THE KLEIN DRESS

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Well hello there! It's been quite a while since I posted here, hasn't it? All I can say is, summer taketh over. But I'm back with a new sewing post for you!

WHAT I'VE BEEN UP TO

Dennis and I had a great time in Maine. We ate plenty of lobster, went on a puffin-watch cruise, climbed lots of rock formations, visited lighthouses, ate Frosty's donuts, and thanks to the somewhat cool, overcast weather, I almost made it through vacation without stepping foot on a beach ... ALMOST.

 Popham Beach, Maine

Popham Beach, Maine

Before hitting the road, we stopped by Popham Beach. While I only lasted two hours, I have to say, it's a beach worth visiting. There's an island that you can walk to when the tide is out, and the scenery is pretty damn breathtaking. 

We also visited Halcyon Yarn in Bath, where I procured a sweater's quantity of Peace Fleece to knit a sweater for Dennis. YES! The husband sweater is finally happening. But more on that later. 

While I greatly enjoyed vacation, I'm happy to be back home, in my craft room, surrounded my my yarn, fabric, tools and supplies! (Honorable mentions: Air conditioning and WiFi!) 

THE DRESS

Since we returned home, I've been glued to my sewing machine and I have a new dress to show for it!

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I made the Klein dress, a pattern by the Calie Faye Collection on Etsy, using this gorgeous paisley-print cotton lawn fabric from Liberty of London (the same fabric I used to line the pockets of my Moss Skirt). I actually started sewing it before we left, but didn't have enough time to finish. #SuchIsLife

FYI: If I look exhausted in these photos, you're not mistaken. I'm functioning on very little sleep, thanks to a very needy and muchly missed kitty. ๐Ÿฑ๐Ÿ’• (Bella stayed at her favorite kitty hotel while we were away)

TANGENT: MY NEW CAMERA ๐Ÿค“๐Ÿ“ธ

And speaking of these photos, I finally got to play with my new camera. (which I'll probably write a separate blog post about at some point.) In case you missed me talking about it on the podcast (Yarngasm: Episode 282) , I saved-up for a fancy full-frame DSLR; the Canon EOS 6D Mark II (albeit gently used). You guys ... I am IN LOVE! I can't wait to take more photos of my makes with it! I used it on vacation, but to be honest, landscapes aren't my thing. I'm all about portraits. 

BACK TO THE DRESS

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Honestly, this pattern could not have been more well-written. There are only 4 pattern pieces, and the construction is super simple. (ATTN: Newbie sewists!!)  It would have been a breeze to whip-up ... had I made a muslin! (REALLY, Kristin. Will you ever learn??? Nope. ๐Ÿ˜‘) 

HERE'S WHAT WENT DOWN

It's not a form-fitting garment, so I said to heck with the muslin. It's supposed to be airy, flowy, with quite a bit of positive ease. So, I followed the finished measurement chart and opted for the size 4 โ€” the same size as the model (who also happens to have similar measurements.) But, alas ... the size 4 was a TENT on me! 

Don't everybody freak out, just yet. It's better that it turned out too big, rather than too small. Thankfully, these things are an easy fix!

I was able to take-in the dress (about an inch on both sides) by sewing straight up the side seams. Although, it took several attempts, getting the waistline seams to align. On one side (pictured above) you can see it's still not perfectly aligned ... but after about eight tries, I was willing to accept that done is better than perfect. Plus, the pattern is so busy, it does a great job camouflaging the mistake. 

LET'S TALK ABOUT STRAPS

The pattern gives you options for adjustable or fitted straps. And while it recommends the fitted version for beginners, I think the adjustables are worth the extra steps (and swears). To be honest, it's probably about as much work as the non-adjustables, because getting the strap length "just right" can be pretty tedious. So, either way, you're not cutting any corners. (IMHO)

CLOSING THOUGHTS

After all was said in done, I am in love with this dress! ... and will most likely be living (and sleeping) in it for the rest of summer. I'll definitely be making another, in a size 2. 

