Nope, I had not retired for Christmas. Anyone following me on Instagram saw that I am very busy stitching a new goldwork teaching sample for one of next year's teaching jobs. The first version was unfortunately rejected. And whilst my whole body is aking from sitting behind my slate frame and computer for too long, I did learn a lot from the experience. In the new year, I will put together a document with lots of questions and options for needlework business owners who approach me with a teaching request. It will hopefully ensure that they know exactly what I can and can not offer. And I will have a far better idea of what it is they are looking for. In the meantime, I have stumbled upon a lovely small needlework and hand-dye business from Hungary: Barbaral Creations.
Many of you know that I am a huge fan of the FiberTalk podcasts and video shows. Being a one-woman-show, it can often feel a bit lonely. Gary, Vonna, Debby and Arlene are my overseas stitching buddies. Listening to them chatting away on needlework topics and the occassional Big Foot story, makes for good working vibes. Lately, they are sponsored by Stitchy Box. This is a thread and needlework goodies subscription service in the US.
Some of you might remember that I took out such a subscription two years ago with Nordic Needle. I loved it! And I was totally bummed when they went out of business. I have been on the lookout for a replacement ever since. However, ordering these things from outside the EU comes with a lot of customs-hassle when you live in Germany. So I started searching for an alternative from the EU.
I found Barbaral Creations on Etsy. Barbara lives in Hungary near the Rumanian border. She dyes threads, ribbons and embroidery fabrics by hand. Now that has my full attention. I am a self- diagnosed thread-addict :). I bought her Stitchers Subscription Box Winter/Christmas edition. Do click through the slideshow to see what was in the previous editions of these boxes. Be sure to check out here lovely hand-dyed ribbons, silk threads, perle, stranded cotton, trims and fabrics too!
This Stitchers Box contained a cross-stitch embroidery kit for two heart-shaped ornaments. The fabric, stranded cotton and ribbons in the kit were hand-dyed by Barbara. They are slightly variegated and have a lovely vintage feel to them. The embroidery chart was very straight-forward and even comes with thread conversions for DMC. So when the supplies from the kit are finished (which were plenty, by the way), you can still use the patterns using regular DMC stranded cotton.
The kit also contained: a needle, backing fabric, fusible interfacing and toy stuffing. I ended up swapping out the backing fabric for a piece from my stash which was of the exact same colour as Barbara's red-dyed thread :). And I did not stitch the hand-dyed green rick-rack over the seams of my ornaments. They simply didn't need it and I'd rather save the pretty rick-rack for another project.
The pattern and instructions were straight-forward but do assume that you know your cross-stitch, French knots and basic finishing/sewing skills. It took me about two days to stitch both patterns, haul my sewing machine out and finish them into ornaments just in time for Christmas.
What is rather unique about Barbara's Stitchers Boxes, they contain lovely additions besides the needlework. In this case, the box contained a very fine fruit tea called Balthasar. A small jar of honey to sweeten it. And two wooden decorations: a snowflake and a gingerbread man.
I've asked Barbara if she is going to release more Stitchers Boxes and she has confirmed that she will be doing boxes themed: Christmas, Easter, Summer and Halloween next year. This edition was priced at €21 and postage to Germany was an additional €10,90 (this totals at 35 US Dollars or 27 Pound Sterling). In order to be notified in time when a new box is released, be sure to make her Etsy shop one of your favourites!
Here in Bavaria, the first snow has fallen and everything is dusted in white. Lovely to watch from the comfort of my warm and cosy home :). The view from my studio windows over the lake is amazing. Especially as the swan couple have not yet migrated to the Lech reservoir which will not freeze over in the midst of winter. The swans were recently joined by some funny great crested grebes. This is the perfect time of year to enjoy some extra guilt-free embroidery time. After all, you don't miss out on any warm weather and there is nothing better to do in the garden either :). And I have the perfect snow inspired patterns for you!
