31 December, 2011

Post-Christmas letdown

Well not exactly a let-down (for me anyways, Hazel is another thing altogether!) just sort of a "well what now?" and a reluctance to start something new. I had a total disaster while we were away - I was making some more of the little felt gingerbread men for myself and got all the bits ready for finishing up at Taupo Bay, took stuffing along, scissors, embroidery floss and put them together in a plastic bag. Which looked like rubbish and someone threw it out without checking what was inside. I didn't get too upset when I realised what had happened when we got home and it was missing, but I had to go and be by myself for awhile in my room!

But good things happened too!  There was sun...
Hazel and Kate

...and sand castles...
Biggest sandcastle ever


Waterfront cafe and bar

...and walks on the beach.


And even though the weather crapped out towards the end we all had a lovely time

Afternoon squall

23 December, 2011

Wishing you (in advance) a very Merry Christmas!

 I'm off up north for a week to a lovely spot called Taupo Bay - there will be sun, sand, surf and lots of food and hopefully a book or two read. I'll be putting pictures up on Instagram and if I can manage, a photo or two here, but basically Hazelnuts is on holiday for a week! Have a very merry holiday yourself and if you are lucky enough to have snow send me some I'll send you some beach back.

19 December, 2011

Clothed Tomtes

Phew, I've got the two Christmas present Tomtes clothed and decent! They've turned out better than I'd hoped, though they do tend towards the pin-headed. I used the pattern in Scandinavian Stitches as a starter and then made some changes so they were more similar to the Maileg Pixies I love so much. I'm not one for promoting the "knock-off", which is a term and a business that I really have no time for, but I'm going to be a total hypocrite here and say that I was more than a little influenced by the lovely outfits you see on the Maileg pixies (as well as their ears, though mine are a work in progress I think!) and the proportions of the bodies. I would absolutely buy some of those though, if I had the chance to see them in person, the more I look at the pictures of them the more you can see the effort and class that went into them, I don't mind paying for that!

I figured out the patterns for their tops but the pants came from a pair in the Wee Wonderfuls book. The girl is in French General and the boy is in cotton jersey and pants are a Lecien fabric (I think). My mum knitted the scarf and was also a huge help putting the bodies together - stuffing, attaching arms etc. Their pear shapes made dressing them a little difficult but it's kind of adorable, especially in the boy. 

If I were to do them again I think I'd make them a little less pear-shaped, the heads a bit wider, and integrate the ears rather than sewing them on as an after-thought. I'd make the arms a little less long and the mittens rounder. I wouldn't change the clothes though, they're perfect and I'm really chuffed with myself for figuring out how to make the tops like that, and the fabrics are perfect. My two will be wearing the same outfits for sure; but imagine, I could do them a new set of clothes for each Christmas!

17 December, 2011

Second zippy pouch

This one is for Hazel's lovely teacher Ms. Nicholson

It's essentially a pencil case to put the Smiggle pens in, but I decided to put a bit of effort in because she really has been rather fabulous this year and anyone who can deal with that many kids on a daily basis needs all the affirmation I can give! Even if the fact she loves Smiggle (purple is her colour) drives the Smiggle-frenzy to fever pitch in the class at times! Her favourite colour is red, and hey it's mine too! (we share a similar taste in shoes) so I made up this bag using the 'Perfect Zip Bags' pattern by Elizabeth Hartman - I just checked for the link and the pdf pattern is out of stock... The pattern itself is super-easy to follow and this time the zip insertion worked nicely:

I'm not a 100% sure about the dart placement though, it seems a bit strange - the bag isn't hugely rounded, nor will it sit flat on a surface (it's propped up in the photo above) so it's a bit of 'neither one thing nor another'. I'd love to make one of the bags for me though, either the flat ones or the boxed bottom ones I think next time. However, there's no denying that it's a cutie, darts or not!

16 December, 2011

A mousie pouch

The other night at the AMQG challenge unveiling Helen asked me if I had any other Christmas sewing on and I said no, just a couple little zippy pouches. I suppose that wasn't quite honest because this is a bit more than a plain old zippy pouch in the end - and I'm very pleased with it even if zipper was a bit of a disaster because I tried to get all fancy with it.

It's for Hazel's bestie Brooke and I'll put in a chocolate Santa and a couple chocolate coins to round it off. The pattern is from Scandinavian Stitches.

