Friday, July 18, 2014

Make it: Open Back Dress

Hello my little chickadees!

Wow! I've said it in my last post and I will say it again: Instagram is AMAZING. Seeing your sewing and knitting in real time has been making me feel so connected to you all -- Your creativity, your openness, your energy... you are really inspiring me to step up my sewing and push myself outside of my comfort zone even more.

It's funny, for a long time, throughout high school and university, I yearned to be part of a creative community. I always thought of myself as creative, and I felt finding a community would be the key to actualizing this creative spirit that lived in me. In my young mind, the only way I knew to find a creative community was to hang around Kensington Market and the Annexe in Toronto -- The two "cool" places near me that matched a little bit my romantic image of NYC Greenwich Village or Paris Montparnasse... So I began getting involved in Toronto's cultural scene, organizing Ladyfest Toronto, playing guitar and attending open mics (so cliché, I know... I had dreadlocks in those days!). I never really succeeded in finding the community I was looking for then.

Back then, I would have never guessed that I would end up finding my community eventually, but that it would look completely different than the picture I had in my mind. (I guess you could say that about a lot of things in life.) I would never have guessed that my community would end up being online and centered on sewing. Now, looking back, it feels totally like "Of course!". Of course, my medium is sewing. Of course, finding this community needed to happen naturally and organically. Of course, it ended up being an online. Today, at 29 years of age, I can say that I am so grateful to have found a place where my creativity can flourish -- Readers, bloggers and fellow dressmakers, thank you for understanding and sharing my deep love of sewing. ♥ ♥ ♥

If the thought of soon being separated from my sewing machine for a week makes me a little sad as we get ready to hike the highest mountain in Sweden (the sun will still be shining at 11:45PM, I'm told. Can you imagine?), I tell myself that there will be Instagram to stay connected. And outside of cellular reception, there will be plenty of time to dream of sewing projects, my mostest favourite thing to do next to sewing. :-)

Getting back to our topic... drafting the Open Back Dress! This Club Monaco knock-off is really quite simple: no darts, considerable ease, and only a back zipper which could very well be omitted if your backside is on the flat side, or if the difference between your waist and your hip measurements is small (errr, not my case... ).

The diagram bellow is not to scale (obvs...) but it gives an idea of the way the pieces are supposed to look. Take note of the boxy, trapeze shape of the bodice pieces, for example. It's really that simple.

Here's how to do it: Starting with your bodice and skirt slopers* (or blocs),
- Drop the shoulder line on the bodice by about 3 inches to create the dropped sleeves.
- Pivot the bust dart to the bottom of the sloper (if your sloper has side bust darts) adding a few more inches for a loser or a more voluminous bust if desired. (The idea is that the bust darts are contained in the gathers of the waist.)
- Width of the waistband: 1 inch
- Length of the waistband: your waist measurement. For added comfort, you can add two or three inches and insert an elastic at the back of the dress like I did.
- Waistband facing is the same as the waistband piece.
- Skirt: add four inches ease or more, with the darts contained in the waist gathers.
- Neckline and armholes finished with fold-over elastic or bias tape (keep it simple!) -- no neckline or armhole facing pieces.
- Make sure to cut the neckline big enough to fit over your head... or add an opening of some sort at the shoulder seam, perhaps button or snap closures.
- Don't forgot to add seam allowance to your pieces before cutting!

After you've made your muslin, you will see clearly what works and what needs to be tweaked in your pattern. If there is a lot of changes to be made, a second muslin is never be a bad idea. :-) Patience, patience, patience is the mother of beautiful clothes! :-)

Good luck, and happy drafting! Let me know if you have questions in the comments.

Next up, I'll go over the details of assembly, going over the waist area in more details, as requested by Dana from Wardrobe Dysfunction. It's going to be next week, though, because I have to hike Mount Kebnekaise first!


