Taking Embroidery on the Road

I’m old enough to remember the last time that embroidery was “a thing,” and I’ve still got the overalls and chambray shirts covered with chain-stitched butterflies and French knot flowers to prove it. So it’s been a real pleasure for me to see the revival of interest in embroidery, along with all the lovely new threads, needles, and other tools that go with it. While embroidery’s great any time of the year, it’s especially perfect for travel. With summer vacation in full swing, several of Moda’s designers have offered to share tips and tricks for taking embroidery on the road.

First up are Barb and Mary of Me and My Sister Designs. They have been traveling big-time this summer, teaching in Australia (you can see photos of their adventures via their Instagram account). Before they left, Barb was kind enough to share some tips.

Barb and Mary Photo Photo Two Me & My Sister Designs

I found this wonderful 3 pocket zipper case a few years ago and it’s become a favorite. I may have found it at the container store but I really can’t remember. It’s compact and slips into my carry on tote bag perfectly!
Photo One Photo Two Me & My Sister Designs
The first pocket holds my fabric …
Photo Two Me & My Sister Designs
The second pocket holds my supplies. My hoop, scissors and a small needle case made for me by Karla at Sweetwater!!
Photo Three Photo Two Me & My Sister Designs
The third pocket holds my floss …
Photo Four Photo Two Me & My Sister Designs
 And we can’t forget these!!
Photo Five Photo Two Me & My Sister Designs
 Safe travels!
Next up is Kathy Schmitz.
The thought of idle hands while on the road sends chills down my spine.  I might not remember to bring my toothbrush, but I will ALWAYS  have a project to work on.  If it’s going to be a short day trip I will pack up my little Bunny in the Briars notion keep.

Scissors, needles, thread and project all fit nicely in the zippered pouch.
unnamed-2However, if this is a trip lasting more then a few hours, this little pouch won’t be big enough.  I have a fear of running out of things to do, so typically I overpack where projects are concerned. For major road trips I bring a little suitcase just for projects.
I feel like Mary Poppins with all the stuff I can cram inside!
The only thing missing?  My favorite stitching companions… my kittens Sammy and Sosie. Sammy likes to chill under works in progress.
Sosie thinks the suitcase is a perfect napping spot for her.
Remember, it’s better to have too many projects then not enough!  So pack freely!
Finally, let’s hear from Kaari Meng of French General, who has been doing her stitching in France.
Ever since I can remember I have loved taking needle to cloth—it is something that I can do anyplace and take anywhere! This past year French General began designing stitching samplers, as well as a collection of embroidery floss for Cosmo Threads.
Our Chateau Getaway trips to the south of France every summer have us stitching in all the small cafés and bistros…while sipping a café au lait!

Floss-La-MerSo, how about you? Do you take embroidery along when you travel? Have any hints or must-have products to share with us? Happy trails!


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Making Piece…

I’ve never been very good with schedules and plans.  There are a dozen reasons for it and I think most of them boil down to being a bit impulsive, meaning it’s a one-size-fits-all explanation that actually fits.

So the plan for today was to finish up with the Favorite Finds but I pretty much did that last week.  Since I didn’t really have a “plan B”, why don’t we have some fun with the new catalog – the Summer 2015 Moda Piece – Issue No. 14.

Summer 2015 Catalog

This catalog was finished just a few weeks ago and the Pre-Market catalog is nearing it’s deadline.  As soon as it’s done, the Market catalog looms.  Which means quilt designs and pattern notes and sewing and… I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s get back to the Summer catalog.

This is one of the few catalogs that isn’t actually printed, it’s only available online.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t still chock-full of all sorts of really cool stuff – like the Moda Matchmaker.  It will make matching Bella Solids so much easier…


This method is a bit drastic.  And irreversible.  (But I have earned the distinction of having the most “trashed” Bella color card in the office – and in just seven months.)


It’s a bigger, better, easier-to-use swatch-deck, swatch-card, color palette for Bella Solids.  The one pictured is our mock-up, the real one will have all 2,083 colors of Bella Solid.  (There aren’t really that many but I couldn’t exactly use my color card to count.)  The best part is that it will come apart so that the swatches are loose.  But because they’re numbered, it will be easy to put it all back together.

