lb, $1.50 for golden flax seed. Have you used the golden flax before? I read you can buy it at feed stores but it might be called linseed. Thanks for any help you can give me!!

  8. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says

    I buy it at a store here called WinCo (are you in the NW?). They sell it bulk and the one by me also sells it in the 25-lb bag which I paid about $18 for 6 months ago.

    I don’t think linseed is the same as flaxseed, but I don’t know for sure…

    Btw, I’m happy to help if I can! :-)

  9. Tami says

    Thanks so much! Yes in the NW, next time I head to the city I will get some! I am helping my cousin’s daughter and my 2 nieces make Christmas gifts and this will be a great project for the older 2. My aunt used to make the rice bags but the smell gets to you after awhile so can’t wait to try these.

  10. says

    I just want to say that I follow your blog and don’t always comment, but you are an inspiration to me! I’m going to make several of these for gifts this year.

  11. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says

    Becky- Thank you for telling me- that’s so encouraging! :-) These really have been so welcomed- I’m going to make small heart-shaped ones for hand warmers this year, too, which I think people will like.

  12. Anonymous says

    I think these are fantastic! I looked up cabi, and it’s a hot towel warmer. And according to Wikipedia, linseeds and flaxseeds are the same thing. Cheers!

  13. Tami says

    Thanks again for this post. I have my 2 nieces and a cousin( age 17, 13 & 9) coming over to spend a few days and make Christmas gifts. Thanks for the tip to find flax seed at Winco, I bought the last 2 #25 lbs they had which may be way to much but I figure once we all get making these I didn’t want to run out since it is over an hour drive to Winco. My Aunt used to make the rice bags which we liked but the smell I could only take so long. Excited to try these! Think we will make some little reusable hand warmers also. Thanks again, Tami

  14. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says

    Anonymous: Good to know about linseed= flaxseed. Thanks for sharing!

    Tami: Good for you! I still have half of my last bag of flaxseeds, but it’s nice to have, ’cause once people find out you make them, they’ll be asking for more. :-) Plus, I use the seeds in our granola! I want to make some little hand warmers, too!!

  15. says

    Gosh what a great idea, my mum has a “wheatie bag” but I find the wheat smells not so nice. Mum is very frail and has stage four cancer (but fighting it all the way, was given 3-6 months but its been 2 years and she is still here :) Mum gets very cold feet though and uses her wheatie bag daily.

    I have decided to make her a new one with the flax seed as above and add some dried lavendar from her garden, she will love that.

    Thank you for sharing.

  16. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says

    Oh, yes, Lee- you will like the flax much better than the wheat! So sorry for your mum- hopefully here feet will be warm longer with the flax too. Best to you and your mum! -Jami

  17. says

    I just came across this site as I was searching for a way to make an aromatherapy pillow – then I became immersed in all the other terrific ideas……(and, yes, I did make that pillow which came out fantastic!) – keep these great ideas coming!

  18. says

    This is a great blog – with so much useful information, and practical hints. Thank you so much! My aromatherapy pillows came out great…l.land now I am determined to get my cast iron pans back beautiful condition

    • says

      Hi, Sage- yes, when I made these to sell, they were one of my most popular items, too! I’ve found that it takes quite a while for the lavender scent to dissipate – as in more than a year. When I sold both scented and unscented, the scented always sold out way before the unscented. People just really like the lavender- and it is supposed to be calming. ;-)

  19. Cheryl says

    I’ve been making my bed buddies with pinto beans (which encourages me to whip up a batch of refrieds after ever 3rd or so use!), but I love the idea of flax seed and lavender. And you’re right about the heavier fabric — it does look rich. Love the wide-ribbon gift wrap, too. It’s fun, though, if you have a wonderful friend like I do who taught me the basics of quilting, to whip up some simple squares and piece them together with bands on either side. It’s really easy and people are wowed by the quilting. Thanks for the great ideas!!

  20. Ellie says

    Thanks so much for inspiring me to make these for my nurse friends at work! Can you give me an idea of how much flax seed you use per pillow? I’m planning on doing 30 or so and want to have enough (but not wayyy too much) on hand. One more question- is it necessary to sew channels in the pillows so the flax doesn’t shift? Thanks so much Jami- I love the rest of your blog, too! I love “cottage” and the reassurance that it is the mentality that counts no matter where you live! Blessings to you and yours!

