Obsession Thursdays

“Beginner’s Guide to Writing Knitting Patterns”

NewEd_coverI’m very happy to announce the (re-)launch of my guide to writing knitting patterns.

Driven by my work as a technical editor, I self-published this book in 2014, under the title “Pattern Writing for Knit Designers” expecting to sell a handful of copies to professional knit designers. I was very pleasantly surprised by the demand from designers of all levels, and the feedback on the book was wonderful. I have chosen to work with Interweave Press to distribute the book further beyond the limits of what my local post office can help with…

The book gathers my ten years’ of experience as a technical editor into a guide for designers to help them write instructions that any knitter can follow.

Official shipping date is April 11th, and it’s available in both physical and digital forms from all the usual online sources. We encourage you to support your local yarn shop!


This book is the culmination of my work as a a technical editor and my previous career as a product communications specialist in the technology industry.

The book is a guide to writing knitting patterns: how to translate your great knitting project into a set of instructions that any other knitter can follow.
I provide concrete guidelines, with lots of examples, on topics including:

  • what information needs to be included in a knitting pattern
  • how to properly and clearly communicate sizing and measurement information
  • what schematics are, why you need them, and how to create them
  • how to use charts and written instructions to express special pattern stitches like cables and lace
  • stitch nomenclature (especially related to cables), abbreviations, and glossaries -how to handle multiple sizes and versions
  • use of brackets and * to indicate repeats
  • how to establish a personal style sheet And much, much more. So much more!

I discuss technical editing and test knitting – explain what they are how, why they’re important, and when they need to be done. I give tips for designers who wish to self-publish, and for those preparing submissions to a publication. And although it’s not a guide to layout or photography or grading or design, I give lots of guidance and references to help you.

And I’ve heard from knitters that it’s helped them understand how patterns are written and created, even if they’re not planning to write a pattern themselves. If you’re interested in being a designer, a test knitter, or a technical editor, this book is for you.

And people have said some very nice things about it…

Kay Gardiner of Mason Dixon Knitting reviewed the new version and declared it a “godsend”.

This book is AWESOME. Even if you’re an experienced pattern writer with a successful career, this book will help you catch up with the current trends in writing patterns for today’s younger knitters. – Donna Druchunas

Kate Atherley’s marvelous book is essential reading for any designer looking to create patterns that work well and sell well; and intriguing reading for any curious knitter who has ever wondered what goes into the creation of pattern. – Franklin Habit

If you are considering pattern writing, or want to become a knitter who understands how to read patterns more deeply, this book is for you. I certainly wish I had it when I was starting out! – Laura Nelkin


We have two copies to give away. The usual rules apply: leave a comment below, by midnight EDT Sunday April 10th. If you’ve won something from us in the last year, we ask that you give someone else a chance. Winners will be chosen randomly, and a skill-testing question will apply.

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Obsession Thursday: Healing

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Possibly the three most dreaded non-life-threatening words to a knitter (or anyone who uses their hands). Certainly not welcome news, when the diagnosis hits.

Mine hit in 1999. Surgery on my right hand happened March 10th. Backstory here.

The lovely Deborah Robson had her surgery last week. A lovely Twitter friend (@lahondaknitter) has hers next week. We’re all getting fixed around here.

I thought I would give those who are on a similar path a little timeline of how it went for me. Images are tiny until clicked, for those who don’t want to see. Nothing is bloody or raw, but there are stitches in some of the images and it is a surgical wound. You’ve been warned.

 

Still totally drugged and painfree. It doesn't last long.

Very stoned.

Day 1: Surgery is easy as pie. Only thing that hurt was having the IVs put in. Am just sedated during the procedure just enough not to care what is happening. Have no idea when they start operating, and only know they’re done when they tell me so. I heard them talking throughout, but I can’t remember much of it.

Feel euphoric until I get home and the nerve block wears off. Take 2 Tylenol 3s every 4 hours for the next 24. Sleep reasonably well with arm and hand resting on pillow at my side.

Hand is in a cast-like splint — rigid on the bottom, bandaged on the top. Completely useless, as expected.

