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Chill Out Cooling Neck Wraps for Adults, Kids & Dogs

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One of the very best quick-cooling spots on your body is your neck. This is because there are blood vessels very close to the surface of your skin. These are called pulse points. Applying a moist compress to these pulse points helps you cool down quickly and easily. That's the job of our Chill Out Neck Wraps, which use water absorbing crystals for cooling power. You may have seen versions of these online or in stores. They have become quite popular because they are comfy to wear, hold their chill for hours, and are fast and inexpensive to make. We've added our own S4H style with more functional, tube-like cooling pockets and a template for rounded ends.

This is a wonderful ScrapBusters project as you need just a single long strip of fabric for each tie. However, there's no law saying you couldn't also piece together shorter sections to create your finished length. It would even to fun to piece together different fabrics for a patchworked look. 

Super absorbing polymer crystals are doing the work here. These crystals are the main ingredient in many disposable diapers. Not only do they do a great job of absorbing water (one pound of crystals can suck up about 50 gallons of water!), they hold on to it for a long time.This neck wrap that can keep you "chilled out" for hours. 

These are great for hiking, cooling down after sports activities, or just lounging in the summer sun. We've also seen runners use them as head bands, and power-nappers would love them as eye pillows.

They would even work well to help keep your pup from overheating on long walks. Although it's not recommended the wraps be left on when the dog in unsupervised.

Our research showed the majority of these crystals are non-toxic, bio-degradable and environmentally safe. However, they should be kept out of the reach of small children because, if swallowed, they can present a choking hazard.

Our standard adult neck wrap finishes at approximately 37" x 2". For a child (about 8-10 years), we recommend approximately 28" x 2". For a dog, measure the neck, and adjust accordingly. Our 65 lb. doggy model is wearing a 40" x 2" tie, and she is quite proud of it!

The water absorbing crystals can be found at most craft or even home improvement stores. We got ours at Michaels. Different brands will absorb at different rates and the beads will swell to varying sizes. 

Our steps below are based on the crystals we used and several tests we conducted. We recommend you make some little prototypes to test your crystals prior to starting. To do this, simply create a few short tubes from the same width of scrap fabric (4½" for our design with a ¼" seam). Fill each tube with a different amount of crystals. We tested ⅛, ¼ and ½ teaspoonfuls. Close up the ends once filled, then let the tubes soak overnight. In the morning, you can determine which is the best fill. You don't want it super tight or the gel can actually begin to ooze through the fabric, making the surface kind of slimy. 

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

Supplies shown are for ONE tie

  • For each tie, you need a minimum of ⅛ yard of fabric. The cut is 4½", which is exactly ⅛ yard, so you may prefer to work with a ¼ yard to give yourself a little wiggle room. We looked through our Sew4Home scrap bin to find fabric from Paula Prass (the brown dot), Patty Young (the bright green) and Joanna Figueroa (the blue floral).
  • ONE small package of water absorbing crystals (also called super absorbing polymers)
    NOTE: These are easy to find in the floral section of most craft stores. You don't need much; we used just one teaspoon to fill each of our wrap's four pockets. However, as mentioned above, different brands may absorb at different rates.  
  • All purpose thread to match fabric
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Pinking shears (optional for finishing)
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Straight pins
  • Hand sewing needle
  • Measuring spoons

Getting Started

The steps and cut sizes below show our doggy size neck wrap. The steps are the same no matter the size.

  1. We traditionally recommend pre-washing fabric based on how the final item will be used. In this case, since these are not meant to be laundered (because of those absorbent crystals), we still recommend pre-washing to remove any fabric sizing. 
  2. If you want to round the ends of your neck wrap, download and print out our one template sheet: Curved End Template. You could certainly use a straight cut or angled end as well, it does not affect the construction – just the finished look.
    IMPORTANT: This pattern is ONE 8½" x 11" sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide rule on each page so you can confirm your final printout is to scale.
  3. Cut out the template along the solid line. Set aside.
  4. From the fabric, cut ONE 4½" x 41" strip (doggy length - adult length is 38" - child length is 29").

