Mappamodello Arab-Islamic Work Dress

Arab-islamic work dress front

One of my Christmas presents was an unusual sewing pattern ‘book’ called Mappamodello. It contains patterns for very geometric styles developed by the designer Nanni Strada in the 70s. The dress above is her ‘Arab-Islamic Work Dress’. It’s the only one I’ve made up so far but I suspect there will be more in the future.

I’ve described the object as a book but once you unpack it what you actually have is two very large pieces of paper. One is the (huge) pattern sheet, and the other includes brief notes on the history of each of the styles and some photographs and technical drawings of the designs. The only thing resembling sewing instructions provided is the key on the pattern sheet. The pattern for the dress I’ve made up didn’t entirely match the photographs and diagrams, but I found the process of reconciling the differences enjoyable. Having said that I made a fairly major mistake with this one which I would have avoided if there had been a photograph or a diagram of the back view as well as the front. More on that in a moment.

The designs are all one size and entirely flat in the sense that there are no seams or darts. They work by wrapping around the body and fastening with ties. The size is adjusted by fastening the ties more or less tightly. Most of the styles are very fabric-efficient and they almost all include pockets. You can see some of the fitting ties on the Arab-Islamic work dress in the back view below. If you’re familiar with the Walkaway dress it’s a similar ‘apron’ style. I was a bit cynical about the ‘one size fits all’ claim and added a few inches of length to the pattern for insurance. It probably wasn’t needed but does give a nice deep hem.

This particular style is supposed to be wearable in two different ways, but this relies on making the back neckline identical to the front neckline so you can turn the dress around 90 degrees and stick your arms though the neckline slits, tying the top neckline slit ties over your shoulders. The original ‘sleeves’ undo at the underarm, and those pieces then wrap over your chest and back, and presumably tie at your sides. As you can see I didn’t make a slit on the back of the dress so I haven’t got anywhere to put one of my arms through when I turn the dress around. I don’t think I’ve lost too much as wearing it that way doesn’t look very comfortable in the model photo.

Arab-islamic work dress back

I think the style I have made up is one of the earliest in the series. There are several very similar dresses in the book and it’s interesting to compare the later ones with the earlier. The shape of the neckline and sleeves evolves, the ability to wear the dress in two ways is dropped, the pockets become more complicated, and some purely decorative features creep in. I suspect the later versions make slightly more practical garments! Mine shouldn’t be worn without leggings and a t-shirt underneath because of all the gaps.

The book doesn’t go into any detail about fabric choice. For one or two of the designs it mentions ‘glazed cotton’ or ‘lacquered cotton’ which sounds to me like crisp fabrics. Accordingly I made my dress up in a polycotton poplin on the grounds that it’s got a crisp hand and is cheap enough for an experiment, but I think something with a bit more drape would actually have been better. By the way you need wide fabric for this style – 150cm/60″ – which limits the choices. I couldn’t find wide poplin from any of my usual sources and ended up getting it from eBay. The dress is mostly one huge pattern piece nearly the whole width of the fabric and well over two metres long. It makes efficient use of fabric. I only had small scraps left over.

Arab-Islamic National Dress front

So does this pass the wearability test? I’m not sure. These photos were taken on a bitterly cold and windy day so you are not seeing the dress or me at their best. It does feel a bit like wearing an academic gown only not as warm. Despite the book’s claim that the styles work for all seasons I think this one is only for spring and early summer days.

This all sounds rather negative but I really enjoyed the process of working out how to make the dress up. I’d like to give some of the more sophisticated versions a try, using better fabric. I think there’s a great dress in here somewhere.

Arab-Islamic National Dress front

And in other news, I am in the current issue of Vogue Patterns magazine! Very flattered: thanks Vogue!