 

I discover a ziplock bag and alligator clip make a reasonably decent waterproofing solution for showering.

I discover a ziplock bag and alligator clip make a reasonably decent showering solution.

Day 2-4: Stop taking Tylenol 3s after day 3. Do nothing for the first two days but sleep and lounge. Hand needs to stay elevated in order not to hurt, so even walking is annoying. Some use a sling to keep the hand up. I hate having a strap behind my neck. So instead I rest, watch Netflix, sleep. Repeat.

Feed myself with pre-assembled pop-in-oven dishes that I’d prepped the week before in ziplock bags or recyclable aluminum dishes. Eat off paper plates. Dictate all text messages and emails instead of typing (this is brilliant). My right elbow and forearm become reasonably helpful tools to keep me from being fully single handed.

Wiggle fingers often, as instructed. When I shower (which I avoid, as it’s exhausting), I cover the splint with a ziploc bag and keep the arm above my head. Feh.

 

Day 5: Cast-splint off! I try not to feel faint looking at my Frankenhand at first. Am healing perfectly. Making a fist feels V weird. Left hand and forearm feel strained and sore from doing all the work. Keep the incision covered with a big rectangular bandaid at all times. Change daily, as it’s awfully hard to keep a bandaid sticking to your palm. Plus it gives me something to do.

 

Frankenhand.

Frankenhand. Purple is surgical marker. Stiches are like fishing line.

Day 6-7: Tweet that left (untouched wrist) hurts more than surgically altered wrist. Fascinating. Return to the keyboard. Hand often sore, occasional electric shocks, especially when putting right arm into sleeve too quickly. Very easy to overdo it.

Wiggle fingers more now, since the cast is off and I have more range of motion.

 

Day 8: Finally able to hook my own bra on the normal way. This is a huge achievement (haha).

Still can’t depress an atomizer, but can (slowly) pull lighter doors open including fridge. Have been driving, steering with my left hand, and shifting from park (etc) with it as well. Clicking my seat belt in to the holder hurts.

 

Day 9-12: Type/mouse too much some days and feel it.

 

Stitches out.

Stitches out.

Day 13: Stitches come out. Tech uses some sort of v pointy poky thing (scalpel? I didn’t look) to help remove them which I am sure will cut me. Of course it doesn’t. Feel woozy, but it settles. Making a fist easy now. Doc says no pushing, pulling, lifting heavy anything for 6 more weeks. No direct pressure on incision. Yes, doctor. My ART therapist works on my left arm and hand, and right forearm. It helps.

I occasionally wake up with my bad hand under my face, numb and hurting from the pressure. Have an idea that might help me stop this till it heals. (Who knew I slept like this?)

 

Day 14: I notice the very topmost layer of skin is pulling away from the incision in the middle. It turns out to be nothing… the underlayers are all healing. Still driving left-handed, but can shift into drive (etc) with right hand. Seat belt can be problematic, but not using it is not an option so I deal. Give up on bandaids. They’re no longer sticking. Scar fully dries and doesn’t look that bad.

In terms of relief of symptoms, am finally free of post-surgical pain enough that I can start to evaluate. Ring finger continues to be numb on R side of finger as it was before surgery. Other fingers not numb. Thumb pain hard to evaluate, since it’s directly attached to one edge (or feels like it) of the ligament that is still healing. Overall, surgical pain or discomfort is worse than any CTS symptoms I’m feeling.

 

Good use for a single sock.

Good use for a single sock.

Day 15: I start applying Scar Fix cream, which feels pretty much like any moisturizer would. But it gives me something to do. Gently rub in circles without pressing on incision. (I get dermatitis from some of the ingredients in Bio-Oil, so I can’t use that.)

I take an old thin cotton sock and cut it into a handwarmer to wear when out. It helps protect the scar from superficial crap, and makes me feel better.

Still can’t depress an atomizer or do much of anything requiring grip, but can press fingers on keyboard, apply makeup, etc. Treated myself to an electric toothbrush, which is very helpful under the circumstances.

 

image

Healing nicely.

