Soon after the invention of the microwave someone must have realised that you could microwave a small sack of wheat and use it to keep people warm. I remember seeing them in physio clinics in the early 90s. I wonder who first had the idea! I first made one when I was at university, living in a small cold house and too cheap to pay for heating. Sometimes I would get up in the middle of the night, freezing and unable to sleep, and reheat my wheat pack before going back to bed! I had to leave that one in NZ (due to biosecurity you can't take plant or animal material into Australia), so I made another one when I got to Australia, and now I thought it would be useful to have more than one, so I’ve made some more. This time I included dried lavender from my garden as well as the wheat, so they smell nice too.
I prefer wheat packs to hot water bottles because when they cool down, they stay around body temperature. Hot water bottles tend to turn into "cold water bottles", which is quite unpleasant. Also you don't have to deal with pouring boiling water into a small hole, risk of the bottle bursting and getting the temperature just right.
ingredients: wheat and dried lavender flowers
the challenge is to sew the top without all the wheat falling out....
Wheat packs are very easy to make. All you need to do is sew a small sack from a leftover piece of fabric and fill it with wheat. You might find it difficult to find the wheat though. I bought mine from our local stock feed store, and as they sell it lose, I was able to buy 5 kg, instead of an entire 20 kg bag. If you are in the city, you could try your supermarket (try the pet section) or health food store (bread making/flour section), but if you can get to a stock feed store it will probably be much cheaper. If you can’t find wheat, apparently you can use many other fillers, including rice, corn and beans, and even cherry pits!
I made four inner sacks from an old pillow case, then I made four removable covers from some pretty fannelette fabric that I bought. Its not really necessary to have an inner and outer sack, but I thought the pillow case was getting a bit thin, and its handy to be able to wash the cover if it gets dirty.
The completed sacks
To use the wheat pack, you just put it in the microwave for a few minutes with a glass of water, so that the wheat doesn’t dry out. The exact time will depend on your microwave power and the temperature you want, however, I must now include a word of caution. It wasn’t until I was researching for this post that I discovered that several people have been killed in house fires resulting from innocent little wheat packs (more information here, here, here, here and here). I was blissfully unaware of this fact and have been using them for the past 10 years without incident, but it turns out that if you microwave the packs for too long, even with the glass of water in the microwave, you can overheat the bag and cause the wheat to ignite. If you are using a new pack or a different microwave to normal, do a couple of minutes to start with and test it out first. Don’t throw it straight into your bed and walk away. Wow I never knew that something I use so regularly could be so dangerous!