KaZoo 2016 Year in Preview

Mista Lista is back, baby! Since the entirety of the ‘Zoo has been a construction zone for awhile, Mista Lista took a long vacation. A sabbatical, if you will. Now refreshed and ready for the new year, Mista Lista is back on the blog to share a sneak peek of what’s on the schedule for 2016 in the ‘Zoo.

Mista Lista has noticed the KaZoos aren’t the best at finishing projects on schedule (Can I get an amen?), or remotely close to schedule, for that matter.  I call it Creative Minds Meets If You Give a Mouse a Cookie Complex.

Creatives aren’t always known for progressing sequentially and logically along the shortest possible path to the endzone. They zig. They zag. They occasionally throw a series of backward passes. Wait a sec, that’s football. My bad.

Creative types often start a number of projects that sit in various stages of semi-completion as their enthusiasm for one idea is soon overtaken by inspiration for another. Their creative energy is diverted again, and again, and again, leaving them with a garage full of tools/supplies and a house full of construction projects hazards.

And of course, this haphazard completion is helped (?) along when the beginning of Project A leads to the beginning of another related Project B. For example, when the KaZoos wanted to install their range hood vent, it meant tearing down the upper kitchen cabinets first to make room for said hood vent. But cutting holes in the roof for exterior ventilation meant getting someone to cut the hole in the roof and seal the opening (that would guarantee the work). And given the existing roof was nearing the its end of life, shouldn’t they just go ahead and replace it while the guy was coming out to look at the roof? And on the story goes. Anyone else need a cookie and milk after that? I thought so. 

Therefore, without further ado, I give you the KaZoos’ 2016 resolution:

Finish what you started.

Startling, I know.

So what’s on the docket? Here goes, in no particular order:

Mrs. KaZoo’s Dissertation
We’ll start with the most depressing and boring project, Mrs. KaZoo’s dissertation. Yup, this project is getting knocked out in 2016. I realize this probably doesn’t interest (m)any of you, so enough about that.

King Quilt
Mrs. KaZoo plans to finish the king quilt she started two (three?) years ago so that the KaZoos have cooler covers for the warm summer weather.


Backyard Fence
The KaZoos have had a partially fenced backyard for months now-the result of working steadily but slowly to replace fence panels as time and money allowed. As the KaZoos near the year anniversary of starting their fence job (March), they plan to have this baby complete and inspected before winter is over, or February. They actually tackled the back gate the previous weekend, so here’s hoping they can get a few more panels and the last two gates done in the next couple of weekends.


Fireplace Wall
It’s time for the fireplace to get some more love, just in time for Valentine’s Day, perhaps? The KaZoos built footings for the mantel last weekend, so all that’s left is to reinstall the mantel, caulk, paint, and tile the fireplace surround. And calling a chimney sweep to clean things up from the renters who tried to burn wood in a fireplace designed for gas logs. I know, right?! 


The longest project in the history of the ‘Zoo. Seriously. What’s left, you ask? Laying underlayment in the guest wing, tiling and grouting the guest wing, and tiling and grouting the master wing. Oh, and the kitchen and master bath after those get demolished. 


Once they get the floors finished, the KaZoos plan to install new, chunkier baseboards.


Paint Touchups
The Kazoos need to touchup the paint in a few areas around the house. Seriously, people. A finished paint job makes everything look more polished.


Kitchen Renovation
The KaZoos also have a BIG kitchen reno in the works. Design, demo of existing pantry, relocation of refrigerator and waterline, new drywall and paint, purchase and installation of new cabinets and countertops, you know. All in a day’s work, right? Smirk.


The fools KaZoos intend to complete all of these projects in the first half of 2016, but I’m not going to hold them to any promises. {Wink.}












Organization Station: Managing Sewing Stashes

If you are a hobbyist or DIYer, you well understand the need to have a collection of materials waiting to be put to good use–and the need to get a handle on storage of said materials before your garage/attic/basement/guest bedroom/linen closet becomes the Monica closet, or perhaps a cemetery for best laid plans and good intentions. Here lies industrial shelving attempt #1,  behind all the tile samples underneath all the wood for the Ana White farmhouse table covered in two inches of dust and sand from the beach toys used three vacations ago..or was it four?   You get the picture.

People of the cloth, and I’m not talking clergy here, have a compulsive need for All of the Things! a fabric stash. These stashes vary in size based on a number of factors, but most crafters agree that you can never have too much fabric. Of course, when trying to store said fabric, those of us lesser mortals with limited storage must be more circumspect with our fabric purchases. I learned this lesson after being overly ambitious when I started quilting and couldn’t choose between fabrics, which resulted in buying All of the Things! enough fabric  for two and a half quilts when I had set out only to buy fabric for one. This resulted in a modest stash that I hauled with me from the city to the beach. It has been languishing in one of the guest bedrooms while I have been working on school things, and by languishing I mean that it has been piled on the bed and various shelves and shoved in random baskets. My quilt is not quite finished.  And by that I mean I have 1/4 of the quilt top sewn. It’s a king size quilt, so cut me some slack. 😉

Since last May, I have been struggling to find a place where all of my art and craft supplies could be kept and to find a prime place for working on my school stuff. The desk I use for schoolwork right now is also the desk I normally use for my sewing machine and supplies, but both cannot occupy the same space at the same time. #physics Enter the mail center.