Blingtastic jeans

Burda 103-07-2010 front view

With some makes the pattern comes first and with others it’s the fabric. In this case it was definitely the fabric. It’s a fairly heavy-weight stretch denim with a thick coat of gold paint. The underlying fabric is a brownish black, not that you can tell. I’m a sucker for anything metallic, and stretch denim in any colour other than blue is scarce in the UK, so I snapped this up as soon as I saw it. Originally I thought I might make a jacket, but I eventually realised that jeans would get far more wear. These are Burda 103-07-2010, a skinny trouser pattern with a little extra seam interest. It’s a really good pattern; I’ve made it a few times. Technically speaking it’s not actually a jeans pattern as there are no flat-felled seams or rivets involved, but made up in denim it certainly gives a similar look.

The side seams are shifted a long way forwards and there’s an extra seam down the back of the leg. I made view C where all seams except the inseam are top-stitched. Here’s the line art, which omits the top-stitching:

Burda 103-07-2010 line art

You can see how far forward the side seams are in this shot.

Burda 103-7-2010 side view

I added back patch pockets and lowered the waist about an inch. The original pattern is designed to hit the natural waist. I also added a bit of length to the legs beyond my standard adjustment for extra height.

Burda 103-07-2010 back view

I had a bit of trouble choosing top-stitching thread. The gold paint is bound to wear off over the lifetime of the garment so I wanted to pick a colour that would work with both the gold and the base fabric. My first choices were black or a bright brown, but the black was too harsh with the gold and the bright brown clashed. I ended up with a dull brown which looks fine with the gold but not so good with the brownish-black base fabric. I guess I’ll just have to wash these as little as I can get away with.

I bought a new packet of size 90 denim needles for this make and broke most of them doing the top-stitching; the waistband was particularly difficult. I had to switch to size 100 in the end which worked a lot better. Here are some detail shots:

Burda 103-07-2010 top-stitching
Burda 103-07-2010 top-stitching

The belt loops were slightly tricky. The pattern would have you sew a skinny tube and turn it out. I tried, but the fabric was far too thick to turn. It might have worked if I’d cut the belt loops on the bias but I didn’t want to waste fabric. In the end I cut a rectangle three times the width I wanted, overlocked one edge, and folded it in three as in the picture below. When I top-stitched the belt loops I was careful to go far enough in to catch down the overlocked edge.

Belt loop construction

But the real question is how practical are these? I made them a few weeks before writing this post and they have actually had some wear at weekends. I think they look best dressed down with boots and a sweater.

I’ve got two more metres of the fabric left…maybe a skirt?

Burda 103-07-2010 front view

Short and red: Drape Drape 2 tuck drape dress again

Drape drape 2 no 7

I’ve been on a bit of a Drape Drape streak lately. After all, if you’re going to rearrange all the furniture in the living room in order to trace and cut the enormous pattern pieces from one of these designs you might as well do another while you’re at it. This is one I’ve made before: the No. 7 Tuck Drape dress from Drape Drape 2. My previous version has been worn a lot but didn’t look much like the version in the book. That was in part because I lengthened it. Here’s the first version.

Drape Drape 2 No. 7

For this version I removed the length I’d added to the skirt but left the extra in the bodice. I also included the splits in the sleeves which I’d sewed shut on the original. The neckline is sagging a bit on this picture because I pulled the shoulders up just before the photo was taken. It prefers to slide off one or the other shoulder in both versions.

Drape drape 2 no 7

The fabric is a 100% cotton interlock knit from Tissu Fabrics. It’s medium weight and not particularly stretchy but very soft. Right now it’s available here. They have this fabric in a huge range of colours. This colourway is called maroon although it’s not what I think of as maroon, which would be more purple.

The fabric is very wide, which is needed for this pattern as originally designed. However when I first made this pattern I split the main piece into three to allow me to use narrow fabric, and this time I cut it the same way again because I find smaller pattern pieces easier to handle. It makes no difference to the end result because the extra seams get hidden in the draping.

Drape drape 2 no 7

I think I folded the tucks correctly this time. Everything matched up beautifully which it hadn’t on the previous one. I can’t blame the book because the diagrams are really clear. I have this one in the Japanese language edition and it’s perfectly usable for someone with no knowledge of the language. It would be nice to be able to read the fabric recommendations for each style but so far I’m managing without.