I think I’m going to need two.  One to have sitting pretty on the shelf and one to take apart and actually use.

There are lots of beautiful new collections included in the catalog, these are showing to shops now and will be available late this Fall.


First Crush by Sweetwater30s Playtime 2015 by Chloe’s ClosetOld Cambridge Pike by Barbara BrackmanBasic Mixologie by Studio MDogwood Trail II by Sentimental StudiosHyde Park by Blackbird DesignsPetite Prints Deux by French General.


That’s better.  And don’t you love the new twill tape for the pre-cuts?  It’s been in the works for quite some time but it’s taken this long for it to actually start showing up on the pre-cuts.

Timing.  It’s been one of the oddest things to get used to here, everything we’re working on today won’t be shown for several months.  And it won’t be in shops for several months after that.  For example, back in January, I took pictures of the artwork sent in by Sandy Gervais.  That artwork became Sweetness, a collection debuting in this catalog, a collection that won’t be in stores until November.  (And when it’s ready to ship, we’ll share the process of how that artwork became fabric.

I’d show you the fabric for that but we haven’t received the pre-cuts yet.  Some arrive early, others arrive… when they arrive.  Try planning and scheduling around that – especially when samples are required.


We’ve had the Petite Prints Deux just long enough for Tammy to make this Petite Bateau quilt top for French General.

And for my buddy Judy to make this Catch-All Caddy with Basic Mixologie.


Other collections coming are:

  • Texas Proud and Sundance Trail by Sara Khammash ~ two terrific collections of Sara’s artwork, one is everything-Texas and the other is everything-Western
  • Ever After by Deb Strain ~ a wonderful Valentine-Wedding-True Love kind of collection with hearts, text prints and panels in white, pink, red, gray and black.
  • Cozy Cottage Flannels by Kansas Troubles ~ the wonderful colors and prints you know from Lynne, this time done in a soft, yummy flannel fabric.
  • Bella Solids – 28 new colors


I don’t know what we’re doing with this but I think we need to do something… these are the new colors of Grunge by Basic Grey.  Did you know that these prints can also be used as a solid?  I didn’t – not until Susan mentioned that she knows several ladies who do that.  I think this stack just might have to follow me home so I can do a little experimenting.

And you wonder why I have problems following a plan?  Or staying on a schedule?

Distractions.  They’re related to that whole “impulsive” thing.

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Christmas in July ~ Throwing in the towel…

I’m not quitting!  I’m referring to Toweling.

I knew that Moda made toweling and I knew in general terms what it was – 18″ wide, sold on a roll, 100% cotton… and that was about it.  It seems that I sort of missed the boat there.


Apparently we have quite a bit of variety.

I don’t recall ever seeing a display like this in a quilt shop…


If you’ve been to Sarah’s Fabrics in Lawrence, Kansas, you’ve probably seen this wonderful display.  (The photo is from @sarahsfabrics on Instagram.)

I also wasn’t sure what you could make other than well… towels.  Having worked at a well-known kitchen store for several years, I had lots and lots of kitchen towels so I admit to being a little at a loss for what else to make.

Then I was presented with two challenges.  First – the sewists in the office have been tasked with making something with our toweling.  Second – think of some relatively fast, simple and hopefully cute ideas of things to make for gifts.  Being a practical sort of girl who likes to be efficient when possible… I wondered if I could combine the two.  Make a gift item with toweling.


I started by stitching the ends for a pair of towels.  I trimmed the lengths to 28″ long so they would finish at about 26″ long.  (I had cut generous 3/4 yard pieces of both – I’d been told that 3/4 yard is the generally-accepted length to get to make a kitchen towel.)

I used two different Christmas themed prints because they were cute and I knew I could use them over the holidays.

As I stitched the towels – that took all of 5 minutes – I started thinking about how else the towels could be used.  (I pressed the cut edge up 1″ and then turned under the edge as I stitched it.  Nope, I didn’t pin.)  Big napkins – squarish, a bit more rectangular or kitchen-towel sized!  Whether at a buffet-style party or a summer BBQ, big cloth napkins are much appreciated.  They’ll wash quickly and when they get a little too worn for company, they’ll still make nice kitchen towels.

