I guess it's a tradition now! Since my oldest son got a backpack when he went to school, my other son was expecting one when he started Kindergarten. Thanks to gradual entry, I managed to get an extra week to finish this one up. He's much smaller and won't really be bringing much home each day, so I decided to go with the Sew Sweetness Cumberland Backpack (small size). The patterns comes with many purchase options, including a bundle of PDF pattern and video. The video is an online workshop where Sara of Sew Sweetness goes through each step with you. Here's a trailer of the video for the Cumberland Backpack.
I loved that this bag started taking shape right away; sometimes bags can take so long to make and you can't really see progress along the way, but the front zippered compartment is pretty early on. This looks tricky since it's a zipper along a curve, but it actually went pretty smoothly, especially with the wider zippers I use (and called for in the pattern.) I chose a simple magnetic snap, but the pattern includes instructions and measurements for a twist lock as well.
I used two different prints from Libs Elliott's Tattooed Collection. The silver in the lightning bolts of the main print matches perfectly with the vinyl I used for some of the accents. I also used grey zippers and matching webbing to tie it all together.
I've come to really appreciate the binding finish! This pattern actually comes with two finishing options. If you really don't like doing the binding, you can follow a separate set of instructions, which are clearly marked for the alternative method. I like that the binding finish offers a relatively quick and simple way to complete the bag and even adds a bit of structure for the shape. You don't need your binding stitching to be perfect because it's hardly going to be seen, squished into the seams inside the bag.
I can see making this as a cute backpack purse for myself, and I love that simple changes can give it a completely different look. If you haven't already, you should check out thetester photos on the Sew Sweetness site for some examples.
Now they each have their own, and I'm off the hook again, until next year! The small Cumberland is the perfect size for my little Kindergartener! If you missed it, you can read about the Adventure Time Backpack (pictured below left) here. If you want to give the Cumberland Backpack a try, you can purchase the pattern here.
Do you have that one fabric that you're hanging onto for the "perfect project?" Well, for me this is the fabric. I knew I'd had it for a while, but wasn't sure exactly how long, so I went through my records and discovered I bought it from Fabric Spark in 2014! It's called Poetry, in Teal and is part of the Garden of Earthly Delights collection designed by Studio KM for Free Spirit. You probably already know that I'm a bird lover, and I tend to gravitate toward fabrics with birds. I think this print is so pretty, with its saturated colours and how it makes the black and white bird pop. The bird is quite large, so I was just waiting for the right project that called for something in this scale. Along came the Fiesta Tote! As usual, I'm often inspired by the pattern name to choose my fabrics. I also knew that the pattern would be released in Spring, so I wanted something bright and cheerful.
Polka Dots! These polka dots are from Jackie McFee's Opposites Attract collection and they work perfectly with the black and white from the exterior of the bag.
Now about the pattern: the Fiesta Tote was written for a bag making retreat that just wrapped up in the UK. Samantha (aka Mrs. H) wanted attendees to have some special patterns to work on during the retreat, so she actually designed 3 new patterns. This one was designed for beginners, or intermediate "bagineers" looking for a quick sew. There's also the Toiletry Tote and the Machine Bag. You can buy them all as a bundle, or each one individually.
The Fiesta Tote has a rounded bottom, achieved with darts, and a removable adjustable strap, plus small handles. It also features interior slip pocket and interior zippered pocket. The main compartment is closed with a magnetic snap. The approximate dimensions are about 14" wide by about 11" tall.
I used webbing for my handles and strap, which is what is called for in the pattern and really allows for the bag to come together quickly. Some testers made their own, for a more custom look. I used D rings to attach my strap, but you could also use a triangle ring. The rivets are optional, but I love the extra touch to tie in all the coordinating hardware.
The pattern includes instructions to place an exterior zippered pocket, but I omitted mine in order to keep my focal point.
If you've been wanting to dive in to bagmaking, this pattern is a great place to start. It offers a taste of hardware, a small variety of interfacing and a beautiful bag at the end! Find the pattern here, or to purchase the bundle, click here.
Here in BC, kids get 2 weeks of Spring Break, yes you read that right! March is not my favourite time in the Fraser Valley - too much rain for my liking, but I didn't want that to stop me from taking the kids out for some fun activities. I wanted to make sure I also had fun and participated in our activities, so I needed a bag that would allow me to be hands-free. Last summer,I made the Beatnik Waist Bag, and it was perfect for then, but this time, I was looking for something a bit bigger, to accommodate a few snacks. There are plenty of cute backpack purses out there (maybe I'll do a roundup one of these days) but I chose Swoon's Lucy because it looked fairly quick, and even had some options I could skip to speed up the sewing. Another plus for me was that I already had the pattern, as part of the Vintage Collection from Swoon Sewing Patterns, such a great buy!