Drape drape 2 no 7

I have worn this quite a bit since I made it. I’m hoping that once the warm weather stops it will still work with a grey long-sleeved t-shirt and leggings underneath.

And changing the subject completely…after over four years of writing this blog I finally got around to getting a domain name for it. Its official home is now http://blog.cyberdaze.org but http://cyberdaze.wordpress.org will redirect to the right place for the forseeable.

Drape drape 2 no 7

Interfacing Vogue 1335

It’s been a long time but I never gave up on Vogue 1335. Here’s a peek at the finished item.

Vogue 1335 on dressform

And here’s the original Vogue pattern photo. It’s a Guy Laroche design from Vogue’s autumn 2012 release.

Vogue 1335 envelope art

I’ve stuck fairly closely to Vogue’s interpretation of Marcel Marongiu’s vision (fasteners aside, of which more another time). However I don’t think the pattern as written has nearly enough interfacing to produce the rounded shape in the pattern photo. Vogue has you interface the facings and neckband only. I ended up interfacing the lot: the body, bands, welts and facings in fusible canvas; the sleeves in Vilene G405. I thought canvas might be a little heavy for the sleeves. Originally I wasn’t quite sure what to use for those. Normally I choose interfacings by going to John Lewis and having a feel of the different weights available, but my local branch seems to be reducing its range and I couldn’t find anything that seemed suitable when I visited. Clearly I was going to have to risk buying interfacing online. I picked out Vilene G405 after a detailed perusal of the options on the Vlieseline website – which incidentally is a fascinating read for a sewing geek. G405 is obviously one of Vlieseline’s less popular products because I could only find one online shop selling it in the UK: Moresewing on eBay. But one is enough. The fusible canvas (picture below) came from John Lewis – I hope they don’t stop stocking that!

John Lewis fusible canvas

I wanted to cut all the interfacing without seam allowances so I made separate pattern pieces for interfacing rather than simply cutting out the shell pieces again in fusible. It took forever to make the extra pattern pieces but it was worth it. I’d rather cut extra pattern pieces than fight with fusible that’s slightly too big for the piece I’m fusing to.

I think the sleeves worked out OK. They have the rounded shape from the pattern photo even without arms in them. With hindsight I think it would have been fine if I’d just used the canvas for the sleeves, but I’m glad to have discovered the Vlieseline website as it’ll take some of the guesswork out of buying interfacing online in the future.

Next time: a shaggy dog story about fasteners.

Techno trousers: Vogue 1378 in neoprene

My search for interesting cycle-friendly clothing continues. The latest effort is the trousers from Vogue 1378, a Donna Karan design. I could swear I saw these on Net-a-Porter at some point recently, but they’re gone now.

Vogue 1378 line art

The pattern calls for a two-way stretch knit. I used some thin neoprene I got from Cloth House a couple of years ago. It’s not got quite as much stretch as the pattern calls for. From what I’ve read about the pattern sizing the style comes up big and most people have had to go down a couple of sizes. Given my choice of fabric I decided to play it safe and make my usual size in Vogue, which is admittedly already one size smaller than the measurement chart would suggest. When I measured the pattern that gave zero ease at the hip.

They have come up pretty slim fitting. The size at the hip worked out fine but the calves are tiny. I had to let them out dramatically below the knee! They also come up long in the leg and short in the waist. I’m 5’10” and didn’t have to lengthen the leg at all, but the waist is a lot lower than the promised one inch below the natural waist.

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The original design has a long slit at the ankle which gives a slightly flared effect. You can just about see it on the line drawing. I wanted trousers that were tighter fitting at the ankles so I overlapped the two pattern pieces for the lower leg and cut them as one, but kept the decorative top-stitching. If I make these again I’ll use the two separate pattern pieces for the lower leg but sew the slit shut so as to continue the decorative lapped seaming down to the ankle.

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Here’s a better view of the lapped seams. I posted some details about sewing those last week. Suffice to say this very thin neoprene is easy to mark and sew: chalk markings, a Universal size 90 needle and a longish stitch length work well. Thicker neoprene like the stuff I used for my little black dress is much more temperamental.

