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How To Do A Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) For Fitted Knit Patterns

Monday, June 30, 2014
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Okay guys, this post has turned into a pretty long and reasonably epic one and that's because there's not actually a lot of information out there on doing Full Bust Adjustments on fitted knit patterns. There are lots of tutorials for FBA's on wovens, but not knits - which I suppose comes down to the fact that knits are much more forgiving.

That being said, I completely understand that for some of you, an FBA may be needed, even on a stretchy knit like Bronte.

I would always do a muslin to check if you can get away without doing one first though, and one thing you may want to consider trying first is cheating the extra room you need in the front by grading up a size or two in the bust on the front pattern piece only, and then adding length at the 'Lengthen/shorten' line on both pattern pieces.

 If you don't think that this is going to work for you though, then please read on...

Doing an FBA (Full Bust Adjustment) 

The goal of an FBA is to add width and length to the front pattern piece to accommodate a bust that is larger than a B or C cup (most often a B cup in commercial patterns), without messing with the neckline. To do this, you generally slash and spread your pattern. (Note - you will end up creating a bust dart with a standard FBA, but don't worry, we'll talk about that in a moment).

I'm not going to go into detail about how to do a standard FBA, mostly because there are so many great tutorials out there already (I love how clear this one is, but as I said, there are lots of great ones). What I would like to point out though is that when you take your high bust measurement and bust measurement to get how much you should be adding to your bust line, remember that you are dealing with a fitted knit pattern that is meant to have some negative ease (i.e it's deliberately smaller than your measurements and that's where the stretch comes in, to skim and hug your body).

For this reason, I wouldn't add in the normal amount you would on a woven. Perhaps try adding half your normal amount to Bronte first, and then see if you need more. For example, if you have a 1 inch difference, try adding in 1/2 an inch first.

One other thing you'll need to consider is where your apex actually sits on the pattern. Due to the fact that Bronte is a knit with negative ease, you can't necessarily hold the pattern up to you to find it (as you would on a woven). I honestly don't really have any scientific way of finding this either. All I can suggest is that you try on some other similar tops, locate your apex on them, and then transfer this to your Bronte pattern piece. Alternatively, make up a muslin without the FBA and locate it once you've got it on, then do an FBA on the pattern piece. I can't think of an easier way, but if you have one, do let us know!

What to do with that dart you've now created...
Now that you've done your standard FBA, you're going to be left with a side bust dart, and that's because you've added length to the side seam of the front and not to the back. That dart takes care of the extra length you've added so that your front and back pattern pieces will match along the side seam.

Below is my 'faux' FBA on my mini Bronte pattern piece - I've just guessed where the apex may be and then have slashed and spread my pattern piece to create the imaginary extra room needed and therefore the side dart...

Do you see that pesky dart we created on the side seam underneath the arm pit?

Bronte (and most knit t-shirts) are dart-less, so how do you deal with this extra side length in a knit t-shirt? Below are three options, but there are probably more, so do let us know if you have one.

1 - Ease the dart into the side seam
If you don't want to sew in a side seam dart, then you could think about rounding out the dart and then easing the excess into your side seam.

I would approach this in much the same way I would when easing a sleeve cap into a set-in sleeve. Put some basting stitches into the seam allowance, gather them lightly into a 'cup' and sew up the side seam.

If you have a length-wise stretch in your fabric, you could also think about stretching your back piece down a little to help accommodate any excess side ease from the front. Be careful when doing this though as you don't want to stretch your fabric so much that you end up with wrinkles and ripples in the final garment.

2 - Dart Manipulation

1. Once you've performed your FBA, you'll be left with a pattern piece that looks something like the below. You'll have a 'dart' at the side bust that you might want to rotate that dart out, so...

Does this picture look like half a Transformer to anyone else?

2. Transfer the straight line of your bottom left pattern piece (the red dashed line below) onto the paper below your pattern, you'll use this as a guide in the next few steps.

3. At the pivot point circled below, bring your bottom left bodice section back up and tape in place.

Below is what that'll look like, with the grey dashed line indicating the line you drew in step 2. 

4. Cut back along that old 'dart' leg indicated by the red dashed line (yes, the one you just joined back up in step 3) BUT leave a pivot point at the side seam (indicated by the circle below).

