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Bramaking: Tips & Tricks I’ve Learned Along the Way

28 Aug

bra making

Since I started my bra making adventure nearly a year ago (woah, has it really been that long??), I’ve picked up a few tips along the way, as well as figured out a handful of shortcuts myself. This post has been a long time coming, and I’m not really sure why it’s taken me ages to get it all written out – but better late than never, yeah? :) I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on lingerie making (I’ll leave that title to people like Norma, Maddie, and Amy), but I’ve made enough to figure out a general idea of what does and doesn’t work, as well as navigate the really confusing parts that can confuse a beginner (like me!). Anyway, I hope some of y’all novice and afraid-to-dive-in-just-yet bra makers find this useful!

The first thing I want to address in this post is all those weird little notions and bits that you need to collect in order to make a proper bra. There are tons of places where you can basically pay someone to source all that stuff for you (kits I’ve used and loved: Bra Makers Supply, Grey’s Fabrics, Blackbird Fabrics. Obviously there are TONS more out there, those are just the ones I’ve personally tried!), which is pretty awesome and definitely what I recommend for at least your first couple of bras. The only thing I found confusing with the kits (at first, anyway) was that they don’t really tell you which elastic is for what. Further, while the pattern will tell you what materials to buy – it can be hard to visualize how everything goes together if you haven’t actually sewn up a bra before. I know I had a hard time wrapping my head around all that info at first! So I’ve made a couple ~findings guides~ of some of the more popular bra patterns, pointing to each notion so you can get an idea of where they go on the finished bra. I know some of these labels are a bit “No shit, Sherlock” (such as where the hook & eye go – haha!), but, whatever. No finding left behind blah blah blah.

bramaking - boylston findings guide

Boylston bra pattern // my polkadot Boylston bra

bramaking - marlborough findings guide

Marlborough bra pattern // my floral/lace Marlborough bra

bramaking - watson findings guide

Watson soft bra & bikini pattern // my #starwatch Watson bra

Some additional notes on elastics:

  • Kit sizes: You may have noticed that some kits come in sizes Small and Large. This took me a while to completely understand – but the difference in kit sizes have nothing to do with the amount of fabric included (or, maybe they do, but it’s not something I’ve noticed). It’s more so whether you need the wider elastics and 3 row hook & eye, or narrower elastics and 2 row hook & eye. *Generally* speaking, sizes D and above require the large kit, and sizes C and below use a small kit. That being said, it’s up to your personal preferences – I wear a DD, but I’m perfectly comfortable in a small kit (keep in mind that I’m a small DD, so a small kit won’t really work for the super blessed/endowed. My ~ideal kit~ has the narrower elastics, 1/2″-5/8″ strapping, and 3 row hook & eye). Some people prefer the look of the narrower elastics, and some people like the security of the wider findings. Your bra, your choice :) But anyway, point being – when in doubt of kit size, choose based on your cup size!
  • Elastic width: Most patterns will include this information with the fabric/elastic requirements. Generally speaking, you want the wider elastic for the bottom band (so, depending on cup size – this is usually 1/2″ to 3/4″) and the narrower elastic for the underarm and/or top of the cup (that’s the 3/8″ to 1/2″, sometimes 1/4″). Like I said, I like the narrower elastics personally for me, but feel free to play around with widths if you aren’t feeling the pattern suggestion. The pattern you sew will be drafted for that width of elastic and hook & eye, so if you change the width too much, you’ll need to adjust accordingly.
  • Type of elastic: Ideally, you want to use plush-back elastic for all your lingerie sewing. This type of elastic has a wrong side that is slightly fuzzy (hence the name) and is intended to be soft against the skin. Of course, you can use any pretty lace edged elastic and/or stretch lace, but bear in mind that anything without the plush back may not be super comfortable to wear.
  • Bra strapping / rings & sliders : This is going to sound really fucking obvious, but make sure you buy the right rings & sliders to correspond with your strapping! I did not even think of this when I was going crazy buying bra notions, but those suckers need to match in width or they’ll look stupid (or be too tight to slide). Same as with the elastics, strap width is determined by cup size. Wider straps will give you more support, so if you’re rockin’ the DD and up, you probably don’t want to use 3/8″ strapping.

And while we’re talking about kits, the fabric can also be a little confusing! What pattern piece gets cut out of which fabric?

  • Main fabric: Totally dependent on bra pattern, of course, but generally you’ll cut the cups, bridge and frame out of the main fabric. The grainline on the pattern indicates the direction of greatest stretch on the fabric. Give the fabric a pull to figure out what that is. It might not be the same as what we consider to be the grainline when sewing normal clothes.
  • Lining fabric (tricot): For most patterns, this is used the stabilize the bridge. You can also use lining fabric to line the cups, if you so desire.
  • Powernet: Use this to cut your back band. You can also line with powernet, if your main fabric is a little bit too stretchy for the pattern. You can *also* use powernet to line the bridge, if you don’t have lining fabric on hand. Powernet is awesome!
  • Lace: Usually just the upper cup of the pattern. If you want to cut the entire cup, you may need to line or stabilize it (with the lining or powernet) if it’s too stretchy. For any flatlining, I like to temporarily baste the pieces together with a spray adhesive and then handle them as one (a tip I learned from Maddie).

