Thrifty Mother?

Outlet Malls, TJ Maxx, and Ross Stores serve a purpose…to unload cheap knock-offs and damaged goods. So, when a MOB brings in a dress she found for $30 and wants things done to it to make it more sexy…you know you are in trouble.

The fabric is ravely polyester lined in ravely polyester with a boat neck front and deep V in back. If a MOB asks you to make the front look like the back…you have to wonder why. She kept going on about wanting to just wear the dress backwards to expose her cleavage. But, I agreed to drop the front to match the back but warned her that once this is done, there is nothing to hold the dress neckline to her…there will be gaps. She says, “I don’t care” and I pin down to where she wants skin to show.

Her 2 daughters, one being the bride asked, “Mother, why do you want such a revealing neckline?” and her reply was, “I have cleavage I want to display”. Okey Dokey. Let’s get started.

Find center, thread trace it, Find the width and final V point and thread trace it on the lining. Flip the lining to the right side and do more thread tracing. Now some of you might think that this is all unnecessary but I do things old school and photograph along the way to never lose my place (or train of thought!).

Another desire of the mom is to have her princess armhole seams taken in too. Sure, let’s do that while we are at it. Thread trace and then machine stitch. 

Here is something I found in all the seams…woven nylon interfacing strips. So they will be removed/altered and left in the seams as the original.






Marked and pinned along the stitching line with the interfacing (only going partway to the V). Stitch and trim the excess…this is the scary part!

Yes, I used pinking shears to cut through the 2 layers. Flip the lining back to the inside and press lightly. Now the whole neckline is bias/diagonal and a bit unstable…great.

The mom comes for her second fitting and says that the dress neckline is not laying flat against her body…duh. So, she says she wants me to now to remove the back zipper and take in center back really tight…sure…I like doing this on a $30 dress…more labor. Thread trace the new zipper seams.








If you move a zipper over 1.5 inches (3 inch total) on a V neck, you run out of the top of the zipper pretty darn fast, so I will have to remove the entire zipper and slide it up to the top edge. In the photo below you can see I need to slide it up a full inch:






Here it is basted with the new loose ribbon belt ends ready to be tacked to the zipper edges.

Every thing understitched and flipped to the inside and belt attached:





The one and only reason the mother bought this dress was because it has front pockets but once it was done she said she should have bought a more formal dress and her 2 daughters chimed in together, “Mother, it is in our backyard, it is perfect!” After 3 hours of labor, it should be.

The bride’s sister’s bridesmaid dress was found on Craigslist for $20. It was floor length and had to be shortened to knee length, 2 linings shortened, bust pads attached and custom made straps using grosgrain ribbon as the base, wrapped with the peach satin fabric and then wrapped with the glitter tulle. They wanted the new straps to look like they came with the dress originally.

As the weather has continued to be in the high 90’s now for weeks…the squash and onions are ready to harvest twice a week at least. Mr. Mole grew the little potatoes in a plastic pot and there will be more later in the summer.

Have a great week everyone!









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9 Months and a Prayer

Back in November this bride brought her dress for a consultation.


Another nice Wtoo Britt dress, another dropped waist/tulle skirt that brides are drawn to but don’t take into consideration their shape. Some days the zipper will just not go up, so I pin ribbon to bridge the gap and suggest that a corset back will get it closed and work for the wedding in July.

The bride decides she is going to hunker down and lose 20 pounds in 9 months. Check out that train!I pin some loops in place to show her how it might look:

At this fitting she wants to know how she is going to keep the top from sliding down so we try some tulle straps to match her skirt.

Then some rattail cord double straps and solid ribbons:

None of these make her happy so we skip that and agree to make another appointment 7 months later, closer to the date of the wedding.

Eight pounds lighter, we can get the zipper up with some minimal amount of back skin creasing. I am so proud of her!

One thing the weight loss has also done is drop the skirt and lining by almost 2 inches. You can see the original red thread tracing and the finished black thread hem line. The pinked edge shows that I already removed 4 inches all around just to have something easier to turn up.