    • Jami says

      Thank you, Ellie. :) No, you don’t want to sew channels because you DO want the flax to shift: when you’re warming it and to mold to your neck (or whatever body part you’re using it for). I probably used 4 to 6 cups of flax seed per pillow (long rectangle) – enough to fill it about 2/3 to 3/4 full. I know your friends will LOVE them!

  21. Darlene Curtis says

    Happy Holidays Jami,
    Found your blog while searching about flax seed warmers (I’m sitting with one on my feet right now) was so happy to find you are in Portland and went to Winco to find my seeds – perfect advice. Any ideas about where to find bulk lavender? I’m just making family gifts. This year was my first Portland garden so you’re one of my favorites, so encouraging and love your video tutorials – thanks for sharing all your great ideas.

    • Jami says

      Hi Darlene! Glad you found the blog, too. :) I’ve bought lavender from Mountain Rose Herbs in the past – it’s organic and an Oregon company – it’s easy to order online. We lived in Ptld for 15 years, but now live in the Eugene area – and I have to say I’m not sorry to be out of the traffic and crowds. :)

      • Darlene Curtis says

        Hi Jami: I made these 12 of these for all the women on my Christmas list; family, neighbors, my boss and co-workers – they were beautiful and everyone loved them. I ended up using Lavender essence mixed with the flax seed when I put them in. The scent was wonderful but faded over about a month. I refresh mine by putting a few drops on the end when I heat them. I heat two of them every night, put them under the sheets at the foot of the bed before I brush my teeth. When I come to bed, it’s so cozy, like I checked into a spa! Thank you for the inspiration.

  22. says

    Hey there! I was wondering where you get your flax seed for your pillows. I ordered some flax but ended up with what looks like a live, raw, golden seed that I’m afraid would smell rancid over time because of the high oil content. Your flax looks like it has been roasted?? Thanks for your advice! Your pillows are beautiful and I appreciate the step by step photos. Thanks again

    • Jami says

      Hi Lorien! I actually don’t know if they roast flax seed – the type I buy is raw and is from the bulk bins at a local store. It’s not the golden, though – I just use the regular brown flax. It does have oil, of course, but it never smells rancid and like I wrote will last for years and continue to heat. Hope that helps!

  23. Debra says

    Thank you for your free pattern information on the neck wrap. I sell prim bear, bunny and snowmen at my fall craft show, and would like to add these to my Booth. How much did you charge for them at your craft show? Thank you

  24. Sandra says

    So pleased I found your tutorial :) I was a bit worried flax seeds might explode in the microwave as over here you can mainly only find wheat or rice. I’m going to have a try at making foot warmers this weekend! Thanks so much for sharing

  25. LiSA says

    I LOVE this tutorial! I searched all over my area and finally found bulk whole flax seed and made several. In fact I have one right now on my lap cause the house is a little cold :)

  26. Holly says

    Hi, I was just wondering if you use whole flax seeds for this? I don’t know what the difference is, but I presume whole ones have some sort of husk, if that’s the right word?

  27. Maggie says

    I was wondering how many of these warmers does a 25 lb. bag of flax make? That is using the measurements and size of your tutorial. Thanks!

    • says

      I buy them from a store that sells bulk baking items (WinCo where I live). I used to just fill a bag, but then they started carrying 25-lb bags of regular brown flax seeds for less than $20 which is easier, so that’s what I do now.

  28. Dawn says

    I was wondering where you buy your flax seeds from. I want to make these, but don’t know what kind of flax seeds to use or where to get them from. I looked on ebay and there are different kinds & all expensive.

    • says

      Here’s how I answered this same question from above, Dawn:
      I buy them from a store that sells bulk baking items (WinCo where I live). I used to just fill a bag, but then they started carrying 25-lb bags of regular brown flax seeds for less than $20 which is easier, so that’s what I do now.

      Hope that helps you!