Now I’m going to share with you my favorite PROTIPS for actually assembling the whole thing together. bramaking - pinning curvesPROTIP #1: Pinning

I know, the urge to pin the everloving shit out of every single piece runs strong and true. But bramaking is a little different, and you gotta fight those urges. Especially when you are sewing a convex curve to a concave curve, it’s actually easier to do if you don’t have to navigate an army of pins along the way. I pin the beginning and end of the seam, and any notches/seamlines that need to match. Also, try sewing with the bigger piece (the convex curve) on the bottom layer. The feed dogs of your sewing machine will help ease it in to the smaller curve.

bramaking - securing stitchPROTIP #2: Starting & stopping, part 1

One of the things I find the most difficult about sewing lingerie is beginning and ending those teeny little pieces with their itty bitty seam allowances. It’s hard enough trying to cram everything under the foot and get it going without having the machine eat it, but then you have to worry about backtacking each end as well. And this really isn’t a step you can’t skip, because you don’t want your seams to unravel when you start handling them. My solution is to use the “securing stitch.” This might have a different name, depending on your machine (and those of y’all who are using mechanical machines – sorry! You can’t sit with us). Essentially, it automatically backtacks a few stitches at both the beginning and end of each seam. Every machine is different, so you may want to pull our your user manual for this one – but on my Bernina, to backtack the end, you just hit the reverse button and it does it automatically (the beginning starts the seam with a backtack). It’s been a total lifesaver for me and my seams are always secure as a result. bramaking - needle downPROTIP #3: Starting & stopping, part 2

Another thing to use if your machine has the capabilities (again, those of y’all with the mechanical machines – YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US) (just kidding ilu use the handwheel for this) – the needle down button! OMG this is forreal the #1 reason why I own a computerized machine. I just hit this button before I start sewing, and every time I take my foot off the pedal, the needle automatically goes down and stays there. It’s brilliant for readjusting layers or turning corners, and you stitch line won’t go wonky from stopping in the middle. I actually use this button for most of my sewing, not just exclusively to bramaking.

bramaking - starting the seamPROTIP #4: Starting & stopping, part 3

Back on the subject of tiny seam allowances and hungry feed dogs. The easiest way to keep your fabric from getting sucked down into the machine at the beginning of a seam is to grab both thread tails and *gently* pull as you start sewing the first couple of stitches. This is especially important if you’re using the securing stitch – once it’s done securing, you can let the tails go and sew on with your life. Don’t pull the tails too hard, just gently guide them to prevent the fabric from getting jammed down into the machine, and make sure you catch the tails for both the bobbin and the needle (for some reason, it looks like I’m only holding one in the above picture, wtf). This is a good tip for working with slinky fabrics, too, even if you’re not making a bra.

bramaking - 1/4PROTIP #5: Keeping 1/4″ seam allowances

Most lingerie patterns have teeny little 1/4″ seam allowances, which can be kind of hard to keep consistent. Unfortunately, you REALLY can’t fudge this one because it can drastically alter the size of the finished bra if you’re not careful. My solution to this was to buy a special foot with a 1/4″ guide. It is the best thing ever. It’s also useful for topstitching (especially jeans!) and making the most adorable and perfect little 1/4″ French seams.

bramaking - using 1/4Here it is in action. The dull blade runs against the raw edge of the fabric, keeping the needle exactly 1/4″ from the edge. bramaking - 1/4And here is my finished seam. Ah! Perfectly 1/4″ from the edge, every time. Ooh, see my backtacking, too? Thanks, securing stitch!

bramaking- edgestitching footPROTIP #6: Perfect topstitching This is my secret weapon for topstitching, lingerie or not. It’s a special foot and it’s called the edgestitching foot. Besides the 1/4″ foot, it’s the best thing ever. You can also use it to understitch and stitch in the ditch, with little to no tears of frustration and/or wonky stitch lines.bramaking - edgestitching/topstitchingHere it is in action. The dull blade goes right in the center, and you can move the needle either right or left as needed. If you keep the blade against your seamline and move the needle all the way to one side, you’ll end up with a perfect 1/8″ topstitching line. I find this easier than trying to line up part of my foot with the seamline; for whatever reason, shit always goes wonky when I try to do that.

bramaking - topstitched seamHere is the finished topstitching. One thing to note – I don’t backtack my topstitching if it’s going to intersect with another piece. I only backtack construction seams (otherwise they’ll pull apart at the ends). Since I use a different stitch for each of these steps, that means I can keep my settings saved for each step and just flip between stitches. Which is super handy, because that means I don’t need to re-enter all my preferences each time I move from constructing to topstitching. I use stitch #1 for topstitching (with a slightly longer stitch length and the needle moved all the way to one side), and stitch #5 for constructing. bramaking - duckbill/applique shearsPROTIP #7: Trimming
Always trim seam allowances before flipping down elastic for the final topstitching. Some patterns tell you to do this, some don’t. I find it looks a lot cleaner (and it easier to handle in general) if the seam allowances aren’t flapping around while you’re trying to finagle a good zigzag topstitch. I also like to trim my seam allowances under the wire casing as well. You can use any ol’ scissors to do this, but I like using duckbill applique scissors. The way they are constructed makes trimming down seam allowances almost foolproof and you’re less likely to cut a hole in the seam allowance that you’re trying to avoid. These scissors are awesome for non-bra things, too (I bought them looong before I got into sewing lingerie) – coat making, grading seam allowances, applique. They also look kind of crazy and I like that a lot.

Ok, I think that’s enough for one post! I hope y’all find these tips useful and that it encourages you to start that bra making journey if you were considering it! To me, it’s one of those learning experiences that seems really intimidating until you actually start doing it – kind of like learning how to drive a standard transmission (and just like driving a standard, once you learn – it’s REALLY hard to stop doing it! Well, for me, anyway. I think it’s fun!).

I know I only just grazed the surface with these tips here, so – what are your best tips for sewing lingerie?

OAL2015: Finishing!

13 Jul

One last installment of these OAL2015 tutorials and then we are OUTTA here! Finally!

