Adding Some Bling

Actually, wearing and making jewelry were never really my thing. But, since I am into historical costuming, I realized that the ladies of “my” eras really loved their bling. And that changed my mind. Now I really love the look of historical and historically inspired jewelry. Since my costuming budget is somewhat tight until further notice, I can only dream about buying pieces from one of the many talented makers of historical jewelry out there. Hopefully, one day I can support those wonderful people with a purchase.

Until then I had to find a way to make do and started looking around YouTube for some simple jewelry making tutorials. It all looked very complicated to beginner me but eventually I decided to give it a try. Then, some months ago, the only jewelry supply nearby was turned into an outlet store with 50% off everything. That motivated me to try and make some simple bling to go with my costumes. And this are the results so far:

The first I made was the string of corals and matching earrings from some beads I had bought ages ago. This was my first pearl knotting project and it got me hooked. The corals had teeny tiny holes and I probably swore a lot as I fiddled around with my extra fine pearl needle. But in the end, I was very happy with the finished mini parure. I am looking forward to wearing it with my Regency attire. :D

A knotted coral mini “parure”.

Next, I made a sweetwater pearl necklace for the Historical Sew Monthly’s “Fastenings” challenge. Knotting these pearls went much faster. As with the corals I used matching linen twine, finished with clear nail polish.

Knotting away…

The necklace closes with 12″ ribbon ties, sewn through two pretty cast metal rings. Because I am a chicken about losing it, I added a detachable hook underneath. The finished thing makes me really happy. And the best part, neither of the two pearl necklaces cost more than €15 to make.

The finished pearl necklace.

Last week I found two matching fayx pearl drops which I just had to tearn into ear hangers. Now I am all set to wear some sparkle with my 17th-century outfits as well.

Matching pearl drops!

Slowly this is becoming a somewhat addictive side hobby. When I last went past the jewelry store, I discovered they had some pre-made collets, and they were pink! So I simply could not say no to them. It took about two hours to attach all the split rings. The finished collet necklace is more historical-ish.

My first collet necklace, sort of. ;)

Now I am pondering to make a matching bracelet, just in case I need something nice to wear with Regency full dress. And I do not even have a full dress ensemble completed yet. Oops. Looks like my inner Gollum put the cart before the horse. My precious… LOL

But now I have the best excuse to start planning for a new bib-front gown to match the bling. ;)

Nessa

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Regency Apron Research

I did it again! I finished a project without writing all the blog posts first. So now seems a good time to unravel the planning behind the Regency apron I just finished for the Historical Sew Monthly.

Some of you may still remember my Regency half apron from 2016. Now I wanted one that covers the top of the dress, too, because that is where I usually dirty myself. ;) To get inspired, I had a quick browse through the full apron styles and colours popular in the Regency era. That was the perfect excuse to look through one of my favourite collections of period fashion plates, the “Costumes d’ouvriéres parisiennes” by Georges-Jacques Gatine and Louis-Marie Lanté, published in 1824. You can view it here on Gallica.

The first thing I noticed was the range of different colours. Black was very fashionable, because hey, it hides most stains. It’s for a similar reason that 18th-century surgeons turned to blue aprons. (See this post by Susan Holloway Scott). Of course, there was lots of white around, too. From my research into the other apron, I already knew about rosy and powder pink being fashionable. But that did not prepare me for this very flashy purple. Just wow. And the one below is not the only example in the collection.

Earthenware seller, in a stunning purple apron, c. 1824.

Beyond the high-waist half aprons, like the one above, there is one rare example of a pinner apron among the plates. Offhand, I could not think of an extant one in this style.

Dairywoman wearing a pinner apron, c.1824.

Much more widespread were bib aprons with narrow shoulder straps, at least based on how many there are in these fashion plates alone. Here are two examples, one black and one white.

A hatter, in a black, strapped apron, c. 1824.

Chamber maid, with a back view of the shoulder straps, c. 1824. See how they are angled?

Sabine made a beautiful repriduction of such a strapped apron. On her blog, I saw a different strap style, too, which makes the apron look a bit like a pinafore, or smock. I still wonder which parlor game these ladies might be playing, too.