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SBC Podcast: Episode 1 - "Knitting Besties"

 A scary road to Rhinebeck 2014: (From left: Maria, me, and Laura)

A scary road to Rhinebeck 2014: (From left: Maria, me, and Laura)

Nope. You're not hallucinating. I started a brand new AUDIO podcast! 

While the blog is more about my life, I wanted to branch out and chat with other creatives who I admire. And that's what the SBC audio podcast is all about ... sharing conversations with friends and other inspiring creatives in the knitting community. 

In this inaugural episode, I chat with my knitting besties Laura and Maria about how we became friends through podcasting, keeping in touch, creating a knitting community, and sharing tips for starting your own podcast. I hope you enjoy!

FESTIVALS

Rhinebeck (NY)
Vogue Knitting Live (NY)
DFW Fiber Fest (TX)
SSK (TN)
Stitches West (CA)
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We also mention Brooklyn General (LYS)

LAURA (Dallas, TX)

Gynx Yarns
The Dyer's Notebook Podcast
Instagram: @GynxYarns

Laura mentioned: 
West 7th Wool
McKinney Knittery

MARIA (Denver, CO)

Fancy Tiger Crafts
My Sister Knits
Yarn Along the Rockies

Cables and Crewnecks Podcast
Instagram:  @CablesAndCrewnecks

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I TREATED MYSELF TODAY

 When you don't have an image to go along with your blog post ... WordSwag app to the rescue! 

When you don't have an image to go along with your blog post ... WordSwag app to the rescue! 

I just got home from getting one of the best back massages I've ever had.

[BTW, if you ever find yourself in Brooklyn and want to #TreatYoSelf, go to Massage Williamsburg and ask for Ashley. She is magical! ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿป๐Ÿฆ„โœจ ... and then (while your wallet still hates you) why not treat yo self to a bar of Mast Brothers chocolate, straight from the source, down the block. ๐Ÿซ Not endorsed, just a fan.]

Massages are one thing I don't think I could live without. They are my guilty-pleasure. I try to get one every three months to, you know, iron out the kinks and keep the creative juices circulating. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Knitters gonna knit. Backs are gonna ache. I could think of worse ways to deal. 

[Other guilty-pleasures to note: Diet Coke, WINE, cheese, chocolate, beef jerky, and reading historical romance novels on the beach. ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ.]

It's true, massages aren't cheap, so I usually hold out as long as I can before making an appointment. But a few weeks ago, I pulled a muscle in my neck, pretty badly. I was sitting and knitting, watching YouTube vids at my computer (as you do!). When I looked up from my project, I suddenly felt this sharp pain shoot down, from the base of my neck to my left shoulder blade. Not cool. Thankfully the pain subsided, but the tightness stuck around and caused tension headaches. It was time to cave.

You're probably thinking, "Kristin, I think you need a chiropractor more than you need a massage." I know, I know. I'm on it. I'm procrastinating because I have to find one that's close by and one takes my insurance. ๐Ÿ˜ In the meantime, massages are a quick-fix. 

In all seriousness, I really do need to find a chiropractor. I've had back problems for as long as I can remember and have just about every backache-relief gizmo there is to prove it. 

Since I don't want this post to be ALL about my love for massages, I thought I'd also share my top three favorite back gizmos. I'm sure there are plenty of you out there that suffer from similar knitting-related back woes.  

  • A foam roller. (Any brand will do.) It's like a steam roller for your back! Also ... #PlacesYouCanKnit ๐Ÿ˜œ
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  • A rubber handball. Do not underestimate this unassuming, recreational toy. Just place it at a tense spot on your back, and lie on it for a few minutes ... or try leaning into it, against a wall. You will never look at one the same way again.  
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  • The Back Buddy (Again, not endorsed, just a fan.) It also doubles as abstract art, and makes for a great awkward conversation piece!

And that's all she wrote! 

I'll be back with some more fun knitting/sewing-related content (I've been a busy bee this weekend!).

But If you have any favorite back stress-relief gizmos or techniques, I'd love to hear what they are! Let me know in the comments below. 

MEET MY SEWING MACHINE AND SERGER

 Where the sewing magic happens! (My sewing desk also doubles as a yarn winding station.)