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This post is gonna be pretty short and sweet (well, compared to the other ones haha) – all that’s left is inserting the zipper into our skirt, adding the buttons and buttonholes to the back of the bodice (or sewing that section shut) and hemming the skirt. That’s it! Yay!

Let’s get to it!

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If you’re making the view with the back cut-out, you’ll need a 7″ invisible zipper. If you’re anything like me and only have 22″ zippers lurking around, it’s pretty easy to shorten the zipper. Just mark the length where the new zipper stop needs to go, sew over the mark a couple of times (I use my machine and go back and forth twice each way -you can also do this by hand) and then cut off the excess zipper, leaving about 1″ between the cut and the new zipper stop.

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Sew the center back seam of the skirt at 5/8″, ending 1-2″ from where the zipper stop will be located.

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Unpick the topstitched part of the bias facing along the edges of each side of the back cut-out, just about 1-2″ from the edge. Position the zipper stop so that it’s about 1/8″-1/4″ away from the bottom edge of the bias facing, and pin so that the facing is flipped out flat (see photo if this doesn’t make sense!).

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Attach the zipper to the skirt back using an invisible zipper foot and a 5/8″ seam allowance, then close up the hole at the bottom where the zipper stop meets the center back stitching. If you need more instructions for this, here’s my tutorial on inserting invisible zippers :)

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Once the zipper is sewn down, you should be able to fold the bias facing back to the wrong side, like so.

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Then fold the zipper seam allowance back to the wrong side as well, like so. Topstitch the bias facing back down, being careful not to sew the zipper teeth. You can also tack down the edges at the top of the zipper/seam allowance if you’d like.

Finished zipper:
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OAL2015

If you’d like to add a hook & eye to the top of your zipper, you may do so now.

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To finish the back bodice, you’ll either want to sew buttons & button holes – or just close the entire thing up. I lapped one side over the other and topstitched all the way around, then sewed buttons in the middle. If you decide to close this off, MAKE SURE you can get the dress on without needing to undo the back! I can wriggle into mine, but only just barely hahaha.

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Finally, hem your dress! I used the rest of my bias facing so I’d have a happy hem :) I followed the same method for attaching the bias to get this hem finish. Here is a tutorial from last year’s OAL on hemming if you need it!

Aaaaand here’s my finished dress:

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And the inside:

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Yeah!!!!

This concludes the sewalong portion of the OAL. Once you’ve finished your garments for the OAL, don’t forget to post them in the OAL 2015 Finished Outfits Thread on Ravelry so we can all have a lurk! The deadline is 7/31/15, so y’all still have a couple of weeks to catch up if you need to! Once I finish my sweater (yeaaah… I’m nearly done with the first sleeve. Getting there!) I will share photos of my finished outfit as well :)

Let me know if you have any questions!

OAL2015: Attaching the Skirt // Finishing the Cut-Out

7 Jul

Good morning, everyone! My apologies that this post is a day late – I spent one full day of my weekend throwing a 4th of July shindig (complete with a slip-in-slide, food decorated to look like flags, and fireworks at the end of the night. I passed out before the fireworks happened, though, hahahahaha!! I heard they were lovely, anyway!), and then the second full day was much-needed RNR (laying on the couch, coloring and eating leftover party food. I surprisingly was not hungover for this, but I treated it like a hangover day regardless). It was an AWESOME weekend, but I didn’t make the time to write up this post – so you get it on Tuesday! Yay!

ANYWAAAAAY, time to get down to business!

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Today we are going to attach the skirt to our bodices, as well as finish that back cut-out. The end is so close!!

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First thing you are going to want to do is finish the edge of the back cut-out, using bias facing and the same method we used for the neckline (here’s a refresher on that tutorial if you need it!). Once you get to the back where the interfacing has been applied, you have two options – you can either leave that part unsewn, or attach the bias facing and then unpick it. I prefer to sew+unpick because I like the guidance of the creased seamline, as well as having the seam allowances already trimmed down, but it’s up to you!

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Once you’ve finished that, unpick the facing where the interfacing is, plus a little extra (or pat yourself on the back for saving yourself a little extra work!). You’ll do this at both the top and bottom of the interfaced section.

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Go ahead and clip off the excess bias facing, leaving at least an inch or so that overlaps where the interfacing starts. Err on the side of longer here – you can always trim off more later if you need to.

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Notch the fabric right where the interfacing starts, going about 1/4″ in, or the depth of your seam allowance.

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Finish the edge of the interfaced section howeverrrr you want. I just serged mine.

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Now fold the interfaced section back on itself, right sides together, along the center. The edge that you just finished should meet right against the edge where you clipped that notch.

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Sew along both short ends, following your seam allowance (this is where the guidance of an unpicked edge comes in handy). Be careful not to catch the ends of the bias facing just yet.

Ooh, look! New manicure! Haha!

OAL 2015

Turn the interfaced section right side out. To get a nice, sharp corner: first off, don’t clip that corner or trim your seam allowances unless they’re bigger than 1/4″. Use your fingers to push the seam allowance in one direction all the way to the point (I’ve found this is easiest when I hold it the way you see in the photo)…

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Keep your fingers holding that seam allowance in place and start turning everything right side out…

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Use your pointer finger for the final little push.

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You should have a pretty good-looking corner at this point, but you can also use a point turner (or a knitting needle, or a chopstick, or a pencil, or whatever you have on hand) to gently coax that corner out a little more. Don’t mash it around, just manipulate the seam allowance over until everything looks good. Repeat for the other corner.

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Here’s where we are so far!

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Now take those floppy ends of the bias facing and tuck them into the little pocket you just created.

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Pin the finished edge into place and sew everything down. I also topstitch 1/4″ around the outside edges, to match the rest of the topstitching on the dress.