To reduce the fluff of the skirt, we removed two layers of gathered netted petticoats (I save them to recycle in other dresses) and then I explain to her that bustling that amount of tulle will just add to the bulk of the skirt. Trimming the train off to ground level will give her dress a lighter feel and more dancing moves, so she agrees. Let’s flip the top layers up and work on the lower layers first:So glad I have mannequins who don’t mind standing for hours and having fabric tossed up over their heads!

The former train:

After 2 hours of sitting on the floor and trimming all 4 layers of tulle to just cover the 2 layers of satin and linings, the mother tells me that she wants the entire level of the hem trimmed up shorter by another 1/2 inch.





Once the hem is trimmed all around again, the bride decides she wants to hide her cleavage with a bit of lace, so center front is filled in:

 The finished dress also gets some satin straps to keep everything in place for dancing.

With a month to go, this determined bride will lose a few extra pounds and wear some tight underpants to make the bodice a little smoother. On the dance floor she will be happy to have every bit of tulle off the ground so she can spin and twirl all night.

Just had to share a quote from my favorite daily site


Whoever believes in the good in people, draws forth the good in people.

Jean Paul


Hope everyone has a super sewing week with very little ripping out!!!!

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True Blue

Are you as tired of wedding dresses as I am by the middle of summer?

Do you remember the blue Ponte knit dress I made for my daughter on this post?

Well, what do you do with 3/4 yard of leftover fabric? How about make a skirt from that same Butterick 6332 pattern?

The skirt calls for 1 3/8 yards of fabric but for a skirt 20 inches long, it seems a bit of overkill. Now, mind you, the whole hem edge is faced with a shaped curved piece of fabric which I will eliminate and just cut a lining. Let’s start with the invisible zipper and interfaced edges:

With the lining attached and 3/8 inch seam, it can be flipped and pressed and understitched to keep the rounded edges smooth. I decided to make the hem edge a feature so stitched one inch from the edge:

The top edge was supposed to be a high-rise waist but I just evened it out like a regular waistband and then stitched the facing one inch away like the hem.

The same day I bought the ponte knit from The Smuggler’s Daughter, I also bought 2 yards of a woven polyester with horizontal stripes and gaps to make a shirt for myself. After discovering that the fabric was very thin and almost sheer, I thought I could cut the body of the jacket double thick and still have just enough for sleeves and a front facing for my daughter.

While the pattern calls for a lining, I just wanted to line the sleeves as with the front facing, it was already 3 layers thick and the fabric is slippery anyway. Here is the inside with seams and facing pressed to the back and sleeve hand basted into place.

Skipping the lining in the back and using French seams, I bound the neck with a bias strip:

The front facing was interfaced with tricot knit and then all the edges were stitched using my “G” foot.

The cool thing about this foot is that you can position the needle from far right to far left for all sorts of applications, while the black metal piece stays right along the edge.


On the outside you can see all the topstitching, I even did the shoulders as there were 3 layers of fabric there to hold down.

I was going to skip the pockets but my daughter said she could use one for her cell phone so I used the metal form to make the edges crisp for a 5.5 by 4 inch pocket and lined it.


She asked for silver buttons so I went through my stash to find these sort of silver ones. They were sewn to the right side of the jacket and then larger snaps were sewn behind them:

With the skirt (hem not pressed) so you can see the snaps:




I hope all your summer sewing is going well. In the next 3 Saturdays, I have 6 brides getting married so lots to finish up…where’s my steamer? Steamer…it is 99 degrees today outside and will certainly feel like that inside as well!

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1953 was a very good year

In 1953, Queen Elizabeth was crowned, Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected US president, the polio vaccine was developed, Playboy magazine featured Marilyn Monroe on it’s first cover, sugar rationing ended in the UK and Ian Fleming published Casino Royale, the first James Bond novel. Fashions were emerging from the dark days of post war thriftiness.

Weddings were starting to be more celebratory and gowns had trains and veils and short sleeves and gloves were worn.

This photo of my bride’s grandmother captures the mood and simplicity of the time. Little did that bride know back then that her very own granddaughter would be wearing that cotton eyelet dress for her wedding 64 years later…with some minor changes.















Before we go any further, I want to also show you the other feature of this wedding; the bride might also be wearing a slip that her new mother-in-law wore 30 years ago. So the ensemble will certainly be a blending of both families.