Where the sewing magic happens! (My sewing desk also doubles as a yarn winding station.)

I'm often asked about what sewing machine and serger I use, so I thought I'd write a quick blog post about my sewing partners in crime. 

MY SEWING MACHINE

 Q: Why is there washi tape on your needle plate?   A: I use it to mark the seam allowance. It's optional, but it works as a helpful guide as I sew. (Plus, it's pretty!) You can also use painters' tape. 

Q: Why is there washi tape on your needle plate? 

A: I use it to mark the seam allowance. It's optional, but it works as a helpful guide as I sew. (Plus, it's pretty!) You can also use painters' tape. 

My sewing machine is a Janome New Home 2212. It came into my life about two years ago, when I was a total newbie sewist, and still love it to bits!

It's a simple machine that only makes adjustable straight and zigzag stitches โ€” which is all you really need to sew a garment. It has no bells and whistles, except for making buttonholes. 

I think it's a great machine for sewists of any skill level, especially beginners! I love that it "grows" along with you, as you learn. It's easy to use, and very affordable IMHO. (I bought mine for $170 USD, at the time). So far, ::knock-on-wood:: it's held up very well! 

When you shop for a sewing machine, you're "supposed" to go to a dealer, and try out each machine until you find the one for you. I, on the other hand, did my research online ... as you do when you don't have a local dealer, are lazy, and have the patience of a five-year-old. (I really looove tempting fate, don't I? ๐Ÿ™ˆ) Thankfully, I lucked out with my choice. 

MY SERGER

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There's more than one way to finish a seam, but everyone "seems" ๐Ÿ™ƒ to have a favorite.

I personally love French seams, especially for more special projects. But more often than not, (because I'm a sucker for instant gratification) I'll just whip out my Brother Lock 1034D. It's quick, efficient, and gives the inside of garments that store-bought "ready-to-wear" look. 

This model was also surprisingly affordable, and worth every penny! 

I'm not going to lie, threading this bad boy is not fun. It's actually like playing that 80s game "Operation" where a red-nosed cartoon character lies, exposed in horror, on an operating table while you use tweezers to extract objects from holes in his body. If your tweezers touch the edges of the hole, a buzzer goes off and you lose your turn. (Fun trip down memory lane, huh?)

Like the game, when threading a serger, you need to use tweezers to pull threads through specific hooks and holes. If you thread something the wrong way ... you need to start all over! ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ Of course, the more you practice threading it, the easier it gets. And once it's threaded, it's a dream to use!

CreativeBug.com has a great tutorial for threading a serger. Check it out! I'm sure you can also search YouTube for an equally helpful video. 

I do recommend learning about "differential feed", to make sure your serged edges lie nice and flat.

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CONCLUSION: 

Again, if you're new to sewing, these are great machines! I love them to death and don't see myself upgrading to anything else in the near future. Still, your mileage may vary. If you can, it's always a good idea to try before you buy. 

It's also worth mentioning that a serger is absolutely not necessary, especially if you're just dipping your toes into sewing. Pinking shears or a simple zigzag stitch will also give you pretty finished seams!

Psst! A while back, I published a quick video about my sewing machine. Check it out if you want to learn more tips for getting started with sewing. ๐Ÿ˜˜

MOSS SKIRT

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This sparkly number is the Moss Skirt by Grainline Studio. It's a simple, front-zip mini with pocketses. (Because pocketses are the best!)

I haven't blogged about it in detail yet, but I'm on a mission to create a summery capsule wardrobe for myself. This includes a simple, denim skirt to go with everything, and the Moss skirt seemed to tick all the boxes! 

OK, so I wouldn't consider this version an "every day" garment. But when sparkle chambray fabric comes into your life ... can you blame me for making something less practical? (Who am I kidding? Sparkles are ALWAYS practical!)

SIZING AND MEASUREMENTS:

For those wanting to know the mathy bits ... The skirt's waistband is designed to sit 2" below the natural waist. My waist is 26" and 37" hips (the fullest part, around my butt).  So I cut out pieces for the size 2 waist (30") trued up to the size 4 hips (38"). The finished measurements gave me about 1" positive ease all around the hip area, which was perfect! 