IMG_4505    This mail center was a housewarming present to us from Chris’s paternal grandmother eight years ago when we bought our first house. It came from Pier 1, and it served us well in our first house and later in the townhome in the city. For some reason, it has not been functional here at the beach, most likely because it is not conveniently located to the entryway of our home. Rather than serving as a mail/paper processing station as usual, it is a clutter catcher, with piles of mail and other random things. In fact, the mail center had become the junk (drawer) center of late, which was unacceptable.

Inspiration hit when I realized that the cubbies in the mail center would be perfect for storing yards of fabric–and for controlling the quantities that could be stored, resulting in a more manageable stash. Better use of mail center? Check.  Better storage for fabric? Check.  Less compulsive spending and buyer’s remorse? Check. Check.IMG_4499

This solution would probably not work for people who sew regularly and need to store vast swaths of fabric, but for an on-again, off-again project crafter like me, this was an ideal match.

My sewing machine fits snugly in the bottom cabinet as if it were made for it. Very snugly. I think I can fit my pinky finger in the space between the sewing machine and the shelf bottom.IMG_4501All my fabric has a tidy, colorful home…note the quilt squares cut and ready to be sewn together…


and there is even room for the jewelry box one of my great-grandmothers gave me, which I am currently using to store binding I have already cut for the quilts I have yet to make. #gettingthere


My sewing supplies and scraps fit in the drawer or on the top shelf of the bottom cabinet in glass storage containers we got as a wedding gift almost nine years ago that used to be in our kitchen.  We don’t have room for them on our counters now, but this is turning out to be a great way to repurpose them.


The mail center is not intended for a heavy machine to perch precariously on the end of the pull-down desktop, so I do not plan to sew here.  However, on the other side of this rather useless pass through area in the center of our house is a hand-me-down sofa table that I had been temporarily using for sewing anyway when I had the time. Nearby is our dining table, so I can just pull a chair up to the sofa table, set up the machine, and sew to my heart’s content while watching, er, listening to reruns of Fixer Upper. Watching might result in bleeding fingers. Not recommended.


Best part? When I’m not sewing, it all closes up, and no one will ever know that this is a mail center fabric hoard sewing station.


Except for all of you. Oops. 😉

Quilting Part 2: Cut and Dry

At last!  All the fabric for the front of my king size quilt has been washed, dried, pressed, and cut.IMG_2154

Here’s the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly aspects of this part of quilting:

The Good: Prewashing all my fabric to avoid uneven shrinkage in my quilt (patting myself on the back for avoiding one rookie mistake).

The Bad: Prewashing all my fabric meant that I lost quite a bit of fabric to shrinkage and unraveling of the edges.


The unraveled threads I put to use for stuffing a pumpkin pin cushion I am making using the Fiskars tutorial here: (http://www2.fiskars.com/Sewing-Quilting/Projects/For-the-Home/Organization/Sewn-Pumpkin-Pincushion#.Uhi6tWRBKHc), so no major loss there.

IMG_2117However, the shrinkage was saddening because I didn’t get quite as many fabric squares as I needed from some of my fabrics that shrunk more than others (see Quilting Part 1 for more info about that: https://kazoopartyoftwo.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/blocks-strips-and-squares-oh-my/).

The Ugly: Pressing and cutting.  I hate to iron (seriously–there are items of clothing that hang on the “to be ironed”rack for months until those clothes go out of season…or until Chris decides to do it, whichever comes first). “Pressing” (not ironing, as I have learned!) all of the fabric was rather tedious, as was cutting all of my squares…ALL 1296 OF THEM. That’s right–you heard me. ONE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED NINETY SIX SQUARES.  For just the front of the quilt. (CAN YOU HEAR ME SCREAMING INSIDE?!?!?!)


Here’s how things happened in a nutshell:

Materials Needed:

  • Fabric (obviously)
  • Cutting Mat (at least 18 x 24 is my recommendation)
  • Rotary Cutter (with back-up replacement blades if you are making a ginormous quilt like I am…mine started to dull near the end of all my cutting)
  • Sewing/quilting rulers (6 1/2″ x 6 1/2″ at least; also preferably a 6 1/2″ x 24″ (6″ x 24″ will work, too)
  • Cutting guide (if you don’t have the steadiest of hands…which you won’t after hours and days of cutting)

Step 1: Making the Left Edge Even.  After pressing my fabric and cutting off the unraveled parts, I folded the fabric to make the selvages meet (top and bottom), doubled it (not an expert quilter thing to do, but I didn’t have the 6 x 24 ruler you are supposed to have to do this step…so I improvised) and cut the left edge to be nice and even using my rotary cutter.  It was a rather painful discovery that this meant additional loss of fabric.   Although this may not be an expert quilter thing to do, I allowed the residual fabric to cascade down the side of my smallish desk to allow gravity and the edge of the desk to help keep my folded material in place.


