Cabin Fever & a Hot Water Bottle

The snow, the sleet, the icy winter cold seeping through our bones … it’s time to take out (or pick up) a hot water bottle. And since you’re possibly travel-restricted due to weather, consider this fun project: make a hot water bottle cover, using an old sweater and a little bit of time. I made several of them this winter for holiday gifts and it was quite easy. And yes, FUN!

First of all – the hot water bottle. Most people I see coming to my office have some degree of coldness in their lower back during these winter months. It may not be noticeable to them at first, but when shown the differences in temperature (warmer abdomen, cool back for example), it’s apparent. The kidneys and the bladder are the operative organ systems during Winter, the element of Water (see previous post).  The kidneys need to kept warm and protected from the elements.

So, if you’re sitting at a desk working, on a couch reading or watching TV, take out the hot water bottle and let it warm your back. It’s also perfect for warming the bed before retiring in the evening. If you use a cover, it extends the heating time and retain the warmth until morning, as well as providing a softer, more cushioned surface than the plastic / rubber material of the hot water bottle.

You can purchase a hot water bottle from any drugstore. It should be around $10, no more than $15.00. Some of them have lifetime warranties in case of leakage, so save the receipt (or whatever else they advise). I have taken advantage of this once or twice over the years using them for me and my family.

To make this easy, no-sew cover, you will need:
XL men’s sweater
2-3 buttons
Needle and thread for sewing buttons
Wool and large needle to sew designs on cover (optional)

The easiest way to make this is to get an XL men’s wool sweater – no cotton, no acrylics. Salvation Army, Goodwill are great resources for this, if you don’t have one stashed in a closet. The thicker the sweater, the more insulated the hot water bottle will be – it will extend the warmth time of the HW bottle, but won’t give you that immediate HOT heat. I’ve used cashmere for that, or a thinner weave sweater (all from Sal’s / Goodwill).

First, felt the sweater – by washing it in the hottest water cycle and then putting it in the dryer. It should shrink and felt up – you’ll recognize the look if you’ve ever destroyed a sweater accidentally. (Now you’ll have a way to turn that failure into fun!) I usually do the wash/dry at hot temperatures once, but sometimes I’ll repeat the cycle if I think the wool has not felted enough.

Once you have the felted sweater,cut off the sleeves at the armholes. The cuffed edge of the sweater arm will be for the top of the hot water bottle, and the open, cut-off side will be for the bottom.

Place the HW bottle in the sleeve, and decide which side looks better as the front and which looks better as the back (I prefer the seam to be in the back.)

On the back side, trim the edges so that it just meets the bottom of the HW bottle. Near the bottom edge, sew 2-3 buttons, spaced evenly apart. (see photos). Fold the front side, over the bottom of the HW bottle and over the buttons. Cut tiny lines to serve as buttonholes (very small, as the cuts will stretch), measuring the openings over the already-sewed on buttons.

If you want to get fancy, use some yarn and make a design, or cut out a shape of felted wool from another sweater and sew them on the cover.

Pregnant women should be careful not to place too extreme heat around the abdomen, but an application of gentle warmth  – the hot water bottle with a cover – is beneficial.  I have seen lots of cold lower backs with my pregnant clients, even if the moms themselves are feeling overheated – babies like warmth, so consider keeping your lower area warm, particularly in winter. If you’re close to labor time and want to move it along, the hotter bottle would be advantageous.

Keep warm!

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