First up is my Winter Snowman, the second pattern in my petite needlepoint series (you can read more about the first pattern here). This cute snowman is stitched with beautiful hand-dyed variegated silk threads by House of Embroidery on natural 40 count Zweigart linen. This pattern explores seven different needlepoint filling stitches, whilst also introducing you to some surface embroidery and simple beading. The cherry on the cake is, in this case, a charming enamel carrot from Susan Clarke Originals. Your kit comes with fabric, all the threads, all the beads, carrot charm and needles. Upon purchase, you are given a download link for the instructions (which come in either English, German or Dutch). The Winter Snowman embroidery kit costs €30 and this INCLUDES worldwide shipping. In order to be able to ship cheaply and quickly to you, I omit fancy packaging. That way I can take advantage of a special worldwide flat shipping rate which applies to padded envelopes only. And since this does not count as a parcel, customs is not really interested in them either :).
For those of you who live close enough to my Bavarian embroidery paradise: do come and join me for a winter workshop in which we will stitch the needlepoint snowman. The workshops are held on Tuesday the 14th of January and on Saturday the 25th of January. You can book your place here.
My second embroidery pattern inspired by snow is a series of cross-stitch snowflakes. Or at least I think of them as snowflakes. However, as my ever-helpful husband pointed out, snowflakes have only six dendrites and these folksy patterns have eight. He thinks they are poinsettias instead of snowflakes. I just like them :). My kitchen windows were in need of some new decoration. And thanks to FiberTalk, linen banding is all the rage at the moment. However, I don't like to make things that gather dust; my hobby is embroidery, not cleaning :). BUT, I do like linen banding! So I decided to stitch these snowflakes/poinsettias onto pretty Vaupel & Heilenbeck 28 ct linen banding. If you follow the link, you can buy directly from these traditional high-quality German producers. They have a huge array of different linen bands and their website is in English.
For my window treatment, I used a vintage variegated DMC stranded cotton. The label says it is number 91. I embroidered one of the bands with three strands as that worked best on this 28 count linen. However, I did not have enough of the floss to do that with the second band too. Instead, I used only two strands. And it turned out fine too :). You can find this FREE cross-stitch pattern in the download section of my webshop! Single snowflakes/poinsettias would be lovely as ornaments for your Christmas tree!
In time for the official start of autumn, I present to you my latest embroidery kit and accompanying classes! It has been quite a while since I offered a new embroidery kit or indeed day-classes. Mainly because there were so many other exciting things going on in my embroidery life. However, one of the things I was asked by quite a few people, who came to my exhibition in August, was if I could offer day-classes again. I heard you and I listened (some will say this is rare, so take advantage!). And since these requests were mainly uttered by embroidery novices, I thought it a good idea to start with something not too complicated. Something remotely related to the well-known and beloved cross-stitch: needlepoint, also known as canvaswork or tapisserie in both German and Dutch.
Many of you will know that in this part of the world cross-stitch is by far the most popular form of embroidery. And that's okay! I love to do cross-stitch myself. In fact, I have several cross-stitch projects on the go. They usually don't require as much concentration as my other embroidery projects. And they are usually small enough to get out when travelling or sitting with company. They are just perfect for that! As are small needlepoint/canvaswork/tapisserie projects. Unfortunately, unlike in the US where they are hugely popular, they have a far harder time in this part of the world. Mainly because they are perceived as being not refined enough. I tried for years to warm my students to the type of canvaswork taught at the Royal School of Needlework (RSN) with little success. However, those who took a course became as hooked as I became after my first encounter with this technique at the RSN.
Since the main remark regarding traditional canvaswork on 18 TPI antique canvas was that it is not fine enough and therefore not pleasing to the eye, I needed to shrink it. How about using Zweigart 40 ct natural linen and hand-dyed silk threads? People love the background of 'On the shores of St. Nick' and are surprised to find out that these are indeed canvaswork filling stitches worked in fine silks. As an added bonus they get to work with various speciality threads. Something which blew my mind when I visited the US in 2012 and entered a needlework shop where the walls were covered in whole series of speciality threads. IF you are able to find a needlework shop in Germany or the Netherlands these days, you are very lucky if they carry at least some DMC/Anchor perle alongside the stranded cotton. Finding any silk threads in the wild is very rare indeed.
And since everything just becomes better when you add some sparkly beads; I added some sparkly beads :). The finished design measures only 8,7 cms square. That's pretty refined me thinks!
