About Kyle

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So far Kyle has created 36 blog entries.

For the Ladies: Katie’s bare feet, glass shards and pram

I once tried in vain to convince a friend she could easily, speedily ride her bike to work, only to be constantly rebuffed that it was too dangerous, that she was easy prey for the ne’er-do-wells en route to her office. But I had her speak with some female friends, also bicyclists, who ride everywhere they can, for all reasons. It was effective and much more convincing.

Run commuting, I fear, might be something of a sausage party. This is based on exchanges with female friends. They express great reservation, mostly about their hair, make-up, hygiene: nothing about the challenge of running, to which they admit they are more than equal. They claim they could never run commute. But we have had a number of female readers comment and graciously share their wisdom, so we are going to pool these and put them out for you! We won’t strive to convince anyone they can do it; we will endeavor to show them, albeit by proxy. (more…)

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:44+00:00 July 25th, 2013|Categories: How To|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments

On everyone’s minds

Two weeks ago, I got three comments while running home from work. It’s not unusual: friends passing might hail hello; would-be wits and jerks in general offer more inflammatory fare, often from a passing car’s window. One of the comments that day came from an addled homeless lady sitting spread-eagle in the middle of the sidewalk outside a warehouse down my street: “Did you just get off a fire engine?” she squawked. No, ma’am, I assure you: I did not. I am to firemen what Steve Rogers, pre-Super Soldier Serum, is to Captain America.

The other two comments were the same, hurled heartily from speeding vehicles on North Avenue, a east-west artery of rolling hills, several lanes, and one speed: fast. It was while I was huffing up said hills that the aforementioned comments came, both of them, “Go, Boston!”

Scrotum graffiti is an eyesore, but hearts are welcome.

Scrotum graffiti is an eyesore, but hearts are welcome.

Then I spied this on a viaduct not much further on that passes over North Avenue, and pulled up short to consider. That structure carries on its shoulders the BeltLine Eastside Trail, a spiffed-up rail-trail that is Atlanta’s shiny new thing, universally adored by the city’s yuppies (and, for some reason, parents who think such a busy multi-use trail is an ideal environment for their kids to learn to bicycle). On one side of the viaduct, Murder Kroger, a grocery store that perfectly ties together all qualities and characters of North Avenue’s parallel thoroughfare, Ponce de Leon Avenue. On the other side, the Masquerade, a music venue-nee-cotton mill outside which suburban teens, greasers, Nth generation punks, emo kids, goths, and Hall queue to see their favorite bands.

One side of the viaduct has a colorful, well-crafted mural touting the BeltLine. This side, though, is a scratch pad for aspiring taggers, their handles like Crass, Squeak, Squeal, Queequeg, and Hall — seldom, if ever, seen again — snippets of bad teen poetry and the proclamations of self-fancied philosophers. Quite the contrast.

But the area is changing; North Avenue is changing. Developments like Ponce City Market, Historic 4th Ward Park, and the BeltLine are gradually, inexorably altering the areas in which they are situated. I saw Tuesday morning bags of trash piled high along that side of the viaduct that formerly served as taggers’ collective scratch pad. Weeds were pulled. Dirt was swept away. And the wall was painted that Eastern Bloc gray-blue color that is rolled over all permutations of “Queequeg was here,” and denotes that graffiti was there.

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Except this. The entire length of the wall: gray-blue, then, bam: preserved with painstaking care, “Boston On My Mind” remained. And I hope it remains there for a long, long while. Community immersion is a benefit of run commuting, and running in general. Similarly, the marathon has been called the most democratic of sporting events, as it offers the least barrier between spectators and athletes, a minimum separation between those who cheer and those cheered on — including the former’s entrance to that athletic endeavor.

Perhaps drivers that day spied this, inspiring them to call, “Go, Boston!” as I huffed over those hills, rather than something derogatory or deflating, or nothing at all. I enjoy when strangers shout encouragement. I enjoy that they engaged me, as a member of the neighborhood, as a fellow citizen and person, despite the odds that we will never know one another or even again cross paths.

Perhaps passersby of all kinds, everyone, will take note, keep those barriers down, and keep the literal and figurative Boston on their minds and in their hearts.