13 December, 2011

Half-way there!

The tomtes are done but not clothed - still, they're rather appealing sitting in a row like that all nudie-nudie. Hazel has appropriated two already and is lugging them around the house.

09 December, 2011

Me on Instagram

Me on Instagram
One of the groups I regularly participate in on Instagram asked us to make up one of these little images to put up, I thought it was kind of neat and wanted to share it here.

Still beavering away on the Tomtes, I found some perfect knit fabric remnant today to make little sweaters for the boys. Will be so cute!

05 December, 2011

A cautionary tale for Tomtes

The caption for this image on Instagram was "Christmas Elf [Tomte] legs - particularly nice dipped in chocolate and served with seasonal berries" Ellie over at Petalplum asked, most reasonably given the time of year, how they were going to run around and help Santa? I replied that they'd do fine in their little wheelchairs.  Then I posted this photo of arms:

If Santa fails to make it to your house this year I do apologise...

04 December, 2011

What's next?

Mat told me I should take a break from sewing after the pillow marathon but all I can say is "Tomtes ahoy!"

Red wool felt for the caps, with a range of fabrics from French General and (I think) Lecien. Can't wait to get started, but I need to make a few pattern alterations first. I hadn't realised how pretty the French General fabics were, they're much more appealing in real life than they are in pictures.

We had our local Santa Parade yesterday, and our tree is up, so I'm starting to get into the mood; although the fact that Hazel has decided that 'Feliz Navidad' and 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus' by the Jackson Five are her favourite Xmas songs tempers that a little!

03 December, 2011

Stringing it out

How many posts can you get out of two pillows that you didn't photograph comprehensively before you took them off for a challenge? Three! Here are the two together.

I find it amazing how they have essentially the same fabrics (the spotty one has a couple extra) but completely different techniques and backing fabrics almost completely removes that similarity to the point where I don't know they go particularly well together. I don't mean that in a negative way or anything, I love them individually but not together so much. I think it's the very formal style of the Cathedral window with the freestyle look of the circles.

The modern quilting thing is funny isn't it - often I see it defined through fabric choices and negative space, as well as old patterns reinterpreted in the light of the first two criteria. So the Cathedral window pillow certainly qualifies for all three of those points - but what about the circle pillow? I think another side of the movement is heavily influenced by the use of linen and 'natural' fabrics, and a sort of Japanese/zakka aesthetic as personified by Rashida Coleman-Hales' work over at I Love Linen and my circle pillow definitely falls within that zone of influence. Are there any other genres of the Modern Quilting movement that you can think of?

02 December, 2011

Second AMQG pillow

For this pillow I really wanted to use linen and circles. I decided to applique the circles on and then quilt/embroider them both to hold them down and to look pretty! To be honest this pillow took me a lot longer than the Cathedral Window pillow, which was all done by machine. Luckily I had an old needlepoint frame to use with the quilting, but the size determined the height of the pillow - it's essentially a regular bed pillow but narrower top to bottom and slightly longer so it didn't look so...beddy.

I forgot to take closeups of the embroidery after I put the pillow together but I put teaser photos up on Instagram a few days ago

The worst part of putting it together was putting in piping and then an invisible zip along one edge. What a freaking nightmare! I had to resew things So. Many. Times. I thought I was going to go mental. The invisible zip foot wouldn't work on the piped side and my regular zipper foot sucks at the best of times, but with top and bottom being quilt sandwiches, plus the piping fabric and the general bulk of it all, it really didn't want to get close in to any edges! But hey, if you sew around something about 20 times eventually you get pretty close by small increments even if you die a little inside each time you have to resew a section or rip something out. :P

The back is plain with different-sized circles quilted all over it - why on earth did I not take photos of it? It looks great - I've noticed I often like the backs of my cushions as much as the fronts, I guess that's a good thing!

01 December, 2011

First AMQG challenge pillow

Well phew, I can blog about this at long last! I suppose technically I should wait until the 13th when we can all see each other's pillows, but I honestly think I'll bust if I can't blog about something. I've been spending all my time on these two pillows and other than having Instagram photos to put up I haven't had much to discuss*. So. This is the first one and not surprisingly it's a Cathedral Window pillow - I'm quite sure I wasn't fooling anyone with that thing of acting like the grey version was a random choice unrelated to the challenge.

