Snuggly Warm

This week’s shift in weather is telling me it is not too early to start thinking about those cold weather events. They will be here sooner than we thing. After all, doesn’t the fall just fly by way too fast?

Since I frost bit my ears when I was in my teens, making sure people protect their face, head and ears in the cold is important to me. If you have any of these events on your calendar, please make sure you are well prepared for the cold and/or the wind:

  • Remembrance Day
  • Yuletide
  • Christmas Past
  • Dickens Festival

I am ending the summer with offering these few winter bonnets at $100 each. Take a look at my Etsy store for these special deals.

You can also make your own Quilted Winter Bonnet with my E-Pattern. Click below.

Published in: on August 26, 2015 at 5:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Domestic Skills Symposium at the Genesee Country Village & Museum

The Genesee Country Village has announced their Domestic Skills Symposium for this fall. Please read the invitation below and download this Registration Form:

2015 Domestic Skill Symposium Registration Form

Genesee Country Village & Museum is pleased to announce registration is now open for our 2015 Domestic Skills Symposium!

The Symposium will be held November 7, 2015 at Genesee Country Village in Mumford, NY. We have planned a full schedule of presentations for Saturday, and optional pre- and post-symposium workshops and tours of interest to women and men. Like last year, the Symposium also features a full luncheon composed entirely of delectable 18th and 19th-century period receipts!

Complete details for optional workshops and the Symposium are available on our web site at

Please plan to join us!

Deanna Berkemeier

I will be teaching two Fanciful Utility workshops on Sunday:

IMG_7664A Sampler of Pincushions (Limit 15) 

Anna Worden Bauersmith, author of Fanciful Utility, will instruct attendees in making their choice of two or three small period styles of pincushions.  All materials for your chosen designs will be provided and instructions for all designs will be given to each attendee.  Participants should bring: a sewing basket with scissors, thimble, pins, needle, seam ripper, marking pencil/pen and a notepad.

IMG_7666Make a “Pocket of Pockets” (Limit 15)

Using the techniques from Fanciful Utility, make one of the most useful and versatile rolled work pockets.  Also known as a sewing case or housewife, this work pocket is made of period correct fabrics in a row of pockets, bound with ribbon.  Use it to hold your thread winders, flat tools, small scissors, buttons, a cloth measure and still have plenty of room for more. The pocket-of-pockets is rolled or folded up and tied closed with a ribbon.  Participants should bring: a sewing basket with scissors, thimble, pins, needle, seam ripper, marking pencil/pen and a notepad.

2015 Domestic Skill Symposium Registration Form


Published in: on August 24, 2015 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Reblog: Sewing on the Go

There are a few blog posts I am going to reblog as a follow-up to last week’s Fanciful Utility Anniversary. 

As interpreters and/or reenactors, we are most often sewing in temporary locations be it a house or shop we are in for a short time, an outdoor demonstration area or a pleasant gathering to catch up on ufos with friends. Having a sewing case that has all the essential tools is, well, essential.

Here are some of the mobile sewing cases, boxes and baskets we find to be our favorites:

wpid-251064_10150306169812846_1073733_n.jpegLong time readers know how much I like sewing boxes. This is one I made for someone years ago. (I am hoping she will share a current photo of it with her pretty tools inside.) This box has a good size compartment with pincushion, decorated needle pages and a scissors case. (You can find the directions for this case in Fanciful Utility.)

???????????????????Bevin recreated the same case, just a bit bigger. Her box holds just about everything you can imagine. She also has decorated needle pages and a scissors case, plus a pocket for a straight measure.

I have come to  love pockets of pockets or pocket rolls. Originals are found in silks as this one and in cottons of mixed colors as well as variations of the same color set, such as a selection of turkey reds. Pockets can be the same or varied sizes, flat or full. Some are found with needle pages, some with small pincushions. The pockets easily hold thread winders, flat tools, small scissors, buttons, a cloth measure and still have plenty of room for more. This one ties closed with silk ribbons.