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And here’s a back view. The fabric has drunk all the light again, but yes there are wrinkles. However they’re pretty comfortable to wear and I don’t think I’d want them much tighter.

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I wore these to work this week. I compensated for the lack of pockets by putting my grey kimono jacket over the top. No one at work batted an eyelid at the fabric…or at least if they did notice they were too polite to say anything! And I can report they’re comfortable and warm to wear, especially on the bike.

Sewing with no light

Thanks so much for all the great advice about how to fix my trapeze dress. I finally found a source of zips of the right style and length on eBay, so I’ve ordered one. Fingers crossed it does the job.

Meanwhile I’ve been making the trousers from Vogue 1378, inspired by Shams’ version.

Vogue 1378 line art

I’m using a very lightweight neoprene instead of the doubleknit the pattern recommends. It seems to be working out pretty well, but the frustrating thing is that the neoprene is black, and I’m sewing by artificial light, so it’s impossible to see any of the cool seam detail when trying them on. They just look like black leggings.

I did manage to get some photos of the lapped seams using the flash on the camera. The eagle-eyed may notice that the picture of the quadruple top-stitching below doesn’t match the technical drawing. I decided to omit the slits at the ankle.

Thin neoprene is fantastically easy to top-stitch. It’s stable, smooth, and very easy to mark with chalk. I made a paper guide for the curved top-stitching lines in the picture above and transferred the lines to the right side of the fabric using a chalk wheel. The chalk just wipes off with a damp cloth when you’re done.

Vogue 1378 seam detail

For the lapped seams I marked the stitching and placement lines with chalk. I didn’t bother making templates for that but used my seam gauge. I used a few pins here and there to hold things together while I sewed, but they don’t seem to have damaged the fabric.

Vogue 1378 seam detail

As well as the lapped seams there are also some regular seams. I sewed those using my machine’s triple stretch stitch for maximum durability. Pressing those open was something of a battle. I had most success when I pressed with a fairly hot iron and no steam, and then put a heavy book on top until they cooled.

Vogue 1378 seam detail

Hopefully I’ll have some daylight pictures of the finished object next week.

Striped goodness: Vogue 8866 top

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Sometimes the pattern comes first, sometimes the fabric. A few months ago I bought an interesting remnant in the sale room at Misan Fabrics. It’s a highly textured blue knit on a black backing. The textured side has what I can only describe as ripply stripes. I didn’t have any immediate plans for it but it was too good to pass up: warm, stretchy, and a bit different.

Blue textured doubleknit

It came out of the stash recently when I was wanting another knit top. I thought about making it up as a plain long sleeved t-shirt shape, but I feared so many horizontal stripes might be overwhelming. In my scrapbook I found a picture of a dress made from a fabric with a similar textured stripe. It had a centre front seam with the stripes placed on the bias, making a chevron effect. That worked well: it showed off the texture but the fabric wasn’t the only thing that you’d notice about the design.

The knit top/dress out of Vogue 8866 came to mind as a suitable pattern to start with to reproduce the effect. It has a centre front seam and raglan sleeves. I’d already made it up once before in sparkly silver knit so I knew the fit was OK.

Vogue 8866 line art

I made the neckline a bit higher than the original pattern has it, and cut the front panels on the bias. I faced the neck with a plain black viscose jersey rather than self fabric. I also skipped all the top-stitching from the original pattern as I think it would have looked odd with the stripes.

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I really should have cut the back yoke on the bias. That wobbly horizontal seam across the upper back is my sixth attempt to make the stripes look balanced. I promise the previous five goes were even worse. Fortunately the fabric doesn’t mind unpicking, and the seam isn’t really visible unless you look closely.

I made a slight effort to match the stripes across the vertical back seams. Everywhere else there was no need because of the bias panels and raglan seams.