THINGS I LEARNED:

This was my first foray into sewing fly facings, fly shields, and bar tacks. Sounds crazy difficult, but believe me when I say it was stupid easy. I may have had to reread the directions a few times to get the gist (maybe even examine my own fly zip to see what it's supposed to look like.), but one step at a time, y'all! The directions were a piece of cake to follow. 

I also tempted fate by not making a muslin, but I have more faith in indie sewing patterns than the "Big Five" pattern companies when it comes to sizing. 

PROBLEMS:

I did run into an issue with the waistband. Either I didn't cut out or sew the back yoke pieces correctly and ended up with extra fabric there. I realized this when the waistband piece wouldn't pin correctly around the top of the skirt.

So, I popped it on Margot the Mannequin and pinned-out a triangle of extra fabric from where the yoke pieces were seamed together. And that did the trick!

Still, my waistband skills need improvement. The inside is a little slap-dash, and I'm not sure what went wrong, but meh. I'm not going to fuss over it. 

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FANCY DETAILS:

Speaking of garment innards (one of my favorite parts of sewing!), I added a touch of Liberty fabric for the pocket linings. Fancy!

I know no one is going to see it, but I know it's there, and it makes me feel just a little extra special. โœจ๐Ÿฆ„

CONCLUSION: 

I LOVE this skirt!! (Probably as much as Oprah loves bread.) The lines are super flattering and it fits like a glove. I'm so happy with the way it turned out โ€” and relieved! ... given that I didn't make a muslin.

Even though Mr. Seam-ripper had to make a few appearances, it was still a fun and quick sew ... about five or six hours, total. 

I debated adding back pockets, but since it's more of a "dressy" fabric, I decided to save that hack for a more casual version. But I can totally get away with dressing it down with a casual Tee and sandals. Because sparkles make everything better! Right? 

Photos ยฉ Kristin Lehrer. I also used this as an opportunity to play around with some new Lightroom presets. I took these photos using my Canon Rebel EOS T5i / 35mm lens. 

I'm Fading!

 ROSE CARDIGAN by Andrea Mowry YARN (from top): Voolenvine Yarns, Sportlandia in Grimm, Dirty On Purpose, and Edinburgh.

ROSE CARDIGAN by Andrea Mowry
YARN (from top): Voolenvine Yarns, Sportlandia in Grimm, Dirty On Purpose, and Edinburgh.

When the Find Your Fade shawl by Andrea Mowry hit, everyone and their monkey's uncle cast one on โ€” including yours truly. The pattern was enjoyable, but after knitting a few color fades in, I wasn't 100% sold on my color choices. They were pretty together, but I don't think I'd end up wearing the finished object.

  FIND YOUR FADE  By Andrea Mowry (UNFINISHED OBJECT) 

FIND YOUR FADE By Andrea Mowry
(UNFINISHED OBJECT) 

I tried mixing and matching other yarn from stash, but I still couldn't find the "perfect" fade. So eventually, I just gave up. I accepted that, maybe this whole fade thing wasn't my jam. And (sad) truth be told, I pretty much avoided patterns involving fades, since. (Fade-o-phobia. Ridiculous, I know!) 

That is, until ... I found myself in a creative "slump." (See blog post here.) 

The good news is that I came out of said slump, right after casting on the Smock It! shawl by Stephen West. It's exactly what my knitting soul needed; a pattern that doesn't require too much brain power, and still makes me want to knit "just one more row!"

You're probably thinking, "But Kristin, Smock It! is a "fade" shawl. I thought you swore off fades forever!" Sure, I was hesitant to cast on. But a three-color fade versus a seven-color fade? Seriously, if I can't fade at least three colors, we've got some serious issues to work through.

Long story short, I'm in love and can't put the thing down. Yay! (more on this project to come!)

Fast-forward one week later, and I cast on Rose by Andrea Mowry โ€” a FOUR-color faded cardigan, and loving every stitch! I can't take all of the credit, though. One of my customers posted a gorgeous and unexpected fade using my hand-dyed yarn, to their instagram feed. I couldn't help but copycat a bit. 