Using your pivot point, bring your bottom left section back up and align it with your original, dashed line.

5. True up your bottom hem.

And you're done!! The honey coloured outline below is the original piece - you can see that you've kept the additional length and width that came from doing the FBA, but you've eliminated the dart at the same time.

So that, Ladies, is how it's done. Let me know if you have any questions or have any success with this method! I'd love to hear about it.

3 - Sew the dart in
For some people, sewing the dart into the t-shirt might just be the best option, particularly if you have a large cup size. This might seem like a strange thing to have in a knit t-shirt, but it's only strange because it's uncommon, and uncommon doesn't mean it's a bad thing. It will mean you will have a beautifully fitting top, and if you have a busy print, you probably won't even notice that little dart line.

Two issues you may come across with sewing a dart in however are - if you have a lightweight knit, the dart may move around underneath, and with a heavier knit, you may see the outline from the right side. To combat both of these issues, you could cut the dart out close to the seam once it's been sewn in.

Do you have any tricks for doing an FBA with knits?


Adjusting Pattern Piece Length

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lengthening and shortening a bodice (and sleeves) is an easy flat pattern adjustment to make. I'm using the Bronte Top as an example, but this method is the same for any pattern you wish to alter.



1. Cut out your corresponding size from your Bronte Top pattern (you may also wish to trace your pattern first, especially if you have a paper pattern that cannot be printed out again).

On the front bodice piece, locate the 'Lengthen/Shorten' line (there is also one on your Long Sleeve pattern piece for Bronte if you wish to alter this piece too). Cut along this line, separating your pattern piece in half.

2. To lengthen your pattern piece, take your extra piece of paper and draw a straight line down one side of it.

3. Place your extra paper underneath the top of the separated pattern piece, lining up the straight line you drew in Step 2 with the 'Place on Fold' line of the pattern piece, and tape in place (it doesn't matter where on the extra paper you place your pattern, as long as you have at least the desired amount of length extra, plus a little bit)

5. From the bottom of the taped pattern piece, measure out and mark the extra length you're after, I'm adding 5cm in this example. Draw this line in.

6. Line up your bottom pattern piece with the line you just drew in and the 'Fold Line' of your pattern piece, tape in place.

7. True up any sections of the pattern that need it (for Bronte, you'll need to re-draw in a small section of the waist at the side). You can either use a ruler or free hand this.

8. Trim any excess scrap paper away. Repeat for the back bodice if you are lengthening the front bodice.

If you are wanting to adjust the length of your sleeve, you can do this in exactly the same way, however you'll want to draw in your grainline on your extra bit of paper (instead of the 'fold line') to ensure you are keeping your pattern pieces straight.

Alternatively, if you want to shorten your bodice or sleeves, instead of pulling your pattern apart by the desired amount, you just need to overlap them by that amount, tape them in place and true up any pattern sections that need it.


Sewing Machine Settings for Knits (if you don't have an overlocker)

Monday, June 23, 2014

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First up, I just want to say that there is more than one way to achieve success sewing with knits, and your way is the best way for you. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.

This post is aimed at those who do not have an overlocker/serger (or those who don't want to use one) and I'd like to point out that you do not need an overlocker to sew up Bronte. In fact, I didn't touch my overlocker the entire time I was drafting up the pattern, just so I could be completely sure that one wasn't needed for any stage of the construction process. But obviously, feel free to use one if you have one.

When I first started sewing with knits, I sat down at my machine and literally just played with all the different settings in all kinds of different combinations to see what worked for me, my machine and my fabric. So, the suggestions below are merely that, they're suggestions and they are what worked for me. I encourage you to do things your way if what I suggest doesn't work, because we're human, and if one way worked for everyone, it'd be a boring place indeed! I cannot emphasise this point enough - you need to test your settings on your fashion fabric first.

One other thing I'd like to point out before we get started is that it's a really good idea to have your machine manual close by. Let's be honest, a lot of confident sewers have probably never read their manuals (me included!) and I was totally amazed by the wealth of knowledge contained within when I actually made the time to read it (I know, it was a face palm moment) and I seriously had no idea how little I knew about my particular machine and what it could do until I looked through it.