It was at this point when I realized that the cutting directions I was following were for right-handed people.  Everything I was doing felt very backwards to me, being a southpaw.  Nevertheless, I powered through and managed to survive…at least long enough to write this blog post ( If you don’t see posts for awhile from me, assume I have carpal tunnel at best and have crawled into my craft closet to die at worst).  Fortunately, the rotary cutter I purchased could be used by either left- or right-handed people, so I made the best of an awkward situation.

Step 2: Cutting Strips. Lots of Strips.  After evening up the left edge, I could cut strips and strips and more strips of fabric.  The beginning quilter book I was following advised against using the gridlines on my cutting mat as a guide for straight edges, but I checked mine against my rulers and confirmed that they were spaced at appropriate intervals and were indeed perpendicular and parallel.


I used this nifty tool (shown below) to help me cut straight lines at the right intervals (3 1/2″ apart in my case) …if you are left-handed, you will understand my concern with needing help to cut straight lines, even with a rotary cutter instead of cheap elementary-school kiddie scissors.  As you can see, though, the tool is only 12 x 12, so you have to be careful to fold your fabric to fit the form.  Make sure you don’t fold your fabric too many times, though, or you will find that you actually don’t have some straight strips.  I simply folded my fabric once, then once more, so I was only cutting through four layers at a time.


Step 3: Cutting Squares.  From there, I used my square ruler (shown in the pic) to cut my strips into squares.  IMG_2120

This took FOREVER…(not the five squares, but the 1296 it took to make the entire quilt front).IMG_2115

Step 4: Cutting the Binding.  While I was already in cutting mode, I decided to cut the strips for my quilt binding.  I realize that this is a later step for most quilters, but I am not most quilters.  Obviously.  IMG_2130

Since I’m making a 108″ x 108″ quilt, I needed 108″ x 4 sides = 432″ of fabric in length.  I also added 15″ extra inches in length to allow for error and working with the corners for a grand total of 447″ length. I decided to make my binding 2.5″ wide, so I cut my strips using the same strategy as before, except 2.5″ wide instead of 3.5″ wide.

IMG_2129I had great help in measuring my binding strips to ensure I had enough material cut (and yes, that is my yoga mat: short on space = craftercise room).   IMG_2124

Lessons learned:

(1) The pattern I created for the front alternates (hence why some of the stacks of fabric squares are turned on the diagonal in the picture above), which meant I could not leave my fabric in strips that I could sew together to save time and then cut apart into squares later. I could have left some in strips since the pattern does repeat, but I was also concerned about my novice-cutting not being so great, so I cut everything into squares.  In the future, I will probably try to create patterns that allow me to take such shortcuts.  If you need to learn patience, cutting 1296 precise fabric squares is a great way to do it.  Believe me, I know.

(2) Forget #1.  I see why many people can’t go the distance with quilting, especially quilting a king size quilt.  For the back of this quilt, I plan to use fabric strips to simplify matters and go faster.  Plus, I like the idea of chunky stripes almost as much as I do a nifty pattern of squares…and maybe better.

(3) Forget #2.  After looking at some inspiring quilts online (http://www.stitchedincolor.com/) , I still plan to do the strips for the back of the king quilt, but perhaps for another quilt, I will make a more intricate pattern to amp up my piecing skills and allow my creativity a bit more room for expression.

(4) Read beginning quilting books and checkout online tutorials, but don’t feel like you have to play by their rules.  For example, my beginning quilter book actually recommended that novices avoid use of geometrics in their first quilting enterprise.  I ignored their advice simply because I adore geometric prints and because geometry is kind of my life’s work (I conduct research investigating children’s thinking about geometry and space).  I. love. geometry.  (You have to love geometry to love quilting, I think…even if only on a subconscious level).  A word of caution, though, when working with geometric prints involving straight lines: As you can see from this picture, this fabric is going to look wonky if you don’t actually even the left edge and cut your strips to align with the vertical lines in the pattern.


(5)  If you have any problems with your hands/wrists/forearms (tendonitis, carpal tunnel, arthritis, trigger finger, etc.) your hands will get tired and cramped from this much cutting.  Space out your cutting over several days or even weeks, if you can wait that long.  I suffer from trigger finger, exacerbated by an excessive number of hobbies involving my hands plus a job that requires lots of writing, and my left hand knotted up from so much cutting, even spread across multiple days.  Don’t wear your hands out just to get your cutting done in record time.

Now onward to the back side.  Yes, I could begin blocking the front, but I want to have all the wash, dry, press, and cut out of the way before the beautiful assemblage begins.  Call me crazy.  I’ve got some beautiful fabrics for the back, too; who knows, it might end up as the “front” of the quilt?  The best part of doing a two-sided quilt is that I can reverse it at will…and believe me, I will. 🙂

Until next time!