But wait! Do you see a pattern, here? I went from fading three colors to four. I'm building my color confidence, guys! I can beat my Fade-o-phobia! Give me another month, and I'll be knitting fades up to ten colors. 

A post shared by Kristin Lehrer (@voolenvine) on

An Organized Oasis Of Tranquility

 PHOTO TAKEN AFTER A BIT OF DECLUTTERING, AND SPRUCING-UP. 

PHOTO TAKEN AFTER A BIT OF DECLUTTERING, AND SPRUCING-UP. 

I'm determined to give our bedroom a makeover, because at the moment it feels more like a messy storage room with a bed in the middle. I don't enjoy going to bed and waking up in a room with bare walls, cluttered surfaces, and clothes heaped in piles on the floor. (Yes, we are savages that live out of laundry baskets, instead of folding our clothes and putting them neatly away in drawers. We have dressers, but apparently our brains never made the connection.)

When Dennis and I moved into our house, we were more focused on home repairs and making the rest of the house presentable. We figured the bedroom was a room no one else needed to see, so we didn't make it a priority. We kept saying, "We'll get around to it." Three years later, it's still in the same sad state. And we're tired โ€” literally! We've both been sleeping so poorly. ๐Ÿ˜•

If we could do it over, I think the bedroom should have been the very first priority (OK, maybe after taking care of the basement flood, and after the leaky roof issue.) But what were we thinking? Sure, it's a room no one else has to see, but WE have to see it, and spend time in it ...  EVERY NIGHT. Where's the logic? Dennis and I (and most people for that matter) deserve to wake up in an organized, oasis of tranquility! 

So this month, I'm going to make our room just that.

I even started a Pinterest board for inspiration. And of course, it's going to have a hella lot of grey/mauve. ๐Ÿ˜œ  If it means getting a better night's sleep, I think it's totally worth the time, money, and effort. 

Some Day, My Melty Brain Will Understand Photography.

 Brandon Woelfel-ized photo of my knitting. 

Brandon Woelfel-ized photo of my knitting. 

I also started this blog to up my photography game. Not just by taking more photos, but improving my skills.

I'm still trying to wrap my brain around ISO, shutter speed, and exposure. I understand how they work on their own, but making them work together for a single shot? This is something I've always struggled with. (I did graduate from film school, right?) ๐Ÿค”

I'm guessing it's because there's math involved. Math and I really don't get along. Anytime numbers are thrown at me, my brain literally melts inside my head. Still, I'm determined to understand this stuff, melty brain or no. And I am getting it, albeit very slowly. 

The Craftsy photography classes I've taken were helpful but, to be honest, I've learned way more from YouTube. You guys! There are SO many great channels out there, where photographers vlog and share tutorials. Channels like Peter McKinnon, Jessica Kobeissi, Mango Street, and Brandon Woelfel ... not only are they a huge source of information and inspiration. They're so much FUN to watch. 

I especially love when they collaborate on photo challenges (i.e., 3 Photographers Shoot the Same Model or Dollar Store Photo Challenge). So many great ideas! I might also be guilty of binge-watching quite a few of these. Seriously. Screw reality TV. This is where it's at, people. ๐Ÿคค

They also introduced me to shooting RAW (instead of .jpg)  and totally transforming an image in Adobe Lightroom. It's amazing what you can do! 

Anyway, I'm having fun learning and going to have even more fun challenging myself, playing with my camera every day. I'm pretty sure you'll start to see more interesting photos pop-up here and on my Instagram feeds. Wheee!

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As I sit here, covered in SPF 110 and Bug Repellent.

 Exhibit A. 

Exhibit A. 

Sure. I'm "outdoorsy" ... If sipping wine and knitting on patios counts. Truth be told, I'm a total homebody and rarely leave the house, except maybe to forage for food ... or I might have been lured out with the promise of yarn. Otherwise, I'm outside against my will โ€” especially if you see me hiking. (See exhibit A.) 