???????????????????For small containers that you can turn into sewing boxes, here are a few to consider. Each of these can be used as is or can have a lining with pockets added. The top left is a small oval Shaker box. (ignore the price sticker that I still need to get off the top.) Some examples can be found with a pincushion set into the exterior of the lid. In the upper right is a small basket. This one happens to look like an apple. A basket with a tight weave is nice because you are less likely to have a pin or needle fall through the cracks. In the front is a small pasteboard box covered with paper. You want a durable box. I suggest a squeeze test. If it gives, pass on it. In all of these cases, it is important to have a snug lid that won’t fall off in transit.

Published in: on August 20, 2015 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Reblog: What is in Your Sewing Box?

There are a few blog posts I am going to reblog as a follow-up to last week’s Fanciful Utility Anniversary. 

I was planning to talk about what tools to have in a sewing box/case/basket later this year in the fall. But, there are a few conversations happening now. So, let’s take a look now at what the original cast keeps in their work-box and what we keep in ours.

When looking at what they kept in their work-boxes we can look at extant cases, advice manuals, personal & descriptive literature and paintings. Virginia Mescher has already done a very nice job discussing recommendations from advice manuals and descriptions, while sampling originals in her article “The Case of the Lost Thimble.” I strongly recommend reading that first, before assembling a sewing kit of your own. Interestingly, we don’t see a sewing box or basket in “The Seamstress“, 1858. Bloch’s “The Artist’s Parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bloch in Their Sitting Room“, 1855 shows a nice knitting basket. (Knitters may also be interested in this painting.)

Sewing Box FilledThis is my basic simple sewing box for going to day events where small sewing jobs  may come up or I may have a little back-up cloth project such as making a sewing case, sewing a quilt block or making a set of under-sleeves. In the box from left to right is a bone bodkin, bone stiletto, a metal bodkin, small pair of scissors, thimble, two thread winders and a case of needles. These easily fit into my 4″ box or a rolled sewing case.

???????????????????For events where I plan to be sewing most of the day, I have a basket as well. This basket tends to become a collect-all at events. I like to have:

  • The above items in a rolled case
  • Two pairs of scissors that are also good for cutting fabric, each in their own cases (I tend to loan or bury a pair.)
  • Spools of thread I know I’ll be using. Usually, this is white, natural, black and a couple colors plus a heavier white and maybe a heavier black.
  • Paper and pencil
  • Measures (My fabric one is next to the spool. The metal one is one I still need to date.
  • A few spare buttons (side pockets)
  • Pinball with pins (bouncing around tables at the time of the photo)
  • A small ball of crochet cotton (missing)
  • A small ball of wool (missing)
  • Scrap bits of fabric (pulled for sorting. You can see a couple small pieces and some paste board in a pocket)
  • A Magnet for finding lost needles and pins (missing)
  • Wax
  • Assorted ribbons
  • My emery if I can ever find it again.
  • If I’m going to be working with straw, I bring those scissors, those needles and a cloth for my lap.
  • Yes, those are walnut shells

???????????????????This is Bevin Lynn’s Shaker box dressed as a sewing box.  We live in an area where there were multiple Shaker communities. GCV has and interprets a Shaker building. These oval boxes were available in our area. Trish Watrous Hasenmeuller took time to contact South Union Shaker Village regarding some conflicting views as to the availability of these oval boxes to the public rather than being kept in the Shaker community. Trish writes “They said that the oval boxes were often sold to the public but were usually made in the northern Shaker settlements. They have catalogs of items for sale from the 1870’s that have them. Evidently they didn’t print a catalog in the 1860’s. Tommy Hines, the Executive Director at South Union said: “The northern Shakers both marketed and used the sewing boxes. The oval variety is more common and probably more prevalent in the period.”” (Thank you, Trish)???????????????????

I would say this is 8″-10″ on the longest side.  (Suddenly wishing I would have measure these.) Bevin has lined the box as well as the lid. In her box, we find a pincushion, measure rolled in a bag, thimble in a pocket, wax, thread winders, tailor’s chalk, a bodkin, small container and little bits of thread. In the lid she has a pincushion, scissors pocket and needle pages.

???????????????????This next box, also Bevin’s, is a pasteboard box covered in period decorative paper and lined with period printed paper. This box has multiple levels. Inside the lid fits a large pincushion, decoratively embroidered. This has ribbon loops to make removal easy. ???????????????????Inside the box, a blue velvet covered tray holds a number of tools with ribbon loops. We see a fish needle-case, a bone bodkin, a bone stiletto and a seam-ripper. This tray sits inside the base of the box on top of divided compartments inside. As with the lid, ribbon loops help to lift the tray out.  In the compartments we can see a small balloon bag, tailor’s chalk, a thimble, bees wax, a shell case, thread, rigs, a pencil, a measure in a bag and a thread winder.