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. Fold the fabric strip in half, right sides together so it is now 2¼" x 41". Pin along the 41" side. Leave both ends open. 
  2. Fold and/or measure to find the center of the strip (20½" in from each end on our sample). Mark this point with a pin.
  3. Measure 11" to the right of the center pin and place another marking pin. 
    NOTE: If making a child size tie, use 8½" as your measurement rather than 11".
  4. Measure 2" to the right of this second marking pin and place a third marking pin. The 2" space between the second and third marking pins will be left open for turning as well as for inserting the crystals.
  5. Using a ¼" seam allowance, stitch the length of the folded strip. Remember to lock your seam on either side of the 2" opening. We used our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot for a consistent seam. 
  6. Finish the seam allowance with your favorite method. We suggest a simple zag zag or pinked finish. We used a pinked finish. Press the seam allowance open.
  7. Turn the wrap right side out through the opening. Roll the seam so it is centered on one side and press flat. 
  8. If using a curved end, set our template in place, centering it on the seam, and round each end. You could also leave the ends as a square cut or cut them at an angle - your choice. Cut around just the end of the template to create the curve. Since we were using pinked edges as our seam finish, we used our pinking shears to cut the curved end.
  9. When both ends are cut, turn the wrap wrong side out again. Flatten so the seam is still running down the center and pin both ends closed.
  10. Using a ¼" - ½" seam allowance, stitch both ends closed. 
  11. Press open the seam allowances.
  12. Turn the wrap right side out once again. Insert a long, blunt end tool, such as a knitting needle or chopstick, through the opening in the seam and push out the ends so they are nice and smooth. 
  13. Press flat.
  14. Once again, fold or measure to find the exact center of the strip. Mark with a pin top and bottom.
  15. From the center marking pin, measure 10" to the right and 10" to the left. Mark each of these points with a pin top and bottom. These center sections will become the pocket tunnels for the crystals. The 10" to the right pin should be just in front of the 2" opening in the seam. 
    NOTE: If making a child size tie, use 7½" as your measurement rather than 10".
  16. At the left 10" mark, stitch a vertical seam from top to bottom ( the left end should be the end opposite the opening in the seam). We triple stitched the seam for extra strength. 
  17. Starting at this left vertical seam, stitch down the center of the tie to the right 10" mark. Your new seam is running right along the existing centered seam. Make sure you are only stitching that 20" distance. 
  18. Using your pre-determined amount of crystals (as mentioned above, we recommend making some small prototype tubes to confirm the amount of crystals needed), insert one measure through the opening in the seam to fill each of the two left pocket tunnels. We used a ¼ teaspoon in each of our pocket tunnels.
  19. Hold up the wrap vertically and gently shift the crystals so they fall down against the first vertical seam. When you are sure all the crystals are out of the way. Replace the wrap under the presser foot at the marked center point and stitch a second vertical seam. This closes the two left pocket tunnels. 
  20. Again using the opening in the seam, insert one measure into the two right pocket tunnels. Shift these crystals down against the center seam. 
  21. Replace the wrap under the presser foot once again at the marked right 10" point and stitch a third and final vertical seam. This closes the two right pocket tunnels.
  22. The drawing below illustrates the four pocket tunnels you create and shows the position of the opening in the seam to insert the crystals (the fill gap).

  23. Fold in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam. Thread the hand sewing needle and hand stitch the 2" opening closed with tiny stitches.

Soaking, cooling and caring for the tie

  1. To activate the crystals, submerge the finished tie in a bowl of cold water for a minimum of four hours. Filtered, spring, or distilled water works best. Tap water certainly works, but some tap water contains a high mineral content that can affect the crystals reaching their maximum size.
  2. Different brands of crystals take different lengths of time to absorb. Also, the first soak takes the longest. After that, the crystals remain wet for awhile so subsequent soaks will take less time.

  3. The ties can be stored in the refrigerator. This is plenty of cooling; freezing isn't necessary and can be hard on the life of the crystals.
  4. The ties can mold or mildew if left wet in a plastic bag. Storing in the fridge in an open bowl is best.
  5. To store for longer periods of time, the ties should be allowed to completely dry out, which may take a week or longer. 


Project Design: Alicia Thommas  
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild


Comments (21)

carol said:
carol 's picture

Separate pockets are a great idea!  I will be trying it...

Karen Kelleher said:
Karen Kelleher's picture

 I wish I had thought of two tubes ten years ago when I started making them!!  Great idea, @ KH, & Smart w/ presoaked water beads. Mine are  Miracle Grow,Water Crystals, nice sized bag, you could make a thousand!  WalMart Garden.  Big  Beads @T-Mart.com  ~$5 for ten big bags, free shipping   I keep mine in an ice chest, & refresh it, dunkingly, into the super coolness, because, yes, they get warm. So, you flip the neck wrap over, or dunk it in your ice chest. Or you could dunk it in your Sweet Tea! I brought five of these in an ice chest to an outside wedding, on a 114 degree day. So Glad I Did. Bride. Babies. Grandma.  Need I say more?

K.H. said:
K.H.'s picture

I made this wonderful item, but with two pockets instead of 4 that have velcro openings. I then made two like sized tubes out of muslin and filled them with the already expanded beads. I did not have to guess on size because of this. Now I can remove the two tubes of beads in order to launder the wrap. This one is for walking in the Texas heat. I suffer from migraines, so will be making more for that. Thank you for the fantastic pattern - I love this site! 

Gloria Cabeen said:
Gloria Cabeen's picture

I've made two of these this week. The first one was pieced from two shorter pieces of fabric; the second made from one length. It's much easier to shift the polymer beads down in the single piece of fabric. The first one that was pieced made it difficult to get the beads past the interior seam for the first fill; they got caught, and it was time consuming to work them down. The sewing is quick and easy; it's the turning that takes time. Before the ends were sewn, it was much faster to turn the long part with a safety pin. I suppose one of those turning tools would speed things up, too.

