Tag Archives: crafts

December 22: Christmas Preparations

In the middle of all traveling, work and grad school craziness, I have managed to make it look like Christmas in the house. With some help from the hubby.

Thanks to travels, the gingerbread house was standing naked on the countertop for quite some time but finally it got the deserved decorations.

Gingerbread House
Gingerbread House


Gingerbread Army.
Gingerbread Army.


Also the Christmas tree is up and decorated. This year I decided to go with silver ribbon decoration, instead of tinsel garlands. And since I still don’t have the perfect angel tree topper, I put together a bow out of the same ribbon. For a past couple of years I have been trying to find the topper similar to one I saw a few years ago in München, Germany  - I even offered to buy the topper from tree’s owner but since it had been a family angel for decades, she declined – regardless the amount of money. So my search continues.

Christmas Tree.
Christmas Tree.

Christmas cards was the giant project in this month ….. we ended up to sending a bit over 100 cards, and I tried to make as many as I could myself. And what a surprise, I only purchased about 35-40 cards, rest of them were stamped, drawn, glued, and crafted by me. I had a blast with the cards, and hope the recipients also appreciate them – whether they were store purchased or handmade. Every single card was sent with Christmas love from Alaska.




Hello, Sewing Machine!

I have been contemplating an idea of handmade Christmas presents for this year, and have come up with some pretty neat ideas so far for both sewing and knitting projects. And I may even try a few crochet projects – will see. However, on/under/around ( and there is even more in the closets, ssshhh – don’t tell my hubby ) my sewing desk I have piles of fabrics waiting to become something useful. The other day I came up with an idea of a pillowcase that turned out surprisingly nice so I wanted to share this quick and easy project with you.

The standard pillowcase sizes are:

  • Standard: 21″ x 30″
  • Queen: 21″ x 34″
  • King: 21″ x 40″

The pillowcases can hence be made from a regular width (44” – 45″) fabric, and the size of the pillow determines how much fabric you will need length-wise.

For a standard pillowcase you will need 3/4 yard of main fabric; for queen 7/8 yard; and for king 1 yard. In addition you will need 1/4 yard (9″) of fabric for the band; although you might want to have a slightly wider band, about 12″ for king size. It just looks nicer with such a large pillowcase. Also, you may want to have 2″-3″ of fabric for the little decorative trim.

Start the project by washing your fabrics prior cutting and sewing in order to avoid the shrinkage problems later. Once the fabrics are ready, it’s time to cut. I use rotary cutter with pillowcase type of projects where I am cutting just straight lines – it’s way faster and easier than dealing with scissors.

When you are cutting your fabrics, make always sure your first cut is straight, and trim the raw edges before cutting if they happen to look a bit funky.

Below I have 28″ of flower fabric for the main body, 9″ of red batik for the band, and a 2″ strip of dark batik for the decorative trim.

Fabrics cut


Next step is to match up the fold lines, and cut the salvages off. This way all the fabrics are exactly the same size width-wise.

Salvages trimmed. Fold lines are lined up on the right.

After the salvages are cut off, take the little decorative trim and the band to ironing board, and fold & press them in half, right sides facing out. After folding and ironing your pieces will be about 1″ and 4.5″ wide (and about 40″ long).

And now the magic is going to happen! 

Open up the bigger folded and ironed piece of fabric, and place it  right side up on the table. Place the pillowcase main body, raw edges lined up, on top the band piece, again  right side up . Next you place the decorative trim piece on top of the main body fabric, lining up the raw edges just like you did with two other fabrics.

Now you take the main fabric and start to roll it up towards the fabric sandwich you just created. Roll the fabric until about the half way of the band fabric (the red batik).


Keep rolling.


Next you take the band fabric, and wrap it around the tube you just created from the main body fabric, and pin fabrics together. Make sure you do not pin the main fabric roll into your fabric sandwich!! At this point you should have following layers of fabric pinned together: band fabric, one edge of main fabric, decorative trim, and the other side of band fabric. The end of main fabric is tightly rolled and is inside this fabric tube.

Pin the raw edges together.


Now it is time to sew! With a regular straight stitch, sew a 1/4″ seam allowance only on the long edge – do not sew the short edges!

Sew the long edge with a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Once you have sewn the long edge, pull the main body fabric out of this “fabric sleeve” you just created. By using this technique, all your seams are neatly inside the pillowcase band. How cool is that!!?

Pulling the fabric out.


Seams are hidden!


To finish up the pillowcase, you can simply sew the side and bottom seams with zigzag and straight stitches, use serger, or spent a few extra minutes and create neat, sophisticated French seams. That’s what I did since I no longer own a serger but donated it to my mom.

When sewing French seams, the raw edges are hidden inside a double seam. Start the French seam by sewing the long edge of pillowcase with  wrong sides together (really, wrong sides together – this is not a typo in instructions) with a 1/4″ seam allowance. I would recommend to start sewing at the band and proceed towards the bottom of the pillowcase – for the sake of accuracy. You may also want to use a few pins to make sure that the band and trim are aligned perfectly.

Sewing first French seam, wrong sides together.

Once you are done with the long edge, turn the inside out and press the seam carefully with an iron. And now it is time to hide the seam. So when the pillowcase is inside out, sew the long edge of the pillowcase again, using 1/4″ seam allowance – and you are now hiding the seam that you sewed a few minutes earlier.

I am always having a hard time with the accuracy when French seams and ironing are involved so I frequently trim a little bit of fabric in order to make sure the raw edges stay hidden. Or sometimes I use slightly larger seam allowance on the second round of sewing.

Next, do the similar French double seam at the bottom of the pillowcase – by sewing the first seam wrong sides together, turn inside out, iron and sew again.