Apron with wide straps, Le Bon Genre, Plate 89, June 1816, British Museum.

This made me think a bit, since shoulder straps are my known enemy, in historical and modern clothes. As a lady with sloping shoulders, I could really use a smock-style to keep those straps from slipping. That is why I have been ogling this Russian folkwear apron at the Met for quite some time now. It has a nearly full bodice in the back. But that style is not really documentable for general Regency fashion.

Russian apron, 19th century, Metropolitan Museum, New York.

But then I found this beautiful smock apron in the Colonial Williamsburg collection, and I fell in love! It dates between 1800 and 1820 and is made from blue-white checked linen tabby.

Checked high-waist apron, c.1800-20, Colonial Williamsburg, Accesion No. 1995-33.

In New England, blue and white checks were quite common for aprons, as was the high-waisted smock style. Kitty Calash wrote a wonderful research post on surviving examples and the provenance of checked linens. She also made one for herself.

This became the main inspiration for my own apron. As time was short (yay for short-term sewing projects), I went out to get some checked fabric and settled for a printed cotton tabby. When I found a yarn-dyed variety, known as “zephyr cloth” here, halfway through sewing the thing, I was a bit annoyed with my planning skills. Oh well, next time. One can never have enough aprons, right?

Nessa

Binding That Hairpin Turn

The holidays are coming with giant steps. In between the preparations (boo!) and the gift sewing (yay!), I want to share a mini-tutorial on how to bind narrow hairpin turns. Perhaps some of you are planning to make 18th-century pockets or stays with tabs over the holidays. :)

When it comes down to binding them, the narrow curves are definitely not the most fun part to sew. And in the sewing groups, requests for binding advice are very popular. So I hope these tips will come in useful. They are based off Cathy Hay’s wonderful binding article. It also covers other binding issues, such as corners, and is definitively worth a read.

Now I will show you how it is done on the center opening of my Georgian pockets. Once you know how it is done, it goes pretty quickly.

The first thing to do is to mark three points with chalk or a fabric pen, one at the beginning and end of your hairpin curve and a third one at the center of the curve. They should be as far away from the edge as the portion of your binding that will be folded over. For example, I used 1″ bias tape, so I placed the marks 1/4″ from the edge. If you like, you can connect your marks with a curvy line. It can help you to shape the curve later on.

In the next step, pin on your unfolded binding tape and sew up to the points where your curve starts, as you normally would. I used a regular running stitch for this bit.

Sew the straight edges, then fold up the binding, attach and sew around the curve.

Now, fold up your tape. Find the center of the piece that is still hanging free. Place this center point against your center mark as shown in the photo above. The fold should be against it. Pin down. Then mold the rest of the binding around the curve in the same way, until it lies pucker-free and even. Pin everything down.

The “ladder stitch”.

To sew down the binding, we will be using the “ladder stitch”. For this technique, take the needle through small bits of the tape and the fabric, alternating between the two. Your new stitch should always go in parallel to where your previous stitch came out. Hopefully this makes sense. Also see the photo for a visual! :)

When you have attached one side of the binding, bring it around to the other side. Repeat the previous steps. Only this time, you will sew on the folded edges. This is done with a slip stitch. Around the curve, you can stick with the slip stitch or opt for the ladder stitch again. I choose this method when the hairpin turn is very narrow. Otherwise, slip stitching works fine.

Slip-stich the folded edges to the opposite side, and done.

And that is all there is to binding hairpin turns. For a look at the finished pair of pockets, go here.

I learned that most binding jobs look somewhat scary at first, but the more often you do it, the better it goes. I sewed the pockets after tackling the gazillion curves and whatnots on my stays. After that, the pockets felt easy. And the binding came together almost without swearing. Almost…

Hopefully these tips have encouraged you to go forth and work on some binding. If you have any more questions, please let me know! I will do my best to answer them. :)

Nessa

Little Project Show & Tell

There have been a lot of little projects going on lately. They are too small to write a blog post about each. So I thought to give it a go and sum them all up in a single post. If it works out well, I might do this more often to fill the gaps between bigger project updates. So here come my three current mini projects.

