Tag Archives: dress

Finished: A Francoise in a day

18 Dec

I have had a crazy time sewing the last week or so – 3 garments sewn to deadlines within 8 days, but I’m now done and I can recover a bit, and think about other things, like actually getting ready for Christmas!

Having said that, the deadlines were all self imposed, and I actually work very well to deadlines in general, so it did at least make me productive! The first of the three garments was pattern testing the men’s version of Fehr Trade’s new Surf to Summit top. I’ve hadn’t yet sewn anything for Marcus, as he doesn’t wear shirts a lot, which would be the most obvious thing to sew for him. When I saw that Melissa was looking for pattern testers for a men’s sports top, I realised that would be the ideal thing to sew for him. I’ll share my version at a later date but for now, if you want to purchase the pattern, you can use the code 10OVER20 to get 10% off any order over $20.

The surf to summit top was sewn up last Saturday afternoon, I then moved on and made up my Bonnie on Sunday afternoon, in time for the sewalong deadline on Tuesday. Thank you to all of you who voted for me in the contest – I found out today that I came first, so thanks! After that it was onto Francoise, which I’d been planning to sew up since Tilly released the pattern, but just hadn’t had time to start. I figured that if I was going to make it anyway, I might as well make it in time to enter the sewalong competition, so the pressure was on with that! I made up a toile on Saturday and made the actual dress on Sunday. My dress didn’t get shortlisted to win the contest, but you should definitely go and check out all the amazing dresses that did.

Really wish I'd taken that red hair tie off my wrist! I am loving my shiny new patent leather shoes though :)

Really wish I’d taken that red hair tie off my wrist! I am loving my shiny new patent leather shoes though :)

I wanted to do something a bit special with Francoise – the sewalong competition was a chance to really challenge myself and try something different. The great thing with the pattern is that it is so lovely and simple that it makes a perfect canvas for playing around with interesting fabrics and new techniques. I warn you now, this is a bit of a lengthy post, but I figure some of you might be interested in how I put the dress together. I won’t be offended if you skip through just looking at the pictures though :)

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I originally had plans to use guipure lace for my Francoise, removing the lace from the darts so that the folds couldn’t be seen, and stitching it back together where the darts were. But despite shopping trips in London and Paris and a bit of searching online, I didn’t come across any lace that seemed quite right.

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I still wanted to do something with lace, and was browsing the White Tree Fabrics website when I came across this lovely blue lace, and decided to try and do something with that. It looked so nice on the black they had it photographed on the site, that I decided to use black as my base colour. I wanted the skirt to hold its lovely shape, so wanted something with a bit of body, and I also wanted long sleeves, so needed something with a bit of stretch. After a bit of searching, I came across this black stretch brocade from Minerva (I actually bought it from their ebay store as the postage was cheaper).

It’s a bit hard to see from the photos, but the fabric has a texture a bit like bark on a tree. It’s also quite a bit stretchier than I anticipated, and, unusually, the stretch runs along the grain, rather than being across the cross-grain. I wanted the stretch going across the garment rather than down it, so I cut the front and back of the dress on the cross-grain. Luckily the dress is short enough that that wasn’t an issue. I cut the sleeves on grain, as I figured having the stretch going down the length of the sleeve would be more beneficial for movement. The lace didn’t have any stretch in it, so I cut the lace sleeve on the bias so that it wouldn’t be quite so restrictive.

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I decided to roughly model this dress on this RTW dress that I own, having the lace as a partial overlay. My dilemma was how to attach the lace to the dress in a fashion that wasn’t going to look a complete mess. Because the RTW one has a different fabric under the lace panel, the lace is just encased in the seam between the two different fabrics.

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I had a few rough ideas in my head of ways I might be able to do it, could find absolutely no information on the interwebs as guidance, and so basically just made it up as I went along and hoped for the best!