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Done! Now do the other side :P haha!

Ok, now for attaching the skirt!

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Pin and sew the skirt to the bodice, matching notches and seamlines, and using your normal 5/8″ seam allowance. The bodice will be quite a bit shorter than the skirt – that’s the back cut-out, and we’re gonna deal with that next. If you want to add piping to your waistline seam, now is the time to do it (well, I did it, anyway! ha! It’s easier if the piping does not extend all the way around the waist – end it right where the bodice ends).

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Trim the seam allowance down along the top of the skirt that isn’t attached to the bodice, leaving yourself 1/4″ seam allowance for dealing with the bias facing. Then clip a notch where the bodice stops – this was hard to photograph, so right where my scissors are pointing! You can also see where my piping ends; it’s the little black rectangle below. Don’t clip your notice any deeper than the seam allowance.

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Attach the bias facing along the top edge of the skirt, stopping at the notch you just clipped. Allow about 1/4″ or so of bias excess so you can tuck it under itself.

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Here’s a closer picture. Once you’ve sewn the first swipe of bias facing (and understitched, if you’re doing that), take everything over to the ironing board and press the seam allowances up, and then the excess over to the wrong side (at the end that’s next to the bodice). If you added piping, the tail end of your piping should also be in this equation.

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Now fold the bias facing to the wrong side, as normal, and pin in place. All your raw edges should be encased and the corners of the bias facing should be pretty close to one another (if not butted up against each other).

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Finally, just stitch the bias facing down. Once you get to the corner where the other section of bias facing is, lower your needle and pivot, stitch along the existing stitching line just a little bit, then backtack. This will reinforce that corner and secure everything.

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Here it is from the right side. If you want to be extra secure, you can also sew a diagonal line to the point of the intersecting facings.

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I’m not really sure why I took a second picture of this, but here you go.

Ok, that’s all for today! Let me know if any of this needs clarification or if you have any questions :)

OAL2015: Adding Pockets // Assembling the Skirt

29 Jun

Good morning, everyone! Time for another dose of OAL goodness!

OAL_Banner

Today is pretty simple – we’ll just be adding (optional) pockets and assembling the skirt pieces. If you don’t want to add pockets, just skip this post and follow the instructions that came with the pattern. Let’s get to it!

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For now, the only skirt piece we will be dealing with is piece #15, the side front. You should have 4 of these pieces cut in total. The side that I’m pointing to – with the double notches – is the side that we will be focusing on for these next steps. Finish the edges of all 4 side front pieces (only on the side with the double notches).

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If you haven’t already done so, you’ll need to cut out 4 pocket pieces from your fabric (you can use self-fabric, but I was on a pink kick so mine are contrasty!). The pattern doesn’t come with a pocket pattern piece, so feel free to swipe one from another pattern you own – mine is from the Saltspring Dress. Finish all edges of the pocket pieces.

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On the finished edge of each side front piece, measure 3″ down from the top and mark with a pin. This is where we will be attaching the pockets.

Note: Depending on your height and proportions, you may want to sew your pockets more or less than 3″ from the waist. I looked at several patterns with pockets – as well as a few of my dresses that have pockets in a good spot – and the average seems to be somewhere between 2.5″-3.5″, with 3″ being a comfortable distance for me. However, if you’re unsure – I recommend checking some of your patterns, or measuring a couple existing garments, to see what works for *you*.

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Pin 1 pocket piece to 1 skirt side front (4x), with the top of the pocket 3″ away from the top of the skirt and right sides facing.

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Sew the pocket to the skirt piece at 3/8″ and understitch the seam allowances toward the pocket. Using a smaller seam allowance and understitching will help with keeping that pocket inside the skirt and hidden.

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Now you can pin 2 skirt/pocket pieces, right sides together, starting at the top of the skirt and going all the way around the pocket and to the bottom of the skirt. Repeat for the other pocket.

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Stitch at 5/8″, lowering your needle and pivoting where the pocket meets the skirt at the top and bottom (I can’t seem to explain this very clearly so just look at the photo!).

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At the top & bottom of each pocket bag, clip diagonally in the corner just to the stitching (but not through the stitching). This will enable you to press the seams above and below the pocket open, as well as make your pocket bag lay better inside the skirt.

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Press the seams open above and below the pocket bag, and press the pocket to one side (it should go toward the center front, so press in opposite directions for each of your two assembled skirt pieces).

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Here it is finished! Yay, sneaky pink pocket :D

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And here is how it looks on the inside :)

Once you’ve finished adding the pocket bags, you can attach the front to the side fronts (one on each side of the front) and the two back pieces to the opposite side of the side fronts. Finish your seams as desired and press. Finally, finish the center back seams (again, I just serged mine).

That’s it! Next week, we’ll attach the skirt to the bodice and deal with that back cut-out. Making progress! :)

Let me know if you have any questions about anything I covered in this post! How are we doing this week, OAL-gers? :)

OAL2015: Assembling the Bodice // Adding Sleeves

22 Jun

Hey hey everybody! I’m finally back from my 2 weeks of traveling Peru with my best friend, and it was amazing. I spent a week in Lima (first half in the Miraflores District, which is absolutely beautiful, and the second half in the San Borja District), where we stayed with the family of a friend and basically ate our weight in ceviche. The second week, we flew up to Iquitos and spent a couple of days in the city, as well as a week deep in the jungle off the Amazon (and before you ask, yes, I was there for the ayahuasca). We did not visit Machu Picchu (I guess this is the main reason why people visit Peru, because EVERYONE asked us if we were planning on going!) – we considered it, but it was too expensive and we had to choose because Cusco and Iquitos… Iquitos won out, and I’ve no regrets :P  It was an incredible 2 weeks, although I’m pretty happy to be home where I can throw my TP in the toilet and drink straight from the faucet ;) hahaha

Anyway, it’s back to the real world for me! Which means it’s time to jump straight into business mode and kick this OAL off once and for all! Yay!

