A 15th Century Princess Gown Part II || Historical Sewing


Hello there and welcome back to part 2 of
this 15th century adventure, in which I am attempting to recreate this gown from ‘Saint
George Slaying the Dragon’ by Jost Haller, dated c 1450. If you missed part 1, you may wish to go back
and give that a quick watch—unless of course you’re only interested in sleeves and trimmings
and finishings, in which by all means do stick around. Without further ado, let’s go finish this
lady. When I left you last, I had just completed
the long process of seaming together the gown panels and checking the fit, so now it’s
time to finish off all these seams. This is done by trimming one side of the seam
allowance to a narrow width, so that the other side can be folded over both edges and stitched
down with a felling stitch—or whip stitch to encase all of the fraying. Funnily enough, I spent so many piecemeal
hours doing this over about two weeks and never actually managed to turn on the camera
for any of it—but not to worry, there’s plenty more felling to come if you need a
demonstration. The center front edges, if you remember, were
cut along the selvedge. This was a common practice used throughout
history in order to save fabric and to eliminate the extra bit of time in trimming and folding
for felled seams, since selvedges can just be running stitched down and won’t fray. Many archaeological finds from the medieval
period actually exhibit raw cut seams finished in this way, but hand-woven fabrics tended
to be much more tightly woven and less prone to fraying, unlike my modern machine woven
fabric; so I’ve just kept with felling for the rest of my seams. And now that the base of the gown is complete,
it’s time to get started on the sleeves. The gown in the painting appears to have a
false under sleeve attached to the long sleeve of the gown. I assume this is the case, rather than it
being the sleeve from an undergown or kirtle, since we do get to see a bit of her shift
between the wide center front opening, with no hint of a green kirtle—or the closures
for one—at this point. False under sleeves are something I understand
to have been a common feature of gowns in the Tudor period a couple of decades later,
so this probably isn’t entirely impossible. So I’ve found this beautiful green changeable
silk on 39th Street which I plan to use for the under sleeves. If you recall from Part 1, my experiment with
marking out the wool in quill and ink was very successful. I decided to try out this method on the silk
with the sleeves and it was much less successful. The silk is much more loosely woven and so
the ink wanted to spread and soak through to the other side. 0/10, would not recommend this method for
finer fabrics. Then I’m just stitching together the sleeve
seams with a very small backstitch. Since the silk thread I’m using is very
fine, I’ve doubled the thread to strengthen the seam, but this probably wouldn’t be
necessary with a heavier thread. Now I’ve decided to put a button placket
in the cuffs of the sleeves, since this was a very common feature of the period in order
to achieve that fashionable tight-fitted look. You can’t see them on the gown in the painting,
but judging from how tightly her sleeves are fitted—without, of course, the generous
help of spandex—I have to surmise that there is some sort of closure method at the inside
seam of the sleeves in order to achieve that fit. Surviving sleeves show that buttonhole edges
were faced with a layer of strong linen—or silk, in the case of finer fabrics such as
this, and so I’ve gone ahead and cut a facing to add to the underside of my buttonhole edge. This has also been backstitched to the edge
of the sleeve seam right sides together, then flipped inside to finish the edge. Then I started marking out the buttonholes—lightly!—with
ink. I did do a sample of this beforehand, which
I highly recommend before starting the buttonhole process, so I knew that the buttons I picked
for this project would require a 1/2 inch hole to go through. Now because this stitch takes quite a bit
of explaining if you’re not yet familiar with it, I’ve gone ahead and filmed a separate
video tutorial if you need a quick lesson on hand-finishing your buttonholes. But since you’re probably just here to see
the making of a 15th century dress, however, I’m going to spare you the details for now
and just get on with it. And now for buttons! Metal cast buttons are a common find in medieval
archaeological sites—though I must disclaim that these look quite different from the ones
that I was able to find in the garment district. These are quite pretty, but from images the
extant examples I found for reference, medieval buttons tended to be flatter, cast in two
halves, with a metal shank on the back. The ones I picked I think are actually supposed
to be beads; I’ve rigged them up with a bit of thread so they attach in a similar
way as the thread-wrapped button styles common by the 16th century, but there probably isn’t
much historical validity to this decision. Oh, and for some reason I forgot to finish
the edges of the sleeve seam when I stitched it together earlier, so I’m doing that now—with
that felling stitch I was talking about earlier. Then I’m just quickly finishing off the
cuff edges with a bit more turning and felling. Ok ok but back to the buttons! I’m using a large tapestry needle to thread
the tails of the button shank through. Then I can just push it through the fabric
where I want the button to sit, and tie it off securely at the back. I tried this at first by making a hole with
an awl and then pushing the tails through, as I thought might have been the more likely
historical method, but this proved to create too large a gap in the weave of the fabric
and the knot at the inside wouldn’t stop the button from pulling free. This method was much more effective—though
I was still too afraid to cut off the excess tails in case they ever need to be re-tied,
so, shhh… Also, I just forgot to address this at the
time, but the edge is just finished off with a really tiny felled hem. I suspect that historically this hem would
have fully encased the beautifully trimmed knots on the inside, but again…I was mistrustful
and wanted to have easy access to them if I needed. This probably wouldn’t have been an issue
with tighter-woven historical fabrics. So now it’s time for the over sleeves. Forewarning here that there is a massive amount
of conjecture in how I decided these sleeves work, so do proceed with caution. I decided that the seam for these sleeves
needs to run down the back of the arm, since there doesn’t appear to be a seam down front
on the painting—and this way I could insert a gore in back to help achieve that voluminous
amount of fabric at the hem. This meant that, in order to be able to even