1 - Stitch Settings

Narrow Zigzag
I think the number one reason for why I was scared of sewing with knits had everything to do with that darn zigzag stitch. You see, almost everywhere, people tell you that you have to sew knits with a zigzag. Okay, that's fine, but every time I would read that, my brain always pictured the big kind of zigzag that you use for applique or to finish off edges if you didn't have an overlocker. And my reaction was always, "But, how can that be a strong stitch? It's going to pull apart the moment I try to put this over my head!"

What wasn't clicking for me was that, ummmm, Jen, it needs to be a narrow zigzag (or small zigzag or however you want to say it). "Oh...." *blush*. For many of you, this revelation of mine probably has you banging your head against the wall screaming "DUH!!!!" but for me, it just wasn't that obvious. I hardly ever use my zigzag stitch, and when I had, it was only on the bigger setting for applique, hence why this had just never occurred to me before.

Behold, Exhibit A - narrow zigzag (left) and big zigzag (right). Use the narrow one my friends - mine is quite short in the example, but a longer narrow zigzag will work fine too.

Lightening Bolt Stitch
Now, if you have a lightening bolt stitch (which my sewing machine manual actually calls the Outline Stretch Stitch) you can also use this stitch for sewing with knits. In fact, after reading my sewing machine manual, and it telling me that the lightening bolt stitch is the stitch you should use for knits, I played around, and it worked for me.  It's designed to "eliminate puckering on knit fabrics and bias seams, while permitting the seam to be pressed completely flat" - well, thanks for that great explanation Janome!

Exhibit B - the Lightening bolt stitch

Longer Straight Stitch
Now, I want to quickly address the 'straight stitch' elephant in the room before we do anything else. Many many people will tell you that you cannot use a straight stitch on a knit, when actually, that depends.

Some people actually advocate that you use a longer straight stitch over a zigzag or lightening bolt stitch. And guess what? I use a longer straight stitch on all the top-stitching for the neckline bindings on my Bronte tops and have never had an issue with the threads snapping.


I'm just telling it like it is - am I going to be burned alive for saying that? Nope, I don't think so, and the reason for that has everything to do with my first paragraph, if it works for you, then keep doing it.

I personally use a combination of the lightening bolt stitch (and there are people that will tell you that the lightening bolt stitch is the most evil kind of knit stitch - I have no idea why...) and a longer straight stitch for the top stitch.

There are also other stitches, like the Triple Stretch Stitch (a super strong stitch), that you can use as well if your machine has these settings. Again, have a a play and see what works best for you. There's no right or wrong answer that will fit everybody's needs.

2 - Foot Pressure

If you can adjust the foot pressure on your machine, I would lift it up a notch or two. This will help the fabric slide under your foot much easier which in turn stops it stretching out as much as you sew.

You'll notice the most difference from lifting your foot pressure at the smoothness of the fabric after you've sewn a seam.

The sample on the left of the photo is sewn with the standard foot pressure I use when sewing with woven fabric, in both a narrow zigzag and the lightening bolt, you can see it's bubbly and wavy. The sample on the right is sewn with the foot pressure lifted up a notch. It comes out smoother, since the fabric doesn't have as much pressure pushing down on it from the foot, and therefore doesn't stretch as much when you're sewing.

If you can't lift the pressure of your foot (check your sewing machine manual! Mine was in an interesting place) don't worry, never underestimate the power of a good steamy iron.

3 - Sewing Machine Needles

There are three types of needles you can get for sewing with knits - Ball-point needles, Stretch needles and Universal needles.

Ball-Point Needles
I personally use ball-point needles for all of my knit sewing. The rounded head prevents the needle from piercing the stretch threads in your fabric and breaking them (therefore weakening the fabric) by moving in between the threads instead.

Stretch Needles
Stretch needles do much the same, though their rounded tip is much lesser than a ball-point and the eye of the needle sits higher up. This is apparently better for super stretchy fabrics like swim suit lycra. I have personally never used a stretch needle before, but if you are getting skipped stitches from your ball-point needle, swapping for a stretch needle is suggested, as your fabric may react better to this kind of needle.