The whole kit is packaged in such a way that it can be shipped worldwide in an all-paper padded envelope. Over the past years I have tried to minimise packaging materials and the use of plastics. My website now proudly sports the green badge by BioBiene, my German packaging supplier. However, I sometimes need to use plastics. Mainly because the goods are delivered to me in plastics. It doesn't make sense to re-package them in paper. Or the bio-plastic bags I use. I bought a large amount of them years ago when they were marketed as the 'green' alternative to oil-based plastics. They are not. I now know that and will switch to a paper-based alternative once these are out. Although I do enjoy luxury packaged embroidery kits, I feel switching to minimal packaging is the way to go to do my bit for a greener future.
As the last of the threads going into this kit are going to arrive in the next few days (the boys and girls at the customs office in Weilheim are playing with them at the moment), you can pre-order your kit here. The instructions in either English, German or Dutch are available for direct download. Once your payment has come through, you will receive an email confirmation with a download link. As soon as the last threads arrive, I will ship the materials to you. The kit costs €30 and INCLUDES worldwide shipping. Would you rather like to stitch this design as part of a day-class? Then sign-up here for Saturday 5th of October or Tuesday 5th of November. Classes run from 10h till 16h and cost €80. This includes materials, coffee/tea and lunch.
Let's see how many of you I can tempt into giving needlepoint/canvaswork/tapisserie a go!
Months ago, I saw a post on Facebook in which Yvette Stanton worked a bead embroidery kit by Merrilyn Whittle. The design was so lovely, that I ordered the same kit :). This weekend, I had finally time to dabble with it and write this review. If you are thinking of trying bead embroidery yourself, do visit the blogs of Dima Santina and Margaret Cobleigh. Both ladies are beading away on two very different projects: Hanabatake by Margaret Lee and Wild Child by Mary Alice Sinton.
Besides well-written instructions with many clear pictures, the photograph above shows you the other contents of the kit. As you can see everything is clearly labelled. And the quantities of the beads and threads are very generous. Apart from the kit, I had also bought a bead shoe and a wooden koma. Me and koma never became friends, but having a bead show is definitely a plus. Regarding the koma, I feel that you can stitch this design without one. However, bead purists might disagree :). I will definitely give the koma another try in the future and will probably watch some footage on Youtube to get an idea how to hold this piece of equipment when beading.
And off I went: beading away on the central flower. With hindsight, this was probably the most enjoyable part of the whole design. It makes use of two different padding techniques and they were techniques I had never used before. I learned a lot and I will certainly incorporate both techniques in future embroidery pieces.
And this is how the piece progressed. I wasn't going for perfection and only took things out when they were really disrupting the piece. I just wanted to have a nice embroidery experience. And that's what this excellent kit certainly delivers. The finished design is only 6x6cms and can be stitched as a weekend project. I am unsure if this project would suit an absolute embroidery beginner; I am afraid that I take too many things for granted after about 34 years of stitching :).
And this is what the finished piece looks like. It is intended to be a Christmas decoration. In lieu of a tree, it now happily hangs on the knob of my kitchen cupboard. I've thoroughly enjoyed stitching this little gem and I've learned a few new things. You can find this particular kit here. As Merrilyn Whittle is based in Australia, you might need to pay custom duties when ordering this kit. I had to, and all in all I paid a total of €72,73 or $83,89 (kit+shipping+tax). I think, as there are so many talented embroidery designers in Australia, it is high time Australia applies for EU-membership :).
P.S. I am now officially closed for business until the 11-11-18. Any orders placed in my webshop will ship on 12-11-18. China here I come!
With a bit of luck I will get my passport back this week stamped with a shiny visa for China! Getting one was my first encounter with Chinese bureaucracy :). I will also see my doctor tomorrow for a refresher jab to protect me against nasty diseases. We embroidery artists lead exciting lives! Although I am not sure if I am an artist. I have been denied this title by the German authorities. They basically say that embroidery is not an art form, but firmly belongs in the realm of craftsmanship. At first I was knocked off my feet by this, but now I am preparing to defend my case. Getting recognition as an artist means that I am able to afford social security fees again and that my health insurance bills are almost cut in half. This would mean that Märchenhaftes Sticken could finally make a modest plus instead of a monthly loss...