* If you don't have slopers yet, there are plenty of resources online for making your own. Craftsy, eSewingWorkshop are solid resources, albeit not free, and Madalynne has awesome blog posts on making your blocs as well as other pattern drafting info. You can also order a "basic pattern" from one of the Big Four pattern companies and then adjust it to your figure by trial-and-error until it's perfect.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Complete: Open Back Silk Dress

We're finally having some bare-legs weather over here. YESS! I'm trying to soak in and retain every minute of every hour because this is so rare. In Sweden, even in the summer, I basically need a sweater on most days, by contrast to my prior muggy summers of Toronto and Spain. I really do love it when the only thing tolerable is iced coffee, shorts, and sandals... But thank goodness our days lately have been sweet and long, with plenty of possibility to wear my new dress!
It's an exact replica of a dress I saw on Club Monaco's website. Those who follow me on Pinterest will recognize it. This is the first time I'm knocking off a garment from a picture only, and I don't think I've done too bad. (You can see the muslin here.)  Although 85% of the success of this dress is probably due to the gorgeousness of the fabric, I must admit.

FABRIC: black sandwashed silk

Seeing and measuring the garment in real life is maybe not that important after all -- what matters is more how the garment looks on the actual wearer. For all I know, the "real" dress in the store would not even fit me -- as it has been the case with 90% of Club Monaco dresses I have tried in the past. But this is the beauty of sewing, folks! We get to make anything we want.
In other news, I finally acquired a new phone last week, which means I can finally exist in the world be on Instagram, About time, I tell you. My 2009 iPhone 3G had become an absolute relic of the past, to the point where most social media apps would not work. Discovering Instagram (yes, I "discovered" Instagram just now...) was full of surprises, like realizing how my sister-in-law has the most amazing eye for photography (and quite the Instagram following). It's as if I'm getting to know my friends all over again, through Instagram. I'm feeling soooo inspired. I invite you to add me on Instagram if you want.
These photos are from Gothenburg this weekend, but we're actually in Småland at the moment, in the Swedish countryside. I've been trying to limit my screen time this week, so I can better connect with my family-in-law and my surroundings. I have had the good fortune of having been welcomed into a big family when I met my partner, who has no less than five siblings (16 to 38), and three nephews and nieces, with a fourth one on the way. It also makes me miss my own family in Canada, these days. (Hello family!)

SEWING DETAIL: I wasn't going to insert an elastic in the back, but I ended up having to in the end because the waistband was too big. A lot of ready-to-wear garments have elasticated, or partly elasticated waists to accommodates a maximum variety of figures. I understand the logic but was never such a fan of this feature personally, because it's not necessarily flattering for me. In this case, though, I was a bit surprised to find that the elastic is kind of tasteful, and it really increases the comfort level of my dress. I will definitely use this device again.

Happy sewing everyone!

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Like my new dress muslin? And the peek-a-boo back? I feel there is so much to  update you on, friends. I've kept you totally out of the loop!

I was showing my sister this dress over Skype yesterday, and she mentioned it was nice to see my sewing take a turn for the trendy; to see me in something fresh and up-to-date, for once. I can't say that I disagree!
My head is full of sewing ideas these days, and I'm working on about a gazillion projects at a time. Consequently my sewing corner is not the most orderly... so here's a picture of the kitchen table. :-)
Happy sewing everyone!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Completed: Sew Dolly Clackett Dress

What is so great about Roisin is that she knows what she likes, she does it well, and this seems to bring her a lot of joy. In fact, this is why I read her blog -- to me, she radiates and embodies the pure joy of sewing. Mind you, her beautiful smile also has something to do with that. :-) Roisin gives me the sense that as long as we're sewing, things are going to be okay, you know? Also, she sews A LOT. Have you seen the number of dresses in her closet? Talk about inspiring!

Pattern: self-drafted lobster dress pattern, frankensteined with the very excellent Cami Dress by Pauline Alice. Fabric: synthetic mystery fabric from stash. It was my intention, with the full skirt and fun heels, to echo Roisin's style, in a way that still felt me. Also, this dress works pretty well with my figure, which is also to me what Roisin is all about -- knowing what works for you and having fun with it!

But now, tell me Roisin, do you really wear all those pretty heels to work? How do you do it?! My feet are killing me from just the pictures!!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Completed: A Second Beyoncé Dress

I hope you're having a happy long weekend, and that it's just as sunny in your corner of the world as it is in mine! We are spending the weekend in the countryside -- it's amazing how a simple change of scenery can give a whole new perspective on things. That's why traveling is so important to me: for the perspective it brings, but also for stretching time. As Joshua Foer explains in this interview, routine activities can speed up time, and new experiences awaken our being. This is why, as children, time seems to trickle by, and as adults it flies.
Earlier this week, I made another second Beyoncé dress -- comfortable and flattering, as the previous one.