One thing to mention – the toweling does like to fray if it hasn’t been washed.  Pre-washing the fabric will “tighten” up the fibers and lessen that but factor that in when buying yardage.  Also consider that when cutting lengths – how big would you like the finished towel or napkin to be after it’s been washed?

So… looking at those long narrow lengths, I got another idea.


A lumbar pillow – Retro-style.  (This print is Granny’s Garden 920-120.  I keep being asked.)

Using a 15 1/2″ x 27″ pillow from Ikea, I made a cover.  This took less than an hour – it would have been faster but I added a zipper.  I measured the width of fabric between the two side seams to decide if I needed to remove the stitches on one side, or  both.  When it measured 16 1/2″ between the seams, I just cut them off.  (I bumped my rotary ruler tightly against the seam and cut.)  Having a pillow cover fit snugly is a good thing.  I put the zipper in the bottom, sewed the remaining three sides using a 1/2″ seam allowance and it was done!

But I still had a piece leftover – I’d been thinking “apron” so I’d cut a bigger piece of this towel.  FYI – aprons are apparently another popular thing to make with toweling.  I wasn’t sure how much I’d need since… uh, I’d never made an apron.  As you can probably guess from the picture above… I still haven’t.

Back to my leftover piece…


Voila!  A very cute and simple little drawstring bag using the hem as the casing.  As with the pillow, I simply cut off the hem on one side and stitched.

Before stitching up the side, I removed about 3″ of stitching on both ends of the hem.  I turned under the side edges twice and stitched it down about 1/4″ away.  Then I re-stitched the two hemmed ends to finish the casing.  The side was stitched with a 1/2″ seam allowance up to where the edges had been turned – then back-stitched.


The opening was top-stitched to make it look a bit neater – and to secure the bottom of the opening.  Do not stitch across the hem – that’s the opening for the casing.  Using a bodkin – can you believe I have one? – I inserted a length of narrow Moda twill tape.  I cut it twice the “width” of the bag plus 10″ or so.  That left enough to open the bag completely, have a little extra room, knot the ends and trim them to a nice little tail.

I also made a little stocking using some red French General toweling.


It measures 5″ wide at the top and 12 1/2″ long.   Two layers of toweling – right-sides-together or wrong-sides-together – with the top of the stocking at the hemmed edge. The cut-off hem was trimmed to the stitching and used for the hang-loop.  Over-casting or serging the seam is recommended as the toweling does like to fray.  (This took about 30 minutes to make.)

Yes, I made a pattern for my stocking – Moda Toweling Stocking Template.

Then the fun really started.


I cut pieces of this toweling 12″ long.  I folded the toweling in half – hem-to-hem.  I cut along the fold to make two pieces 12″ wide by approximately 8 1/2″ high.  I also cut an 18″ length of ribbon – a 1/2″ wide red twill tape I had on hand.


Fold the ribbon in half and put the fold in the seam allowance a few inches from the top – I chose to center the ribbon between the two stripes.  Sew a 1/2″ seam allowance – center the seam and press it open.  Optional – stitch the seam allowance down to the hemmed edge at the top.  Stitch a 1/2″ seam allowance across the bottom of the bag.

Now… the bag can be finished as in the picture above.  Or the corners of the bags can be “boxed”.


Mark the “cut-outs” on the bag – 3/4″ from the sides and 1 1/4″ from the bottom – to account for the 1/2″ seam allowance.  Cut on the lines to remove the corner.  Fold at the 90-degree corners and match the cut edges as shown in the lower-left picture.  Stitch a 1/4″ to 3/8″ seam.  Turn the bag right side out and it’s done.

One yard of toweling and 4 1/2 yards of ribbon will make 6 bags.  Uh… I had 2 yards of toweling.


Twelve bags took a little less than two hours to make.  If you’re wondering why I keep including the time, it’s only so you have some idea about how quickly these can go together.


I did experiment with rubber-stamping a number onto the toweling – it worked very nicely, thank you.  Twenty-four bags would make a nice advent calendar – as would 24 tags from the office supply store.  These would also make a nice presentation for a quick gift for guests – either with a tag, a little sprig of greenery, some small tie-on or ornament.  The tags are easily made with cardstock and a printable design – an online search for “free printable Christmas/holiday tag” and there are all kinds of terrific options.  The same goes for “free advent tags printable”.  (Pinterest is also a good starting point.)