I’m hoping to have one more sewing kit to share soon.

I am also adding a post for Sewing on the Go.

Edit to add: Be sure to catch Liz’s “Fitting Out a Sewing Box”

Published in: on August 19, 2015 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Reblog: Shell Pincushions


There are a few blog posts I am going to reblog as a follow-up to last week’s Fanciful Utility Anniversary. 

You know how certain items make you just a bit more excited than other at antique shows? You know how some of them cause you to let out an accidental “squeee!” that may be just a bit embarrassing afterward?

Well, this little seashell pincushion was one of those items. Of course the photo had to come out awful and blurry. This little pincushion was simultaneously a fond childhood memory in the seashells, a fun flashback to Pioneer Day Camp in the theorem, and a tangent curiosity as a researched for Fanciful Utility. Oh, it was also a little over $100, out of my pin-money price range at the time.

I findb pincushions interesting. I find what I’ll call “mixed media” pincushions fascinating. There are many kinds of mixed media pincushions. You likely already saw the post on why I have walnut shells in my sewing basket. Then there are little baskets with pincushions inside, tins with pincushionas inside or on the lids, small band or pasteboard boxes with pincushions on the lid. Pincushions and needle-books made from seashells can be found in girl’s activity books of the 19th century such as these from The Girl’s Own Toymaker.

We still see an assortment of original shell pincushions around. The most common exterior fabric is velvet, either in a single color or in a white/ivory/cream with either theorem painting (a type of stenciling) or painting. I have yet to determine how common it was for the shells to be an exact match or just a close match or just the same size.

This trio has unadorned velvet for each pincushion.

This is a beautiful example of theorem on a shell pincushion. (This Etsy seller happens to have some incredible original pincushions if you are looking.)

These are swoon worthy painted seashell pincushions.

My shell pincushions:

wpid-2015-04-12-15.32.57-1.jpg.jpegHere are my first two shell pincushions drying. I used the method from A Girl’s Own Toymaker of a cotton inside covered with the velvet on the face and glued in place. I have them tied with thread to secure them while they dry. I anxiously wait to see how well they stick after work tomorrow (well tonight if this goes live in the morning.)

I picked the brown velvet for the larger pair because that shell has a brown in the dips of the scallops. I picked the blue velvet for the red and blue shell to bring out the blue in the shell.wpid-2015-04-12-15.33.08-1.jpg.jpeg

I have a special shell supplier who I am grateful to for my assorted pretties. I definitely need more velvet pieces. I need a natural white to do some theorem or painting. I am really looking forward to doing some of the painting. There are a few smaller shells in the set. Those who know me, know I love playing with pieces on a smaller scale.

Want to know more about Theorem Painting? I suggest this article.


Published in: on August 18, 2015 at 4:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fanciful Utility Anniversary – Pin Cushions

aWomen of the nineteenth century made pin cushions out of a seemingly endless assortment of items. We can find them made of scrap fabrics, ribbon, shells, dolls, baskets, metal rings, walnut shells, and so many other endless bits.

Children’s and girls’ books are specked with directions on how to pin cushions from found items. This seashell pin cushion is one example.


We also find pin cushions in lady’s magazines. (be sure not to confuse toilet pin cushions with sewing pin cushions.) This emery cushion in a walnut shell is one example. Emery was used to remove the build up on needles.  w1IMG_7508 Every sewing case needs a pin cushion, at least one pin cushion, that suits the sewers needs. Finding the right pin cushion takes some self analysis and potentially some trial and error.

Depending on my project, I am ‘pluck and plopper’. I am also a pin sorter who is particular on which pins I want for what. When I am ‘plucking and plopping’, I need a pin cushion that is not going to move and lots of surface space I don’t need to look at. A heavy bottom helps as well since I am not always working on a flat surface or able to pay much attention to my pin cushion as my work needs my attention. A large, weighted cushion is very helpful in these situations. When I am working on something that I want particular pins for, be it fine, sharp pins or silk or color pins for marking, I like pin cushions with sorting areas or segments. This could be color sections of the fabric or sides of a cushion. The metal pin cushion to the right in the photo is good for this for me. In the modern world, it is my tomato stuck inside a small piece of pottery. When I am on the go, I want a little pin cushion I can deeply sink my pins into so they don’t go astray. The two ribbon pin cushions in the left of the photo are good for this.