What you see here is the kit for my week-long series of workshops at the National Silk Museum in Hangzhou, China later this year. As the workshop-series is open to anyone, it is highly likely that I will have a wide variety of abilities in my class. Apart from the four techniques (Appenzeller whitework, crewel, goldwork and Schwalm), they will have four pieces of Aida band on which they can cross-stitch the names of the techniques. The bands are later used in construction to hide the seams between the different fabrics. Although it is highly likely that there are people in my class who have never done cross-stitching, explaining is easy and people can soon work on their own. With 15 people in class, I won't always be immediately on hand. Having something easy on the side you can always return too whilst waiting will probably come in handy.
One thing I have learned over the years is that people mean wildly different things when you ask them to bring fine-tipped embroidery or craft scissors. Especially beginners manage to bring whopping big blunt paper scissors for goldwork classes. I have therefore included a pair of decent craft scissors in my kit. It is exactly the same pair of scissors I bought all those years ago when starting the RSN Certificate as an absolute beginner. And they are still my favourite goldwork scissors! Thanks to Google Images, I found my non-name scissors and was able to buy them for my Chinese students.
As the kit includes many different materials, I packed each project separately. I printed a picture of the finished project onto re-usable labels. This makes them easily identifiable for non-English speakers and people can re-seal the bag and so keep supplies together. All kit materials will be packed together into a paper bag. I will urge each student to write her/his name onto the bag to avoid misunderstandings.
I've also included a shower-cap into the kit. The museum will provide embroidery hoops with seat frames for each student. The free shower-caps you often get in hotels are perfect to protect your work when you are not actively stitching. The other thing I have included is a simple goldwork cutting board. It is one half of a round plastic containers my dad used to house his screws, bolts and whatnots in. I lined the base with a piece of red velour and presto you have a cutting board. If I had more space in my suitcase, I would prefer to give each student a small round tin (I always upcycle my hair-clay tins this way!). Being able to cut your threads and then screw the tin close is even better.
What else will I have at my disposal in the classroom? I've asked for an iron an ironing board. After all, I had to fold the fabrics to be able to get them into my suitcase. In preparation, I have already drawn all (bar one) patterns onto the fabric using a normal lead pencil. Unfortunately, the lines of aqua trick markers might not be stable when flying. I landed in America once with very faint lines... The only pattern I will have to draw before class, is the Appenzeller monogram. I'll use a trick marker and a copper stencil. It just doesn't work well with a lead pencil.
And last but not least, I will have a sewing machine in my classroom. Although I am not sure any of my students will be able to finish all four projects in time to start the construction of the pronkrol, when some so, they can use the sewing machine for quicker construction.
I am getting so excited!
P.S. you can read an interview with me on the blog of Valia Dikova 'Oberammergau Erleben'. I've also been interviewed for an article by Crafts Industry Alliance on the 'Benefits of limiting your time on Social Media'. Unfortunately, they left out my remark on the dangers of particularly Facebook using our data for commercial gain and the undermining of democracy. This was an important reason why I deleted my accounts after being hacked.
Upon request, I have included the original sampler in my ebook on the early 17th century silk embroidered linen vestments from Tyrol. And to celebrate the release of my ebook 2.0, so to speak, I have put together some great saver packs!
There is the flower sampler saver pack which includes the ebook and all the materials to make your own flower sampler with all 8 flowers.
Then there is the popular Carnation saver pack which includes the ebook and all the materials to stitch your own Carnation. The Campanula saver pack includes the ebook and all the materials to splash out on your own copy of the Campanula! And last but not least, the Tudor Rose saver pack with the ebook and all the materials to make your own version of this timeless classic.
The ebook is a 2-part PDF download for which I will send you a link. The material packs ship for only €3,70 each world-wide. I am also offering two workshops at my studio in Bad Bayersoien where you can stitch a flower of your choice under my tuition. In short: more than enough opportunities to learn this fascinating and beautiful historical silk embroidery technique from Tyrol!
Wow, thank you so much for all who entered my give-away! Seventy comments were left on last week's blog post. The flower with the most votes turned out to be the Carnation, followed by Campanula and Tudor Rose. So glad I asked my blog readers for their favourites as I had never thought that the humble Carnation would win. But, more importantly, who won the give-away and will be the proud owner of a copy of the ebook on 'Early 17th century linen vestments from Tyrol: Historical background, where to find and instructions' and the kit of her choice? Drumroll please!
And the winner is: Jackie Ayres who voted for Viola. Congratulations!