I found the small water gems at Jo-Ann's in the floral craft section where they sell glass beads and stones for vases and arrangements.

MissTi said:
MissTi's picture

I found some of the water-absorbing polymer gel at Wal-mart, where I happened to be, in the floral section. They were in a small plastic bag stapled to a card hanging on a peg and were called 'water beads.'  It had about 3 tablespoons in it for $4.  They are hard, clear beads and are the same thing that come in those little packets labeled 'do not eat' that come in shoeboxes etc. It is also sold for dehydrating dried flowers, so it may be labeled as such in the floral section of a craft store and it may be more economical that way if you are making quite a few.  

I wonder if they would fit better into the fabric tube if they were crushed up a bit instead of in round beads? I am going to experiment. I think some kinds come that way already.  

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ MissTi - we found the beads easier to work with, but your idea to experiment is a good one.

Sarah Jeffries said:
Sarah Jeffries's picture

Oh wow!  These look fantastic! They will certainly be on my give it a try list! Thank you ;o)

Sharon F said:
Sharon F's picture

I have two of these that I purchased at REI. They came with washing instructions: wash by hand in cool water with Dawn dish soap. I paid $16.00 each. They work wonderfully. I use them for medication induced "Hot Flashes"  and they work great. I am so anxious to make my own. I wear these neck coolers most of the time,  making my own is such a great option. Thank you so much. 

Janet Payne said:
Janet Payne's picture

Where did you purchase the chrystals?  Great idea

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

As we mention above, we got ours at Michaels, but they are available at most craft stores and even home improvement stores as well as online.

Kerry Davidson said:
Kerry Davidson's picture

I wonder if the washing problem could be solved by putting the crystals into just the tubes and then making the scarf tie as a cover so that it could be washed or even changed for a different look???

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Kerry Davidson - all good ideas. The crystals are very inexpensive, so it would be easy to experiment (it's why we suggest a prototype) with various options. 

Terianne said:
Terianne's picture

So do these actually stay cool to the touch or just wet?  I would love to make these for my daughters when they go on vacation this summer but unless they are very effective I think I would rather buy the cool neck drapping things they sell at bath and body works.  If someone knows what I mean, do you know if this would give the same cool to the touch effect?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Terianne - we tested them here, as mentioned in the article, and they not only stayed cool for hours, they were very soft. They don't feel wet, just cool, the crystals do their job of absorbing so you don't get a "wet washcloth" kind of feeling. Haven't seen or tried the ones you mentioned from Bath & Body - so not sure how to compare. 

TimelessKreations said:
TimelessKreations's picture

LIZ i HAVE TO SAY THIS IS THE BEST... IT IS 105 HERE IN NEW MEXICO. My postal friend, has no air conditioning and just made her a bunch of pillow ice bag saks for her to keep cool. But this is even better. Do you know, has anyone tried to freeze these yet to see if they stay cool longer.

I found a link on ebay that sales these in fine crystal form. I will try it and get back to you. For above suggestion, you could make it with a velcro tab closed. Good luck everyone keeping cool this summer.. It is hot here..

Thank you s4h

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ TimelessKreations - We mentioned above that we don't recommend freezing, but there were differing opinions out there on it. Chilling in the fridge worked good for our tests. On the velcro® - that is an option, but I think the seal of stitching closed is the best bet, and a quick hand wash would be pretty easy.

TimelessKreations said:
TimelessKreations's picture

Thank you. Told my postal friend about it, she is excited for me to make her one. Thank you again for posting this blog.

SJS said:
SJS's picture

I own two of these and they helped me make it through July in Paris and Rome where it was stinking hot. I recommend that you only soak the bands for about 20 minutes. They don't need overnight to get filled and it prevents the too tight look. As for cleaning, I'm going to make some of my own with an openable section so I can take the beads out and wash the band separately. Thanks for the interesting ideas.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ SJS - thanks for the tips! We mention above about the need to make a little prototype with our "tube" measurements and with varying amounts of crystals to test your brand and avoid the overfilling you mention. Different types of crystals have wildly differing absorbtion rates. Yours that took about 20 minutes sound great, but a couple we tested took several hours. They work best and last longest if the crystals absorb to their maximum level. 

Christi295 said:
Christi295's picture

These look super cool! (No pun intended!) I know of several people, and pups, I can make them for. Just one question, are there laundering instructions with the crystals? I've never worked with them before and would want to include that information when giving these as gifts. I would think that every now and then they would have to have a good wash out. Thanks for the wonderful idea!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Christi295 - we actually looked quite a bit and didn't find any "official" washing instructions, but common sense tells us (as mentioned above) that machine washing and/or drying is out. They do absorb water - that's their job - so your best bet would be hand washing in the sink with gentle soap. 

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