Day 2o: Can depress atomizer and squeeze spray bottle, but just a little. Thumb is the most problematic and uncomfortable, still. Wrist occasionally sore. Second and third fingers still lightly numb from internal swelling. Hand (in area that was operated on) is achy. Am not, thankfully, waking up with hand under face any more. Somehow my brain figured that out on its own. I still sleep with a pillow under my whole right arm including hand. I find it comforting.

Incision healing nicely. I apply scar reduction cream at least 2x daily. Not sure it’s doing anything but it feels nicer to keep it moisturized.


So healing is ongoing. I’m not to do any heavy lifting, pushing or pulling for 8 weeks from the surgery. I’m still having to baby it in other ways, and am not frustrated, just hopeful.

Trying the other therapies I did and waiting 16 years from diagnosis to surgery is, I believe, contributing to a slightly delayed healing process. Not the therapies, but just letting it go on so long. In 1999, I’d heard that I’d be out of commission for a full month if I’d had the surgery then (this happened to my ex’s aunt). And so I was spooked for a long time.

Time has passed, procedures have improved and this recovery is nothing like I imagined it would be back then. Live and learn. I’m glad I had it done, and I plan to have the other hand done later this year.

 

 

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Obsession Thursday: Spindling

Spindling, cider, relaxation. Life is good.

Spindling, cider, relaxation. Life is good.

I just got back from teaching at a weekend retreat for the lovely women who run Knit Social (they’re also the folks behind the fabulously popular Knit City fiber event that happens in Vancouver every October).

As my hands are still rather flipper-like until I have my carpal tunnel surgery next month, bringing knitting along wasn’t practical. Instead, I thought I might try spindling again, since I’ve found it uses different muscles than the ones that I’ve overused and doesn’t aggravate my messed-up nerves.

Look! It was successful! I spun more on my Jenkins Turkish Delight spindle this weekend than I have in the past year, on anything. The fiber is baby camel, and I remember buying it at the same time as the spindle. At the second Sock Summit in Portland in 2011. Yup, that’s how long this particular fiber has been sitting on this spindle, waiting to be finished.

I got a lot done over the weekend, in small bursts. It was a lovely feeling, being productive again. Here are some images so you can enjoy the gorgeous fiber and exquisite spinning tool that I used.

the underbelly of my Jenkins. hard to get, as spindles go, and very much worth the wait.

the underbelly of my Jenkins. hard to get, as spindles go, and very much worth the wait.

 

I love the little cushion of singles this spindle makes.

I love the little cushion of singles this spindle makes.

 

2016-02-20 21.56.14

Starting a 2nd cop, with the first one waiting patiently to be plied once I’m all done.

 

 

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Obsession Thursday: Not cutting your fingers off

Some of you may remember when I was reckless enough to use a rotary cutter on a little cutting mat…on my lap. And how surprised we all weren’t that it had resulted in me cutting the corner off my left pointer finger. The carnage that followed I will not recount here. It was gruesome and excrutiatingly painful, believe me.

The TrueCut My Comfort Cutter (what a mouthful!) rotary cutter

The TrueCut My Comfort Cutter (what a mouthful!) rotary cutter

Despite the fact that it was 100% my own fault, I still have avoided quilting again until lately. However, because my Carpal Tunnel is so bad in my right hand that I can’t do much of anything, I’ve picked quilting back up as a hobby I can do for short periods.

I saw something for sale recently that made my eyes bug out and I actually said out loud, to the empty room, “why didn’t anyone else think of this?” when I saw it.

It was this: My Comfort Cutter, by TrueCut. The sharp angle of the blade against the handle (instead of them being in a straight line like most cutters) is supposed to be ergonomic.

But what got me super excited was this: it has a special guide on the cutter that sits along the special track on the accompanying ruler. See below.

It's so smart, it's dumb. Why didn't anyone think of this before?

It’s so smart, it’s dumb. Why didn’t anyone think of this before?

Any of you ever have your cutter wander away from the ruler? Like all the time? That’s me. Whether this is safer or not, it will make cutting more enjoyable, because I won’t have to work so hard to keep the cutter close to the ruler. It will just stay there. 