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My plan was essentially to cut out all the pattern pieces in the lace, put in the darts as necessary, then probably baste them to the base fabric pattern pieces, maybe baste the dress together, decide where I wanted the overlay to end, probably zigzag that on, and then trim away the excess lace. That was kind of what I did, but after discussions with my friend Clare, I decided to change things around a little. I am so pleased with how the lace bits worked out :)

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For those of you who are interested, these are basically the steps I took

  • Make toile (I didn’t want to go to all that work and then find out it didn’t fit!)
  • Cut pattern pieces from main fabric (and forget to mark darts before I’d taken the pattern pieces off, so had to go back and do that later – I suggest you skip that bit)
  • Cut all pieces (in full) that would be required for lace overlay – front, back, and one sleeve.
  • Mark darts in lace – it hadn’t occurred to me before this point that I couldn’t just draw them on with chalk/dressmakers’ carbon like I normally do, so I did a bit of google and decided to thread trace them. This then left me with the problem of how to detach the pattern piece from the lace (I wanted to have a running stitch marking my darts rather than tailor’s tacks). But due to the tracing of the darts with my tracing wheel, they had kind of become a bit perforated (even though it was a blunt wheel!), so I just popped them out in the end! Definitely glad I traced the pattern! I also only traced half the darts in the lace – because the overlay was going to be asymmetrical, I knew I wouldn’t need the darts on both sides, so I didn’t bother tracing them all out.
  • Sew darts in main fabric as normal
  • Sew darts in lace fabric along my stitching, and then remove the thread I used for tracing. Sewing the darts in the lace actually worked out better/less fiddly than I thought it was going to.
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  • Remove the bulk of the darts from the lace – I didn’t want the dart showing behind the lace, and wasn’t sure if there was a ‘proper’ way to do it. I just ended up trimming them off really close to the stitching line, using my thread snips which were the best tool I could find for the job. Hopefully the stitching will hold up, time will tell I guess!
  • Baste lace pieces to backing fabric pieces. I debated basting by hand, but at this point I was really running short of time, so I did it by machine (it worked fine). I basically basted every edge where they were going to be together in the final dress – i.e. for the left hand back piece, I basted all the edges (except the bottom), but for the right hand one, I just basted along all the neckline/raglan seam lines, and partway down the centre back seam. I left the side seam unattached. Similarly for the right hand side of the front. Because I hadn’t put in the darts in the lace that I wasn’t going to use, it wouldn’t have been easy to line it up well enough to baste those other edges (and would have involved removing it later, which I really didn’t have time for! I was pleasantly surprised as how well all the darts etc lined up in the two fabrics.
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  • On the wrong of the fabric, drew a line where lace overlay to end. I did this on the back piece first, as it was a simpler piece. I made sure that the overlay wouldn’t cover any of the back dart on that side, because I hadn’t sewn the dart into the lace. I only did this on one of the two back pieces at this point, for reasons that will become clear in a minute…
  • Make sure the two layers of fabric are lined up. Because I hadn’t basted all the edges, I put a number of pins just inside where I was going to sew, to make sure the lace stayed flat to the black fabric.
  • Sew a line of basting stitches along the line I drew so the two layers of fabric were now attached along where I wanted the lace overlay to end. The lace that’s staying on the dress should now be basted to the backing all around.
  • Cut away the excess lace along the line of basting stitches. Again, I used my thread snips and cut as close as I could to the stitching line.
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  • Use a short zigzag stitch to essentially applique the lace onto the backing. I use the line of basting stitches as a guide, aiming to get that in the middle of the zigzag. I used a zigzag width of 4 (out of 5), and a length of about 0.5. This was the bit that I was really hoping wouldn’t go wrong, as I didn’t want to have to unpick any of the dense zigzagging!
  • Breathe a sigh of relief when I finish the section and it actually looks really cool!
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  • I then put my two back pieces side by side, and drew the line onto my other back piece – I wanted it to basically be one continuous line across the dress, hence waiting to do the second one until after I’d sewn the first. I could have done it just based on the line I drew, but I figured it would be more accurate once I’d sewn.
  • Realise that you have drawn a perfectly continuous line but haven’t taken into account seam allowances, so go back and re-draw. As it was, my pieces have ended up perfectly lined up (no idea how!), but it doesn’t matter, but only because of the way they worked out – the one on the right finishes higher than the one on the left, so it kind of looks continuous down the zip, if that makes sense. It wouldn’t look so good if the right hand one ended lower than the left hand one started.
  • I then repeated the above steps for the other back piece. I did accidentally get the lace folded up and caught in the basting stitches, so I just unpicked a small section and re-did – another reason to baste it first, so that that doesn’t happen on the zigzagging.
  • I then did the same on the front piece. I basically held it up against me (inside out), pinned it to my t-shirt at the top and tried to draw the line on where I wanted it to go. Again, I made sure to avoid the lace overlay covering either of the darts.