Universal Needles
Well, these guys are just that, they're universal which means you can use them on both woven fabrics and knits. Saves you time swapping out needles in between projects I suppose!

All of these needles also come in different sizes, and the general rule is the heavier the fabric, the bigger the needle you should use. I buy ball-points in packs of 5 multi-sized needles which means if I'm having troubles, I can easily swap to a different size to see if that will fix the problem.

4 - Bobbin Tension

Not all machines will allow you to play with your bobbin tension (hello sewing machine manual!). In fact, a lot of basic machines won't. However, if your sewing machine is being temperamental (skipped stitches, puckering etc), if you can play with this setting, it may help.

I personally haven't had to alter this setting on my machine, but do give it a go if you've tried all the other options and you're not getting consistent stitches.

Woah... if you made it to the end of that without falling asleep, I salute you.

Anything I missed knit-superstars? Any questions knit-newbies? Any discussion about sewing with a straight stitch you wanna talk about? (Please be nice in my comments section! Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, whether you agree with them or not).

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Choosing Bronte Knits (& some of my favourites)...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I talk quite a bit in the instructions for Bronte about general guidelines for finding the right kind of Bronte fabric. I initially found it hard to describe the type of knit that you need, because being a relative newbie to the knit-sewing community myself, I knew that getting across the feel of a fabric for someone just starting out was a tough call.

Enter, the humble pair of cotton underwear. Yep, there it is right there. That's what you want - an Undie Knit.

So, go find yourself a pair (make sure they're good quality and not too old) and a ruler and let's talk about the three properties you want in your ideal Bronte knit...

1 - Stretch percentage
The stretch percentage is how much your fabric will stretch. For Bronte, we want at least a 40% stretch. To figure out if your fabric will work, take a 10cm piece of it and keeping away from the selvedge, try to stretch it to 14cm. If it does so easily (your undies should stretch nicely) then you have a great stretchy fabric that is right for Bronte.

To illustrate this a bit further, if you head on over to you can search for fabric by the stretch percentage. You'll want to tick the 30-50% range (on the left, down the bottom). There is no other website that I can find that does this (though please let me know if there are!), and I find that so strange, especially when the stretch percentage of a knit is so crucial to getting a pattern to fit you properly. So, kudos! (FYI - these guys are not a sponsor, nor do they even know I'm talking about them. Also, I've never ordered from them before so I can't vouch for their quality or service, I just love that I can narrow my search down by this criteria).

Stretch percentage is different to the fibre content of a fabric. If you check out the tag on your pair of undies, it'll more than likely say '95% cotton, 5% elastane (or lycra or spandex)' which is the fibre content. I would personally look for a stretchy fibre content of 5-10%, as this should ensure you have some lovely stretch in your knit.

2 - Recovery
Once you let your fabric go after you've stretched it, did it ping back into place? Or did it droop? Can you poke little dents in it with your finger and they stay there? I would avoid this kind of fabric. The last thing you want is for your Bronte to grow into a droopy mess as the day goes on.

You should find that your undies will spring back into shape nicely after being stretched and that finger dents don't remain in the fabric. That's the kind of recovery you're looking for in the ideal Bronte knit.

3 - Weight
The underwear you're currently holding is about as light as you want to go with Bronte unless you're a knit superstar. Basically, the heavier the knit, the easier it is to handle and I have personally found with light weight knits, they don't tend to have great recovery (though this is certainly not true all of the time!). Ideally, you want to find a medium to heavy weight knit fabric for your Bronte.

Did any of that make sense? I hope so!

Now onto some of my favourite kind of knits!

Double Knit (or Ponte de Roma)
There seems to be a lot of information out there that Double Knits (or Ponte de Roma) has minimal stretch. Well guys, that depends. It's certainly not true for all of them!! If you find one with a stretchy fibre content of 5% or more, then generally, you'll have some pretty great stretch coming from your fabric.

I personally LOVE double knits. Like, love them. You know that black and gold Bronte? Yep, double knit. You see, the thing about some double knits is that they are reversible, so the neckline binding on that Bronte is actually the underside of the fabric. Pretty cool huh?

Another thing about double knits is that they are easy to handle (great if you're new to sewing with knits). They don't tend to curl at the edges, nor do they fray, so you don't need to worry about finishing off raw edges if you don't want to. Oh, and double knits are comfy to wear and they don't tend to wrinkle.