If you weren't the lucky winner, don't fret! You'll find my new ebook for sale in my webshop. One Euro of each sold ebook will be donated to the Museum in Brixen where the chasuble that inspired me to this ebook is housed. You will also find embroidery kits for the Carnation, Campanula and Tudor Rose there.
So what's in the ebook? Besides the historical background on the silk embroidered linen vestments from Tyrol, you'll find a list with museums where you can find these gorgeous pieces of embroidery. In the second part of the ebook, you'll find the eight flowers of the Brixen chasuble as a line drawing and with instructions so that you can stich your own. Furthermore, there's instructions on materials used, stitches used (three youtube videos) and where to find the materials used. Not fond of silks? No worries. The line drawings can be used for other types of surface embroidery too! How about using them in a crewel piece? Or go wild with stranded cotton and all sorts of filling stitches. Anything goes as long as you are having fun with needle, thread and my ebook!
Yup, it is true: I have arrived in the modern area too. It took me years. But when I heard that Fairphone makes smart phones that last, are repairable and don't use blood minerals; I ordered one. So far, I have used it to download (and use!) a 5K running app, Instagram, WhatsApp with my family, use Google for directions and information AND made the very occasional phone call :). Still much prefer my Ipad and Laptop... Maybe I should seek professional help? Pondering this option, I did make my Fairphone a cozy home to live in.
On Zweigart Newcastle natural coloured 40ct linen, I outlined the bird with chainstitch using a #12 variegated House of Embroidery perle colour Grapes C. Then I stitched partial buttonhole wheels for the feathers on the tail and the wing. I added straight stitches for the feet and the beak and attached some blue beads along the upper-edge of the wing. From the back, I withdrew every fourth thread in both directions and then added a Schwalm filling stitch called 'Gefieder'. The lettering was stitched using stem stitch. To make my 'phone home' a bit sturdier, I added wadding and a sheet of template plastic. The seams were then pimped with knotted pearl stitch. So far, my phone seems to be pretty comfy in her new home!
I've asked my very talented husband to make a nice clean digital drawing of my scribbled birdy pattern. You can download it at the end of this article. Apart from using it as I did in a Schwalm embroidery way (finished design including lettering H 55mm), there is tons of other possibilities. How about stitching it monochrome on a piece of felt? Or applique with a few simple stitches for embellishment? Surprise me!
Next up is another #broderibox project using a design of a Chlamydosaurus by Millie Marotta. This amazing creature can impress by unfolding his neck frill. However, it can only do so in opening its mouth widely. The bones in the frill are extensions of the hyoid or tongue bone. Isn't nature amazing?! The lovely people of Nordic Needle had put in a glow-in-the-dark thread made by Rainbow Gallery. I made sure to add it to every canvas stitch I used on the chlamydosaurus (it is the white thread you see). And it glows beautifully at night! Unfortunately, it doesn't translate well in a picture. You have to take my word for it.
Last finish for today: the Floral Pomander by Hazel Blomkamp. I really enjoyed this project with all the little flowery scenes using simple embroidery stitches and tiny beads. However, the instructions were a bit messy with tiny pictures of the finished panels. And piecing the pomander together was a little fiddley. That said, it makes a great project if you like miniature embroidery, beads and a different way of finishing your embroidery. Oh, and thanks to the dried lavender mixed in with the toy stuffing, it is my best smelling project ever :)!
Today I am going to write a bit about my love affair with Schwalm embroidery. You see, I can pinpoint exactly where I encountered this pretty whitework embroidery technique for the first time. Not in its native Hessia, one of the federal states of Germany. Nope. It was Inspirations issue 69 in the spring of 2011. The beautiful 'Sense of Place' by Luzine Happel featured hearts, sunflowers and tulips filled with pretty patterns. I so wanted to learn this embroidery technique! But, I had never done any whitework embroidery other than a huge Richelieu window pane featured in an embroidery special of the Dutch Libelle. Luckily, I had just started my Royal School of Needlework Diploma course. And it happened to include a whitework module. Little did I know that they had never heard of this type of embroidery. And my tutors weren't thrilled at the prospect of teaching me something they were not familiar with. So I ended up with a whitework sampler featuring only a little bit of true Schwalm embroidery. And yes, I didn't like the prospect of an all-white piece either :).