The dress had been rolled up in a ball and stored in a garbage bag for 64 years. It was taken to the dry cleaners and came out pure white.

To start with, the collar has to go and be may be replaced with an eyelet lace edging that will resemble a stand-up Mandarin collar in eyelet.


You can see that there was a strip of horsehair braid on the underside of the collar:



Once the neckline is opened up and collars removed, the bias binding will be stitched back down under the front facings.


What else is needed? The front bodice droops down so that will be raised up and the front darts narrowed and shortened to eliminate the gap at center front waist. The cuffed sleeve hems will be dropped as low as possible and the lace edging added there as well. Eventually the bride wants a ribbon belt at the waistline that ties into a bow in the back. You can see the front is pulling where the vertical pin is, so the vertical darts will be narrowed to allow it to hang properly.


Want to see a close-up of a hand made bound buttonhole? Left photo is the right side and right photo is the backside. Can you see the tiny hand stitches?

p1220307  p1220308 

And a covered button:


Once the lace edging is basted on with red thread you can see the daintiness of this dress evolving and, yes, you keen-eyed sewers…the button spacing is not perfect.p1220333

Back in the 50’s fabrics came 35 inches wide so to have a huge skirt they had to use wedges to fill in.p1220302p1220301

What else is different about this dress? Well, the original seamstress must have had to add a strip of fabric to one side of the zipper to get it to close at the side:




So, here we are at the second appointment and the bodice fits well, the sleeves are longer and the lace basted and 3 point bustle pinned up. The front hem needs some shortening and is pinned up as well. Her mother and mother-in-law are happy with the results but then the bride says, “I want sheer lace edging”.


I tell her that she will have to go out and buy her own sheer lace edging as I do not keep a supply and give her the collar pieces so she can find something more to her liking. I remove all the basted lace edgings.

One thing to do in the meantime is the front hem…simple right? It was a narrow rolled hem but when it was opened up…it had been rolled and stitched up 4 times.

Once all the previous stitching lines were removed you can see we have over an inch that was jammed into the 1/4 inch hem. The red thread marks the new hem edge.

On the third fitting appointment, the bride brings a long piece of ribbon with bronze rhinestones she has hot glued unto it. She loves this DIY craft project and I ask how am I supposed to attach this to the dress with a side zipper? The glued-on rhinestones go way past her 27 inch waist and cannot be removed.

I offer to attach any belt, not this one, at the side zipper edge or she can switch to a ribbon with a bow in the back but it would need a couple of thread loops to keep it centered. You may notice that the original slip has been replaced with a nude colored knit slip that just blends in with her skin. Without a lining, the slip is a nice background for the eyelet.


The DIY belt is pinned on and over lapped at the side…nasty.

The bustle buttons will be where the safety pins are and the waist will be raised another 3/4 inch all around. I mention to her that the hem was a bit weird with so many layers rolled up and then she confesses that her grandmother wore the dress for her 20th anniversary and the dress was just hemmed up again and again and the zipper, remember that weird patch inside, well, it was added to get the zipper closed at the waist back in 1973.

The bride decided on no lace edging, and the lapels to be hand-tacked back to make a V-neck opening.

Bustle buttons in place and they are low enough that if the bride changes her mind about a belt, it will sit well. Again, I have offered to make thread loops for a belt but have not heard back.The wedding is in a week so maybe she will just wear the dress as is.

At least with our 90+ degree days, this bride will be cooler than most!

Do you remember all the baby squash plants? Well, here they are producing already.

And another group of caged butternut squash with a small forest of sunflowers growing behind them…can you see Boris among the bird feeders?

Stay cool my friends!


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Starts with a Surprise

Another vintage dress was going to be arriving with the bride and her mother. I was sent the original wedding photo from 1984…remember poofy sleeves and fishing line ruffles? Oh yes, this had them all.Of course, the bride wants to make this her own dress and make it modern.

The appointment is set and as she is driving 3 hours south while her mother and father are driving 3 hours north, they will meet in the middle at my house. In the meantime, her sister writes to me about coming early to surprise her sister as she lives in the Midwest, 4 hours away by plane. Without thinking, I agree to this scheme.