remotely move my arms, I had to cut a slit to insert a gusset at the underarm point. Again, absolutely zero evidence for this,
but the sleeves just wouldn’t be functional without it; and hey, gussets in general are
period appropriate, so. By the way, I found it really helped to get
my head around the pattern for these sleeves before drafting by making a wee sample piece
just to get an idea of the general shape. Definitely recommend if you’re like me and
extremely geometrically challenged. The piece ended up to be a bit wider than
my fabric, but that’s okay; back in the days of narrower fabric widths and a more
conservative attitude towards fabric usage, piecing was very very common. Speaking of clever fabric usage, this triangular
cutout for the front slit of the sleeve will be inserted at back as a gore. And the pieces are marked out—much more
successfully with the ink on the wool, this time. Now since we get a bit of contrast material
on the reference gown, I’ve made the assumption that the sleeves are lined with a nice peachy
changeable silk; so now I’m just going ahead and repeating the marking and cutting process
for the under sleeve lining. And this time I’m not going to attempt the
ink here with the silk. I know through later periods of dressmaking,
charcoal, graphite and chalk were also used in marking pieces—so I’m taking the liberty
of employing some white tailor’s chalk to mark these out. Yes there is an additional piecing on this
one, since the silk was a bit narrower than the wool and I also needed a piecing for the
gore triangle. First thing’s first is to get the piecings
on so we have our full pattern pieces again. I tried to do that clever thing where at least
one edge of a seam is cut on a selvedge to eliminate having to turn an extra time in
finishing, but then I remembered that the under sleeve is lined so I don’t have to
finish the raw edges anyway. The piecings are attached with a quick running
backstitch. These seams aren’t structural and don’t
need to take any stress, so speed was definitely more my priority over strength. Now to start actually putting the sleeves
together. I’m starting by pinning the gore into place
with the tip finishing just at the elbow point. I’m then stitching it into place with a
running back stitch, using some linen thread. I had dyed this with the intention of matching
the red fabric, but it came out decidedly pinker than intended. Ah well; maybe it’s a bit better than white. And again, this is repeated on the lining
pieces. Then the center back seam can be finished,
running straight down the other side of the gore panel. Once again, this is attached using a running
back stitch. Then I can finally put the lining and fabric
pieces together. To finish off the edges, I started by turning
in the edges of both layers and slip stitching them together, but for the hem edge I figured
out that the layers could be turned and felled, which I think might be the slightly more historically
accurate method. Now I’m inserting the under sleeves, matching
them up (without balance marks, because I am a heathen), and basting them together. Then they’re attached to the gown with a
strong back stitch, using plain heavy linen thread. Then I’m finishing off the raw edge of the
armscye by felling it down with some red silk thread. This was a bit of a struggle since I had cut
my upper seam allowance a little bit too narrow, so it ended up a bit sloppier than I had hoped. Then I’m finishing them hem with—you guessed
it—some more felling. You might have noticed that I like to anchor
my seams at the nearer end, here by pinning it to a small cushion. This was a common practice used throughout
history, and I’ve become quite fond of it; it allows you to pull the fabric taught and
keep the work at a nice tension, so your stitches are more even and go much quicker. And now it’s just time for a bit of finishing. The reference gown gets some little gold detail
round the neck edge. I found a nice semi-metallic trim here in
the garment district, which seemed to have a nice echo of the dotted effect on the reference
gown. This just gets folded in half over the raw
edge and felled into place with a plain lightweight linen thread. I played with the idea that this might be
beading. I imagined that beadwork as chunky as it seems
in the picture would be quite heavy and would want to warp against the bias edges. A bit of metallic trim, however, would not
only reinforce the edge with a bit of stiffness and strength, but could also act as a binding
for the raw edge. So this is what I decided to go with. Right at the top of the sleeve slits is a
small bit of lacing, so now I’m just putting in the eyelet holes for that. Remember, when making your eyelet holes, use
an awl to gently separate the weave of the fabric without actually breaking any of the
threads to ensure that your eyelet holes are durable and your fabric remains stable. Once the eyelets are all bound off, I like
to go through and widen them a bit more with a bodkin—but since I don’t actually have
a proper bodkin, I’m just using one of my hair pins. It works just the same. Then the lace can be inserted into the eyelet
holes. This is a 5-strand finger loop braid that
I plaited myself in a previous video, if you’re curious on how to make some historically accurate
lacing strands for yourself. And last but not least, the closures! I found some nice little cast metal hook clasps
here in the garment district that have a similar feel to the ones in the painting—but of
course probably have very little actual historical authenticity. This is something that I decided to just embrace,
since I don’t at present have the resources to cast them—or have them cast—custom. And with that, the gown is complete. Similar enough? I know I addressed the possibility of a waist
seam in my previous video in order to achieve the pleating effect happening at center front
of the reference. I wish I’d also cut the slits in the sleeves
a bit higher. And used whatever sorcery was applied to achieve
those perfectly smooth sleeves and bodice. But I guess we can’t have it all. For the photos I just used a metal plate girdle
that I had handy—a style that was utilised in the period—but the one in the reference
clearly isn’t made from metal pieces. I discovered that many extant girdles were
tablet woven in narrow, girdle-sized widths—and in this case looks as if it might contain
metallic fibres. So as soon as I take up tablet weaving, I
shall get back to you with an updated replica. So that’s all for this project! Thanks for sticking with it this far, I hope
it was at least vaguely of interest. I’m always over here making things by hand
and generally just screaming about the wonders of historical dress, so if you want to join
in the fun, tap that little red button down there, and I shall see you soon on my next
historical sewing adventure.