First I have been working on two small, tuckable fichus with bobbin lace trim. They are much like the one I wore to the market last year, simple triangles that are about 20″ high and 40″ wide at the bottom. The first one is all finished and I am about to start on the second one.

Making cotton voile fichus. One down, one to go.

What I just finished is a length of gold trim for my prospective 1630s gown. It is a simple square knot macramé pattern, worked in cotton and lurex cord. It was a lucky find in the Christmas section at the one-euro store. Out of 6 yards of cord, I got 30″ of trim. Since I am working in increments, to have manageable bits of cord, working through it all will take some time. Hopefully I will have enough trim in time for the finished gown. ;)

Macramé gold trim in the making.

The other project I have just started is a small crewel embroidery piece. When it is done, it will be a sweetbag. I found the pattern on Amie Sparrow’s blog. She has copied some gorgeous 16th-century patterns and made them available for personal use.

Ready for the embroidery on the sweetbag.

Right now, I cannot share too much about this project, because it will be a surprise for a friend. So shh… ;)

And these are the projects keeping me busy at the moment. What are your current projects? I would love to hear about them! :)

Nessa

Stumbling into a Georgian Room

Last week, I went to visit a local museum, the Behnhaus-Drägerhaus in Lübeck. It is an amazing place that has been there all my life. Set up in two Georgian townhouses, it combines displays of 18th, 19th and 20th-century art with period rooms that are filled with Georgian and Regency furniture. The experience was very immersive as I went there on a quiet weekday. It left me puzzled why I had not come here before.

At the museum two surprises awaited me. One, this painting with a very interesting suggestion for accessorizing my new crossover gown. Just look at that frilly, ruffly chemisette…

Portrait of Henriette von Heintze with her children by Friedrich C. Gröger, c. 1803.

The second surprise was almost a bit out of this world. I found it on the top floor of the museum. Compared to the other two floors, it was almost empty. There was some minor construction work going on but it was open to the public. So I snuck up there. At least it felt like that way… up the historical staircase that got steeper the higher it went. If ever I had experienced the stairs servants had climbed to get to their part of the house, it was here. Once upstairs, I walked into an empty room…

… a Georgian room! It was labeled as the guests’ parlour and breakfast room. Like many others in the museum, it still had the original panelling, stucco and wall paintings that have been restored very well. The creaky wooden boards added to the experience. All that was newer, was the electrical lamp that should date to the early 20th century.

Just being in there left me breathless. I stood there for a good minute, gawping and wondering. Then I sort of started decorating it with period furnishings from plates in Ackermann’s Repository before my mind’s eye. This experience was as strange as it was amazing.

I should visit this special place more often. Maybe, next time, I can come back in costume.

Nessa

My Own Georgian Pockets

After delving into the wonderful world of extant Georgian pockets in my last post, I have finally finished my own pair. Yay! They got done just in time for the Historical Sew Monthly’s “Inspiration” challenge next month. My inspiration were these cute patchwork pockets made by The Young Sewphisticate. For the pattern, I went with an extant pocket from Costume Close Up. I shortened it to 12″, so the pockets would not bump into my knees. Short girl problems. ;)

The finished pockets.

The left pocket is patchworked with fabric bits from my stash and quilted in a simple diamond pattern. For the binding, I used some leftover double-fold bias tape. Instead of pins, I used wonder clips. They worked like a charm!

Binding the quilted pocket.

For the pocket on the right I bought a fat quarter of block-printed cotton. Up close, the off-white base looks almost like nankeen, so it worked wonderfully. I would have loved to get more for a dress; only the store no longer sold it by the yard… bummer.

The second pocket, looking cute.

The binding on this one is made out of scraps left over from my shortgown. On the bias, the brown and white checks get a whole new look. For the top edge, I went back to the green tape, to turn my pockets into a proper pair.

The halfway bound pocket.