The sister arrives on time and I settle her in the kitchen to wait for the rest of the crew. She shows me a champagne bottle and asks if it is OK to present this to her sister. Without thinking again, I agree.

The father and mother arrive with the bride and huge gold box concealing the dress. I settle them down in the room and tell them I have to leave to get my camera and then call the sister to sneak in to surprise them. She bursts into the room with her cell phone on video setting to record the excitement and the mother bursts out crying, the sister is shouting and the father just wants someone to hug.

The dad leaves the room while I start trying to button up all those back buttons and the mother starts asking about when are we going to get her husband back in the room and why hasn’t the champagne been opened already and her husband been brought back in for the party. I realize that I have lost control of this appointment and calmly tell her, “this is not my party, for me this is my work and you have to let me get this girl in the dress”.

As soon as the bride is dressed, I grab the bottle and open it while the sister is shouting, “Get the champagne glasses”. Once they are all holding their filled glasses, I can get to work asking the bride about the main reason why they are all here…”what do you want me to do with this dress?”

The bride says she wants the sleeves to be removed, the train to be removed and the whole hem to be tea length. The mother almost faints and begs the daughter to reconsider as she loves the double ruffled train.

The bride asks if I can remove all the fancy lace motif edging and use it on the new tea length hem. Sure, let’s remove the basketball-sized sleeves and lace edging:




Another issue she asks about is the lace trim on the back and hips…how did it get so yellow after being cleaned 33 years ago? The answer is…I don’t know but I will see if I can do something about it. I remove one side and experiment.

Below you can see the results…back in the 80’s we were still using cotton edgings and with a little soak in a weak bleach solution…voila’, we have white lace. So all the rest will be done that way and re-attached. Lots of hand work here and tedious fitting back into position! See the puckered zipper lap?

The bodice front has only one issue…can you see the wrinkles at the armhole? either that extra fabric will be taken out just above the lace edging or at the shoulders. We can’t have that gap there before the extra lace edging is applied to make a small cap sleeve.

Skirt is shortened and hem folded under and stitched with invisible thread in the needle and white thread in the bobbin. There are many lace motifs that will have to be removed before I add the lace edging otherwise we will have soft and hard sections.

All the flowers have been stitched flat after being bleached.


Adding the lace edging to the armhole front and back and making a tuck in the princess seam:


Can you see how tight the buttons and loops will be when fastened? Something will have to be let out. So many horizontal drag lines as well…what to do? Even with her separate corset tied as tight as humanly possible it is not a good look. But then take a look at the original photo of her mother…holy cow…those are the same wrinkles!


Pinned out front princess seam satin layer: 

Taking in the lining of the princess seam lining at the armhole:

 What would happen if I restored the dress to its original seams at the zipper? Would the drag lines relax and disappear? The first seamstress took in the center back zipper and left all that fabric wadded up. Have to be grateful that she didn’t trim it all away!

So let’s move the zipper back and gain 2 inches in circumference. Does this seem like a pattern with all these wedding dresses??? Add 2 inches to make things fit correctly…2 inches…the difference between two RTW sizes.

The previous seamstress gathered all the extra fabric and double stitched it into the seam. The rest of the skirt was pleated.

In her haste to finish the dress, she caught a fold into the seam to add more bulk.

Once released, you can see there was 1/2 inch caught.

I removed the gathers and now the skirt can resume its original place at the edge of the bodice thus gaining an inch on either side of the zipper.

All the edges now match up, the gathers have disappeared and with a small repair to the organza layer where the pins are, we are ready to insert the zipper again.

A close up of the first step on the hem after all the random lace motifs have been removed from that area.

First, the hem is folded under and sewn and the edges pinked to blend in better.

Then with the lace edging sewn by machine with invisible thread on top and poly thread in the bobbin like the hem:







Right side:

Underarm edges are bound with bias strips and hand tacked. Lace hem is done and cap sleeve treatment hand sewn on.

The back view after all the 27 buttons and loops have been removed and re-attached and the tulle released to gain almost 2 inches there too. The zipper stitching has tiny puckering but it is 2 layers of satin with the lining also in that seam. I think originally the lining must have been separate and laid nicer but I can’t change everything about this dress and labor costs are mounting up.