Yes, it means buying a new ruler. Or three. (For now, i started with the 6 x 24“, which I didn’t have in my toolbox.) I think I can get buy with just one more, the 12″ square. And then POOF, I’m set up.

So far, 90% pros. What’s the con? The guard…using the black switch you see above the blade, you push in and up and the guard slides up into the cutter, exposing the blade. I find the mechanism much flimsier than I would like. It doesn’t give the brisk and secure-feeling click that I’m used to with my Fiskars cutter. So I’m just extra careful about handling it. I might even try to find a little tin box to keep it in, so it’s not loose in my toolbox. (Oh, and regarding the comment that complains that changing the blade is hard? It isn’t. Just undo the big black plastic screw, and push the thinner screw side against a table, which will loosen it and let you remove it and then the blade from the cutter. PLEASE be careful, of course.)

Editor’s note: the links in this post are affiliate links and support Knitty, should you choose to make a purchase. Thank you!

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Knitter’s Film Picks: RAMS and ADDICTED TO SHEEP

Some of you my know that my husband is a professional film critic. A few weeks ago he told me that he had to watch a film for review: “I think you might like it. It’s set in Iceland, and it’s about sheep.”

He was entirely correct: the film RAMS is indeed set in Iceland, it’s about sheep… and I absolutely adored it. (Spoiler alert: the professional film critic did, too!) It’s an utterly charming little film about a family in a small farming community dealing with a family crisis and a farming crisis. It won the very prestigious ‘Un Certain Regard’ prize when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

The scenery is fabulous, and the knitwear is amazing. There are scenes – like the one in the photo below – where three-quarters of the people in them are wearing hand-knits. Now, as a knit designer, I’m used to being in environments where three-quarters of the people are wearing handknits, but those are knitting classes and conferences and yarn shops. This isn’t a film about knitting, and these aren’t scenes about knitting: these are just casual scenes in cafes and village halls.

What’s not to love?

Don’t just take our word for it, you can see all the glowing reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and watch the trailer.

If you’re in the UK, it’s playing in cinemas, and is available for digital rental from BFI.

If you’re in Canada, a regional run starts this Friday in Toronto at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, opening in Montreal February 26 and throughout the winter in other cities.

If you’re in the US, it’s playing in NY and LA, with other cities coming soon.

Expect VOD/download and DVD releases later this year.


Although I haven’t had a chance to see it yet, I hear that “Addicted to Sheep“, which ran on UK television earlier this week is also a winner. It’s about a sheep farming family, in the north of England, and their question to breed the prefect sheep. Available for viewing .through the BBC iPlayer now, although there are geographic restrictions.

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Obsession Thursday: the brilliant KeepCup

a variety of KeepCups. How could you pick just one?

a variety of KeepCups. How could you pick just one?

This is not a feminine device. It’s a travel coffee cup that you keep.

Nothing new, you say? What’s so great about the KeepCup, you ask? It’s smart. It’s environmentally sound. And it is ergonomically designed to fit your lips.

Seriously. The very best thing about it is this: your mouth will fit perfectly around the drinking hole of this fabulous cup and you will not accidentally dribble as you try to avoid scalding yourself. It’s just good design.

here's mine, well used and loved since finding it in a coffeeshop in the UK 2 years ago.

here’s mine, purchased 2 years ago in the UK. had no idea what it was; i just liked the colors. it’s proved to be my best coffee friend ever since.

It also self-seals with this cool top thingy (see the orange thing at left) that rotates from closed to open easily. Easy to clean, doesn’t scald your hands, affordable. Works for hot or cold drinks. Comes in a variety of sizes. Designed and made in Australia, the home of the inventors of my new favorite coffee drink, the flat white*.

And you can make up your own color combo.

No affiliation. I just love this thing and wanted you to know about it.

You may resume your regularly scheduled day.

*according to the linked post, “Flat White has an even mix of liquid milk and smooth velvet foam so it feels like drinking an espresso, only yummier.” To me, it tastes like a more intense, more caramelly latte, without any bitterness. I am addicted.

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Obsession Thursday: It hurts.

In the late ’90s, I was an obsessed quilter and new computer user. Hand quilting + mousing gave me Carpal Tunnel Syndrome back then, and I’ve been fighting it ever since. For the record, that’s at least 16 years.