While I love the grey version a lot, I think the colour placement was better on this one, and I know technically it's superior.

Not all the points are as perfect as these by a long shot - I discovered that the points formed at the joins between blocks are lovely, while the ones formed by the centre of each block look slightly mitered. I tried so so so hard to not have that happen but it did anyways, so I suspect it's an artifact of the method (I used the tutorial and A La Mode). I don't think I'll do another one but if I did I'd try one of the methods where you sew the blocks initially instead of ironing them and see if that made a difference. As I mentioned with the previous cushion, I tried sewing the turn-overs in circles and it was much more successful than sewing around four sides of each colour. The points are reinforced and much smoother with no back-tacking. I also paid more attention to how much I was folding back so my circles are more circular! The other thing I figured out after the fact was that if you want a directional print to run straight up and down on the finished item, you need to cut it on the diagonal initially - my prints were cut on the grain and as you can are all on the diagonal when sewn up. Not sure what that would mean for keeping the fabrics straight while sewing though, you might get too much distortion to make it worthwhile.

I've just realised I forgot to take proper photos of the backs of both pillows, but I did have an Instagram one from when I had just put the invisible zip in and was super-duper proud of myself. Can you spot it? The back is quilted with widely-spaced straight lines, and the row of blocks about a 1/3 of the way across. The rule of thirds is my life!

Screen Shot 2011-11-30 at 12.51.15 PM

Second pillow tomorrow!

*Well I could have blogged about how depressed I am at the NZ election results and the fact this lovely country seems to be moving away from an inclusive and caring community to the "f**k you I'm in this for myself" attitude so prevalent these days. I hate the meanness of spirit and mind that seems to be such an integral part of the right, and I hate that the world that Hazel is going to inherit is all about the individual, what they can get out of life and what it owes them, rather than the individual as part of the community and humanity as a whole. I'm more than pleased that the Greens did so well, but in practical terms I guess I question how effective that will be when Labour is at such a low point. Sigh. I need to go and cuddle a cat or a child I think.

18 November, 2011

Christmas is coming

As every webpage and blog seems to want to remind me, Christmas is FIVE WEEKS AWAY. I'm always behind on this because as a transplanted Northern Hemispherer, Christmas in the middle of summer is plain weird and gives me none of the seasonal cues I would have had in Canada - like snow and cold. One of the biggest problems I have is that none of the traditional Christmas things make sense down here - rich heavy food, snow and winter-related symbolism, 90% of Christmas cards, wreaths, anything with red velvet. For those in the Northern Hemisphere, try to imagine having Xmas in July - can I interest you in some mulled wine, a roaring fire and snowflake imagery? No?

To that list I can also add most Xmas tutorials or winter issues of magazines not produced here or in Oz. However, I just took a quick look at the most recent Sweet Paul (winter 2011) and discovered that a non-traditional take on Xmas like he has lends itself very well to a summer Xmas here. So if you're reading this while reading jandals (or flipflops or thongs or whatever your lingo is) then have a look, you might be surprised.

10 November, 2011


I really love natural linen and I have no idea why - but I'm drawn to it again and again in its various shades. I particularly love it paired with cotton, either plain or print and most especially red! I don't like wearing it because it does that nasty wrinking thing that makes you look sloppy after 30 seconds, but in anything else it's my favourite and my best (to quote Lola).

This is the beginning of my second pillow for the challenge, and my first ever attempt at hand-basting. Now I know why I will never do this for a larger project, it takes forever! But linen, she's a difficult mistress and until I get some 505 spray I'm going to have to suck it up and do it this way. And there's no denying, the basting has a certain appeal! This linen is a darker shade, with an almost green tinge to it, which makes it hard to pair with things but I think it'll be better for the pillow than a more natural oatmeal.

As a complete contrast, how about this photo I put through various iPhone filters until it looks (to me anyways) almost baroque in its hues

Unfortunately I can't remember which apps I used - I think Snapseed and Super Retro...I need to write these things down! It's funny with Instagram, forcing you to use the square format is quite good as it challenges you to think about images in a different way. I had a hard time not changing the linen photo to that size!