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:45+00:00 May 1st, 2013|Categories: General, News|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

Mike: family man, marathon man

DeKalb Avenue is off my typical run commute route, but the morning was foggy and DeKalb offers a wonderful view of the skyline’s sentinels huddled in their wooly blankets. It also allowed me to meet Mike, another run commuter!

run commuter

Two miles out, two miles home daily = 20 miles during the work week.

I spied Mike’s florescent orange shirt from several blocks back and hot-heeled it after him, grabbing for my camera. I caught him at Georgia State University’s campus, and we huffed out a bit of exchange over the next two blocks.

Mike shared that he started run commuting about two or three months ago, while training for the March 17, 2013, Georgia Marathon. His kids’ needs and schedules sometimes precludes longer runs prior to or following work, so he began running two miles to the train station in the morning, and two miles home from it after work. That round-trip train ride also affords Mike 45 minutes in which to read, to his delight. Mike’s family lately scaled back to being a one-car family; this multi-modal run commute helps make that easier. It is something with which Josh’s family has experience, having gone from one car to being car-free (eventually going back to one car, after Ben joined their family). But that is how Josh came to run commuting, too.

Running light -- and bright! -- though a hip or waist strap would reduce bag sway.

Running light — and bright! — though a hip or waist strap would reduce bag sway.

Mike and I had about as many minutes as blocks in which to speak before our paths parted, so I neglected to advise him about improvising a waist strap. As you can see, above, his backpack lacks that feature; I could see from blocks away that it changed his form significantly, and swayed visibly back and forth. Many options to allay this: a bungee cord, preferably one of the flat kind; some string; a web belt, of the Army surplus type; an old bike tire: limitless options.

Mike, if you read this and would like to add anything, or more likely, if I botched some info, comment or contact us! The question we all have: what was your time in the marathon??

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:45+00:00 April 30th, 2013|Categories: General, News|Tags: , , , , , |2 Comments

Pack Comfort Evaluation: Extended Ultramarathon Edition

Though we use them nearly daily on roads, our run commute packs are all designed for trails, for hikers, through-hikers, fastpackers. One can see in our reviews how well they serve their purposes and meet our run commuting needs; however, perhaps readers still wonder about their comfort and ability during those 3-6 mile runs. How about 65 miles in varied temps, wind, and sun? We are now able to offer better perspective on said service, after humping these packs over several mountains, for 20 hours, during the inaugural Georgia Death Race.

www.georgiadeathrace.com

You will forever afterward see in this “professionally designed” race logo a man farting streams of flame. Not a wholly inaccurate take on the race’s pains.

Hall, Josh, and Kyle lit out from Atlanta with crew chief Laura on Friday, March 15, to tackle this course up in the north Georgia mountains. We had all run ultras before; however, this one would be twice as far as the 50Ks we’d done, with 30,000 feet of elevation change: it was no joke.

The race was first billed as 55 miles; then 60-ish; but it turned out to be closer to 65 miles, and temperature fluctuations between elevations (sometimes 20°F difference, with wind and shade) would make for an extremely challenging race. The race began at 4 a.m. Saturday, March 16, and was open for 28 hours, allowing everyone some chance to finish. We’ll get up a race report if you want it, but for now we want to offer insight as to the run commuting/ultramarathon connection.

One: up to 50 percent of our training miles came from running to work, or from it. The remainder came from long road runs, hill and stair training, shorter ultras, and mountain training weekends.

Two: racers had a mandatory gear list to carry during the race. Part of it was due to the backcountry requirements of Vogel State Park and the U.S. Forest Service; and the rest was deemed necessary in case of injury; or if you could no longer run/walk/hobble, and were too far from an aid station. Here’s the list:

Mandatory:

  • 1 Space blanket

  • 1 Thermal top

  • 1 Warm hat (beanie)

  • 1 Pair of warm gloves

  • 1 Waterproof jacket (poncho not acceptable)

  • 1 Whistle

  • 1 Map (provided)

  • 1 22 oz (or greater) capacity for water.