So, if you're scared of knits, go buy yourself a double knit - you'll wonder what you were ever worried about.

Jersey Knit (aka what your undies are generally made from)
You can get man-made jersey knits, but personally, I prefer the natural type of knit that your cotton undies is made up of. They tend to be a great medium summer weight (also perfect for autumnal layering) and they breath really nicely, which means they won't get too hot or sticky as man-made jersey knits can sometimes get.

They also tend to have great recovery, will withstand a lot of washing, wearing and general 'beating-up' and they are easy to work with.

ITY Knits (aka Interlock Twist Yarn)
If you're hunting around your fabric shop and you come across a knit that says ITY on it, you'll probably be all 'What the...?'. An ITY knit is just a different way of constructing the fabric - a twist is put into the threads as it's being made up.

If you're going with an ITY knit, I would recommend making sure it has a stretch fibre content of at least 5% as this generally results in a lovely stretchy knit with great recovery. You can get all kinds of ITY knits made up of man-made or natural fibres in all the colours under the sun.

French Terry Knit
French Terry has a lovely soft outer, that looks a lot like a jersey knit, but it has little loops on the underside. The long sleeved fuchsia Bronte I made is a French Terry, and it's so comfy and warm!

Merino Knit
I'm probably a little biased towards 'warm knits' at the moment (seeing as we are in winter down here) but your Bronte top will sew up beautifully in a thermal or merino knit. I have 4 merino knits currently drying that are about to be sewn up into some lovely layering Bronte tops.

I know it's a lot of information, and it can be a little overwhelming for beginners, but once you know what you're looking for, you'll be able to spot the right kind of knit from a mile away.

So, do you think you might dip your toes into knits a little?

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments and I'll try my best to answer them for you.

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The Bronte Top Sew-A-Long...

Monday, June 16, 2014

Wow you guys, what an amazing reception to Bronte there has been, I'm so glad you like her!

As promised, I am running a sew-a-long for The Bronte Top, so if you're planning on sewing your own Bronte with us, here are some dates you might like jot down in your diary (if there is something in particular that you'd like to know about that I haven't mentioned below, let me know and I'll do my best to add it in) - you can buy the pattern for instant download here.

Thursday 19th June
All about suitable knits for your Bronte top and some of my favourite types

Monday 23rd June
Appropriate sewing machine settings for sewing with knits (if you don't have an overlocker)

Thursday 26th June
Flat Pattern Adjustments Part 1 - Lengthening & Shortening the bodice and long sleeves

Monday 30th June
Flat Pattern Adjustment Part 2 - Doing an FBA (full bust adjustment) for knits

Monday 7th July
Let's Start Sewing! Adding bindings to the front and back necklines

Thursday 10th July
Basting shoulders together and inserting sleeves

Monday 14th July
Finishing side seams and hemming

Thursday 17th July
Finishing the neckline

If you want to let everyone know that you're taking part in the fun, I've created a little 200px button for you to display on your blog as well -

Grab button for The Bronte Top Sew a long by Jennifer Lauren
<div class="Jennifer-lauren-vintage-bronte-button" style="width: 200px; margin: 0 auto;"> <a href="" rel="nofollow"> <img src="" alt="Jennifer Lauren Vintage" width="200" height="200" /> </a> </div>

I've also started a Flickr Group for my patterns, so feel free to upload your makes onto the group board so I can see them (I'm nosey and I wanna see them!).

And finally, I had actually planned to get this post up on Friday, but alas, some major renovations have just started on our house and so I've been without a bathroom the entire week and for most of it, without lights, some power and the internet. Oh the joys of renovations, I can't wait for them to be finished! For those of you who are interested, I have actually started a little blog following our renovations over here if you'd like to have a nosey. There are only 2 posts up at the moment, but I'm planning rather a few more, especially after this week, the change has been rather dramatic (albeit dusty and messy!).


Introducing The Bronte Top! Pattern Number Two.

Friday, June 6, 2014
You Guys -  she's here! I'm so excited to introduce you to my second pattern, The Bronte Top...