07 November, 2011

What I've been doing

Cushion back

You may have noticed that it's been a bit quiet around here. No, this is not because I've got a book deal, or because I'm pregnant or any of the usual bloggy reasons :) Just real life, window painting, visiting parents, school holidays, Instagram and my AMQG challenge. This challenge has gotten me all secretive and shifty-eyed, skulking the internets looking for inspiration while not letting on to my fellow members what I'm up to and most definitely not blogging about anything. I know this is wrong so I'm here to at least post a photo of the back of it. What? You thought I'd post the front and give it all away? You'll have to wait until the 1st December for that big reveal. The challenge is to produce a cushion using the green fabric and I'm quite pleased with my colour choices here, and even more so with the fact there is an invisible zip running up the side of those blocks. I've got another pillow in the works at the moment, in natural linen, so there may be another sneak peak to come.

Once that's done I'm onto the kitchen windows so posting may be sporadic for the next little while. I do hope you stick around though!

There's always Instagram photos though...

Instagram October and November small

24 October, 2011

SMS MBOM October

SMS MBOM October

An interesting block to do because it's skewed when you cut it down, but as the pattern indicates, rather wasteful of background fabric. It was doubly wasteful when I discovered that I seem to have sewn my seams just under 1/4" so the big block of white was too small and I had to recut a longer one. Even then it's not perfect because the bottom left corner of the dark grey fabric is cut off. I'm just surprised I was that much off with my seams, but it's a new 1/4" foot and perhaps I've not adjusted it properly. Anyways, it 90% worked and with any luck the bit I had to replace will be used up in a future block; and once it's sewn into something the corner would have looked cut-off anyways.

Here they all are (so far) together - they're starting to look like something!

SMS MBOM blocks

23 October, 2011

Stuffed animal sleeping bags

I've had the Flossie Teacakes stuffed animal sleeping bags Pinned for quite awhile but finally got on to making them after Cat gave me the gorgeous Heather Ross Far Far Away fabric as a gift. The pattern comes in three sizes - Daddy Bear (Teddy), Mummy Bear (Foofoo) and Baby Bear (Snooks). I don't know if Teddy is really a daddy bear (its sex varies from day to day to be honest) but the bag fits beautifully.

Stuffed toy sleeping bags

I'd like to make a longer one to accommodate Puppy, as he fits nicely in the largest width-wise but is too long - the beauty of the pattern is that it's easily altered to accommodate a range of animals of different sizes and shapes.

I bought the pink fabric from Stitchbird because I really felt that they had to be set. Not because I like buying fabric, oh no.  All the rest of the fabrics came from my stash so I feel vaguely virtuous about the whole exercise. Vaguely. Though if I have to get a fourth version to make Puppy's bag...

Stuffed Animal sleeping bags

Just simple straight line quilting but you could get fancy if you wanted - they'd be a great project to try out free-motion machine quilting.

Note: Just to clarify, the pattern for the sleeping bags isn't mine - if you'd like to make one the pattern is available from Flossie Teacakes at the link above.  Thanks!

14 October, 2011

Hazelnuts on Holiday

I'm enjoying our trip down south, documenting it all on Instagram of course! You can follow along if you're on Instagram (link to the right there) or if you aren't an addict you can try websites like Inkstagram or Webstagram to view photos.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

13 October, 2011

Cathedral Window pillow

I finally finished the Cathedral Window pillow! I'm really pleased with how it turned out too. The points aren't perfect and I had to do quite a bit of tacking them down in the middles so it would lie flat, but yeah, not bad for a beginner! It's bold and bright (though the grey in this first picture has gone a bit blue, the second one is more accurate) and is one heck of a solid pillow! Tina will have to make sure there are no pillow fights with it or there might be a trip to A&E.

Cathedral window pillow

Next time I do one I'll sew the edges down by going in continuous circles and passing through the centres, which will make sure things are all sitting nice and flat and the weak points at those points will be reinforced without the need for that extra stitching. This one I did by sewing the four sides of each colour, and I didn't think it gave the nicest results.

Cathedral window pillow

I used this great tutorial over at A La Mode. The second part to it is here.

08 October, 2011

A blog holiday

It seems I inadvertently took a blog holiday! I didn't mean to and sadly I haven't really even been on a holiday - I've been doing a lot of this:


(the green isn't as neon as that in RL!) I'm on the final stretch in the living room, and the spare room is all finished!