  • 1 Food ration

Recommended:

  • 1 Working cell phone

  • 1 Extra set of batteries for your head lamp

  • 1 Thermal bottom

GDR-Packs2

Off to the pre-race meeting the night before, and for mandatory gear check. L to R: Osprey Stratos 24 (Hall), Osprey Manta 20 (Josh), REI Stoke 19 (Kyle)

And, three, while a lot of ultramarathoners wear hydration packs, like the Nathan Endurance Race Vest, Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5, or the increasingly-popular UltrAspire Omega Hydration Vest, we would need to carry more than just water and gels for this race. But owing to our run commuting, we were already accustomed to running with full backpacks.

Would packs we use for run commuting perform well during this race? Here are our thoughts, in brief:

Tester:  Josh

Pack:  Osprey Manta 20

Comfort: None of the straps chafed at all.  I normally wear a short or long-sleeve compression shirt to reduce any possibility of chafing (usually underarms, or around my waist). With the Manta 20, however, the straps were adequately padded, positioned properly, and secured with non-irritating buckles, making it fantastic no matter what clothing was underneath. The weight of the pack was distributed very well, too.

Storage: With 17L (1,037 cu. in.) of internal storage, I had plenty of room for all the required gear, plus changes of socks and shirts, with additional space leftover. There are many outside pockets that are easily accessible as well, including dual waist strap pouches. These were perfect for gels, Clif bars, and other snacks. I could grab them on the fly, eat, and continue running without stopping.

Hydration: A unique 3L hydration bladder was standard on the S/M model.  This was more than enough to supply adequate hydration from one aid station to another.

User Notes: I love everything about this pack. In fact, I would choose this over my previous favorite, the Osprey Stratos 24. The hydration system features were ridiculously handy, the pack was super-comfortable, and I felt like if I were to changeover to another crazy sport – fastpacking, for instance – it would be a fantastic piece of gear for the job. I can’t say enough good things about the Manta 20. Seriously.

3:50 am - Race Day

3:50 am – Race Day

Tester:  Hall

Pack: Osprey Stratos 24

Comfort: Starting at 2lbs without any gear, or even a hydration bladder, this backpack was surprisingly comfortable over the 44 miles I covered before my eventual exit from the race (see Editor’s Note below). Due to a former injury, a broken collar bone to be exact, I am always wary of carrying anything on my shoulders for long periods of time. Especially with standard backpack straps. But the Osprey Stratos 24’s numerous options for cinching down the straps prevented any irritation. The large amount of straps and different ways to secure the gear and prevent any shifting or unnecessary movement helped keep it quiet as well. Once the temperatures warmed up and the sun rose above the North Georgia mountains, the stretched mesh back panel allowed my back to breathe.

Storage: At times I lost track of where certain items were in my pack due to the plethora of harness pockets, hipbelt pockets, and other compartments. It’s a good problem to have, and though I ended up having to wash out some of them due to carrying used gel packets, I was glad to be able to have most of what I needed constantly accessible.

Hydration: My Osprey Hydraulics 2 Liter Reservoir was a great purchase. The handle and rigid structure didn’t add much weight, but certainly made it a lot easier to fill at aid stations and even at home under the sink.

Editor’s Note: Hall neglected to mention that his reason for exiting the race at mile 44 was that his tendons were about to ‘splode. This is for real. He’d just finished a course of antibiotics, amongst the serious warnings for which was listed severe likelihood of tendons rupturing from exercise and strain. But from mile 44, without missing a beat or dropping a smile, Hall became crew lieutenant, and we were joyed to see him with Laura at the final crew station, and again at the finish! –KT

Twenty-five miles into the race, over the Duncan Ridge Trail, and onto Forest Service roads. Photo: Hall's mom

Twenty-five miles into the race, over the Duncan Ridge Trail, and onto Forest Service roads. The mountains we scaled and descended paled compared to Kyle’s forehead. Photo: Hall’s mom

Tester:  Kyle

Pack:  REI Stoke 19

Comfort: As mentioned in my previous review, the Stoke 19 lacks any kind of ventilation for your back. Lack of air flow yields plenty of sweat, and mid-race my shorts had an inch-wide salt band; however, my pack remained wonderfully cushy, and all the straps are wide and plush, so nothing cuts or saws into your torso. From the chilly morning to the mid-day roasting sun, I experienced no discomfort. I had one small chafe spot when I took stock of my ravaged body the next day: the right shoulder strap rubbed my collar bone, but that almost certainly owes to said clavicle’s odd shape.