If you’re unfamiliar with the toweling, it can be found at your local quilt shop or online.  It does vary a little in width but most are between 16″ and 18″.  Instead of selvages, the toweling has two hemmed edges.  Depending on the design and fiber content, the toweling generally costs between $5.00 and $7.00 a yard.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend – I might just go see what else I can think of to make with toweling.


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Featured Quilt Shop: Boersma’s Sewing Center


Jack and Michelle Boersma (Jack is in the back row, center, and Michelle is just in front of him) and their staff members.


Borsma’s Sewing Center in McMinnville, Oregon has been a family business for 80 years. Yup, you heard that right—80 years! It first opened on April 1, 1935 and for 40 years it was owned and operated by Dirk and Harriet Boersma. On April 1, 1975, at the ripe old age of 18, Jack Boersma bought the shop from his parents. “That means that April 1, 2015 was a pretty special day,” says Jack. “They’d owned the shop for 40 years and now I’ve owned the shop for 40 years.”

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While 18 might seem young for shop ownership, Jack had already been part of the business for half a decade. “I was doing all the sewing machine repairs by the time I was 12 and in return my mom did all my homework,” he says (it wasn’t clear whether he was kidding about the homework). “They used to hide me in the back room so customers wouldn’t see a kid working on their Viking or Pfaff.”


While Dirk and Harriett mostly carried machines, it was Jack who added fabric. A year after he took over he put in fashion and home décor fabrics, along with a complete line of wedding textiles. As quilting became more popular, the fashion and wedding lines were phased out. Today, along with Janome sewing machines and Innova longarms (and vacuum cleaners), Boersma’s has notions and 10,000 bolts of fabric.


The shop is located in a building that dates from 1922 and formerly housed a Montgomery Ward store. Jack takes pride in using all 20,000 square feet of space on all four floors of the building. In addition to space for all that Boersma’s has to offer, the top floor has a 2,100-square-foot, three-bedroom apartment, where Jack and his wife Michelle lived for eight years. Today it houses out-of-state teachers who come to educate Boersma’s customers.


The atmosphere of the old building is enhanced by Jack’s collection of vintage and antique sewing machines. “You can’t beat the ambience they create,” says Jack, noting that they have a selection of Moda fabrics draped around an old Wilcox and Gibbs machine. The dozens of machines in the shop include an Elias Howe machine, just like one that’s in the collection of the Smithsonian, and an 1895 Ideal toy machine he wanted to buy from a former English teacher more than 30 years ago. She wouldn’t sell it to Jack, but when she passed away it was in her will that he could put it on display in the shop—but first he had to buy it. He did.

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The shop’s eye candy extends to its fabric. Thanks to Boersma’s longtime association with Moda, Michelle calls Diane Toysen “the shop’s Moda rep, and also my friend.” Michelle notes that Boersma’s carries an eclectic mix of fabric styles and that precuts are popular with the many tourists who stop by while traveling through McMinnville. “Moda came in on the ground floor with precuts, and I think they do ‘em best,” she says. Michelle and her daughter also make the myriad samples that line the shop’s walls and hang from the ceiling. (Jack designed and fabricated a specially built system so that quilts can be easily hung up and taken down by just two people, without a ladder.)


Though he’s owned Boersma’s for four decades, Jack’s enthusiasm hasn’t waned. The shop was named a Quilt Sampler magazine Top Ten Quilt Shop in 2014 and the story of how they learned of their nomination provides insight into the way the shop runs. The magazine’s editor called in February to let Jack know they’d like to come at the end of April to shoot photos. “I told them I needed to think about it,” says Jack. That’s because Jack felt the shop needed a major facelift. “I had to decide whether I wanted to keep going or retire, because I don’t like to do anything halfway and the remodel would have to be great,” he says. The decision to go ahead meant that they replaced all the shop’s 32-year-old carpeting, designed and hung the aforementioned system that suspends quilts from the ceiling, and painted the whole place. “We were done by April 29, the day they came to take the pictures,” says Jack. That wholehearted approach is apparent throughout the shop. “I enjoy the stuff we build, our customers are cool, the store is completely done, and my sister has been with us for 13 years and we get along incredibly well,” he says. “It’s fun. I could have retired a long time ago, but I reall enjoy what I’m doing.”