This week our temps have gone from the 70’s (great for gardening) to the high 90’s…not so nice for gardening!

Our birds like the new fountain and have discovered the best way to drink without getting their feet wet. They perch between the frog’s eyes and bend forward.

Mr. Mole has harvested a couple beauties too:

As always, my photos reflect a desire to share possible solutions to real challenges that you readers may encounter in your sewing adventures. If I can help you in any way, then I have achieved my goal.

Happy Cool sewing everyone!

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Purple Haze

This week, let’s take a break from all those scary complicated dresses.

This Alfred Angelo dress for around $300 looks pretty nice.

It comes in a dozen colors. But…the big but…can you see how the top edge of the shoulder drops down unto her arm? Nice, sweet coverage…ahh no…what they did to make that armhole cup that shoulder is make the actual armhole waaay too small. Clever? Ahh no…all that does is grab the arm so tight and make it impossible to reach forward or up. What can be done, the whole edge is bound with more lace over tulle with no seams to let out?

Just a little history…the MOB tells me she can sew but is only “letting me do this” as she has no time. She travels for work and only buys her clothes at an exclusive boutique in California. She continues to tell me that she has a gorgeous body for a middle aged woman but then has to admit that her boobs rest somewhere nearer the waistline than the high bustline of boning. The back of the dress offers no support even if I sewed in bust cups, she has to find a strapless bra that lifts those puppies up.

The other issue is after only trying on the dress once, her daughter has pulled the loops so hard to get the back to close, that the tulle around each loop and button is tearing and making small holes.  

To get some ease in the armhole and back the side seams should be released. As the original seam was a perfect straight line, I make the new seam at the top edge more curved. You can see the sleeve band of lace that was sewn as a unit and will be tucked inside for the next seamstress.

Flipped to the inside and pinned before understitching:

Side seams and linings have been let out to the edge to gain 1 inch each side.

The outside before pressing: You can see the lighter lace edging stops at the underarm and has a gap but there is no excess to patch it.

The finished project with 2 layers of satin and one layer of chiffon shortened and seams let out:

Another interesting thing is that even for the final try-on with a new strapless bra, the bust boning was still higher on the chest than the client’s boobs. So, I wadded up more tulle like in the previous blog post and padded on either side of the boning to at least fill the vacancy so there were no vertical drag lines. In the end the MOB says that this dress was made for younger bridesmaids even though the style screams a more matronly customer. At least the zipper went up with the added 2 inches in circumference! I didn’t dare try to button it up and make those holes any larger!







It is time to get back to the brides but before I go I had to share these photos from a woman who wants her very young pageant daughter to wear this in a competition and thought that I would love to recreate this outfit cheaper than the going price. Who knew you could purchase something so cheap and nasty looking for such a high price?

Wait…it gets worse! How about adding a thick metal clasp at the back neck and polyester ribbon straps to hold the whole contraption to the child?

Award winning, no?

Have a great week of sewing everyone!

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Crying Thighs 2

Just over a year ago, I had the challenge to get a volleyball playing bride into her “Crying Thighs” tight-fitting dress. Wedding gown manufactures require salons to measure the bride in the bust and waist and hips but sometimes it is the thighs that can get you into trouble when the dress is dropped waisted.  

So once again, beautiful dress, beautiful bride and a challenge.

I leave the bride and her mother to get her dressed while I step out. All I can hear is groaning and rustling of fabric and grunts and that is when I ask, “Is everything OK?” The poor mother is beside herself and overwhelmed that they cannot get the dress on the bride either by stepping into the dress or pulling it over her head…why? The dress circumference at the thighs is smaller than the girl herself. Finally we manage to get her in, smooth her down and the result is drag lines everywhere and she cannot raise her leg to walk never mind the thought of sitting.

You can see that the tightness of this dress does not flatter her figure and really draws attention to her tummy with drag lines. The back butt curve is so tight that she cannot move her legs. Not a great look!


The front waist wrinkles can be helped with double spaghetti straps on each side which she has asked for although only one strap is shown. The bust cups have had push-up pads pinned on but there is still a need for some extra padding later.

Ready for some real custom work? Open the lining and let out the center back seam. Like with other gowns, once I snip the lining threads, the dress almost sighs with relief as the lining is 1/2 inch smaller on each side of the zipper.