Don't get me wrong. I love nature, but my threshold for enjoying the great outdoors is quite limited. Hiking requires sneaker-wearing, slathering on the SPF 110 (I have the skin of a vampire), and more bug-repellent than I care to spray on my person. Also, there be spiders! ๐Ÿ˜ฑ Nothing scares the b'jebus out of me more than spiders!! (I saw the movie Arachnophobia when I was 7-years-old and it scarred me for life. Seriously, I could not use the loo for WEEKS without thinking a spider was going to crawl up out of the toilet while I was using it. Fun Fact, this fear actually came true about a year ago. I am still recovering from the horror. #TMI ) Despite these things, Dennis somehow manages to get me out on a trail.

So today, when Dennis suggested we take a hike around Jamaica Wildlife Refuge (This seems to have become our annual tradition) my knee-jerk reaction was to stay home and knit.  But it was such a nice day and I knew the fresh air, and some exercise would do us good. Plus, I could practice taking photos with my fancy-schmancy DSLR camera (incentives, y'all!)

The refuge is only about a 20 minute drive from our house, and has a cute little trail lined with wildflowers, turtle nests (Though I've yet to see a live turtle in the 6 or 7 years that we've been going.), and majestic water views. It's also home to quite a few native birds like snowy egrets, swans, and ospreys! You don't have to try very hard to feel like you've left New York City, even though you can see the city skyline across the water.

So, I'm not really sure what the moral of the story is, but as I sit here covered in sticky sunblock, bug repellent, and a few scant mosquito bites (some in rather inconvenient spots), I have to say, I rarely regret these little adventures. We got out of the house, saw some nature, took some fun photos ... 10 points for Griffindor?

It was a good day. 

Making the broccoli crunch salad doesn't count

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I'm feeling frustrated today.  This is probably isn't the best way to kick-off a blog about creativity, but I'd be lying if I said I felt otherwise. 

I live for waking up early. I can't wait to jump out of bed, make some breakfast, plan my day, get busy with some knitting, or plan my next sewing project. But from a creative standpoint, this weekend felt like such a dud

On Saturday, Dennis and I had some friends over for a barbecue. Of course we enjoy spending time with our friends, but hosting guests means spending the day tidying the house and running errands. So, no knitting or sewing for me. I don't know about you guys, but I get a little cranky when I go a day without some kind of making. (And no, making the broccoli crunch salad did not count.)

On Sunday, I slept in because we went to bed at 1am, which just made me extra cranky because, damn! That's some solid morning crafting time I missed out on. Not having that time usually leads to some not-well-thought-out, impulsive decisions ... like sewing a new pattern without making a muslin. And that is exactly what I did.  

A wiser choice would have been to put a dent in one of my shawl designs, or rip back on my Like a Cloud cardigan to fix a mistake. But no. I wanted to sew. 

With half the day gone, I wanted to whip up something simple. I decided to make a button-down shirt for my husband Dennis, using McCall's M6044 pattern. ("Simple," she says.)  I was feeling pretty confident after taking his measurements and reading some online reviews and blog posts about the fit for this particular pattern.  So, I dove right in.

It was all was going very well until I set-in the sleeves. I decided to finish the seams with my serger ... and serged RIGHT into the sleeve fabric! When I unpicked the stitches, there was a gaping slash on the side of the sleeve. I tried to save it with a blind stitch, but that just made it look worse. Then I had Dennis try on the shirt, but it was too snug. By this point, it was a lost cause. Lesson learned: MAKE A MUSLIN, KRISTIN!!! 

So, this project was a failure, and that's OK. I'm not a perfectionist. I'm all about making mistakes and learning from them but, to be honest, it's hard not to feel frustrated when you've had a whole day to create, only to realize your efforts were in vain. (I'm sure some of you can relate.)

Looking on the bright side, at least the chambray fabric I used was inexpensive, and I got more practice with French seams. Dennis also later admitted that he's not into polka dots.

I'm so grateful to have most weekends free to make ALL the things. I know not many can say the same, which is why I value this time and strive to make the most of it ... maybe a little too much.

I think for me to truly make the most out of my free time, I need to be more patient, more present in the moment, and accept that not every weekend will be a "make-fest." Maybe I'll keep the shirt around for when I need a little reminder. 

 The offending sleeve tear.