Fabric: medium-weight ponté knit from Moods NYC
Pattern: Vogue 1314
Successful? Fairly. In terms of the pattern, I wrote TNT (tried and true) in big thick red letters on each pattern piece with great satisfaction. :-) But I was surprised to find out that this particular ponté knit was less forgiving than the double knit I used last time, probably because what makes the double knit so flattering is its foamy propriety, which the ponté lacks. This foaminess not only follows the contours of the body, but also smooths it out. SO: My next make with this pattern will definitely be in an extra-thick double knit.

Tell me, what are you doing this weekend and is the weather cooperating with your plans?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Three Sewing Breakthroughs

I'm thinking a lot about learning these days, as I progress into my second month of intensive Swedish class. Learning a new language is a huge time commitment, and between that and a small business that keeps growing, it is often challenging to find time to do the things that I love -- sewing and blogging. I'm sure many of you will relate to this challenge!

As I learn Swedish, it's interesting how it's not just Swedish that I'm learning, but a new worldview (according to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, anyways, or the latest version of it). It's kind of exhilarating to feel yourself learning -- thereby transforming -- so quickly. Grown-up life can be mundane sometimes, between kids, work and everything else, so it's a real treat to be in a position where I'm still learning, and I feel very grateful and privileged for that.

So today I want to talk about learning. Learning to sew. And experiencing breakthroughs in our learning journey. Here are my three biggest sewing breakthroughs:

1- Embrace hand-sewing. I used to think: Hand basting? Pfff. That's what a sewing machine is for! Erm, actually, hand-sewing is quite important. It's the difference between off-the-rack, fast-fashion garments and high-quality, custom-made ones. Also, if you haven't discovered the handpicking method to zipper insertion yet, well... do yourself a favour. :-) I also started enjoying hand sewing a lot more when I realized how much of a difference it makes to wax your thread and then to iron your thread to seal the wax, preventing those annoying knots from forming. Then I found I could really appreciate the relaxing nature of hand-sewing as a true tactile experience -- feeling the fabric in your hand, the thread as it passes, and having full control of the fabric.
The thimble is actually made of moose skin, and made exactly to fit my finger. It is definitely among the most memorable gifts I've ever received, from someone who had spent a lot of time with the Cree First Nations of Abitibi, my home region
2- Always, always, always make a muslin. At the very least, make a wearable muslin. It took me all too long to realise this! With experience, it is possible to get away with measuring the pattern pieces themselves against our own body measurements. But more often than not, there are elements of a pattern to tweaks and perfect that can only be noticed with a muslin, even for an experienced dressmaker.
3- Fifty percent of your time should be spent by your ironing board. I had previously never heard of the three-step pressing, but that simple rule instantly took my garments from "Becky Home-ecky" to "designer quality". Really, this point is as much about realizing that sewing is just as much about putting different pieces of fabric together as it is about shaping the fabric with your iron. This is traditionally especially true when working with wool, and this is what tailoring is all about. But it is also true of all fabrics. (And this is why some garments can absolutely not be washed and must be dry-cleaned, at the risk of damaging the shaping that has taken place during pressing. Another thing that took me far too long to understand!)
Have you experienced sewing breakthroughs in your learning journey? I'm curious to hear about them! If you're fairly new to sewing, what are you finding the most challenging?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Welcoming Spring with Ruched Sleeves

Such a beautiful, sunny day in Goteborg today. The days are getting longer, the streets are smelling of fresh earth, and before we'll know it Spring will be here! (At least for us in the Northern hemisphere.)
With Spring on my mind, I'm finding myself reaching for this shirtdress these days, which has already gotten a lot of wear in its 18 months of existence.
And my ruched sleeves tutorial (with Part Two here) is now the #1 most popular post of AS+AS, which is making me very proud, too.
If you have made anything with ruched sleeves, why don't you post a link in the comment section so we can all admire your work! And get inspired!

Happy sewing everyone!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Wardrobe Strategy in Pictures

Hello little chickadees!! I've missed you!