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Today, we’ll be assembling the bodice of our dresses. This part is pretty easy and straightforward (well, honestly, the whole dress is pretty easy and straightforward!), although this post is quite a bit picture-heavy. Sorry in advance, ha. This method of bias facing is for those of y’all who are making their dress without a lining. If you plan on adding a lining, ignore these sewalong posts and use the instructions included in the pattern :)

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First things first – if you haven’t already done so, go ahead and fuse your little rectangles of interfacing to the back bodice where indicated. This will give that area a bit of stability for adding buttons later (or, if you’re like me – mock buttons. Either way, don’t skip the interfacing!).

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Sew the bodice front to the bodice side front princess seams (need a refresher on sewing princess seams? I got ya!) and finish the seams as desired. Since my fabric is a bit bulky, I chose to serge mine separately (with hot pink serger thread because, obvs) and press them open. You can certainly finish the seams as one and press them to one side, though.

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Next, attach the front bodice to the back bodice pieces, at both the shoulders and the side seams. Again, finish the seams as desired and press.

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Next, we are going to finish the entire neckline (all the way around) with a bias facing. Measure your neckline, starting at the interfacing of one of the back pieces and continuing all the way around the front to the opposite back piece. There are a few ways to do this – you can use a flexible measuring tape, you can measure with the bias tape itself, or you can use a Curve Runner (am I the last person on earth to find out about this little tool? HOLY SHIT that thing is so cool!). Cut your bias tape the length of your measurement and pin around the neckline, right sides facing.

Note: For this particular method of finishing, you will want bias strips that are 1″ wide. You can certainly buy the pre-made packages if you’d like, but I personally like to make my own – it handles and sits better than the pre-made stuff, plus, you have a much better selection of colors and prints (and it’s a GREAT way to use little scraps that are too awesome to throw away). If you haven’t made your own bias strips, it’s super easy! There are tons of methods all over the internet on how to do it; the one I personally use is the continuous bias method since it means you don’t get stuck doing a lot of piecing.

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Sew the bias all the way around the neckline – again, starting at one back and continuing across the front all the way around to the opposite back – right sides together, with a 1/4″ seam allowance. Stretch the bias tape *slightly* as you sew, which will help snug up the neckline so it doesn’t gape open.

Note: The pattern is drafted with 5/8″ seam allowances, so you may want to trim 3/8″ off all around the neckline before adding your bias facing. I did not do this and the fit is fine. Just an fyi, though!

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If your fabric is on the bulky side, or your bias is a crazy contrast (like my hot pink), you may want to understitch the facing so it stays in place and doesn’t peek out from the right side. Push all the seam allowances toward the bias and stitch through all the layers 1/8″ from the seamline. I use an edgestitch foot for accuracy, but you can also eyeball it. If your fabric is lightweight and responds well to pressing, you can skip this step.

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Here is the bias attached and understitched. Take it over to the ironing board; we’re going to press the hell out of this shit now.

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Fold the bias over to the wrong side of the bodice, so that the edge meets the stitching line where it is attached. (yes, it should actually line up with the stitching – my fabric is a little bulky, so the turn of the cloth means that it doesn’t quite meet up. That’s ok, though!

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Now fold the entire thing one more time to the inside, so all of the bias is on the inside of the bodice. Press.

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Topstitch 1/8″ away from the folded edge.

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Take the bodice back to the ironing board and give the neckline a good press, preferably over a tailor’s ham if you have one (and if you don’t have one, might I suggest this lovely tutorial for making your own? har har), to smooth out the curves and make sure that all the bias is pressed to the inside of the garment.

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OAL 2015

Et voilà!

Next, you are gonna want to tackle those arm holes. For those of you leaving your dress sleeveless, you will want to finish the arm holes the same way that you finished your neckline – i.e., with the bias facing (here’s a tutorial on adding bias facing to armholes if ya need it!). For those of you who are adding the standard short sleeves (view B), you will want to follow the instructions to set in the sleeves (or you can follow this tutorial on setting in sleeves, which I find a bit more clear). Don’t forget to finish the seam and press. For the cute little cap sleeves (view D), you will not only set in the sleeve but also need to deal with the underarm finishing (since the sleeve doesn’t go all the way around the arm hole). Normally this is finished with the lining, but since we are little rebels who aren’t playing by the rules, we are gonna finish that with bias facing.

OAL 2015
Start by finishing/hemming the bottom of your cap sleeves, in whatever way you prefer. I just serged, turned the hem to the wrong side, and topstitched.

OAL 2015
Attach the sleeve to the armscye the same way you set in a standard sleeve – sew a line of basting stitching at 5/8″ all around the curve of the sleeve cap (in a standard sleeve, there are dots to indicate where the basting goes – but for this little cap sleeve, you’ll baste from tip to tip), pin the sleeve into the armscye and pull the gathers so that it fits smoothly inside with no puckers. Sew at 5/8″. (if you need more tutorial help with setting in a sleeve, see the link above :) ). I continued my stitching line all the way around the entire armscye to help with trimming in the next step, although this is not necessary and you can totally eyeball it.

OAL 2015
Trim all your seam allowances down – all the way around the entire armscye, including the bottom part that hasn’t been attached to anything yet – to 1/4″. Measure the armscye (this is where one of those Curve Runners would come in super handy, argh. Or you can measure the trimmings that you cut off, ha) and cut your bias strips to length, minus 1″ (to account for stretching the bis as you sew it on). Sew the ends of the bias together to make a circle, and attach to the entire seam/unfinished edge of the arm hole at 1″, again, stretching *slightly* as you sew. Understitch and press as previously directed.