I've been doing a bit of sewing in between coats but nothing major and nothing finished! We're heading off on a family holiday on Monday so my sewing machine is going for a tune up and hopefully I can get lots of stuff finished when we get back! I'm sad I'm missing the Kid's Clothes Week Challenge though, I love that! Spring is suddenly upon us and wardrobe needs have changed radically so I'm desperate to make myself a few things and also some for Hazel. It'll be so nice not having this painting hanging over my head anymore when we get back, I won't know what to do with myself!

25 September, 2011

Instagram fun

Although I had a slight hiccup with the new upgrade, I've been enjoying Instagram enormously, particularly playing with filters and using other apps to produce images that don't remotely resemble the original! On some levels that bothers me because I do like pictures to look like reality, but I can't deny the appeal of the filter.

I'm always interested to hear about other people's forays into photography with the iPhone so I thought I'd just put up a couple of mine of a Magnolia tree at the top of the drive down to Hazel's school and just show you how I did what I did - nothing particularly complicated and I haven't managed to come to grips with putting an image through numerous filters on various apps.

Magnolia 1
Clockwise from top left: SOOC; edited for contrast and saturation in PS (Photoshop) Express; Cropped and edited with X-Pro II filter in Instagram; same photo but using the Gotham filter (sadly gone since last upgrade, I'm pretty ticked off about that, hope they bring it back!).

Magnolia 2

Clockwise from top left: SOOC; edited in PS Express for exposure, contrast, saturation and focus - all to get it looking like it did to the eye at the time; run through the app Snapseed (can't remember if I did two filters or just grunge at 400). I came across Snapseed a couple days ago via a contact on Instagram and am really liking it. The filters are interesting and the basic photoediting tools are probably better than PS Express's, plus you can crop to various dimensions easily, so I suspect I'll be using it a lot.

24 September, 2011

That winning feeling

You'd think all I did was enter giveaways these days because dammit I won another one! I suspect this is my luck for the rest of the year, or maybe the next two, but I'm pretty pleased anyways. The giveaway was at The House of Marmalade, a blog about corsetry that I've been reading for quite awhile now and which I find endlessly fascinating - despite not owning one! Corsets really are rather gorgeous objects. Anyways! The giveaway I won was from Dragonfly Fabrics in the UK and was a Colette pattern and 3m of ribbon. Woohoo! And then of course they had a sale on summer fabrics and hey, it's going to be summer here at some point so I showed Hazel a few things and bought what she wanted (like that's any guarantee of success, but I live in hope). There's a voile (top) a cotton with blue flowers that she fell in love with immediately (interesting crisp weight with a bit of a wrinkly texture, I'll have to think carefully about what to make with it) and two lovely knits. I've always wanted to try a Colette pattern but have been a bit unsure about the examples I've seen (the skirts always seem too short to be honest). I went with the Chantilly dress because I thought it would suit a curvy figure the best without being too retro. And the whole package came wrapped up in the most gorgeous ribbon, pretty much as nice as the spotty raspberry ribbon that was the prize. And as usual I'm amazed how fast stuff comes from the UK - I think this took 3 days? I guess that's the benefit of lots of planes travelling back and forth between here and the motherland.

I'm posting this during the All Blacks vs. France rugby game - am I the only person in New Zealand not watching? I'm sure I'm not but they may try and deport me anyways because I admitted it (plus I talk like a furriner).

22 September, 2011

Cathedral Window pillow WIP

Cathedral Window pillow WIP

I've been having great fun figuring out how to do cathedral window blocks so I can make a pillow for a friend who needs more fun cushions on her couch. It's definitely a learning curve, although the process itself isn't hard, it just has about a million steps. I've discovered that it's the points that make or break it, so I'll have to be more careful with those mitres next time I try it - which I think I will. I'm using this tutorial at House of a la Mode.

A question for experienced quilters about templates - I've been using a thin cardboard one to form the blocks, it's just a big 15" square that you use with an iron to mitre corners and fold over the edges evenly. The cardboard hasn't really held its shape all that well with the heat of the iron, and I think it's partially the reason why my corners weren't perfectly mitred. What would you recommend instead? Can you iron template plastic?