After a wonderful time in Toronto where I've accomplished a lot on the work front, it's good to be back in my things -- namely, it's good to be back in my sewing things. :-)

I've spent a lot of time thinking about sewing these past weeks (rather than actually sew, ahem) and I've really developed a clear picture of what matters to me overall. As I was playing around on Photoshop one day, it all came to me in the form of this graphic, which I think sums it up pretty completely. Lol.

In line with that, I've just gone through a huge purge in my closet to get rid of anything I wasn't wearing -- including handmade items... I'm SO excited to focus on simplicity, functionality and quality from now on. I know many would say this is the Scandinavian influence rubbing off on me, but I would answer that the Scandinavian was in me all along! Rather than talk about my aesthetic, though, I'm eager to SHOW IT to you with real, sewn garments!
Neat and orderly 3
I know a lot of you are taking part in the Wardrobe Architect project over at Coletterie and I've been enjoying reading your style and wardrobe posts. For the rest of you, tell me: has been helpful to sit down and actively plan your wardrobe and define your aesthetic? Or do you find something is lost in that process, the spontaneity and experimentation side of it?

Happy sewing everyone!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Chanel Shorts

The sewlution trousers didn't happen people. But look! I made shorts! I tell myself that spending quality time with my friends and family (i.e. Project Runway marathons with mom!) were more important this month than meeting a sewing goal. Why I had to wait until the very last month of 2013 to start thinking about my sewlution, I'm not sure, but I do know that the trousers will get made sooner or later. If anything, because my wardrobe is in urgent need of some comfortable and chic black pants. Hells, my wardrobe is pretty much in need of everything!
The Chanel shorts: My idea was to make these simple shorts in order to perfect the fit of my pant bloc before cranking up the volume on the trouser complexity. All in the name of perfect fit, three muslins were made, each more disastrous than the next (we just about had a second crotch growing out of the side on one of them) only to return to the original version, which frankly embodied godly perfection next to its monster cousins. (Cousins not shown -- not that they were not deserving of pictures, but we were concerned with protecting the sensibility of our more delicate sewist readers.)
The fabric, purchased at Mood's in NYC, has NOT spent the entire year of 2013 being cuddled and sweet-talked by its proprietress (no way). I don't think the photos here can convey the extent of its beauty (black is always tricky to photograph) but it's a synthetic bouclé woven with strands of lurex -- black lurex on one side and silver on the other. I chose to work with the black side for a less flashy (and tacky?) effect. I freaking love this fabric.
The best thing about these shorts is that they require next to no yardage. The temptation to pick up gorgeous brocades from the Toronto fashion district and whip out a few more of these will be strong, I know!
What would I do differently next time? The fabric is quite loosely woven and not very thick, so I would actually interline it with either silk organza or muslin. I would also make sure to use a zipper with a "stopper" that would prevent it from accidentally coming undone. I was able to partially solve the problem with a hook and an eye, but it still doesn't feel 100%.
A note about the background: whenever in Toronto, I love to visit my sister at Bobette and Belle, where she works. I know the Quebeckers among you will probably think "what an unfortunate name choice" seeing that "bobette" in Québec parlance means "undies". Nonetheless, this name has not stopped the business from becoming one of the most established cake decorators of the city, and, in my book, the perfect place to have a coffee and a slice of cake on a Sunday morning. So cool that my sister works there. *cough* discounted macarons *cough*
Can you imagine spending your days surrounded by these beauties? Dream job! Though, how my sister maintains her vavoom figure in this environment is a mystery to me. Featured: chocolate ganache cake, a.k.a, the Ferrero Rocher of cakes a.k.a the best cake EVER.
Happy sewing everyone! (Are you suddenly hungry for chocolate cake? I know I am!)

