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Cooling Neck Wraps for Adults, Kids & Pets

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When the temperature rises, 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're 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 pretty 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. Depending on the heat and your level of activity, this type of neck wrap can keep you "chilled out" for several hours. 

They're 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 recommended the wraps be removed when the dog is 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

INSERT MYSTYLE 100 MACHINE BOX: http://janome.com/en/machines/sewing/mystyle100/

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: 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 the 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 approximately 38" - child length is approximately 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 the 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 very end of the template to create the curve. Since we used 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 around the curve to close each end. 
  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 (the left) 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 each of 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. 

Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas  
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild

Section: 

Comments (26)

Linda C. said:
Linda C.'s picture

Don't forget folks with medical issues from heat like MS. I was wondering if the garden crystals were the same product being used in them commercially producted neck coolers. Thank you for confirming this.

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

@ Linda C. - That sounds like a fabulous use. There are LOTS of dfiferent commercially made neck coolers, so we can't confirm that the absorbing polymer crystals are used in all of them. You could certainly check for that phrase, "absorbing polymer crystals" on the packaging of the product you are comparing ours too. That said, I don't really know of any other cooling kind of filler that absorbs water and stays flexible - so if you are looking for that style, chances are very high they use these crystals -- they aren't just for flowers, they're used in many things, including, as we mentioned above, diapers!

Elizabethdx said:
Elizabethdx's picture

Thank you for this fabulous project! I'd never seen one of these before and I wanted to make one right away. Your directions are great, and the neck wrap works wonders. i love it.  In case it helps anyone else, I tested the Miracle Grow crystals  and  found that the 1/4 teaspoon is the right amount for this brand as well.

i'm curious: why is it necessary to finish the seams when they are completely enclosed? I'm guessing the "action" of the crystals might stress the edge of seams in the center 20-inch area, but why do you recommend finishing the seams at the curved ends? Thanks.

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

@ Elizabethdx - we recommend finishing all the seams in this project because they are small (1/4") and in a standard cotton. With the more "rough" use of wetting and drying and tieing and untieing, all the seams have the potential to be stressed so finishing is a good idea.

L1 said:
L1's picture

We're heading over to Turkey and Greece and loved finding this tutorial just in time to pull them together for my family in favourite colours! My Mom helped me sew as I cut, ironed pinned and marked...we made 4 in less than 2 hours!

I love the double row of pockets...I think they are going to fit very nicely around the neck with the extra contour. I made the one for my husband 1/2 inch wider and it turned out very nice.

thank you for the wonderful tutorial. Love them!

P.S. Really don't use more of the beads than recommended...they really expand loads. 

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

@ L1 - Super job - sounds like just the thing for your trip. Dandy idea to make one wider for your husband.

Pat Hathaway said:
Pat Hathaway's picture

We purchased some of these to wear to DisneyWorld a few years ago and were really glad we had them when the heat and humidity were really high. The only problem we had was that the fabric bled really bad. Of course we got the brightest colors we could find. LOL White t-shirts had ugly red stains around the neck in no time. So be sure your fabric is one that won't bleed. We washed them by hand every night to be ready for the next day and threw them away when it was time to fly home--no room for them with all the souveniers we bought.

Thanks for the tutorial--would be so easy to make up a bunch of these for July 4th activites and doing yard work.

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

@ Pat Hathaway - Oh my! Yes, pre-washing the fabric would be a must for this project. Thanks for the reminder. 

Shari Cable said:
Shari Cable's picture

I'm using a peppermint essential oil spray lately to help keep cool which works nicely because the peppermint is cooling. Made me wonder if there would be a benefit to adding it to these somehow too?... just a thought!  (love the instructions!)

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

@ Shari Cable - you might be able to spray the crystals prior to inserting them, but in general, I would worry a bit about the essential oil staining the thin cotton. But as we always say - try a test, and let us know how it works for you 

Gerry386 said:
Gerry386's picture

I have made these for years to sell at craft shows.  I make four pockets of 5" each and it contours to the neck better.  I include an instruction sheet that said to keep in the refrigerator in an open end plastic bag.

Cherylen said:
Cherylen's picture

I would love to see a picture of your finished product.  It seems more like what I would need for my area.

4 Love of Poodles said:
4 Love of Poodles's picture

These neck wraps are wonderful to wear when outside during hot summer days!  I do a fair amount of yard work and could benefit greatly from wearing one of these in our humid part of the country.  How would you recommend cleaning the wraps after use?  I tend to perspire heavily and couldn't stand to reuse without making sure they were tidy and oder-free before the next wear.  I realize reasonable care must be taken to minimize "damage" to the crystals, so would very much appreciate your recommendation(s),

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

@ 4 love of poodles - simply hand wash with mild soap and water. 

KathleenB1947 said:
KathleenB1947's picture

These are wonderful.  I've made them in the past to send to the troops serving in the heat of the desert and they've always been welcomed.  Great tutorial with pictures.  My original directions were hand drawn and not quite as easy to follow so I really appreciate your great photos.   Thanks.

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

@ KathleenB1947 - what a wonderful charitable project. We've found that our design, with the double tubes of crystals, works very well and tends to be more comfortable than the single tubes.

Kendra said:
Kendra's picture

I am just going to travel to the jungle and I was thinking about something for the heat...thank you so much.

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

@ Kendra - sounds like an exciting trip, and, yes!, I think something like this would be great for that moist heat.

Shoop said:
Shoop's picture

is cotton the best choice for these?  Would a fleece work, or would that be too heavy when wet?

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

@ Shoop - cotton or a similar natural fiber really is an ideal choice. A synthetic, like fleece, actually repels water a bit and it just wouldn't absorb or evaporate as well as a natural fiber like cotton.

Harriet said:
Harriet's picture

Especially if you are making coolers to send to troops, they want them in 100% cotton and they prefer colors that coordinate with their uniforms so as to not stand out to the enemy.  If you want to make a lot, purchase beige flat 100% cotton sheets from Target.  Very inexpensive that way. :)

Lanetta said:
Lanetta's picture

What a great ideal.  A group of friends and our dogs are doing a run for our local humane society and I will be making these for us and our pups to keep cool during the run.  You always have such great projects. Thanks!

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

@ Lanetta - What a great charitable idea! Thanks for doing that for your friends and pups.

Sally M. said:
Sally M.'s picture

I made one and - it really works.  I used the larger beads and only did one pocket though.  Works just the same as the two pockets.  I keep it in the fridge as suggested and soak it in cold water when the beads get smaller.  It doesn't take long for the beads to soak up the water and get big again.  I'll attest that it does keep you cool.  

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

@ Sally M - thanks for the testimonial. Keep on keepin' cool!

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