*** For the upcoming Domestic Skill Conference at Genesee Country Village, I will be offering a pin cushion sampler class. ***

Looking for your own copy of Fanciful Utility? 

Click HERE to go ESC Publishing.

Remember to check out the special Anniversary kits on Etsy

Published in: on August 15, 2015 at 9:00 am  Comments (1)  

Fanciful Utility Anniversary – Printable

wpid-2015-08-14-10.03.46-1.jpg.jpegHere is a useful printable: Sewing needle packet labels.. These are scanned from antique packets in my collection I’ve included directions for the two ways these packets are folded as well as label and packet measurements.

Sewing Needle Labels to Print and Fill Your FanU Case

*note: These are direct scans. Some were on the packets angled.


wpid-2015-08-14-10.04.30-1.jpg.jpegEach of these packets can be made of black paper slightly lighter than writing paper and the label printed on white paper.

  • Print your labels on white printer paper. Cut them to the size indicated on the print out.
  • Cut the black paper using the dimensions accompanying each label – 3 times the width and 3 times the length. ie – if the folded packet is 1″x1.5″, cut the black paper 3″x4.5″
  • Fold the black paper in thirds lengthwise. Fold the paper in thirds width wise.
  • Looking at the placement chart and the notes with each label, glue the label in the corresponding location on the exterior. Use either a brush or small glue stick for the best control.
  • You can also cut a second piece of black paper, slightly smaller to fit inside the outer paper to help hold your needles.


Looking for your own copy of Fanciful Utility? 

Click HERE to go ESC Publishing.

Remember to check out the special Anniversary kits on Etsy

Published in: on August 14, 2015 at 9:00 am  Comments (2)  

Fanciful Utility “Fill Your Case” Anniversary Event

Today for the the “Fill Your Case” Event, I have some useful PDFs you can print and put in your sewing case.

Basic Sewing Booklet from Eliza Leslie’s Lady’s House-Book 1850Basic Sewing Booklet from Eliza Leslies Ladys House Book 1850

Mini Booklet Sewing GuideMini Booklet Gather Gauge Button Guide

Mini Booklet Gather Gauge Button GuideMini Booklet Basic SewingDirections for folding the two mini booklets:

Mini Booklet Directions images

Looking for your own copy of Fanciful Utility? 

Click HERE to go ESC Publishing.

Remember to check out the special Anniversary kits on Etsy

Published in: on August 13, 2015 at 5:00 pm  Comments (1)  

Fanciful Utility Anniversary – Q&A

Today, I am offering a Fanciful Utility Question and Answer session. You are welcome to ask your own questions in the comments section.

Where do I buy Fanciful Utility?

Fanciful Utility is available through the publisher, ESC Publishing at

You can also purchase Fanciful Utility in person at the Genesee Country Village and Museum ( We are considering additional select venues.

I Love Fanciful Utility! Do you have more projects I can make?

For all of you who have fallen in love with Fanciful Utility and the many projects inside, we offer FanU exclusive templates here on my blog and on ESC Publishing. I also offer FanU Workshop Exclusive projects. The templates we have shared over the last three years include:

A boot Boot Template

A button keep, aka “balloon bag”  Keep Ornament

An additional Sea Shell shell temp

A Tri-lobed Needle-book Tri-Lobed Needlebook Lizs template thumbnail

Two Christmas Ornaments 2014 12014 2

Do you do any Fanciful Utility Workshops?

IMG_7637Sewing Boxes 2Yes. I offer exclusive workshop projects that build on the Fanciful Utility projects. Current workshop options include a work pocket filled with pockets, that I call a “Pockets of Pockets”, the favorite French Sewing Boxes and a pin cushion sampler.

Can I sell things I make from Fanciful Utility?

The licensing rights related to Fanciful Utility do grant permission to make a limited number of items to sell as fundraisers for historic preservation or historic education. Otherwise, please give the projects you make from Fanciful Utility as gifts–you’ll delight the recipient!