Storage: So many pockets, filled with GUs, Clif bars, at one point an entire sweet potato. There was ample room for my required gear (and a safety whistle is built into the chest strap) and leftover space for fuel, though never did anything feel unsecured: all remained perfectly in place. The race offered a $100 bonus to whomever brought in the most trash from the trail; we retrieved multiple wrappers, spent GU packets, some beer cans, and more, and mashed them all into my pack’s side pockets. (The bonus went to a guy who dropped off at an aid station a 12-pack box he stuffed with garbage, and a freaking car tire, with which he’d run two miles — while then in third place: well-earned.)

Hydration: I’ve been using a Camelbak Omega 100oz. bladder for years now. By about mile 20, the hook by which it is secured at its top had twisted off, but, like I said: years old, so some failure is to be expected. It stayed put despite this. It was difficult getting the full bladder back into the Stoke 19 with all my gear inside. Often, I would have to pull it all out, slide the bladder back in place, then replace my gear inside.

User Notes: The Stoke 19’s biggest drawback was the difficulty replacing the bladder, and subsequently the time necessary to do so. Speaking with someone before the race about her Ultimate Direction SJ Race Vest, which in lieu of a bladder touts twin 22-ounce bottles, holstered on the shoulder straps. It was, she said, “the difference between a 30-second aid station stop and three minutes.” That was a prescient statement, I came to find. But the Stoke 19 allows you to maintain a higher center of gravity. Look again at the photo of the three of us above: note that mine (on the right) rides much higher and tighter than do Josh’s or Hall’s. That was on the trail, as it is on my run commute, an asset.

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:45+00:00 April 29th, 2013|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Gray: a collegian run commuter

“I am out of shape,” he huffed, though he seemed anything but.

Gray, repping Atlanta with a Coca-Cola t-shirt.

Gray, repping Atlanta with a Coca-Cola t-shirt.

I encountered Gray on my run commute home Wednesday, at the corner of Piedmont and MLK, in the gold-domed glare of the Capitol. Weekly I see new run commuters, but often they are blocks away or my camera is at home; so it was with surprise and delight, and entirely without elegance, that I crowed, “Run commuter! You, too?!”

Gray told me he was running something over two miles, from Georgia State University, where he is a student, to Grant Park, due south. The campus is so close, he said, that he figured he could just run the distance. And it makes good sense: Georgia State University, one of Georgia’s four research institutions, is surrounded by a confusing network of four-lane one-way streets, viaducts, and turn-only/no-turn lanes that is as sensible navigable as an M.C. Escher drawing. Driving’s difficulty is compounded by jockeying for parking in stories-tall decks; rising transit fares are not always a student’s budgetary ally; but bicycling certain routes, and running any of them, is wonderfully easy, and often quicker than muddling through traffic.

Standard Victorinox backpack, 20-25 pounds with textbooks and a laptop. A hip belt of some kind would both mitigate its pendulous action and prevent that from drawing his shirt's back up.

Standard Victorinox backpack, 20-25 pounds with textbooks and a laptop. A hip belt of some kind would both mitigate its pendulous action and prevent that from drawing his shirt’s back up.

Gray stated he was out of shape, hence the huffing and puffing as we spoke; however, I must disagree: he seemed fit, and Gray had just run up a rather steep, lengthy hill of Piedmont Avenue, carrying 20-25 pounds on his back (textbooks, laptop, and sundry). Tell me you would have your wind, having done the same. And I had just run two level blocks with maybe 10 pounds, and was huffing as much (see my greeting above).

Great job, Gray! Run hard, study harder.

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:46+00:00 April 18th, 2013|Categories: General|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

Review: REI Stoke 19 Backpack

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The transition from runner to run commuter mandates a method of transport, and so, a bag of some kind becomes necessary, be it a cloth drawstring bag the likes of which are given out at job fairs and to elementary schoolers; your mom’s old fanny pack or your dad’s new fanny pack; or, for me, the REI Stoke 19. In my two years with the Stoke 19, I have used it on a near-daily basis, and battered it with various injuries, including rain, sleet, hail, dark of night, sweat and its corrosive salt, the stink of unwashed wool, and hemorrhaging strawberries. It has withstood and served, and continues to endure, under all stresses, remains comfortable, and retains the quality with which it was originally imbued.