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Once I’d done all of this, I could finally start actually sewing the dress together! That was at 8pm… I was so happy when I could finally sew the sleeves onto the front and back of the dress. Short break for a roast dinner that Marcus had very kindly cooked while I was sewing, and I was back at the sewing machine at 9pm, with only side seams, hem and photos to do…oh, and the neck facing…and the zip…and all those other little fiddly bits I’d forgotten about.

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Ooh, bird!

I was going to finish the seams I’d already done at this point, and rethreaded my overlocker with black thread, but it would not play ball. The looper threads were really, well, loopy. I had a quick attempt at fixing it, but still no joy (thinking about it now, I think it’s probably that the thread wasn’t sitting between the tension discs properly), so I aborted (due to time constraints!) and my seams are as yet unfinished…

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I sewed the side seams with the standard 1.5cm seam allowance, but when I tried it on, the dress was a little loose. I could have just taken it in at the centre back seam, but I didn’t want to lose lace detail there (or mess up my carefully lined up continuous lace pattern), so I took an extra 1cm off each side seam. I think the loose fit came from the amount of stretch in my black fabric. I made a size 3, and didn’t need to make any other adjustments. I could possibly lose a little more from the side seams around the waist, but it’s also fine as it is.

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The black fabric I used is also quite ‘bouncy’, so the seams didn’t lie very flat, but I trimmed them down and gave them all a good steam, and they started behaving much better.

The facing went without too much drama, although I did also topstitch it to stop it peeking out (bouncy fabric). This seems to have given the neckline a slightly odd shape though – above the topstitching it doesn’t lay flat, but stands up a bit. Almost like a teeny tiny funnel neck. I’m not sure there’s much I can do to remedy this now, I think it’s due to my fabric being quit thick. I’m going to call it a design feature. Luckily the zip when in with no issues which I was VERY relieved about given what happened last time I tried to put in a zip when working to a deadline. When hemming, I did a line of basting stitches all the way round, to hold the lace and the base fabric together. I also used that line as a fold line to turn the hem up.

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And with that…I was done! That was 23:20. Quick application of make up (I did not look my best after spending almost all day at my sewing machine), clear enough space in my sewing room so that I had a bit of wall space to take photos in front of…take photos at 23:30…not very good ones to be honest – it was (obviously) dark by this point, and the light in my sewing room is shocking. Annoyingly, if I want to use the remote control with my camera, it only works on auto mode so there’s nothing I can play around with! I was going to ask Marcus to take some photos, but he’d given up on me and gone to bed half an hour earlier! Finally got photos done, but my laptop then went on strike and took about 20 minutes to download them! Anyway, I finally got my pics off to Tilly at exactly midnight. Talk about cutting it fine! I took some more photos before work on Monday, but I’m a little underwhelmed by them as well to be honest – it looks much better in real life!

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I felt that this was a party dress and so I ought to have a glass of wine in my hand. Except it’s water in the glass. I’d already drunk the wine.

But I’m really pleased that I actually managed to pull this off and get it done in time – it was no small task, and I did at more than one point, wonder whether I was totally crazy, and think there was no way I was ever going to get it done. I’m also really pleased I decided to challenge myself with this dress. When people find out that I sew, they often say ‘oh you’re so creative’, and I’m really not. I’m good at following instructions, which is basically what a sewing pattern is. I am not good at thinking creatively and making up my own stuff. Pretty much the hardest part of this dress was deciding what shape to make the wiggly line for the lace overlay. I’m pretty happy with it, although I wish I’d made the back one slightly more wavy! I’m just glad I decided to think outside the box a bit, rather than just sewing it up exactly as per the instructions like I usually do. I also really enjoyed the process of working out how I ought to put it all together (I probably wouldn’t be saying that if it hadn’t worked out so well!).

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Phew, right, that was a long one! Well done if you made it this far, have a cookie (or a mince pie)! After all that deadline sewing, I’m looking forward to having nothing pressing that I need to do tonight and having a bit more of a relaxed week to prepare for Christmas!

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Finished: By Hand London Flora for a summer wedding

11 Oct

If you’re a regular reader of sewing blogs, and you’re thinking that this dress looks a little familiar, that’s probably because it is. I admit, this is a shameless copy (with her permission) of Fiona’s Flora that she made during pattern testing. I saw her dress, completely fell in love with it, and thought it would be perfect for a wedding I had to go to in the summer.