19 September, 2011

SMS MBOM September

Ack, it's been a bit quiet around here lately! I think I'm suffering a bit from having so many things to do I don't know where to start and consequently don't do anything - my instinctive reaction to stress and not exactly the best way to cope with it! So instead of painting the rooms I've painted a side table and instead of tackling larger sewing projects I've done another Sew Mama Sew MBOM block and some stuffed animal sleeping bags (photos when finished). And no, none are indicative of starting small and working my along that way - they're all avoidance behaviour! As is Pinterest, Instagram and the internet in general...

This was a super-challenging block for me as I've never done triangles before and the instructions were a bit vague when it came to piecing the angles together. After a few false starts and unripped seams I got there! Though oddly, the top and bottom strips are too small - I'm sure I cut them right, but something happened somewhere so I'll have to cut longer strips and do that bit over.

SMS MBOM September

And all three blocks so far

SMS MBOM July, August and September

I'm generally not a huge fan of quilts with random blocks (I'd be hopeless in many bees for this reason), but so far I think I'll like it, and I guess given that there will only be 12 blocks in it I'll duplicate a few of my favourites to make it a good size. I like the scrappy wonky block the best but who knows what blocks are to come! If we're going to be covering a variety of techniques then I'm guessing there will be a circle and some curves (eek! might have to investigate this Curve Master foot), some stacking and cutting...a dresden plate or something like that? What do you think is still to come?

11 September, 2011

My next big adventure

I'm starting on a cathedral window pillow for a friend. Precision ironing takes time but it's quite satisfying!

08 September, 2011

Organic baby

I've finally finished up the quilt for baby Oliver

Baby quilt

The fabrics are all by Mona Luna and come from Stitchbird - I also completely copied her quilt with the same fabrics. Why mess with perfection?

This is the first time I've sewn with organic cottons and they were very nice. The texture is more like sheeting, which means they don't quite behave like regular quilting cottons being a bit crisper and more densely-woven.

I made a huge mistake when I pre-washed them though and did my usual routine of "treat 'em mean" by putting them through a hot wash and the dryer, and then a hot iron. Well it turns out that when it comes to Mona Luna's organics treating them mean doesn't keep 'em keen, it makes them shrink a bit and fade along creases! Ahhh! As Lyndy found out for me subsequently, they recommend a cold wash - so let me be a terrible warning for you all. It didn't ruin them exactly, but the bears look a bit faded in places and I couldn't quite squeeze out 7 squares from each metric FQ one some so there is more duplication than I'd have liked.

I used a wool batting for the first time and while I like the loftiness and warmth it has, it doesn't have the drape I'm used to with cotton and, combined with the crisper cotton fabrics, is quite stiff. But that might be the batting itself, perhaps if I went for something more expensive than Spotlight's version it might be nicer?

Baby quilt

I do love it and the crazy brightness though, and I couldn't resist getting a bit extra of the Swedish Forest one with all the animals for me. Not sure what I'll do with it though! And Lyndy, you should try and get in some of the Woodland Party print to go with the others, it's gorgeous!

07 September, 2011

My Web

I just updated Firefox and it had this fun little quizzy thing when it restarted that promised to 'visualise my web' and what the hell, I don't have much else to do tonight! If you click on this link to it you can see what each symbol represents, but they're pretty self-explanatory I'd say

Jacqui's Web

Two things they got wrong: I am not in the U.S.A (Statue of Liberty) and I have no idea why they thought I was (perhaps in their little world they think the whole world wishes they were?) and I'm most definitely not the life of the party (party blower). But otherwise, yeah not bad!

06 September, 2011


I seem to have forgotten to blog recently! No real reason other than having a guest over the weekend (who was using my computer in the spare room) and generally just not having things to blog about. I've been working on a quilt for a friend's new baby, but there hasn't been a huge amount of craftiness going on recently. But hey, this isn't just a crafty blog, even if it seems to be, so how about some pretty photos?

When our guest arrived on Friday morning I took him out for a walk along the harbour edge to stave off jetlag, and we found a whole bunch of kina shells (sea urchins) that someone had collected and eaten and the spines had all fallen off subsequently. Personally I wouldn't eat them, they look like snot, but the outsides, well they're just gorgeous


And the insides of the shells are pretty cool too

Kina inside

Hopefully regular programming will resume soon, although there is the small matter of two rooms to be painted...


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