The trickiest part about making the pockets was to neatly bind the slits. It is a popular topic for questions on the costume groups, too. So I will talk about it a little more in a separate post. For now, I will go and put the finishing touches on my stays. They have to get done in time for this month’s HSM. So much for setting priorities… LOL!

Cheers, Nessa

Georgian Pockets Galore!

As autumn is finally here and we are about to spend more time indoors, enjoying our needlework, period movies or a good book over a nice cup of tea, I thought it was time for a picture post. In line with my current project for the HSM “Inspiration” challenge I have put together a little collection of extant Georgian pockets to marvel at.

Now you might say: “Wait, wasn’t she working on a 17th-century costume and what about her usual Regency stuff? Why is she getting side-tracked by pockets?” Well, here is the thing: I am one of those people whose handbag is always full of little bits and bobs in modern life. At events this has proven tricky in the past. No Regency reticule can hold all my stuff. Alternatively I brought along a lidded wicker basket or a nondescript cloth carrier bag.  It worked but was not the most period accurate solution.

Then I remembered Georgian pockets. They were still around in the early Regency era which I love so much. And since my new crossover gown has a drop front with deep plackets, pockets wear easily undeneath. The next consideration was what to do for my 17th-century costume. This was what initially made me research pockets. Sources often say that ladies wore them between the mid-17th and 19th centuries. Since my gown dates earlier than this, I wondered what had gone before pockets as we know them.  And I found the saccoccia, a belt pocket worn in Renaissance Italy. It had roughly the same shape but was worn outside the skirt more often. For more details on the saccoccia, I recommend this in-depth post by Anéa Costume.

For now, Georgian pockets will be my fix-all solution for both periods. Knowing my 17th-century persona, she would be cheeky and inventive enough to stick the pockets under her skirt, even before 1650. But now, I will just stop rambling and show you all these pretty pictures!

When we think of pockets, we often picture those amazing little works of hand embroidery some ladies have put on theirs. Like these ones here:

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Pair of embroidered linen pockets, mid-1700s, Worthing Museum and Art Gallery.

Equally gorgeous is this quilted and embroidered pair, featuring a shepherdess:

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Embroidered and quilted linen pocket, with silk binding, early 18th century, MFA Boston.

To make suck pockets, the design was stitched onto an uncut piece of fabric which was later cut and lined to protect the back of the work. Here is a set of stunning, nearly finished pocket fronts held at the V&A:

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Pair of pocket front, embroidered by Hannah Haines, c. 1718-20, Victoria & Albert Museum.

But, even in the old days, not every lady was a super-skilled embroiderer. Pockets were a welcome canvas to practice not-yet-so-perfect needlework skills. This is why I am in love with this one from the early 1800s.

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Embroidered wool twill pocket, c. 1807-15, Winterthur Museum.

As seen above, another technique used to embellish ladies’ pockets was quilting. Sometimes it was done in white thread on simple white pockets. And, simple as it may sound, the results look absolutely stunning:

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Quilted linen pocket, c. 1760-75, Victoria & Albert Museum.

Also often associated with quilting, is patchwork, which was extremely popular with pockets, too. Examples come in many shapes and sizes. There is patchwork with bigger squares….

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Patchwork pocket from New England, c. 1800-10, Winterthur Museum.

… patchwork with tiny squares…

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Pocket, early or mid-19th century, Royal School of Needlework.

… beautifully designed patchwork…

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Patchwork pocket, New England, 18th century, MFA Boston.

… or patchwork with applique.

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Pieced and appliqued pocket, American, late 18th or early 19th century, auctioned by Crocker Farm.

So pockets were definitely a way to use up all your beautiful fabric leftovers. But sometimes they were also made of one single piece of beautiful fabric, often printed cotton calico:

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Pocket made from block-printed calico, English, c. 1720-30, Winterthur Museum.

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Cotton calico pocket, early 1800s, Manchester City Galleries.

And the print fabrics used were not all white, either. Look at this pink pocket with autumn leaves:

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Cotton pocket, late 18th or early 19th century, private collection.