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Favorite Finds ~ Sewing & Quilting

You know we all like to sew, right?  And if we’re quilters, then it probably follows that we all have plenty of stuff.

Let’s start with the big stuff… amazing quilter and all-around really neat lady Natalia Bonner of Piece ‘n Quilt listed her sewing machine and long-arm quilting machines in her “favorite finds”- a Bernina Aurora 450, Anniversary Edition and a Gammill Premier with a 10′ table.  The extended base for her long-arm machine was also listed.  You have to love a girl who loves her machines.


Celine Perkins of Perkins Dry Goods – the creator of gorgeous quilt patterns the the best seam-measuring-tool ever – also loves her sewing machines – a Janome 6600 and a 1600P.

Janome MC 6600PJanome 1600P-QC


Side note – Do you have more than one sewing machine?  Are they back-ups?  Or are they machines you don’t really use much but are too good – or too sentimental – to part with?  (I have “multiple” and both.  They’re back-up and they also have sentimental value.  If you doubt the value of back-ups, I have two in the shop right now… one is in for regular service and then one suddenly developed a “tension issue”.)

Related to sewing machines, our buddy Thelma Childers of Cupcakes ‘n Daisies has the sewing machine table of my our dreams…


The Horn of America Multi-lift Table.  I love the size of the work-space.

After that, it was all about the tools.  Rulers.  Cutting implements.  Thread.  Rulers.  And various other notion-y sorts of things.

Let’s start with scissors… Amy Friend cited her prized Gingher Buttonhole Scissors.


Do you know what distinguishes these from “regular” scissors?  That little knob-thing.  It can be adjusted to limit the size of the cut to a precise length… like the length of a single button-hole.  Pretty cool, don’t you think?  (FYI – I had to look that up because I didn’t have a clue.)


Sherri K. Falls of This & That mentioned her 5″ Gingher scissors.  These are the “regular” knife-edge scissors.  I forgot to ask Sherri if she preferred these or what Gingher calls their “craft scissors”.



These have slightly shorter, nubbier blades for cutting.  My favorite by-the-machine scissors are more like these craft scissors.

Roseanne Kermes also cited a pair of scissors – the Olfa Precision Applique Scissors.  A picture of those… next!


The yellow scissors – those are Roseanne’s favorite.  I like them too – those are mine in the picture.  The Elan 5″ embroidery scissors were mentioned by several people – lightweight and very sharp.  One thing is clear – 5″ scissors can be found on a lot of sewing tables.

The polka dot scissor case!  Emma Creations has done a small version for embroidery scissors for several years and they finally – finally! – came out with a slightly bigger version for larger scissors.

Barbara Groves of Me & My Sister mentioned the Clover Wonder Clips.  I don’t know what color Barb prefers but I love the multi-color box/package.  The red, neon green and pink are very nice but really… I want all the colors.  (On a side note, the really funny part of this is that Wonder Clips had been around for years but Barb only discovered them recently.  But when she did find them, she was all-in!  I was a bit late to the party too.  I’m glad she mentioned them because they’re one of my most favorite “finds” too.)

Seam Fix!  Kate Spain mentioned this seam ripper as one of her favorite tools… even though it’s gathering dust because she never ever uses it.


That Clover white seam ripper is the favorite of yours truly – and several others.  I buy them by the box.  Yes, I use them frequently… I have quilts that I know I’ve made twice because I’ve sewn – un-sewn – re-sewn so many times.

Thread Heaven and Thread Magic.  Barb – of Me & My Sister – mentioned the Thread Heaven as being crucial, necessary, required.  A couple of the ladies in the office mentioned the Thread Magic as their preferred “thread conditioner” because they like the slots in the case.

Pat Sloan listed the Sewline Cuticle Oil Pen… I thought Sewline only did glue pens!  When did they start this?