Now most of you will by now know that I don't like table cloths. Although, to be honest, there is nothing wrong with these pieces of textile. It is just that when I tell people that I embroider for a living, THEY picture me amidst heaps of neatly stacked embroidered table cloths. Now that gives me goose bumps. But for the wrong reasons. It truly freaks me out. Embroidery is so much more than just a means to adore a table cloth! Instead, one of the Schwalm-things I made was a nativity scene to be hung in front of my kitchen window. It is an ongoing process and I hope to add camels, a donkey and an ox this year.
And although I like white, I like colour better. White reminds me of those pretty shoes I once had as a girl. They were lovely, but not so white for long. The same with those pretty lacily white stockings me and my younger sister wore under our Sunday dresses as girls. They attracted dirt like nobody's business. So in came the use of colour in my Schwalm embroidery projects.
Now, traditional Schwalm embroidery is done with cotton a broder. A not so shiny non-strandable cotton thread. It is nice, but cotton perle and silk threads are nicer. Or at least in my opinion they are. I especially like to use variegated threads as they form pretty colour patterns when used with the many different Schwalm filling stitches.
So, by now, I had changed the colour of things, the materials and the stitching topic. What's next? How about adding a stumpwork technique to the mix? Using wired elements with Schwalm embroidery really tickled my fancy! It looks so elegant and yet isn't too hard to create at all. If you would like to have a go, why not try my 'Elegant Schwalm Butterfly' pattern or full kit? A great way to learn the basics of Schwalm embroidery without ending up with a (partly-stitched UFO) table cloth :).
But I wasn't quite finished yet! How about one shrinks the butterfly? For instance, until it fits a tiny 4cm Dandelyne wooden hoop. Thanks to my training in Appenzeller whitework embroidery, I knew that you can add tiny filling stitches (some the same as in Schwalm embroidery; after all there is only so much you can do with a blank grid) into a tiny grid of withdrawn threads. Born where the elegant butterfly pendants! Still using original heritage skills, but sans the table cloth. After weeks of stitching (one butterfly takes about six hours to create), I now have a colourful bunch of lovely butterfly pendants for sale in my webshop.
If you would like to know more about the traditional form of Schwalm embroidery (including its use on folk costumes), check out Luzine Happel's website and blog. Also available in English. Luzine self-published a whole library on Schwalm embroidery. These are very good books if you want to learn this pretty whitework technique. I highly recommend them! The books are available in German, English and even French. Happy stitching!
Last week, I received my copy of Inspirations Magazine #95. And wow what a beautiful issue it is! Packed with great embroidery projects exploring a wide range of embroidery techniques. Clear favourite for me: Strawberry Fayre, a heart-shaped sewing necessaire designed by Carolyn Pearce. Carolyn is one of my favourite embroidery designers. A couple of years ago, I stitched her famous Home Sweet Home needlework box.
The sewing necessaire is packed full of lovely stitched details in green, pink and blue. This projects uses 40 embroidery stitches ranging from the well-known French knot to the more exotic cable plait stitch. Equally, it uses a whole array of yummy embroidery threads in cotton, silk, rayon and metallic. And the design uses beads as well! A perfect project to learn new embroidery skills. Not unlike a sampler, but then way more useful.
Inside the sewing necessaire there is ample room for your scissors, stiletto, tape measure, needle pages, pincushion and thread rings. The heart-shaped necessaire closes with a pretty Dorset button. Another pretty technique you will learn from this project!
Dangling from the necessaire are exquisite little needlework essentials: a pinwheel, an emery strawberry and a thimble holder.
I so love this new Carolyn Pearce design, that I ordered the kit as my birthday present (I'll turn 39 on Friday!) from Stitchology. As an Inspirations subscriber, I paid €146 + €26 shipping. Yup, that isn't cheap. However, Carolyn Pearce is known for using many different components in her designs. Trying to gather them yourself from suppliers all over the world isn't necessary any cheaper. That said, if you have a large stash and you don't mind swapping things out, you will be perfectly fine stitching this necessaire with your own supplies!
As the kit is on pre-order at the moment (it will probably ship at the end of July) and will take 3-4 weeks to arrive in Germany, enough time to see if there are others who plan on stitching this project. Wouldn't it be great to hook up online and stitch this project together? Like a Stitch Along (SAL)! Please leave your comment below if you are up for the game. Looking forward to start...
Jessica M. Grimm
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