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The fabric Fiona had used just looked (and sounded) glorious, and when I googled it to check it out, I came across a listing for it on ebay for £2.50/m! At that price, who was I to refuse! I promptly bought 4m of it (and wished I’d bought more, but they were out of it when I checked back). The fabric is a gorgeous John Kaldor viscose twill and it is beautifully soft and drapey. I love the colours as well. I don’t wear a lot of pink, and am trying to wear a bit more after my colour analysis session.

The lining is some poly viscose that I picked up in Goldhawk Road at the NYLon meet up in May, for £1.99/m. I bought 3m of this and then had a panic when I thought it wasn’t enough, as it’s only 45″ wide, but managed to get around it by cutting the skirt pieces on the crossgrain.

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The dipped hem version of Flora was perfect for a wedding – the longer length at the back would be too long on me if it was that length all the way round, but having it longer at the back adds a bit of class to balance out the shorter front. I went for the tank version of the bodice – I’m really not sold on the faux wrap version of the Flora bodice, but I love the tank version – it’s just nice and simple and unfussy but at the same time quite unusual.

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In typical me-style, although I’d had both the pattern and fabric for months, I started work on this dress….oh, about a week before the wedding! Why do I do that! I can only imagine that it’s some subconscious thing because I know I perform well under pressure!

I did a very quick toile of the bodice (very quick, I didn’t even bother putting a zip in), and it seemed pretty alright, so I went ahead and cut it out in a size 10. Looking at the photos, the neckline is actually gaping a bit at the back, so that might need a bit of adjustment if I make another version.

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I also apologise for the fact that the dress has not been ironed in these photos! Luckily the full skirt hides it well!

I had a few issues cutting the dress out, mainly because the viscose was just so slinky it wouldn’t stay still. I cut out one of my skirt panels, only to realise that, after I took the pattern piece off, the pattern piece and the skirt piece I’d just cut were completely different shapes. My friend Clare (Clare number 1 to Marcus, who insists I number my sewing friends called Cla(i)re as there are so many of them) then suggested using spray starch, so I used that on the rest of my cutting, and it made things a lot easier. Luckily it was the main fabric that went wonky, and I had enough of that to re-cut the skirt panel.

I think the dress sewed up without too much drama. This is the point at which I really wish I actually did what I intended to do and keep a notebook by my side when I’m sewing, to note down things about the pattern and process. I actually bought a notebook for this purpose, but haven’t really taken to keeping notes. And now of course I can’t remember many of the details of sewing the dress up…we’ll take that as a good sign – if something had gone drastically wrong, I think I’d remember, and I managed to get it finished in time for the wedding, so it must have been fine!

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This is my first fully lined dress, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. I understitched the lining along the bodice, to stop it peeking out, which worked well, but due to the way the bodice is structured with the straps, there were a couple of bits in the corners of the tank I couldn’t get to to understitch. Is there a way I could have done that?

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I wasn’t sure how best to attach the lining to the invisible zip, but I used the Sewaholic Cambie tutorial and it worked brilliantly.

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Somehow the bodice lining ended up slightly longer than the bodice shell – I guess the fabric just stretched out a bit more. This doesn’t bother me too much, I just had to trim the skirt lining down a bit so that it was shorter than the shell. Looking at the photos, the lining could do with being a bit shorted on the right at the front, but I didn’t notice when wearing it because the skirt moves around so much.

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This is the first time I’ve made a circle skirt, and so I did what I was meant to do and left it to hang for a day or two before hemming it, so that I could even it out after the fabric had dropped. However, the fabric didn’t seem to drop at all. Either that, or I have a really bad eye for telling if things are level!

And how good are circle skirts for swishing around and dancing at weddings?! I did SO much twirling around!

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Ok, have to be a bit careful twirling *too* much in the full skirt!

I just machine hemmed the skirt lining, and debated how to hem the main fabric of the skirt. Fiona beautifully hand stitched hers but I knew that I really didn’t have time for that. I also have basically never done any hand stitching on my garments, and so didn’t trust that I would be able to hand stitch the hem and have it look good. I decicded in the end to do a blind hem on my sewing machine. It’s something I learned how to do on my original sewing course, but haven’t actually used since. It turned out alright – not completely blind (largely due to the fact that the fabric isn’t a consistent colour all over), but it looks better than it would have done had I just stitched it normally. I need to work on my technique a bit – there are a few spots where it didn’t quite catch the fabric properly, but it’s good enough!