Adrienne xo

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Sewing Year in Review: 2013

It's been really fun to reflect on how I've progressed this year. I've started out thinking I hadn't really progressed, and then realized that I had actually accomplished a lot! It goes to show how important it is to stop to see how far we've come sometimes!
2013 was the year of sewing breakthroughs for me. It's been mostly an internal process, rather than a change that manifested itself in the actual things I've made:

1) I've finally realized my dream of taking a college-level course in pattern drafting this winter and I'm so incredibly happy I did. The ironic thing about it is that it brought me closer to commercial patterns. Fit for Real People and my sewing guru, Lorraine Henry, have also contributed to this big time, but for a variety of reasons, 2013 has been the year where I've suddenly had the revelation and the skills to pick up pretty much any pattern and work with it. It's felt like a world of possibilities!
2) But a world of possibilities can also feel overwhelming sometimes. And I've had to stop and think about what it is I wanted to make. I've slowed down the actual sewing in the fourth trimester to take a step back and refocus my sewing aesthetic. I'm so excited to report that my vision has never been clearer and I look forward to aligning my sewing with this new vision in 2014.

New direction in snippets:
- Quality over quantity.
- Lux fabrics.
- Cohesiveness.
- Dress shirts, wool blazers, classic pants and smart, structured dress in neutral colours.
- More to come on that later!

Other thoughts about this year:

Sewing Friendships
It was sad to leave Toronto just as I was getting to know so many local sewists after organizing the sewing meet-up with Gillian of Crafting Rainbow in February. That said, the beauty of our community is that it's transnational, so I've been able to enjoy keeping up with all of you on your blogs. I've also slowly been building a sewing community of my own in Sweden, meeting up with Joëlle from Handstitched Files, fabric shopping in Kinna, in addition to joining my local sewing club. I'm so grateful for these friendships.

Blogging Consistency
I've been keeping this blog alive for three and a half years, so I know something about consistency. However, there is still plenty of room for improvement! The ability to stick with something for a long period of time is a good skill to have in all areas of life -- whether professional or personal -- so I really want to work at it. One strategy that's proven effective for me is to plan my blogging a couple of weeks in advance, and I want to do more of that going forward. It's less about the blogging per se (because, let's face it, posting 2, 15 or 45 posts a month won't really make a difference to anyone) as it is about the exercise of developing consistency and dedication over a long period of time. 2013 has been the most consistent so far, so I hope 2014 will be even better!

More Sharing
I still find it difficult to assess how much of my life to share with you guys here. How I've dealt with this in the past has been "if it's not sewing, don't share" and "whenever in doubt, don't share." But your positive reactions to posts about snippets of my life in Sweden this year have made me reconsider. And I really do enjoy reading those kinds of posts in other blogs. After all, it's not as if the sewing is happening in a vacuum in our lives! Of course, there is a balance to everything (don't worry, I won't start blogging about my dog's eating habits. Although you'd be surprised at how interesting that would be!) and defining that balance is a very personal thing. All this to say: in 2014, expect to read more about the elements of my life that are intertwined with the sewing.

I'm going to conclude this post (and this blogging year!) by thanking you all so much for your continued support. I deeply appreciate your visits and comments and I'm sending you all my best wishes for a new year filled with love, peace, community... and productive sewing!

Happy New Year everyone!
Adrienne xo

Friday, December 20, 2013

Gone fishing... or skiing

Lake Louise (source)
I hope you're enjoying the holiday season as much as I am, here in Canada. :-)

I'll be away from home until the end of January, so I'll be posting less frequently because I want to spend quality time with my family and friends. But I won't be thinking of you any less and I will continue to read and comment on your blogs. You can also find me on Pinterest if you miss me too much. :-)

Happy sewing everyone!

Adrienne xo

Friday, December 06, 2013

PVC clear elastic tape for the shoulder seams?

First of all, I just wanted to thank Dibs from Dibs and the Machine for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the wrap dress sewalong! I've been a huge fan of her and her blog since we met in 2011. Believe it or not, she is just as funny in real life as she is on her blog, and maybe more, if that's even possible. Her sense of humour is a big reason why we love her and her blog so much! Do check out her blog if you don't know her, and you can also have a look at my guest post "how to make your own Catherine Middleton engagement dress". :-)


When I was making the dress, I wanted to try clear PVC elastic to stabilize the shoulder seams.
Frankly, I don't know how much it needed stabilizing, but it was nice to try this notion -- and realize how easy it was to work with. Useful to know for when I actually need it...
Like, uh, I don't know, maybe for the crotch seam of my SEWLUTION TROUSERS????

BAD sewist, BAD.