OAL 2015
Before you make the final press to pull the facing all the way to the inside of the arm hole, be sure to pull the sleeve out so that you don’t accidentally tack the sleeve to the bodice. Been there, done that, and it sucks.

OAL 2015
Stitch the bias facing all the way around the arm hole 1/8″ from the edge, being sure that the sleeve is out of the way and you are *only* sewing through the bodice and the bias facing. Press over a tailor’s ham, to set the curves and get everything to lay nicely.

OAL 2015
OAL 2015
Finished cap sleeves! I really like this method because the extra stitching really strengthens where the sleeve attaches to the arm hole – since it doesn’t go all the way around, sometimes they can start to tear off if there’s too much strain on them (I had a dress like that in my early days of sewing that would NOT keep the cap sleeves attached. Every time I moved, they would rip out. I eventually dumped the dress, too bad I didn’t know how to fix that problem!). And by “strain,” that usually happens from hugging people.  Shitty way to ruin a dress if you ask me hahaha. Anyway, once I started sewing them in this way, my cap sleeves tend to be a lot stronger and I don’t have problems with busted seams. You do have to be ok with visible topstitching – but in a dress like this, there’s already a bunch of topstitching, so it works.

OAL 2015
Here’s the inside of the bodice :) Fun!

Ok, whew, I think that’s enough for today! Do let me know if you have any questions about any of these steps :)

How’s your sewing coming along for the OAL?

OAL2015: Fabric, Size & Cutting

1 Jun

OAL_Banner

Happy Monday, everyone! We are officially kicking off the OAL (Outfit Along) this morning, so I hope you’re ready for it! As I mentioned in the announcement post, we won’t actually start the sewing until later this month, on 6/22, since I’ll be traveling outside of the country and won’t have much internet access (and I hate the thought of putting up a tutorial and then not being around to answer questions! Lame!). However, I figured I’d help get you guys rolling in the meantime with choosing your fabric, size, and cutting. Then when I’m back, we can get straight into sewing so you can finish these dresses before the deadline at the end of July! Sound good?

Of course, if you don’t need the sewing tutorials, then you are absolutely free to start the sewing whenever you’d like! This just goes for those of y’all who are waiting for tutorials :) For this year, I won’t be doing a full photo step-by-step of the entire pattern – but if you need those, most of the steps are similar to the ones from The 2014 OAL, so you can always browse through the tag for the tutorials. Things like sewing princess seams, sleeves or bias binding, and inserting a lapped zipper. All good stuff! Since it’s already up on the blog, I don’t see any point in reinventing the wheel (or subjecting those of y’all who aren’t following the OAL to a bunch of repeat tutorial posts, because, boo on that).

The tutorials I’ll be covering on this here blog are changing out the lining for bias facing (which can get a little weird around that back cutout, but don’t worry, I got your back!) and adding pockets. I will only be sewing View A, with the back cutout and no sleeves (that’s a lie, I’m still debating if I want to add the little cap sleeves. Decisions, decisions!). Again, the ~official~ dress pattern for the OAL is McCall’s 6887, but you are totally welcome to sew whatevererrrrr pattern you like!

First of all, here’s the fabric I’ve chosen for my dress!

OAL2015 - Fabric

This is some uhhhh-mazing Ikat cotton that I picked up from Mood Fabrics in NYC when I was there… um… March 2014. Ha! I’ve been apprehensive to sew it up because the print-matching looked to be a nightmare, and also, the fabric is pretty thick and I wasn’t entirely sure what kind of garment it would work with. I think it’ll be really nice for this dress; it has a good structure for the skirt, and the print is so fun! I haven’t decided what color bias binding to use for the insides – common sense would tell me black or white, but I’m thinking I might look for some turquoise or hot pink :) Something to add a little splash of color to the inside :)

OAL2015 - Fabric & yarn

Here it is with my yarn for the sweater portion – this is good ol’ Cascade 220 (my one true yarnlove), in a gorgeous mint color.

Don’t know what kind of fabric to choose for your dress? First of all, think about how you want the finished dress to look – do you want a bit of structure in the skirt and bodice, or do you want everything to hang in soft folds? You will want to choose a fabric with a weight and drape that work with what you have in mind. For this particular pattern, I really like how it looks with more structured fabrics – such as linen, cotton eyelet, cotton sateen, or even quilting cotton! This blog post I wrote for last year’s OAL goes over all the details for choosing and weight and drape, and shows you the differences between several fabrics. I’d recommend checking that out first, if you’re confused!

Here are some fabrics I’ve pulled off the ‘nets that would be lovely for this pattern –

coral eyelet
Italian Red Coral Eyelet – from Mood Fabrics
This would be a great choice for adding a lining – or if you want to skip the lining and still go with bias binding finishes, make sure you get an appropriate underlining. You could also sew a matching slip :)

tropical sateen
Tropical Cotton Sateen – from Mood Fabrics
Busy prints are great for hiding wonky seams, if you’re concerned about neatness :) If you plan on sewing this pattern with a stretch fabric, you may want to consider sizing down (make a muslin out of similar weight/stretch fabric first, to check!).

abstract sateen
Abstract Cotton Sateen – from Mood Fabrics
I couldn’t resist. This fabric is AMAZING.

seersucker
Red and White Striped Cotton Seersucker – from Mood Fabrics
Easy to sew and lovely to wear, cotton seersucker is a great option if you live in a hot climate. I love the classic red and white stripes!

linen
Pinstriped Linen from Blackbird Fabrics
Another good option for hot climates. This linen is similar to the stuff I used to make my linen pajamas :)

shirting
Denim Chambray Cotton Shirting – from A Fashionable Stitch
Ain’t nothing that says you have to use shirting to make shirts. Make yourself a comfy little dress instead :)

agf
Art Gallery Fabrics: Arizona from Grey’s Fabric
Quilting cotton is a surprisingly good choice for this pattern, since it has the weight and drape that looks best with the bodice and skirt – and you have aaaalll kinds of fun prints to choose from :D I’ve never personally sewn with Art Gallery Fabrics, but everyone on the internet seems to go apeshit over them. At any rate, this is one helluva fun print!