French seam – and raw edges are hidden!


And the final product is here… The whole sewing and cutting project took less than 30 mins – what a fun project to do without enormous amount of work!



…not quite although it has been an extremely busy August. Once again time has flown by very, very fast – hard to believe September and Labor Day weekend are just in a couple of days. Since the last blog posting  nearly forever a couple of weeks ago I have been back to California for a week, visited Alaska State Fair , started new knitting projects, have been working out like a crazy maniac, and got back to yoga – big time. And now we are packing again, for another trip….. gotta get those airline miles! And actually, I have already been at home for five days, so it definitely is time to head out back to the airport.


Trip to California was a success: I really enjoyed the nerdy week and working on the iOS programming stuff. While I have always liked programming, Objective-C is definitely one of my favorite languages. And what kind of cool things you can so easily create with the developer’s toolkits such as Xcode !

Xcode is the toolkit that is used for writing apps for iOS devices such as iPad and iPhone. The programming language used in these apps is called Objective-C, which is an object oriented language just like C or Java. However, I try not to bore you guys to the death by talking about computer programming – it would be nice to have you visiting the blog again :)

But it’s good to remember that programming is not as dry as it may sound. In fact it is a continuous game of strategizing, where the programmer needs to be able to build and connect small blocks to big, functional programs. Besides, without some very skillful programmers you wouldn’t be paying bills online, scanning your checks for the bank on your phone, or playing Angry Birds.

After I got back from California, we headed out to the State Fair. It was a blast, as always. This year I was paying extra attention to horses since the husband has given me a tentative yes to buy a horse if our next duty station is at least somewhat horse friendly. So I am definitely keeping my fingers crossed that the Army gods hear my silent prayer: having my own horse and getting back to show-jumping would be a huge dream coming true. And maybe I am finally old enough to even have some patience for dressage. But nevertheless, I am more jumping-like gal.

The craft selection at the fair almost makes me turn green with envy. I tend to think I know a thing or two about crafts such as quilting but when I see the most beautiful quilts I can only  “ooh” and “aah” the skills of these quilters. However, I saw some inspiring ideas for winter nights’ quilting projects: for example the horse quilt in a picture below is within the limits of my skills…

Enjoy the State Fair pictures, and come back to read about my yoga adventures in a day or two ….. I think I have found my yoga niche.

Horse Quilt… doable?




Silly Sheep!


P.S. Bloggers out there: Shane at Whispering Sweet Nothings is hosting a Bloggers Coast to Coast on her blog. Check it out and pin your location on the map!



Another new hobby, productive one…. I am not the most craftiest girl on earth but at least I keep trying. Well, I can knit, and some of my quilting projects have turned out  pretty okay. Now I picked up card making! I have always secretly hoped to make at least some kind of cards by myself: they are so much more personal as well as my cards would be exactly  what I want.

So I gave it a try, and here we go! My first card will be on its way  to my lovely Mother-In-Law in no time! For the record, I didn’t manage to glue myself to the papers, desk or anywhere, no blood, no disasters… so far so good! Looks like personalized cards will be next project.




Spring Is Coming

After a long, snowy winter, the sunshine and warmer temperatures have finally found The Last Frontier: the past few days we have enjoyed the bird blue skies and sunny days. Snow is slowly melting, birds are chirping, people are getting out and about. Hibernation is over.

I started to have a spring fever this weekend in the form of spring cleaning and home decorations. If I just could have a few more extra hours in my day, I might even get all my creative crafts done. I started with some sewing projects: colorful, spring-themed table runners, placemats and potholders. And by matting and framing some of my own artwork. Thanks to bright sunshine though, it looks like cleaning the windows, dusting here and there, cleaning the carpet need to be added to the list too…  But it is not all about the cleaning, organizing and trying to be Holly Homemaker. Sometimes it is good to kick back, and just enjoy the life with great friends.
A while ago I wrote a blog posting about Alaska and Ft Richardson as a duty station  at Handling With The Grace , and mentioned how it can be pretty tough to make friends with locals in Alaska – and I am still standing behind my words on that one. However, I feel very blessed to have some most awesome friends in our Alaska based military community.

On Saturday Connie and I headed to little town of Girdwood , which is also the home of Alyeska , the only ski resort we have in Anchorage vicinity. We did not hit the slopes this time but had culinary excursion to famous Double Musky Inn . Double Musky is a Cajun type restaurant with an awesome, excellent wine collection and delicious meals. After king crab legs, shrimp, and sinfully delicious unhealthy  Double Musky pie we were stuffed! It was so very relaxing to spend an afternoon with a great friend, enjoy the road trip in the sunshine, and spot some mountain goats.

Sunday was time for outdoors activities. Tassu and I headed out to the Eagle River Nature Center with Florence and her furry kid, Roxy. What a gorgeous, sunny day it was. And so much fun! Roxy and Tassu had a blast, they were sniffing and running around – and naturally passed out as soon as they got into the car. Water-loving Roxy even decided that it is a good idea to swim in freezing cold river water. Silly puppy! She actually caused us some additional excitement by having a bit hard time to get out of the water due to the ice. Luckily she was able to make it herself although I was already thinking of scenarios how to get the dog up on thin ice if she needed help…. yeah, I would have dipped into the ice-cold water too if she had needed help. We wouldn’t leave our battle buddies. And nothing is better after a hike than sitting at a coffee shop for a while, sipping lattes and talking about the life. I am very, very blessed to be able to call these wonderful ladies as my friends.


“My friends have made the story of my life. In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privileges, and enabled me to walk serene and happy in the shadow cast by my deprivation.” -Helen Keller