Where do I look for inspiration for additional historic styles?

There are oodles of sewing cases in the online collections of historic sites and museums. I have pinned a great many of them on my Pinterest board “Fanciful Utility: Original Cases“. Take a look at those for one source of inspiration.

I also recommend visiting your local historical society and historic sites. They tend to have several sewing cases tucked away. They love to show off and share their collections.

Can I do a totally modern case with these techniques?

Of course! Combine the historic techniques with some of the great modern fabrics, “fussy-cutting”, and other textile art processes, and you can make some amazing, thoroughly modern accessories with very historic roots.

How much fabric do I need to make a sewing case?

One of the great things about Fanciful Utility sewing cases is that they use small pieces of fabric. You can easily tap into your scrap stash or stop in at your favorite fabric shop. At a shop, look for their fat quarters or, better yet, a remnant bin. When I buy fat quarters or larger remnants, there is more than enough to make a sewing box and have enough left to share.

The largest pieces you will need will be for the exterior of a case or for the box of a case if you want it to be all one piece. 5″x 12″ is plenty for either. Pieces as small as 2″x2″ can easily be used.

Looking for your own copy of Fanciful Utility? 

Click HERE to go ESC Publishing.

Remember to check out the special Anniversary kits on Etsy

Published in: on August 13, 2015 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Fanciful Utility Anniversary – A Look at the Tools

Today I am looking at the most common tools found in a sewing case.  (Most of these tools are available in the Anniversary kits on Etsy)

Whether called  work-boxes, sewing cases or work chests, these beloved boxes  house both essential practicality and heart-felt love.

Lucy took the heavy parcel in her own hands, and began to open the folds of brown paper, and at last she exclaimed, ‘Oh, how nice! how pretty! How glad I am to have a real large work-box of my own! Thank you, dear mamma. Such a beautiful red box, and a lock and key to it! and Lucy proceeded to examine the contents

There were rows of reels of cotton, scissors, thimble, bodkin, a yard measure that would wind and unwind in a pretty ivory case, needle-case, and pin-cushion.” (“Lucy’s Winter Birth-day” by Mrs. Russell Gray from An Irish Story,  Archie Mason ed. Edinburgh, 1869.)


From “The Last Essay of Celia: The Old Work-box” Foreign Quarterly Review, 1833.


Bodkins are found in many materials including wood, bone and metals. These are used to run ribbons or cords through channels of garments. They resemble a blunt needle with a large eye or eyes in the end. The end must be dull, not sharp, to protect the fabric and not snag.

You will require several bodkins of different sizes. The smoother they are, the better they run through the cases. Always get them with a knob at the end. Steel bodkins are more serviceable than those of gold or silver; but in buying steel ones, take care that they are not pewter; this you may ascertain by trying if they will bend. (Miss Leslie’s Lady’s House-book; A Manual of Domestic Economy, Eliza Leslie. Philadelphia, 1850.)

Stiletto (and Awl)

Stilettos are used pierce holes in fabric for eyelets and needlework such as white work. Stilettos can be bone or of several metals.  Early century dictionaries define stilettos as a small, unedged dagger with a sharp point.

The Boy's Book of Trades

The Boy’s Book of Trades

Awls seem to be more task oriented also for piercing holes in textiles as well as leather, some with wooden handles.


Most of us know what scissors are. I find I prefer to have a small and medium size pair of scissors at events and an assortment of large scissors at home.

You will find it necessary to have three pair of scissors; a large pair for cutting out things that are thick and heavy; a smaller pair for common use, and a very small pair for work that is nice and delicate. They should all be sharp-pointed. When your scissors begin to grow dull, have them ground at once. The cost will not exceed six cents for each pair, (even if ground at a surgical instrument shop.) and haggling with dull scissors is very uncomfortable work. (Miss Leslie’s Lady’s House-book; A Manual of Domestic Economy, Eliza Leslie. Philadelphia, 1850.)


Thimbles protect your finger(s) while you sew. Different thimbles aid in different ways depending on how you use them. Seamstresses tended to use the full cup thimbles most of us know, while tailors tended to use open end thimbles.