The Fun Tape Measure?  I think it’s the colors.  None of the ladies who mentioned these do much garment sewing so… I’m thinking it’s about the colors and the “fun tape” part.


Brenda Riddle mentioned the Thimble Pads.  They’re my favorite too!  (I could never get used to a thimble so these had to do.)  Do you suppose these pads are the secret to doing gorgeous applique and embroidery like Brenda does?

Peels!  I need a couple packages of these peel-things from Smartneedle.  I was skeptical, I wasn’t sure they were going to work but the peel stays nicely snug around the spool, even larger spools and cones.  As someone who always has a couple of spools unraveling in a drawer despite being certain they’re secured… I think I’m going to need a package or four of these Peels.  The cool two-sided – two-ended? – seam ripper is also from Smartneedle.  Given that Tammy recommended both of these… we’ll have to start calling her SmartTammy.

Speaking of thread…


Celine, Thelma, and Sherri McConnell of A Quilting Life all mentioned Aurifil – the 50 wt. Mako cotton thread.  Sherri also mentioned Aurifloss, as did Brenda – she has a gorgeous new Aurifloss assortment color-matched to her coming-soon Windermere collection.

Of course, they’re all winding their bobbins on the Side Winder by Me & My Sister.

Corey Yoder of Coriander Quilts loves using Size 8 Perle Cotton for hand-quilting.


Doug Leko of Antler Quilt Designs cited his two new 60 wt. thread collections for Presencia and Janice Vaine – embroiderer and hand-stitcher extraordinaire – loves Superior Silk Applique thread – and thimbles by T.J. Laine.  She also loves porcupine quills for a stiletto or laying tool – if you haven’t tried them, they’re very nice because they’re long, thin and surprisingly lightweight.


Thelma mentioned the Folded Corner Clipper by Prairie Sky – given how perfect her piecing is, I think I’m going to need to try this.  Several people – but not Celine! – mentioned Celine’s Perfect Piecing Seam Guide as helping them achieve and maintain a perfect scant 1/4″ seam allowance.  Pat Sloan loves the narrow Omnigrid ruler – it comes in a set of 3 rulers called a Marking Trio.  They’re a 1/2″ width and either 4 1/2″, 6″ or 12″ long.  For marking and quick measuring, this little ruler is terrific.

The Olfa Frosted ruler says right there on the ruler that it’s 1″ x 12″.  But look closely.  1 1/4″ x 12 1/2″.  Whatever – Betsy Chutchian loves this ruler and so do I – it’s a new favorite – found because of Betsy.  I’m a little surprised I didn’t have it as the Olfa Frosted rulers are my favorites.  (Thank you, Betsy.)

Sherri mentioned the Itty Bitty rulers by Lisa Bongean of Primitive Gatherings.  (I agree – they’re awesome.)


The Ruler Pal by Jodi Nelson of Pleasant Home is another one of Sherri’s favorite finds – as is Jodi’s legendary Polka Dot Magnetic Pinbowl.

Pins!  Celine loves the Glass Head pins by Collins.

The Little House pins from Japan were listed by Thelma and I don’t remember who else as a favorite. (I had a list… but I’ve misplaced it right now.)  They’re super-fine, very strong and very, very sharp.

Little House Sewing Pins


While the pins come in a lovely little tin, I prefer substituting something a little more… fun.


Candy tins.  I don’t care about the candy, I just want the little tin.  World Market always has something entertaining, as does the aisle by the checkout at that big-box sewing store we don’t like to mention… the one with the coupons.  These tins are very secure, making them a nice addition to a little sewing bag or pouch.


The Beatle Bag by Abbey Lane Quilts.


The Abbey Bag by Abbey Lane Quilts.  Do you see a theme here?  Abbey Lane does really awesome bags!  Janice and Marcea of Abbey Lane created these and while they both mentioned them as being favorites, so did several others.  Janice loves the Abbey Bag and the Beatle Bag is Marcea’s favorite.  The Beatle Bag came up a couple of times as being an awesome traveling bag for sewing and other stuff – especially since you can get refills for the clear plastic inserts.

So what did we forget?  What favorite sewing tool or find do you have that we should know about?

After all… if you think it’s cool, we probably would too.

We might even need it.

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