A few notes about fabric:
– As I mentioned, if you’re sewing stuff that’s on the sheer side and you don’t want to mess with a lining, make sure you get an appropriate underlining fabric. I prefer to use white cotton voile or batiste (or black, or, whatever color looks best with my fabric), as it doesn’t add too much weight. If you aren’t sure about the weight, hold it with a piece of your main fabric and see how you like the way it feels. I won’t be covering underlining in this OAL, but I have a tutorial on my blog if you need help!
– Those of y’all sewing stripes or directional prints (meaning if you turn it the other way, it’s quite obviously upside-down) – make sure you buy extra fabric! Depending on the width of your fabric and the size you’re cutting, 1/2 yard – 1 yard will do.
– Prewash your fabric, however you plan on sewing your final garment. For me, that’s a cold wash and a low tumble dry (I hang my dresses to dry once they’re done – only because I hate ironing! Ha. But I always pre-shrink in the dryer just in case it accidentally gets tossed in there later down the line!).
– For your bias facings (and pockets, for that matter!), you may want to use a lighter fabric if your main fabric is a bit bulky. This is the case with my Ikat – I don’t want bulky facings, so I’m getting something lighter. Again, cotton batiste or voile is a really good choice for this, as is quilting cotton or cotton shirting. You can use almost anything, but remember that you’re dealing with skinny strips cut on the bias, so maybe don’t try the silk right now (unless you’re feeling really brazen!). Also, get something that presses well – like cotton or rayon. You will be pressing the hell out of your facings, and you want something that will respond to that. Polyester is not a good choice for this. I always stash-raid for this kind of thing, but if you’re buying, you’ll need about 1/2 a yard (and you’ll have tonssss left over to make even more bias binding, so get something you really love :) ). Of course, you also buy those pre-made bias tapes – I don’t care for them, because I think the fabric is too stiff to look nice (and the color selection is very limited), but it’s definitely a lazy option if you don’t want to make your own. You’ll need the kind that is 1″ wide.
– To make your dress, you will also need interfacing, an invisible zipper (I prefer this dress finished with an invisible zipper, but you can try a lapped zipper if you’d like) and at least 3 buttons for the back, if you’re making the scoop back version.

For choosing your size, again, I will refer to you to Last year’s post in the OAL. Scroll past all the fabric, and there’s a section on choosing your size based on the finished measurements. McCall’s patterns can have quite a bit of ease in them, so this is a more accurate way of choosing the correct size. This is how I size *all* of the patterns I make, and it has yet to let me down :) As an example – my body measurements put me into a size 10, but I sew the 6 (graded to 8 at the waist) for my finished garment, and it fits perfectly. Check those finished measurements!

If this is your first time making the pattern, I would strongly advise you to make a muslin mock-up of at least the bodice so you have a good idea of how the finished garment will fit. This gives you a good opportunity to make any necessary adjustments before cutting into your fabric. It’s also important if you’re sewing the version with the scoop back – I found the scoop came up higher than my bra band, and this may be the case for you as well. Can’t fix it once you’ve already sewn it up! For the muslin, you can make the whole dress if you’d like – but I just sew up the bodice and leave off any finishing. Pin the back shut as best you can to get a good assessment of the fit.

Once you’ve got your size and muslin done, THEN it’s time to cut your fabric! Refer to this post about cutting and marking fabric (also from last year’s OAL hahahaha sorry) if you need any help :) You will be following the cutting guidelines that are included in your pattern; make sure you follow them carefully so you cut the correct number of pieces. The side skirt piece should be cut TWICE on the double layer, for a total of 4 pieces.

OAL2015 - Cutting the back bodice

You may also want to consider adding a little extra fabric allowance below the scoop back, just to give yourself more bra coverage (I added about 1/2″). There is also a 5/8″ seam allowance there, and we’ll be sewing at 1/4″ to apply the bias, so keep that in mind as well. Your muslin will tell you exactly how much you need to add (if any at all!) to cover your bra band. Or maybe I just wear my bra band low, ha.

FINALLY, if you’re cutting stripes or plaids and need help matching – here’s another tutorial link for that. Man! I’m so glad I already wrote all these tutorials haha!

Ok, whew, I think that about covers it! Do you have any questions about the prep work that I haven’t covered in this post? Let me know before I ditch town on Thursday 6/4 and I’ll be happy to answer them as best I can :) Have you chosen your fabric and yarn yet? Let’s have a look, please! :)

Tutorial: An Easy Elastic Waistband

29 Jan

Hey dudes! Real quick before I jump into tutorial-land this morning – New Vogue Sewing patterns are out! Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had quite a few people ask me when I would be posting my review. Not gonna happen, guys – at least not for this set, and no, not because of anything to do with me+The McCall Pattern Company. Have you seen the new patterns? There’s really nothing to make fun of! Which is good, because it shows that Vogue is listening to our pleas, I guess, but no jokies for us this time around. The only pattern I see that I really don’t like at all is this Koos Van Den Akker monstrosity that calls itself V1441– but, again, it’s Koos Van Den Akker, which should explain everything. Kind of hard to poke fun at something that’s intentionally designed to look crazy, you know? :) In the news of things I do like – there’s V9077, which is a dress I don’t completely understand, but I think I like it anyway. Aaaaand, that’s about all that warrants any mention from the new collection. Sorry if you were expecting more! Trust me, you don’t want to see a post of me trying to pull humor out of a humorless situation :) Feel free to turn this into a debate on whether or not I’ve sold out to Vogue (the answer is no, but, I REALLY love a good conspiracy theory, and I’m sure some of y’all do too!)