Will Adrienne manage to accomplish her sewlution before the year's end?Mission Impossible Theme by Mission Impossible on Grooveshark

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

How to do a SBA on a Wrap Dress or Wrap Top with a Shawl Collar

Looking at those unusual pieces for the front panel pieces of Vogue 8827 left me scratching my head... How... will I do... a Small Bust Adjustment... on that?

Thankfully, it's not too difficult. Today, I'll be sharing a way to adjust pattern Vogue 8827 for us ladies of modest chestal proportions. :-)

It goes without saying that this method can be applied to any wrap dress or wrap top with a shawl collar, cowl neck, or any other collar variation directly connected to the front pattern pieces (you'll see what I mean in a minute).

First things first: How do you know you need a SBA on your wrap dress or top? You'll know because the front piece will be too long. Make a side dart as shown, and measure how much you need to take away. In my case, I needed to take away a good one inch of extra fabric. Make sure you write this down.
Before we dive into the minutia of the procedure, let's pause for a minute to think about what this piece IS exactly. We're looking at many pieces all connected into one, namely, the bodice front piece, the collar (pink), the collar facing (orange), the bodice front facing (purple), the skirt (yellow) and the skirt facing (blue). Phew. Many pieces.
Now that we know what we're looking at and where everything is, the first step of our pattern adjustment will be to separate the collar piece from the bodice front piece and the skirt front piece, in order to be able to adjust the bust. We'll do that by cutting along the lines, as shown in the picture bellow, and cutting ALMOST all the way at the shoulder, leaving the patterns connected a bit there for pivoting.
Don't cut all the way up
Note: This is what I did and it worked well for me, but I realize as I'm writing this tutorial that, strictly from theory, I could have cut along the point where the bodice front meets the collar, instead of cutting between the collar and the collar facing as shown above and bellow. I don't know how overlapping the pieces would have worked out in this case, but if anyone tries it, let me know.
Same idea for View A and C.
Just remember that you'll have to adjust the collar facing piece separately for these views,
since the collar facing comes as a separate piece
Pinch out the excess fabric at the bust according to what you measured earlier on your muslin, and "smoosh out" the dart -- meaning, press flat (either with your hand or your iron) the bubble created by the dart. Now, you'll see that the front collar and the collar facing will be too long, so it needs to be overlapped with with skirt and skirt facing.

Tape everything in place and ignore the gap in your pattern when you're cutting.

There you go! It's not more complicated than that!

Happy sewing everyone!

The method is a combination of the "Smooshing Out Small Darts" section of Fit for Real People (see page 147) and Lorraine Henry's presentation on performing a SBA on a princess seam as seen at the Creativ festival in the spring of 2013.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Completed: Vogue 8827

The original inspiration for this dress was Sallie Oh's magenta version, but when I finished sewing it as per the instructions, it somehow didn't end up looking right.

I brainstormed for a couple hours and finally found a solution I couldn't be happier about! :-) Stay tuned for my tutorial on how to modify a basic wrap-dress pattern into a "Catherine Middleton engagement dress knock-off" over at Dibs and the Machines later this week. Dibs is hosting a wrap dress sewalong right now!
Before I get into the details of this make, I thought the shadows above were a nice invitation to answer some questions I've had recently about photography. :-) I take all my photographs with a tripod and camera remote. :-) As of May of this year, I use a Canon EOS T3i, which has perform extremely well.
Now, onto the dress!

Pattern: Vogue 8827
Fabric: Jersey purchased on Goldhawk road in London. (Probably cotton with a small percentage of rayon and lycra, but can't be sure, it was purchased so long ago.)
Adjustments to the original pattern:
- Small bust adjustment (I'm preparing a separate post on how to do this on this pattern, by the way. A bit tricky).
- Added 1,5 inches to sleeve length.
- Graded the side seam from sizes 5 under the arms to 12 at the hips.
- Raised the lower point of armscye by 1.5 inches and moved it 0.75 inch inwards towards bust point.
- Removed 0.5 inch from shoulder width.
- Other modifications unrelated to fit will be explained in my guest post at Dibs and the Machine!

In the end, I found the best way to tie my belt was to tuck the edges underneath at the back!

I would definitely recommend this pattern, if you're looking for an easy wrap dress.
Happy sewing everyone!
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