The straps on the dress are quite narrow set, so bra straps can show when you’re wearing it. I was going to put bra strap carriers in, but in the end just wore a strapless bra to the wedding. I’ll probably go back and add them at some point so that I’ve got a bit more flexibility with wearing the dress.

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The dress lived up to all my expectations and was absolutely perfect for the wedding. I basically love everything about it, and the swirly skirt makes it especially good for twirly dancing. An extra unexpected bonus to the fabric is that when you’re trying to balance your plate with a scone with clotted cream and jam on (mmmm!) on top of your cup of tea (so that you have a spare hand to eat the scone with), and it all slips and you smoosh creamy, jammy scone onto the underside of your boob, the fabric pattern hides it very well!

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The wedding was of two of our capoeira friends, Simon and Zanna, and it was absolutely amazing – it was held at Zanna’s grandad’s place, which was stunning, and the weather was glorious, despite the fact that it was forecast to rain all day. Zanna was wearing a gorgeous vintage wedding dress and looked absolutely fantastic.

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Unfortunately, due to my leaving my dress making to the last minute, I didn’t have time to make their wedding present before the wedding. I have just finished that now (blog post to follow!), so they will finally get that soon! Sorry guys!

I’m going to leave you with this photo of our capoeira friends who attended the wedding – I love the fact that 3 of the dresses (and one of the waistcoats) in this photo are handmade :)

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Finished: The Kitschy Coo Lady Skater

12 Jan

I actually finished this a while ago. Like a long while ago, but I am so behind in blogging things at the moment! But it’s finally made it on here!

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Following on from my last post, another goal of mine for 2013 (that I actually completely forgot to list in my goals at the end of the post) is to get more comfortable sewing with knits. I made my Bombshell Swimsuit, and although that went brilliantly and I had no issues sewing with knits then, I seemed to have developed a bit of a fear of them since. How daft! It seems that, the more you know about how to do something, and the better you get at it, sometimes it becomes harder to do it, because you know what you *should* be doing, and get worried about getting it wrong. I really need to get over that.

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So I thought myself off on knits gently by making Kitschy Coo’s Lady Skater, which is a pattern I’ve been meaning to make for a while. I have two lovely fabrics lined up to make this in – a lovely jade jersey, and some autumnal coloured patterned jersey, both from Minerva Crafts. But I wanted to make a toile first, and although those fabrics weren’t expensive, I love them, and am not sure I’d be able to get any more (the pattern one was a remnant), so I opted to use some grey jersey  that I had in my stash from my frecycle haul.

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Twirly action shot!

The clear elastic I used for stabilising the shoulder and waist seams I got from eBay, after I failed to find any locally. I’m not actually sure that it’s exactly the right kind of elastic. I think it’s framillon elastic, which I think is used for hanging loops on underwear and tops etc, and is slightly cloudy looking, but it’s the only thing I could find. It went it ok and seems to do the job, but I do find the elastic on the waist seam quite scratchy.

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The dress all went together without any major hitches…as far as I can remember, as I said, it was a while ago. But I don’t remember any, and it got finished pretty promptly, which implies there weren’t any! My overlocker and I seemed to get on fairly well, and I even managed to successfully use a twin needle on the hem. Admittedly I had to go back a fix a few bits where the edge of the hem hadn’t quite got caught up in the stitching, but not bad for a first attempt.

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In half these photos I seem to be squinting into the sun. But at least there was sun!

I think the only thing I would change on this pattern would be to raise the waist seam by a couple of inches. It’s sitting just below my natural waist now, and I think it would look better raised. I’ll probably then add those extra couple of inches onto the bottom of the skirt, as although I’m only 5’3, I don’t really want it any shorter than this one is. Just as I’d made mine, I saw Emmely’s post, and someone else’s as well (but now I can’t remember whose…) where they both mentioned shortening the bodice as well.

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I haven’t actually worn this dress since I’ve made it – I think, because I made the short sleeved version, it’s probably more of a summer dress. That scratchy elastic on the waist seem really bugs me as well. I really want to get on and make my jade one, but I want to find some (vaguely) matching overlocker thread – although the stitches aren’t really going to be seen, I think it will look so much neater, and it’s a colour I wear a lot, so I know I’ll need it again.

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Floaty floaty dress :)

It’s a straightforward pattern to make, and such a great everyday comfy dress, that I know once I’ve made the others I’ve planned, I’ll get a lot of wear out of them.

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