I extended the neck to make an underlap on one side and added snaps for the closure. Vogue uses hooks and eyes but I don’t see how they would stay fastened once you started moving about – not unless you made the neck really tight anyway. Also snaps are easier to sew. I don’t like hand sewing, so the hem on this was done with my sewing machine’s blind hem function and the sleeve hems are machine stitched with a narrow zigzag. The only hand sewing is the snaps.

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This isn’t such a good picture of the top but I like it because it shows the whole outfit. I sometimes wear ridiculous shoes for blog photos, but this is actually how I’ll wear this top in practice, with jeans and boots. Hope that keyhole at the back isn’t too drafty!

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Problems with pockets – McCalls 3875

This dress fulfils two purposes: it should work for cycling and it uses up some stash fabric. I was getting bored of wearing jeans every other day, but I have very few dresses that are warm enough for winter and can be worn on a bike. This has long sleeves and a high neck so should keep the chill out.

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The pattern is vintage, McCalls 3875 from 1973. I’ve had it a while – so long that I can’t remember where it came from although it was probably an Etsy shop. I love these 70s illustrated pattern envelopes. There’s something about the lovely clean lines and bright colours of the pictures that appeals to me; much more so than ones with photographs or more painterly illustrations.

McCalls 3875 envelope

This is a very simple style and extremely quick to sew. The only detail is that the bust shaping has been turned into gathers at the raglan sleeve seams. Not sure mine’s come out looking as gathered as the illustration.

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Here’s a closer look. I was a bit dubious about the gathering originally – especially on the envelope’s maxi dress view where it’s paired with a ghastly floral print fabric – but now I have made the dress I very much like the effect. I think it needs a solid colour though, and probably a fairly neutral one. I’ve gone for navy blue because that’s what I had in stash of the right weight and hand. The fabric is a very drapey viscose doubleknit which was described as ‘crepe jersey’. It certainly has that matte, slightly textured, look of crepe on the right side. It came from Minerva Crafts.

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I added side seam pockets to the dress. These have not been entirely successful. The jersey is not sufficiently stable to support them so they tend to gape. I took quite a few precautions: interfacing along the side seam lines, cutting the front pocket bag out of lining fabric to reduce bulk, and eventually adding clear elastic to the side seam, but they aren’t great. It doesn’t help that I put them in too low and had to rip them out again and reposition. The jersey hates being unpicked at the best of times and I’d already overlocked things, so this made a big mess and I lost a bit of seam allowance here and there which I think has contributed to the gaping.

The other alteration I did was to make a facing to finish the neck. The original pattern has an extra-wide allowance that you turn over and tack down, but I was worried it might be too floppy. My facing is interfaced with some light weight fusible. It turned out that this was a good thing; when I measured the pattern to check the length of the facing pieces I realised that the neckline is much wider than the pattern illustration shows. I took all the seams around the neck other than the CB seam in by 1cm (ie sewed them 0.5cm deeper) to get the neck to look the way it does.

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The back view is intensely plain. I’m proud of my invisible zip though.

The hem is a bit limp; I probably should have interfaced it. And as always with 70s patterns I had to hack off quite a few inches to get the hem to the length I’d intended. The original pattern came to well below the knee. It didn’t look bad at that length but this is better.

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I think I’d make this again if I could work out what to do about the pockets. It’s possible they’d work better if I’d placed them correctly first time, or at least not damaged the fabric when moving them. The style needs a drapey and stretchy fabric so I can’t see welt pockets or patch pockets working any better than side seam pockets. And not having pockets isn’t an option. If anyone has any bright ideas, do let me know. I like the dress despite the flaw though.
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Drafting success, fabric fail

We’ve all got pieces of stash fabric that are too good to cut, haven’t we? One of mine is a wool-silk-elastane jersey. It’s a rib knit, so looks the same both sides, but it’s so lightweight you’d think it was a single knit at first glance. The colour is a dark greenish grey. It came from Goldhawk Road some years ago and has been lurking in the stash ever since, waiting for the perfect pattern.

Well right now I’m trying to sew from stash (at least when sewing things for myself), and I need new tops, and I am a great admirer of Rick Owens’ skinny fine-knit jersey t-shirts…so it seemed the time had come to use the special fabric.