100 thoughts on “A 15th Century Princess Gown Part II || Historical Sewing

  1. Wow, I adore this. I appreciate the attention to detail that went into making this dress! I recently started sewing, and I am mostly interested in sewing vintage and historical clothing. Your videos are fascinating and I am looking forward to more! They inspire me even more to begin creating my own historical costumes. What advice would you have for a beginner venturing into the world of historical costuming?

  2. I do so enjoy watching you recreate ancient fashion with historically accurate methods. Your knuckles will be glorious in your older years from all the hand stitching. I hope you’ll be making videos still in 30+ years

  3. The national dess of Georgia looks a lot like this and is still made and wore by women at weddings and festivals.

  4. How to separate the gentry from the serfs.
    Pretty!! It's a dress made exclusively for the nobility or upper class. Back then if a commoner were to wear this dress she'd might be flogged or ridiculed for impersonating an upper class woman. Note: The Gentry are "well-born, genteel and well-bred people" of high social class. The classes/caste were defined by the clothing they wore and the homes they lived in.

  5. There's a portrait of Mary of Burgundy where's she's wearing a kirtle, and the sleeves are very visibly attached, so the were a thing back then

  6. Recently got interested in historical re-creation and this channel is a GODSEND when it comes to learning about drafting/interpreting historical patterns. Plus, it's nice to see someone actually doing everything by hand like I want to do ^_^

  7. This is a bit random, but do you have any tips on sewing a square armpit gusset? I'm sewing a pattern I drafted myself based on a kuftan (or yelek, depending on the source) which is an Egyptian garment worn around the 19th century-onwards and is related to the Ottoman caftan, and it has those damn things, which I've never done before. I know atm you're probably busy with the Costume College, but I figured I'd ask anyway.