The lining is hand basted to the zipper leaving the lower half open. I explained to the bride and her mother that we may have to leave it open for the final fitting just so the girl can walk.

The lining is opened further down along with the layers of petticoat netting now involved as well. The lining seams vertically over the thighs are already fraying with the strain so all 4 seams are let out 1/2 inch each hoping it is enough.

The dropped waist seam is opened up to access all seams. Can you see the fraying after only one hour of wearing?


Second fitting appointment, even with the extra ease…this will never work! You can see the lace motifs that have been folded back to work on the seams. The solution will come with work done on the last 7 buttons area where the stress is the worst!

One reader asked me last time on how do I figure what shape the new panels have to be….well, I want to add 2 inches to the bodice and the same 2 inches to the skirt. I cut the strips and wedge from the center back skirt train so no one will notice. Then using some white satin and 4 layers of white and blush tulle, they come alive. The lace motif on the lower wedge has to be removed like all the others one stitch at a time…tedious work.

In the meantime, while I am inside the dress I wad up tulle into a ball and stitch it into the very pointed bust area to eliminate wrinkles on either side of the boning. Push up bust pads help but are too rounded to make a difference this time.

Back to the back…upper panels in and ready for the zipper:

Panels in and waiting for 7 buttons to be re-attached and all the lace motifs to be attached to the tulle layer and the 3rd fitting appointment.





Want to see what is under all this? The first layer (hidden) is satin lining hemmed with 2 inch wide horsehair braid that will have to be shortened 2 inches. Then the next layer is white tulle, then 4 layers of netting, some gathered which will be trimmed by 2 inches.


The next layer is thin satin and then another layer of white tulle the same circumference as the satin (the problem child) and then 3 more layers of blush and white tulle.

The bride and her mother are in love with the train and want all of it bustled up. I start with a 5-point bustle of the tulle and a 1-point bustle of the satin layer.

3rd fitting appointment and the butt and thighs are still very tight and you can see the lining seams are trapped up under the bodice layer so I have taken this picture to have the bride show her helpers where they have to pull down to get all the wrinkles out.

At least on the outside, the zipper works but it is still very tight under her butt. She still cannot sit down or walk up steps…but she says she will not be doing either on her special day. I tell her that she will not even be able to pee without taking the entire dress off and she says she is OK with that. The remainder of the lace motifs will cover all the spaces and seams all hand sewn onto the tulle layer alone while watching TV.

The side view is still exaggerated but the bride calls that her “drama” and doesn’t want to lose it…well, it sure ain’t going anywhere!





The inside tells another story…see the new panels and end of the zipper? See the edges of the lining…yes…you got that right…12 inches of ease has to be left open just to get into this dress.

But, from the outside…it looks fine and the bustle will need 7 points to get it all off the ground. Wait…what is that white stuff hanging? Remember the one white tulle layer the same shape as the satin? Well, it cannot be bustled with the other tulle layers and cannot be bustled with the satin as it is somehow stitched into the lower half of the zipper so it will just have to be trimmed off.


Did you think we were done??? Ha ha…oh no…let’s think about adding a blinged out belt too along with those double spaghetti straps. The bride is off to find ribbons and do-dads and sparkles.






Meanwhile, I have finished 7 bustle buttons/loops and left the 2 extra safety pins in case we go with 9 points. The lace motifs look really nice when spread out:

The bride went crazy in JoAnn’s and bought wide satin ribbon and wide rhinestone trim but even though her mother and I said this belt would not add anything to the dress, she stopped everything and Facetimed her wedding planner to get her opinion. Who does this?

The mom and I stood there while the bride tried on all sorts of other versions of belts and ribbons, glittered and beaded while the bride and her consultant talked back and forth on her phone video chatting. Finally, the professional told her she didn’t need a belt and I could finish the appointment by trimming off the white tulle layer that hung below the bustle.

Now, we have a very neat bustle and they decided that they wanted a 9 point bustle for the tulle layer.








She is ready to dance up a storm and no one will know what is going on under all those ruffles…just you and I.

This week Mr. Mole decided to harvest a fennel from the garden for our dinner. Have a super week of sewing everyone!



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