2016-01-02 22.12.21-2

A Somerset Star that fills a 12″ diameter embroidery hoop. Made with fabric, glue stick, hot iron, and just a few perfectly placed stitches.

I’ve worn some sort of splint (aka brace) at night all that time. I’ve done acupuncture, osteopathy and the only thing that sort of worked: Active Release Technique (ART) therapy. The condition got so bad, there was a period where it woke me up at night with screaming, searing pain. The cortisone shot made no difference. ART has kept me from being in agony, but it couldn’t solve a too-small opening for a too-large nerve in my wrists.

During that time, I stopped quilting (mostly because I became 100% re-consumed with knitting and then started Knitty. Both hands, though, continued to get worse.

Earlier this year, my Pilates teacher yelled at me (She’s an RN): “When are you going to get those things fixed?!” And it finally seemed like avoiding surgery was no longer a wise thing to do. Beyond the fact that knitting more than a few rows at a time is all I can do, CTS means that almost everything I do is affected in some way. Surgery* is scheduled for mid-March, and according to the doc, I’ll be back at the keyboard within just a few days, fully healed in 6-8 weeks. I am actually EXCITED about this. *Nothing bloody at that link. Just info on the type of surgery I’m getting, in case you’re curious.

The Somerset Star now lives above my bed, along with a collection of hoops (scavenged at the annual Textile Museum's sale over the past few years) filled with some of my favorite fabrics.

The Somerset Star now lives above my bed, along with a collection of hoops (scavenged at the annual Textile Museum’s sale over the past few years) filled with some of my favorite fabrics.

In the meantime, quilting is providing a creative outlet that I desperately need. If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen some of the stuff I’ve been doing. I took a class to learn how to make a Somerset Star at The Workroom, and went a little bonkers with it (see above).

I find it amusing that the craft (though not the same hand movements) that started the injury is what I’m doing until I can get it all fixed.

I still don’t hand quilt. Maybe I’ll be able to after healing from the surgery, but mostly, I just want to be able to knit, wash dishes (!), drive my Vespa, and play my ukulele again without hurting.

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2015: The year it all changed for Knitty

It’s hard to even know where to begin to write about Knitty’s 2015. We could focus on some standout patterns that we published, like these:

252 projects on Ravelry

Geek socks: 252 projects on Ravelry

 

Swink: the definition of knitting and crochet playing well together!

Swink: the definition of knitting and crochet playing well together!

 

Pierrot: a sweater unlike any other...so joyous!

Pierrot: a sweater unlike any other…so joyous!

and the crazy innovation in the Winter issue:

Cache Cache: not mindless, but worth it

Cache Cache: tame your crazy variegateds in such a beautiful way

 

Knitting 2015

Ribbon Candy: vertically stacked increases = pop art

 

Hexadot: did you know that linen stitch can create DOTS?

Hexadot: did you know that linen stitch can create DOTS?

 

One of the biggest changes was made possible by our new Sysadmin, Christopher Gernon, who did this:

way to uncork the decade-old bottleneck, Christopher!

way to uncork the decade-old launch-day bottleneck, Christopher!

Though he did it with brain cells, a lot of hard work and targeted knowhow (not champagne and a thumb). We love him very  much.

 

We welcomed two new columnists: Liz Gipson who talks about Weaving for knitters on the rigid-heddle loom, and Lorilee Beltman, who is taking our techniques column to a new level of cleverness.

Then there was this:

 

But without doubt, the biggest story for Knitty in 2015 was our change in how we’re funded. We’ve gone from being 100% advertising supported to a combination of support from advertisers and our readers. OUR READERS. YOU GUYS. We used the cool Patreon platform.

I talk about the process of asking for help, and the joy in finding out help was available thanks to you guys, in the latest editorial. But it cannot be overstated. Finding out our readership likes what we do enough to support us in such a huge way is the most affirming thing that could ever happen to us. Support continues to build, even after our big launch in September, which means ongoing financial security for Knitty and its staff. In case you missed it, I was able to double what we pay our designers, thanks to your support. I’ve been able to give the Tech Editors long-overdue raises, thanks to your support. We are able to hold advertising prices steady, allowing our advertisers to share their wares and services with you at affordable prices, thanks to your support. And more good things are still to come.