  8. Yet another beautiful piece! I really want to try historical sewing now. And dare I say it, I think I might quite enjoy the act of felling. Perhaps my next personal project will be historical sewing. I am even interested in creating a dress even though I am not a person who likes to wear dresses.

  9. About the sleeves, I'm sortof a beginner so someone please correct me if I'm mistaken, but I have the feeling that it wasn't necessary to make a gore there (I mean the large one, not the underarm gore), since you actually used fabric that already existed between the sides of your pattern for it. As far as I understand, gores are usually inserted where the pattern needs to be straight and vertical, and the amount of volume you want cannot fit flat inbetween without pieces overlapping. Or is there something I missed that would explain that? Your dress is wonderful regardless, I believe it was actually this video that made me discover and subscribe to your channel ! I am "studying" it again and trying to understand things, because I am scheming a similar project (ambitious beginner, I know lol). I'd love to see you make more medieval projects, perhaps the houppalande you mentionned in this video?

  10. Very nice. Simple but nice. Not too hard to make. Must add it to my costumes collection. No idea whart I will do with these costumes, but they make me feel good. I sometimes adapt them for other social occasions or theatrical use.

  11. Several comments beginning with BRAVO!. As a music history teacher, I appreciated your choice of music. In the dress in the painting, I am wondering if the under sleeves (false sleeves?) would have been tied on at the upper arm with ribbon and not actually part of the dress. I have read that during the 'Little Ice Age' when England was especially cold, having the option to wear different under sleeves with a dress was not only fashionable but practical because the weight could be matched to the season or building (silk vs. wool, for example). The painting seems to me to suggest these under sleeves are perhaps a silk velvet and having such expensive sleeves be separate from the dress would also seem logical. Then, even if it doesn't show in the painting, I think the over sleeves must have had a center front seam which would make the lacing more functional AND, referring back to my earlier idea, the lacing would also make putting on ribbon-tied under sleeves easier. Finally, IF the skirt was gathered in the front but the bodice opened in the front center, how were the 2 attached so that it could be removed? Is it possible that the front did not open and there was lacing in the back? These are just thoughts having found historical dress through studying the music that one heard while wearing it. LOVE your work. thanks.

  12. Have you ever heard of a dressmakers pencil??? Wouldn’t I have been easier to use on the sleeves as well as other parts that needed to be marked? It always works for me unless the fabric is very dark. However I’m not complaining as all of your other technics are FLAWLESS and worthy of VERY much admiration and praise!!! Thank you for the video explaining your work!!!! I always enjoy your tutorials! Mak

  13. I am late to this video and I suspect someone has already pointed this out: the loop on the back of the button would go through a small hole in the fabric, then they would all be held in place with a lucette cord or a leather thong from top to bottom. That way the buttons could easily be removed to be used on another garment :o)

  14. You must get this question a lot, but is there a particular purpose to the fabric tied to your hears? Is is to avoid blisters on your hand?

  15. Berndette Banner – How brilliant, amazing and so interesting. I would so love your marvellous skills. Beautiful.

  16. Have you thought of horsehair for stiffener/interfacing for the sleeves? Might give it the extra oomph for that flawless, unwrinkled look.

  17. Just discovered this video–I thought I'd seen all of them (fangirl crushing) but then I discovered the medieval gown ones. Your interpretation is awesome!

    I did have one thought and that is that I think there's a good chance that those green undersleeves were cut on the bias to help with the skintight look. Medieval dressmakers certainly knew how to manipulate fabric on the bias–that's how they made close fitting hose. I think if you had combined bias cut with forearm buttons, you'd have gotten the painted on look. I think there is some conjecture that some garments were sewn onto the wearer but I'd be concerned about doing that with silk for fear of the repeated stitching eventually ripping the silk. The lady in the portrait was wealthy but not, I think, so wealthy that she would have undersleeves meant only to be worn a handful of times.

    Hmmmmm… I wonder if there is any medieval evidence for lacing sleeves? That would also get the tight fit, would protect the fabric because the eyelets would have been stitched in and, given a reasonably close match in colour for the lace, would be darn near impossible to see.