  29. Syrie M. says

    Hi Jami! I love that you used pillow ticking for these warmers, as I’m making Christmas stockings for my brother & his kids out of this same fabric! I’m planning on making both of my brothers flax pillows, but making them in the shape of neck pillows so that they’ll stay on them easier. I bought some fleece at Jo-Ann’s Fabric annual 70% off sale, with this purpose in mind, but I was told that you CAN NOT put fleece in the microwave to heat, as it’s been known to actually catch on fire! I thought that I’d share that with you & your readers as a warning. Now I just need to find a use for this fleece……

    • says

      You mean before they are filled, Aimee? I’m sure it would – monogramming wouldn’t make any holes big enough for flax to come through, if that’s what you were thinking.

  30. Eileen says

    I have had people say their flax seed pillows got wet when they microwaved them. Would the type of fabric used make a difference with this? I did use fleece. Maybe I should remake these, given the comment above.

    • says

      Fleece is a polyester, so when you heat it, the fibers can melt together. I have no idea what that would do the the flax, but apparently it causes moisture. :( I only use 100% heavier weight cotton and have never had that problem, Eileen, so if you could remake them, that would probably be best!

  31. Cindy says

    I make these for baby shower gifts. Babies typically fall asleep while we hold them and then wake up when we lay them in their cool beds. So I tell new moms to use these bags to warm up the baby’s crib (not too hot, just enough to take the chill off the cotton sheet), then take the warming pillow out of the crib, place a couple of drops of breast milk on the sheet, and lay your sleeping baby on the sheet. Now the baby’s crib is warm like momma and smells like momma (from the drops of breast milk) and baby will stay asleep! It worked for both of my winter-born babies and all of my friend’s babies too! It is my FAVORITE baby gift to give! Even my friend, who just had baby #5, who never heard of this before and was very frustrated w/ the other 4 waking up as soon as she laid them in their crib is trying this and it’s working!! She says she only wishes she knew this trick 4 babies ago ;)

  32. says

    I have received these as gifts, and used them until they wore out. I especially like the ones with lavender added, since I use them mainly to relieve my migraines. I have found that putting a small container of water ( 1/4 c.or less) in the microwave while heating the wrap seems to give me a more soothing effect, as well as keeping the flax moist for longer effectiveness. Just remember to cut down your heating time for about 30seconds less. It’s also a good idea to use a plastic container for the water, since glass becomes very hot and can burn you if you’re not careful removing it before you remove the wrap.

  33. Dee says

    I bought brown flax seed at the feed store; 70 cents a pound in bulk bin. Some essential oil at an herb store. Will be making some of these soon!

  34. Susan says

    I bought 2 of these at a craft show at least 15 years ago. I am still using the same flax seeds but have made new casings a couple of times. I didn’t know it was flax seed until I wanted to try to make as a quilt camp project. I googled it to find out what those little brown seeds were. I liked your instructions the best of those I found.
    Have you used other scents like eucalyptus?

  35. says

    I am so glad I found all these beautiful information. I want to try and make them as well for sometime now but my main concern is whether the flax seeds have an expiration date? and if bugs might appear in the little pillows? I should just buy flax seeds for cooking or with any preservative added?

    Thank you for replying :)

    • says

      I’ve never had a problem, Christina, nor anyone I’ve made them for, and I’ve had them for years. No expiration date and just plain old flax seeds. :)

      • says

        :) Thank you so much!
        Off to make some little flax seed pillows myself that I so much wanted.

        Sending you my warmest greetings from sunny – hot Greece
        I loved your blog by the way
        <3

  36. Iris says

    What kind of flaxseed do you use? I bought some Golden Roasted flaxseed from Trader Joe and it smells terrible. (my daughter said it smells like rotten peanut butter). Its worse than the smell of the rice that I was trying to replace. Thanks

    • says

      Plain flaxseeds do not smell, Iris! I’ve never gotten the TJ’s version, so I don’t know about that, but the bulk flaxseeds we get in our local cheap-food store (WinCo here – I think Cub Foods in other areas?) do not have a smell (though I don’t know if they’re roasted or not) and are about .86/lb.

  37. Connie says

    I recently made this and I put 1/4 cup of dried lavender buds. However after heating them about 15 times I have noticed the lavender smell is gone. Has this ever happened to anyone? Did I do something wrong?

    • says

      Yes, that happens, Connie. I try to add a bit of lavender essential oil to the buds, mixing them well and the smell seems to last longer. But it will still eventually wear out.

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