It’s all THANKS TO YOUR SUPPORT.

We’ve had a wonderful 2015, and we cannot wait to see where 2016 takes us. Thank you for accompanying us on this exciting journey, and please accept our best wishes for the happiest possible 2016.

Love,
Amy, Jillian and the Knitty team

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Obsession Thursday: How to ask for help

The Art of Asking, by Amanda Palmer

The Art of Asking, by Amanda Palmer

Hopefully by now, you’ve heard about our Patreon campaign that’s changed Knitty from a struggling ad-only supported magazine to one supported by both advertisers and our readers. We are now able to count on a stable future full of opportunity, as we will be able to pay our staff and contributors fairly! And we’re working on our next goal, which is redesigning and recoding to bring this 2002 magazine visually and functionally up to date with the 2016 (and beyond) internet.

One thing I haven’t talked much about through this process is what got me to a place where I felt brave enough to let people know our current financial state and to ask for their help. This book is what did it. I bought it when it was released last fall and absorbed every word, because I was a fan. And because I liked the message the author was spreading.

Amanda Palmer is an independent musician who’s been in the business longer than Knitty has been around. She spent her early days atop a milk crate as a Living Statue, and transitioned into music as a singer-songwriter on piano and (yes) ukulele, where she’s slowly, steadily built her fan base by being intimately connected to her fans, in person and on the internet. Whether you like her music or not (I happen to love it), the way she conducts herself and her business is inspirational. And when I saw that Amanda had launched a Patreon earlier this year, I realized that perhaps this could work for Knitty, too.

It’s easy to read the title and assume it’s all about asking for help. Just ask, and everyone will give and poof, worries over. Except it’s not like that at all. The book shows, in great detail, that building a community first is a key element to establishing a relationship in which the creator can ask for help and the community will want to provide it. Ravelry proved that point when they asked for our help in categorizing their huge library of patterns and supporting them financially. They had already provided so much to knitters that we were glad to help and as a result, we have a robust, super-useful Ravelry available to us today.

But Knitty was my business, and we all know about the demons that sit on our shoulders and tell us we’re not good enough. (Amanda calls them the Fraud Police.) Sure, asking for help worked for Ravelry, but would it work for Knitty?

As we have seen in just 48 hours, it has worked. 

There’s so much more I can say, but I’ve got Patreon work to do. Read the book. I think you’ll find a lot to think about in there.

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Obsession Thursday — trying to prevent brain goopification

We’re all getting older. (Sorry to break it to you.) Some of us feel it more than others, and when you get near that menopause thing, it gets even worse. We know knitting helps keep us sharp, but there’s no reason to stop there. There are lots of apps that claim to help keep your brain sharp too. Both Jillian and I tried Lumosity for a while, and it was interesting, but it was really never fun. It was a chore. I believe we both cursed out the penguins more than once.

downloadA while ago, I did my usual surf around the app store and found Elevate. Another of those free-to-download apps that charge you if you want to do more than cursorily interact with them. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. Seems Apple likes it — it was 2014’s app of the year. I guess I’m late to the party.

You get 3 games a day for free, and it’s actually FUN to watch your performance improve (or try to make that happen). I found myself wanting to play more than my 3 a day, more than once. So when I saw they had a bit of a sale on a while ago, I sprung for a whole year of pro access (get on their mailing list and you’ll catch a sale at some point). My biggest challenge are the games that involve listening/memory and some of the math-based ones. I am at their Expert level in all the spelling and reading games. Not surprising (you’d hope that an editor’d be good at the word stuff, right?). But even the stuff I’m good at is still a challenge. This is a very well crafted app.

Damn, I love this thing. Instead of turning my brain into a giant gummy bear with Candy Crush Soda INSANITY, now I can use a little down time to exercise my synapses and pump up my neurons. Available for iOS and Android. #noaffiliation

this is fun stuff.

this is fun stuff.

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