    So many rabbit holes and not enough time to explore all of them!

  18. Absolutely gorgeous! I so enjoy you videos, your enthusiasm, humour, and attention to detail. Such a treat and welcome respite today’s disposable culture.

  19. Quand je bois du vin clare… Madame, you look superb. Absolutment. Many a knight would die for a mere gesture of your favour. Je vous adore.

  20. The outer sleeves in the image looked like they were made from an open bell/ "v" shape on single length fabric that was much wider as it tapered to the end. That's my best guess. Otherwise, looks close enough & is quite lovely.

  21. Delightful. I have zero special abilities, but love fabric accessories & do hickies.
    Someday I might have enough brain bandwidth to sew… until then, I an the official ironing gal at my elder Aunties Quilt Club. They adopted me, and I watch them spin fabric & tread beads & wire, wood & ….(cool-whip, eek) into beautiful masterpieces…(except the cool-whip…its irredeemable.)
    Well done joyful funny lady. Your skill & delight in the process shine through!!!

  22. Oh I wish I wasn't a idiot with sewing, I LOVE historical clothes and if it was up to me I would wear it every day, I'm just not talented or patient enough to actually make it from basic, but I again kinda want to try, is there anything that would be the best to start with?

  23. That is SO beautiful, but to me the hand sewing seems like a nightmare. I can´t do a ten cm of a straight stich, I can´t imagine doing like hundreds of meters.

  24. I’m amazed and impressed. I immediately noticed how well the trim and then the clasps matched your wonderful belt. The result is phenomenal. Thank you!!

  25. I learned to hand sew dolls clothes before I was old enough for school. Once old enough to machine sew, I tried to avoid hand sewing, it seemed like a great big complicated PITA compared to swiftly running something up on the sewing machine. Watching this, I realise I'm the one who made it difficult, with all of my endless back-stitches & tiny stitching etc.; I trusted the sewing machine's straight stitch, length 2.5, which could easily be unfurled by pulling a single thread, yet had expected of myself, minuscule & secure back-stitching that Houdini himself couldn't break. I feel a change now, onto to enjoyable hand sewing 🙂

  26. I absolutely love this BUT…… There is actually suppost to be two dresses, the green sleeves are from the cotte, which is the underdress and the red dress is either a houppelande or a very strange surcote which is an overdress. Other than that, your work is to die for, the details are stunning, and everything else is pretty much historicly accurate

  27. The sleeve issue may be alleviated by a point I found in The Medieval Tailor book about how shoulder seams were set much farther back and armscyes were cut rather close under the armpit, basically encasing the whole shoulder joint within the seam, which allows for a greater range of movement while maintaining the fashionably tight upper sleeves. It's entirely possible with this method that, especially with those falling-off-the-shoulder styles of the late 14th century cotes, the shoulder strap piece is literally only as wide as the trim it underlays.

  28. There is a dress on ELLAFANCY that I am certain is photoshopped…. and its your dress… Sadly I cannot copy and paste the link… but its called COTTEN DRESS you may want to look into it… I checked your dress against that one and yours and I'm 100% its yours…

  29. Wow that's amazing!!!! You are so amazingly skilled at hand sewing, and what a beautiful gown!!!! Your devotion to the historical relevance was spectacular. The level of detail is astounding. Thank you for sharing!!!

  30. WOW… absolutely gorgeous. I can't believe you see the whole dress by hand. Extraordinary. Thank you so much for sharing

  31. Absolutely beautiful..it would have been worn with a leather belt though..This is a later medieval dress ..the sleeve lengths on this are very modest ,but at some time they got ridiculously long,not only on ladies clothes but on men’s clothes too..The earlier Medieval dresses were cut using just front and back ,these were decorated with an over dress like a Habbard and many were of beautiful fabrics originally they nearly covered the dress then as time went by the slits on the side got lower and showed more of the ladies figure ..The hair on married women then was usually covered with coins a type of head dress some just under the chin but some covering the whole neck..then a veil was added..only maidens,Young un married girls had their hair uncovered..I love this fashion..the poorer people wore simple browns and greys and simplified versions of the dresses..It was a very interesting time in history and has left a lot of marks of itself all over the U.K. and of course abroad ..but I am only speaking of the U.K. as I am here..But this dress as usual has been sewn beautifully and is extremely close to the painting ..well done 😀