There are a lot more stunning and intriguing examples out there. This is just a small selection to fire up your pocket imagination. Maybe now you are going to make your own on one of those long evenings to come. I am currently working on my second pocket and have become a tad addicted. :)

Yours,  Nessa

Open Seams with Herringbone Stitch -A Tutorial

While making my herringboned fichu, I realized it was about time to post a new tutorial. So I thought I would show you how I made the open seam at the back.

Open back seam on my fichu.

Open work is something I had always wanted to learn, because it never fails to look delicate, wherever you put it. But, so far, I have not found a go-to tutorial for it. When making the 18th-century baby caps for my cousins, I tried my hand at fagotting. It is very similar to what I did on the fichu, only with a more complicated stitch. I could not really wrap my head around it and eventually opted for a basic whipstitch finish.

Then I remembered that herringbone stitch can also be used for open work. And here we have it, simple and pretty. If you have not seen herringbone stitch before, here is a very good video tutorial. We will be doing just the same to create the open seam. The only difference will be the gap between the two stitch lines.

Now that you have familiarized yourselves with the stitch… off we go!

You will need:

  • The two pieces you want to join.
  • A thread of your choice. You can match it or just go wild with colours. Sewing thread might be too thin. What works well are fillet crochet yarn (no. 80 or 100), silk buttonhole or one to two strands of embroidery floss.
  • A matching needle. For best results, it should be smallish and sharp.
  • A piece or strip of paper as long as your fabric edge. It need not be wider than 1″.
  • A cushion to anchor your work. A small sofa cushion or throw pillow will do.
  • Pins.
  • A ruler and pencil.

How it is done:

  1. Finish your fabric edges. Before you start, the two edges you are stitching over need to be hemmed. Hemming any other edges is advisable, though, especially if your fabric is on the sheer side. Narrow hand-rolled hems work well. You can use them to get some extra stability for your seam (see below).

    Make a paper template for the seam.

  2. Use your paper and pencil to make a template. Basically you draw two parallel lines, each one as long as your fabric edges. The space between the lines should be between 1/4″ to 1/8″. For the tutorial I started with 1/2″, but eventually went with 1/4″ for the fichu.

    Pin the template to the cushion.

  3. Secure the template on the cushion with pins. Make sure it lies flat.

    Pin the fabric pieces on top.

  4. Now pin your fabric pieces onto the cushion. Match the fabric edges you are working on with the lines on the template.

    Bring up the thread and start stitching.

  5. Thread your needle. If you have wax to hand, waxing the thread is a good idea. Now bring your needle underneath the hem on the back of your fabric and bury the knot between the layers. Then bring the needle to the front. It should come up at the top edge of one piece, a little ways away from the working edge.
    NB: If you have a rolled hem, come up right at the inner edge of it. Working the herringbone over the hems will help stabilize the stitch.

    And stitch away!

  6. Work the herringbone stitch between the edges until your seam is done. Try to keep an even tension to avoid puckering or loose stitches.Take the needle to the back to finish off.
  7. When you reach the end of the seam, take your needle to the back, coming up on the hem.

    Knot the thread and bury the tail.

  8. Knot off the thread and bury the tail between the layers at the hem. And, tadah, your open seam is all done!

    Your finished open work seam. Yay!

And that is it already. Easy, right? The next level would be to use a double herringbone stitch instead. Here is a video tutorial for that one. Try not to get dizzy. I still do sometimes! ;) 

I hope you found this brief tutorial useful. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to let me know. I cannot wait to see your own, beautiful open work creations!

Nessa

A Percale Crossover Gown (CoBloWriMo #29)

The CoBloWriMo prompt for today is “Ensemble”. It made me realize that I have not yet shown you my new crossover Regency gown. The gown will be the base for future ensembles. I have plans to make a sleeveless bodice and an open robe to have different options for topping it off.

When doing some research I found that there are much fewer surviving crossover gowns than other styles. Here is a pretty golden one. Have a look at the apron front closure which is pinned over a bodice extension. My gown closes in the exact same way. :)

Regency crossover gown, c. 1810-20 (Source: Vintagetextile.com).

View of the apron front closure (Source: Vintagetextile.com).