BASICS
The Stoke 19 is a frameless daypack made of ripstop nylon, prices around $80, weighs in at a meager 1 lb. 4 oz., and has a 19-liter cargo capacity. Mine is the 2010 model. As such, I have two years’ perspective on it; however, I have inspected the 2012 models and they are compatible, with a few minor upgrades to the latter. The panel-loading pack features one main interior pocket, with two internal sleeves along the sides; a rear mesh pocket; a rear zippered pocket, with two interior mesh sleeves and a key clip; two exterior mesh pockets along the pack’s sides; and two zippered waist strap pockets. Consequently, I never want to type the word “pocket” again, yet I will sally forth for you, as there is one more: a zippered compartment on the pack’s backing, which accommodates a 70-ounce hydration bladder.
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COMFORT
The Stoke 19 has a soft, waffled backing, which rests comfortably on the back, but also prohibits two things: air flow, and sweat drainage. Often in my endeavors, I have bagged my interior goods because I know that the bag will soak a great deal of sweat on my commute, particularly in summer. This, for me, is inevitable, as I am a profuse sweater. Yet I am able to say the ripstop nylon dries quickly: after running to work, it is dry within a few hours, and quicker still if I have my fan trained on it. Still, some might favor a pack with an airflow system, like the comparable Osprey Talon. The Stoke 19’s shoulder and waist straps are ventilated and padded, respectively, and several inches wide. I have yet to experience any chafing, pinching, or cutting.

FIT
The Stoke 19 sits high and tight on my back, its bottom nesting near the small of my back: I like this. It keeps my center of gravity from dropping too low, particularly when running with a full sack. It features two horizontal straps: a chest strap (with safety whistle, help, help!) with a minor elastic band, to accommodate jouncing on runs and hikes; and a thicker, middle-buckling waist strap. The chest strap is adjustable, sliding vertically on a six-inch curve. I prefer mine toward the middle of that curve, but I find my left slider has difficulty staying put. It often slides up, requiring frequent adjustment on the go. The waist strap’s pockets have come in handy for carting gels, Clif bars, keys, ID, pepper spray, a fistful of pecans found during a run, and other sundry flotsam; however, I find I need to cinch them very tightly.

The Stoke 19 might fit a bit loosely for thin folks. At 6’4″ and 170 pounds, I need to pull the chest strap fully tight, and the hip straps nearly so, otherwise it fits loosely and bounces around, a sensation I detest. This fit improves with the amount of cargo you stuff in the bag, as the ends of the shoulder straps pull not from the rear, but the front. This is important, as it helps compress your cargo and secure it.
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CARGO
I might carry on a typical day: my lunch box; pants; socks; underpants; undershirt; work shirt; belt; wallet; small notebook; phone; keys; and perhaps a Clif bar. But most days also see the inclusion of any of these things: a book, parcels of mail, a sweet potato, a second pair of shoes; yet I have also transported: a tomahawk; a Kindle; a stack of CDs; a thermos of coffee; and a four-pound flat of strawberries. This last was more good intent than good idea, as the motion of my running mashed the strawberries and bled them into the bag’s bottom. (Side note on DURABILITY: it washes clean of strawberry muck, and the stink of salt and wool.) I have been surprised by how much I am able to fit inside this bag, and have only once been unable to accommodate all my items (on that occasion, I ran with another bundle tucked under my arm).

SUMMARY
The Stoke 19 has more than amply met my needs for running to work; long training runs; trail runs; hiking; and cycling. It does not look large — in fact, smaller than most school kids’ backpacks — yet its capacity has surprised me, as has its durability. It washes clean of grime, sweat, and salt (and fruit) stains without problems. It sits tight and high, though this negates air flow, resulting in a snug, albeit sweaty, fit. As a bonus: REI Members are able to exchange it if not completely satisfied. If they endeavor to abuse REI’s extremely liberal returns policy, it’s probably possible to exchange it after two years’ use.