It is well to have always two thimbles, in case one chancing to be mislaid. When you find that a hole is worn in your thimble, give up the use of it; as it will catch the eyes of your needles and snap them off. (Miss Leslie’s Lady’s House-book; A Manual of Domestic Economy, Eliza Leslie. Philadelphia, 1850.)


You will want an assortment of needles in your sewing box suited to your work. I prefer having several sharps, several fine quilting needles that are good for silk, a couple embroidery needles and some strong just in case needles on hand in my box.

“In providing needles, short ones will generally be found most convenient, and their eyes should be rather large. Many of the needles that are put up in sorted quarters of a hundred are so small as to be of now possible use to anyone. Therefore, in buying needles, it is best to select for yourself. Have always some that are very large, for coarse strong purposes. When a needle breaks of bends, put it at once into the fire; for if thrown on the floor or out of the window, it may chance to run into the foot of someone.” (Miss Leslie’s Lady’s House-book; A Manual of Domestic Economy, Eliza Leslie. Philadelphia, 1850.)

The Illustrated Girl's Own Treasury.

The Illustrated Girl’s Own Treasury.


“It is well to get at least a dozen cotton spools at a time, that you may have always at hand the different gradations of coarse to fine. The fine spools of coloured cottons are far better for many purposes than bad sewing silk; but coloured sewing cottons should only be used for things that are never to be washed, as it always fades after being in water. Mourning chintz should on no account be sewed with black cotton as it will run when wet, and stain the seams. …. Keep always brown thread in the house; also hanks of gray, white, and black worsted, for darning winter stockings; and slack twisted cotton, and strong floss silk, for repairing other stockings.” (Miss Leslie’s Lady’s House-book; A Manual of Domestic Economy, Eliza Leslie. Philadelphia, 1850.)


Thread winders

Thread winders are small, flat objects used for carrying smaller amounts of thread. They came/come in mother of pearl, wood, bone, silver, pasteboard, horn and other materials. The most common are circles with notches or plus signs, but they have come in a very wide variety of shapes including fish and animals.


Pincushions came in a very wide variety suited to the user’s needs and preference. I’ll be talking more about pincushions in a few days.

Measures & Flat rule

Two measures you will find most helpful in your sewing box will be a short measuring stick and a tape measure. When I am doing millinery, I have an 8 1/2″ rule. While I am working on smaller sewing, a shorter rule is nice.

Tapes can be simple hand inked tapes or more decorative pieces that roll into wooden or horn holders.


A piece of white wax, for rubbing on a needleful of sewing silk to strengthen it, is a most useful little article;  (Miss Leslie’s Lady’s House-book; A Manual of Domestic Economy, Eliza Leslie. Philadelphia, 1850.)

Other tools:

Pencil & Small Notebook – A simple pencil for marking or taking notes is always helpful.

The Boy's Book of Trades

The Boy’s Book of Trades

Chalk “a small box of prepared chalk, to dip the fingers in when the weather is warm and the hands damp” (Miss Leslie’s Lady’s House-book.)

Emory bag – “Those that are made for sale have generally so little emery in them, that they are soon found to be useless. It is best to make your own emery-bags; buying the emery yourself at a druggist’s, or at an hardware store.” (Miss Leslie’s Lady’s House-book.)

Sewing Brick – “We highly recommend a brick pincushion, as an important article of convenience when sewing long seams, running breadths, or hemming ruffles. It is too heavy to overset, and far superior to a screw pincushion.” (Miss Leslie’s Lady’s House-book.)

Weights – Also a weighted pincushion. “A smaller pincushion [than the above sewing brick] may be made in a similar manner, substituting a square block of wood.”(Miss Leslie’s Lady’s House-book.)

Find all the quotes from Miss Leslie above and more in this printable pdf booklet.

For further information:

The Lady’s Dictionary of Needlework, 1856

Treasures in Needlework, 1855

The Ladies’ Complete Guide…., 1854

The Hand-book of Needlework, 1842

A Period Workboxby Christian de Holacombe and Michaela de Neuville

What is in Your Sewing Box?

Looking for your own copy of Fanciful Utility? 

Click HERE to go ESC Publishing.

Remember to check out the special Anniversary kits on Etsy

Published in: on August 12, 2015 at 9:00 am  Comments (1)  

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