In fashion plates and paintings, there are a few more representations of crossover gowns. Date-wise, different crossover styles were especially “en vogue” in the late 1790s and then again in the mid-late 1810s. Below you can see two plates, one from each decade. The first is a crossover round gown and the second a French percale gown.

Plate of a crossover round gown, c. 1798.

Robe de Percale, Costume Parisien, c. 1816.

Speaking of percale… When I found this plate, my heart leapt a little. The fabric I used for my gown is also a percale! I realized as much after first blogging about it here. Only my gown is much plainer and does not have such a delicious vandyke trim. In fact, I did not yet trim it at all. Perhaps a ruffle or two will magically appear, once I know what the rest of the ensemble will look like. ;)

Here is the finished crossover gown. I made it using the Laughing Moon crossover gown, tunic and pelisse pattern. The fabric is a woven check cotton percale. After the photoshoot did not go ahead as planned, there are still no photos of me wearing it. So, for now, the dressform will have to do the job.

The finished crossover gown.

The back view. I made the skirt without the optional train.

The side view. The gown has a very “Regency-esque” silhouette, even without underpinnings.

A closer look at the crossover front. You can see where the skirt ties over the bodice.

I am glad to finally share this with you. After the first fitting, I already know that it wears pretty well. Here is hoping that I can finally take it for a stroll soon. :)

Cheers, Nessa

An Extant 18th-Century Fichu…

In the last post, I mentioned a surprise Christmas present that reached me this spring. It is one of the most amazing gifts a historical costumer could ever get…. an extant piece of clothing.

In my case, it is an extant fichu with gorgeous lace edging. The friend who gifted me this amazing item had obtained it from the collection of a mutual friend who has been a collector of historical lace items for decades with great dedication. Needless to say, when I unwrapped the box, I nearly fell off my chair…

The fichu is made of fine white silk, the weight of a pongé, but with a much softer hand. The lace edge is a handmade Mechlin lace which is attached over an itty bitty rolled hem. Judging from the style and shape, it dates to the mid-18th century. (Just wow!) For its age, it is in nearly immaculate condition, minus a few age spots here an there. Needless to say I am still shaking with awe when I hold it in my hands now.I store it very carefully in an acid-free paper box and most of the time I only touch it with gloves. Though sometimes, I just have to stroke the light, smooth silk it is made of. Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure. Below I have added some information about Mechlin lace, since it is a special kind of lace really worth looking into.

 If you would like to share the watermarked images in a community or on your page, you are absolutely free to do so. It would be great if this wonderful piece got some exposure.
Just I would kindly ask you to let me know and refer back to this post if you share.
Thank you!

And now, enjoy this pretty sight! :)

And here are a few facts about Mechlin lace for you: It is a bobbin lace that was popular from the late 17th until the early 20th century. This type of lace, also known as “point de Malin” is named after the Flemish town of Mechelen in Belgium, although it was also produced in Brussels and Antwerp. Historically, the Mechlin designs originated from Brabant lace. Generally, the name describes straight lace with continuous patterns. It is also very light and was often considered especially suitable for summer wear.

When I looked at the fichu for the first time, I thought I was dealing with tulle lace because of the super firm ground that feels almost like crinoline net. But this firm, hexagonal net, also known as the “réseau” is actually a typical feature of Mechlin. After the Industrial Revolution it was reproduced by machine, under the name Mechlin net. The lace was popular with the nobility. Especially Queen Anne of England was a big fan. This eventually led to the lifting of the import ban on lace to 18th-century England.

Drawing of the Mechlin net structure (réseau). Source: Wikipedia.

This article from the Lace Lover’s Diary offers some extra information and pictures of more extant laces from different centuries. The Wikipedia article I linked above is also quite informative and has some nice pictures, too. :)

While you enjoy this lovely fichu, I will sneak off on summer holiday for the rest of July. When I have time I might try to join this year’s CoBloWriMo (Costume Blog Writing Month) in August to get out some long overdue posts to you. Wishing all of you a great weekend, whether you are at Costume College or just enjoying some downtime.

 

Love, Nessa

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