I like my t-shirts extra long and quite close fitting. For a while I’ve been using a t-shirt pattern I evolved out of McCalls 2401, but recently I’ve been a little unhappy with the fit on it. So for this project I started with the close-fitting jersey block from Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear by Winifred Aldrich. (This was actually much lazier than it sounds, because I’d drafted the block months ago for another project so it was ready to use.) The basic block seemed a bit boring for the special fabric, so I flipped through my Burda collection looking for interesting details to add. I didn’t have a lot of extra fabric to play with which limited the choice. Eventually I came across 119-01-2013 which has a gathered sleeve that I thought would work well in the fine jersey.

Burda 119-01-2013 technical drawing

I traced Burda’s sleeve and laid it on top of Aldrich’s. Burda’s seemed considerably wider in the wrist but I was fairly confident that the Aldrich block was going to give me the sleeve width I wanted so I narrowed the Burda sleeve. Here’s what I ended up with.

Burda 119-01-13 sleeve pattern piece

What I completely failed to notice was that the wrist end of the sleeve ends up on the crossgrain of the fabric. My fabric is one-way stretch, so the finished t-shirt has no stretch around the wrist at all. That might have been OK if I hadn’t narrowed the sleeve so much, but as it is I can only just get my hands through them. Not good.

The final result is wearable but not particularly quick to get on and off.

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I think the sleeve detail looks quite nice once it’s on. You can see it much better in the picture below.

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I’ll definitely use this pattern again, but with two-way stretch fabric. I don’t think I did the grey jersey justice with it, but at least I made something out of it that I’ll wear.

Frankentop – Burda 122-04-2011

Since I started cycling to work I’ve been wearing fewer dresses and more trousers. I made a couple of pairs of jeans earlier this year to fill in the trouser-shaped hole in my wardrobe. What I didn’t make were any new tops to go with them. My one jumper has been worn so much it has gone into holes.

So last time I was in London I got some fabric to make another version of the jumper. The original was just a basic boat neck t-shirt pattern made up in black wool jersey. It was originally based on McCalls 2401 but it’s evolved so there’s only the faintest resemblance nowawdays. I wanted a high neck for this one so I took Burda 122-04-2011 and traced its neckline onto my t-shirt pattern.

Burda 122-04-2011 technical drawing

The fabric is a wool-elastane doubleknit. It’s wonderfully thick and springy. I was worried at first that it might be a little too shiny because it had a very smooth face when I bought it, but a trip through the washing machine changed the texture to be slightly fuzzier. It came from Cloth House on Berwick Street. I started out a universal size 90 needle but got lots of skipped stitches which no amount of fiddling with tension cured. After switching to a stretch needle results were greatly improved as you can see below. The top line of stitching uses the stretch needle and the other two are the universal with differing tensions.

Doubleknit with stretch and universal needle stitching

So here are the final results. The neckline on this top is perfect. It’s high enough to keep me warm while cycling but it doesn’t annoy me. I’m less convinced by Burda’s combining the high neck with short sleeves. I once had a sleeveless top like that which worked well with a pencil shirt or slim trousers though.

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It’s very hard to see the zip in the shoulder in these photos, but if you’ve spotted it in the closeup below: yes I put it on the wrong side. Having got it to go in pretty much perfectly there was no way I was going to unpick it when I realised. I pointed it out to a friend and she had to think for a moment about what side it ‘ought’ to go on in the first place, so I don’t think anyone’s going to notice. I can’t just turn the top around and have the zip on the left because the neck facings are very different, even though the front and back body pattern pieces are much the same. The back neck facing is longer and would bunch up awkwardly if put at the front.

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The back is completely plain but it is nice and long. It’s not hemmed. I didn’t have quite enough fabric for the length I wanted and it doesn’t fray so I just cut the hem edge carefully with a rotary cutter and left it raw.

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One more picture because I like this one, although it doesn’t show anything new. This frankenpattern is definitely a keeper.

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