  32. Beautiful job! One thing to note, when buying the fabric marking pens, they do say on the packaging: do not use on fine fabrics, when in doubt use a test sample of fabric before using on your project. I just stick with chalk or if it is a darker fabric that is printed on one side, use the back instead of the front or simply mark the fabric with about 2-3mm of selvage so you can cut out the lines you mark with the pen so the ink won't be on your actual pieces. Works well with actual ball point pens too if you need to mark with whatever you have on hand just go a little bigger to cut it out. Hope that helps with the problem. Also, something I learned a long time ago, the hard way, if you plan on dyeing fabrics, get as close to the color as you need in fabric, for example, a pink or orange to dye red, and use double the amount of dye to water. And don't use bleached fabrics. They will turn pink, or grey if you are trying to achieve blacks or dark blues. I only recommend dyeing to lighter colors or using all natural dyes like tea-dyes for natural tans and beiges. As well as yellow for onion skins, turmeric or saffron for yellows n oranges, beets powder for burgundy or find those crushed beetles for the red (can't remember what they're called) … (quick Google search) Ah! Yes! Cochineal bugs powder. And my favorite, butterfly blue pea powder for beautiful blues add a touch of lemon juice to make it more pink or purple depending on the more you add into it. And baking soda to change it to green. Read up on it on:
    sewhistorically.com/category/sewing-diy/recipes/natural-dyeing-printing/
    Again, hope these help you achieve the perfect colors! Thank you for sharing, love your work and words of wisdom! Take care.

  33. You sound so genuinely interested in this. While I'm not honestly very aware of sewing and the like, this was none the less fascinating and your passion and way of speaking made it all the more interesting to watch.

  34. Fascinating. One question (Sorry if you've covered this before.) But, how did people get around with such long dresses and sleeves. You said, in another video, they gathered the extra material in front; and, then balanced on pattens? Great Caesar's Ghost! How did they walk, anywhere?

  35. I was mesmerized. Seriously, every few minutes I had to remember to close my mouth again. Lovely finished product! Your in-depth research paid off.

  36. Interesting and beautiful work but in the older times the underarm portion was always left open. The area under armpit, for easy movement and ventilation. Sometimes separate peices simply laced 3/4 around. With linen undergarments so the dresses never touched the skin. (Linens, washed /changed daily, easily cleaned. Dresses rarely or spot cleaned.

  37. As I have designed garments for many a year you talent is unashamedly exquisite !! To undertaken all the work by hand is admirable. Do you not have caloused finger? tips?

  38. Wonderful! It's gorgeous! Brings the painting to life! Great job! I too used the mini paper model technique on my medieval bell sleeve adventures 😉

  39. My eyes have welled up seeing the finished article on you, I almost can't believe what I have just watched! I am inspired and speechless. I want to save your tutorial forever, at least until I can afford the space and fabric to sew a dress for myself. I was mesmerised throughout, good show!!

  40. my grandma used thin slices of harsh soap for marking the fabric. Very historical I believe 🙂 Love your channel.

  41. "…because i'm a heathen" 🤣🤣🤣

    I could watch your videos all day. Fascinating. I can't even fathom all the hours and hours of work that went into these original garments. I watched a documentary about Elizabeth I dresses and wow. Amazing.

  42. I bet as a child she played dress up a lot! Which is great! I also would play dress up and always was pretending to be a princess like most girls when they are little! I wished I lived back in those days but since I have grown up and found out how people lived back then and even princesses it was a hard life compared to today! Also hygiene was a issue and I bet even the upper class probably had an body odor bad, we today would consider that unhygienic and nasty! But if you lived back then at least you had company of other stinky people around you too! Won't be singled out! I also learned a few years ago that castles were very smelly, they think it was a like a big huge portapottie only it was made out of stone! Gross, and having piss pots and then throwing your waste out the window proved to be risky if you were walking under that window at the time when they dumped that waste! So if you ever see a little girl and she wants to pretend to be a princess please don't spoil it for her let her have her fun, sooner or later she will know the truth no need to ruin her fun! Childhood goes way too fast for to be ruined let kids have that quick moment before it's gone!

  43. OMG! Thank you for charing your knollage! It was so facinating to watch and listening to your skilled explenations! Many many thanks!💕 You have now one new eager follower!

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