Note: This backpack was purchased for use by the author.

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:47+00:00 November 30th, 2012|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , , |2 Comments

What I saw on my summer vacation

Laura and I just returned from Washington, D.C., a trip we’d planned more than a year. To give you the flavor of it: after a long day visiting historic sights and museums, we unwound in our hotel room by reading the founding Charters and other important American documents, and learning about the policies surrounding the War of 1812. RIVETING. (Seriously, it was.)

But what of the unplanned things we saw? Sure, there was a wealth of bicyclists, barreling this way and that, but how ’bout the profusion of run commuters? We saw at least a dozen during our week there, earnest hoofers sporting backpacks in the evening rush, heading home, to the Metro, or destinations unknown.

Seriously: sweet shorts.

I hope his backpack contains a suit that matches those shorts.

Each time, I over-eagerly pounded Laura’s surely-bruised-by-then arm, crowing, “Look, another one!” wondering after, “Why was there another one?” Why did D.C. proffer more run commuters than Atlanta? I can say with certainty that both cities are equally flush with runners. If you don’t get out before 6 a.m. in Atlanta, you will share your neighborhood’s streets with at least a dozen folks. I think herein lie some answers: (more…)

Happy birthday, The Run Commuter!

A little-known, yet momentous for us, milestone came and went in April: our birthday, or anniversary, or, if you like, Annual Recognition of Official Launch! That it has taken me a month to write of it is not indicative of the level of celebratory bender on which we went, but how danged much we have had going on, including ultramarathons, bike tours, and Moving Day. Lots more excitement coming up from The Run Commuter, too, so keep reading.

But first, something rather pleasant occurred on our Annual Recognition of Official Launch. Josh and I have crossed paths many times in the course of our commutes, though one of us is normally on a bike. This day, our AROL, I rounded a corner and spied a gent with Josh’s form and Josh’s pack running not too far before me. By bellowing a mighty “YO, JOSH!” I ascertained that this was, in fact, Josh. Our first run commute path-crossing. A good omen for our second year.

Lightly seasoned with automobile exhaust

We all (both) gathered ’round the mulberry bush to enjoy feral fruit along the PATH trail.

We met up by a bush, and rather than cake, we plucked and ate perfectly-ripe mulberries. Atlanta is loaded with random and feral fruit — figs, pears, apples, blackberries, persimmons — about which I will write later.

Stay tuned as we embark on our second year for exciting developments: a few giveaways, new tales, and at least one Run Commuter Marathon here in Atlanta.

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:48+00:00 May 10th, 2012|Categories: News|Tags: |0 Comments

Graphic: Americans’ annual consumption

Here I mean “graphic” to mean both a visual representation of what our nation is ingesting, and the more colloquial sense of looking upon something that churns both one’s soul and stomach.

I saw this image from Visual Economics, representing Americans’ average ages, heights and weights, and the things we eat. The graphic’s title, too, seems to have two meanings: the informational sense of what we are eating, and the critical questioning.

Americans eat candy for breakfast

GADZOOKS. (more…)

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:49+00:00 March 20th, 2012|Categories: News|Tags: , , , , , |2 Comments

Roll away your wrinkles

It occurred to me as I titled this post that you, dear reader, will now see banner ads wherever Internaut takes you, proclaiming Housewife in East Cupcake finds miracle trick to smooth her face! and Follow this one simple rule to avoid crows’ feet! and so forth. But I write not of laugh lines and the folds in one’s turkey neck, but of slacks and shirts: jamming them in your backpack and arriving wrinkle-free (well … wrinkle-light) at work.

In short: roll them. To begin, make a few folds, as shown in the photograph below. Keep your slacks/pants/khakis/trousers/dungarees/skirts (no jeggings) flat as can be; fold them in half lengthwise, along the crotch/crack axis, then in half horizontally, at the knees. Fold the sleeves back on your dress shirts. If you don’t know how to fold a shirt, follow these instructions. Leave the collar folded up, as pictured below; however, you will want your shirt lying on its face. Smooth any small wrinkles or blips from your garments.

A few folds gets you ready to roll.

(more…)

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:50+00:00 February 15th, 2012|Categories: How To|Tags: , , , , |4 Comments
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