Ok, so, onward to the tutorial!

wb

I’ve had a few requests for this, so here ya go – my tutorial for attaching an elastic waistband to your leggings (or skirt, or whatever. I ain’t here to judge your love for elasticized comfort!). While the usual method of leaving a hole in the seam and feeding the elastic through is definitely non-brainer easy, I prefer this particular method as it doesn’t allow the elastic to twist at all – not while you’re feeding it through the hole (that ALWAYS happens to me, ugh!), and not while you’re wearing and washing them. It stays in place and that’s pretty awesome! Also bonus is that you don’t have a tiny hole to close up afterwards. Whoop whoop!

Anyway, I learned this method from Katie of Papercut Patterns, and it’s definitely my favorite way to elastic the shit out of my waistbands. It is my understanding that she updated that the Ooh La Leggings pattern has been updated to include this method, so this is mainly for those of us who have an older copy of the pattern and/or want to elasticize something else. It does require a little bit of finesse while sewing, but it ain’t nothing you can’t handle ;) This is also a great method if you are using an elastic that is too wide and thus needs to be cut down – I started with 3″ wide elastic, but I needed 1″, so I just cut right down the middle (well, ish). Since the elastic is going to be attached to the fabric by machine, it’s ok to cut is as the stitches will prevent it from unraveling over time :) Just make sure your elastic has a very tight weave – if it’s a loose weave, it’s best to leave it uncut as there ain’t nothing that’ll keep that shit from unraveling!

Elastic Waistband Tutorial

Start by cutting your elastic to the desired size (I prefer about 4″ of negative ease at my waist, but it’s a matter of personal preference!), including an additional 1″-2″ for overlap. Pin the elastic with the inch overlap so it makes a circle.

Elastic Waistband Tutorial

Sew down all four edges where the elastic overlaps, making sure it’s secure. Ideally, you’d use a zigzag stitch for this – but my machine was already threaded with the double needle, so I used a double needle. I have yet to have a problem with this stitch, so there’s that! I like to stitch over each area twice to be really sure that it’s secure – you don’t want your elastic coming apart after you’ve sewn it into your pants!

Elastic Waistband Tutorial

Divide the elastic into 4 equal sections, either by using a ruler or just folding it in half and half again. Mark each point with a pin, making sure one section is in the center of the part you just overlapped and sewed. If your pattern does not include notches for dividing the waist into 4 equal sections, you’ll want to do so now as well on your garment.

Elastic Waistband Tutorial

On the INSIDE of your garment, match the 4 elastic sections with the 4 pants sections, keeping the overlapped elastic at the center back. If you trimmed down the width of your elastic, it is a good idea to match this area to the raw edge of your fabric, so it will be sewn and enclosed later. You will notice that the elastic is not quite as long as the garment in each section – that’s ok, we will stretch to fit in the next step :)

Elastic Waistband Tutorial

Using a serger (or a sewing machine with a zigzag stitch), attach the elastic to the garment. Go slowly and focus on one section at a time, stretching as much as you need to to get the pieces to fit. If you are using a serger, be careful not to trim off too much of your elastic edge – if at all possible, try not to trim off any. Keeping your elastic one uniform width will help with accurate topstitching later.

Elastic Waistband Tutorial

Your garment should look like this – on the inside, attached at the top, elastic loose at the bottom.

Elastic Waistband Tutorial

Now fold the elastic to the inside one time, which will completely encase it with fabric. Pin into place if needed – I like to pin again at the 4 equal sections (this part doesn’t have to be exact, you can just eyeball it).

Elastic Waistband Tutorial

Using a twin needle or a zigzag stitch, topstitch the elastic into place along the previously sewn edge. Gently stretch the elastic in each section, the same way you did when first attaching it. I’ve found that it’s easiest if I hold both the front and back with my hands, and gently guide the fabric as I sew. Stop with the needle down as you finish each section, readjust, and start the next section. Backstitch at the end.

If you’re using a twin needle, you’ll need to topstitch from the right side – this is where keeping the elastic a uniform width is handy. I mark my machine with a post-it note (I’m not adorable enough to use Washi tape, which I see everyone else using haha) to keep everything aligned so I catch the edge of the elastic as well as sew a straight line, but you can also feel it through all the layers. If you are using a zigzag stitch, you can get away with sewing on the wrong side so you can keep an eye on the elastic – but do try to sew a straight line, otherwise, it’ll be real obvious haha.

Elastic Waistband Tutorial

Elastic Waistband Tutorial

And that’s it! Not too hard, huh? Like I said, I really love this method because it keeps the elastic from twisting – it stays in place foreeeever! Also, the overlap at the center back is a handy way to quickly tell front from back just by feeling it – which, I don’t know about you, but I don’t sew tags in my clothes, so that’s pretty freaking useful! Only downside is that you’ll really have a lot of work to do once the elastic eventually wears out, but I personally think it’s worth it, if only to prevent elastic twist!

Let me know if you have any questions! Or if you just want to discuss those new Vogue patterns. Maybe you see something ridiculous that I overlooked??

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