I love RTW knit tops - they are the perfect thing to wear with my ever favourite circle skirt. They're easy to wash, don't wrinkle, they're comfortable and perfect for layering on these cold and clear winter mornings we've been having (the best kind of winter morning in my opinion. We've had some amazing sunrises!).

However, I didn't want to re-invent the wheel and make just another classic knit top. Nope, this knit top needed to have a vintage edge, in keeping with my style, what I feel comfortable in and something that would blend seamlessly into my current handmade wardrobe. Enter, Bronte.

Bronte is a 40's inspired knit top that you can make with long or short sleeves. What makes her stand out amongst other knit top patterns is her 40's inspired shoulder detail. The back pattern piece sweeps over the shoulder creating a 40s style shrug sleeve which you can then either leave plain or decorate with buttons or other notions of your choosing. I've always loved and been drawn to 40s patterns that feature the shrug style shoulder, so it only made sense to incorporate this beautiful detail into my favourite type of top.

You can use a contrast binding around the neckline or keep her simple by using the same fabric you're making up the body with.

Bronte is also deceptively easy to whip up - in fact, for a few of my pattern testers, she was the first knit they had ever made!

After all the amazing feedback I received on how I laid out my Afternoon Blouse pattern, Bronte is done in exactly the same way which means she's super easy to print out and put together. You only need to print out the version you want to make up, you don't have to rearrange your entire living room to tape together one huge pattern sheet AND doing things my way means you save a bunch of printing paper, making both your pocket, watch and the Earth happy while doing so.

I will be running a sew-a-long for Bronte with detailed posts on lots of useful things like selecting the right kind of knit fabric for her, useful machine settings and stitches, and of course, detailed photographs that will walk you step by step through each process of constructing your own Bronte Top. If you've never sewn with knits before, I hope making Bronte will encourage you to dip your toes in! Sew-a-long details to come.

Bronte is a multi-sized pattern that ranges from an NZ size 6 to 20 and you can purchase the digital pdf pattern files from my Etsy Shop.

So, what do you think? Good? Bad? Okay-ish?


Afternoon Blouse Pattern Hack - Adding Waist Ties

Wednesday, June 4, 2014
So, you want to make an Afternoon Blouse, but you have one problem - you're never going to wear it tucked in so you'd like it to be a little more fitted.

While you could easily grade it in a size (or two) at the waist, have you ever thought about adding in waist ties?

Adding waist ties to your Afternoon Blouse (or any top for that matter!) is easy, cute, and has the added bonus of you being able to let them out a little after lunch time, while still looking chic!


1. First up you'll need to decide how long and how wide you want your waist ties to be. Once sewn up, mine are 70cm (27.5") long and 4cm (1.5") wide. Once you've decided on these measurements, you'll need to add on your seam allowance (I used 1cm (3/8")). So my rectangle pattern measures 71cm long and 10cm wide total (the width is doubled since it's folded over).

2. Draft up your rectangle pattern onto paper, then using that pattern, cut out 2 waist ties from your chosen fabric.

Optional Step - if you want your waist ties to have some extra body, add interfacing to the wrong side of each one before continuing.

3. Fold in half length-wise, right-sides together and press.

4. Feel free to leave the ends of your waist ties square, but I decided to make my waist ties with an angled tip. To do this, cut off a triangle at the end, angling out from the raw edge of your waist tie towards the tip. How sharp you want your tip is entirely up to you!

5. Starting at one end, leaving the shorter edge open, stitch raw edges together.

6. Trim seam allowance and corners

7. Turn waist tie right-side out and press.

8. Repeat with other waist tie.

9. Sew up your Afternoon Blouse as per the instructions until you get to the step where you sew up the sides. Locate where your waist sits on the side of the blouse and pin waist tie to the right-side of the front bodice, matching up raw edges.

Note - if you've angled your tips, make sure the longer end is on top, as per the photo below.

10. Baste in place into the seam allowance. Repeat for other side making sure waist ties are matching up.

11. Sandwich your waist ties in between your front and back bodice, being careful not to catch the loose ends of your waist ties in your side seam, sew up your side seams and finish the blouse as per the instructions.

Ta da! One cute Afternoon Blouse with waist ties coming up!


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