My latest fabric purchase from Fabric Spark included these fun Echino Motorbikes and I really wanted to use them right away. Like many of the fun Echino fabrics, this one is printed on a cotton/linen blend. Now just to pick the accent and lining fabrics. I knew I wanted something bright to bring out the fun of the motorbikes, and when I saw the corner of this Dottie Bandana (now sold out) peek out from from my stash, I knew it would be perfect. Next was the lining: silly as it sounds, I wanted something that matched the theme of the activities I had planned with my kids. I planned "field trips" with lots of built in learning, so I already had an inkling I would choose a text fabric, and just like the Cotton + Steel, this Encyclopedia Galactica print practically jumped out at me.
To make the bag a bit quicker, I had already planned to skip the grommets and make a casing instead, and I was happy to find that the pattern already included that option, which made me happy since I didn't have to do math. I also skipped the interior pocket, but I kept the back pocket and it's perfect for my phone. The pattern has an option to use a zipper on the straps, but again, I went with the quicker, separate strap option. I will only use the bag as a backpack, so didn't think in this case it was worth the extra steps to add the zipper.
As for size, I'm thrilled, it's exactly perfect for my needs. It fits my large wallet (Necessary Clutch Wallet), keys, garage opener, extra zippered pouch (for girly stuff) and plenty of room for a water bottle and some snacks, but it's not too big and it doesn't weigh me down. The straps are adjustable so the bag can fit over a few layers if need be.
PDF Sewing Pattern: Lucy Backpack, Swoon
1" Adjustable Sliders and D rings: Emmaline Bags
Fusible woven interfacing and fusible fleece: Paccana
Thread: Rich Navy & Tea Dyed, Connecting Threads
Lining Print: Andover Encyclopedia Galactica, Hawthorne Threads
Accent and Straps: Cotton + Steel Basics Dottie Bandana, Fabric Spark (sold out)
Exterior Fabric: Echino Motorbike, Fabric Spark
Did you make something for Spring Break? What inspires your fabric choices? Let me know in the comments!
It's February! That means I can share the latest bag I tested. I made this Sublime Bag, pattern from Sew Sweetness, and it's the February pattern for the Bag of The Month Club.
I love the details on this bag! The front exterior pocket opens on both left and right sides of the pocket, and I think metal zippers really help add some bling to this low-hardware bag. I used cork from the Sew Sweetness shop, and chose the black with silver specks to match my zippers. The cork was a dream to work with on this bag, and one piece of 18" x 54" is enough for this pattern.
The pattern has instructions for rolled handles, like I did here, or flat handles. The rolled handles in cork were a breeze! If you prefer, you could also add some hardware on the connector and do your handles separately.
As usual, I made my own double pull zipper, but a single pull zipper works here too.
The purse feet are optional of course, but I thought they went well with my cork.
I added a bag label from Emmaline Bags on the back, because it never hurts to #putabirdonit (see here for reference).
Inside is just as lovely! There's a zippered pocket, and a divided accordion pocket.
The pattern calls for 2/3 yard of exterior fabric (pink in my bag) but I actually managed to make it with just one fat quarter, although I had to cut the lining of my front pocket from a different fabric. I just thought I'd mention it in case you only have a FQ of a special fabric and want to use it for this bag. I used Safari Moon, an older collection from Frances Newcombe for Art Gallery Fabrics. As mentioned earlier, I used one piece of 18" x 54" cork from Sew Sweetness, but the pattern has instructions for both fabric or vinyl/leather/cork. I followed the pattern exactly for all the interfacing suggestions, and I really like the body and structure it resulted in.
I'm pretty sure I've shared this before, but I'm so slow at sewing, really! This bag was rather quick though, even the cutting and prep didn't take too long. Another winning pattern from Sara at Sew Sweetness! This pattern is only available as part of the Bag of The Month Club, so if you haven't yet, sign up to get the exclusive patterns!
I've been working on secret sewing lately and it's been so hard to keep them all quiet. I'm bursting at the seams to share these awesome patterns and thrilled I can finally show you this one. It's the Prairie Girl bag, by Janelle from Emmaline Bags, for the December pattern in the Bag of the Month Club.
This bag has it all! The front zippered pocket has card slots, and even a pen loop! The main section is two separate zippered compartments and the strap is adjustable so you can wear it on the shoulder, or cross-body. Lining up the butterflies from the pocket to the main bag was an experiment that worked, thankfully!
I'm not a prairie girl myself, having lived on the west coast my whole life, but I wanted the fabric for this test to match the name. I envisioned butterflies in sunny fields and pretty foliage when I did this fabric pull, and I think they're so pretty together. These are prints from two Lizzy House collections: Natural History and The Lovely Hunt.
A great thing about this bag is that it's low on hardware. It really only needs an adjustable slide and 2 rings. I even managed to upcycle my hardware from a thrift store bag. You can also use rivets to attach the straps, but if rivets make you nervous, you can just stitch them on instead.
If you want to read more about the Bag of the Month Club, you can check out the Emmaline Blog. There's also a big announcement from Janelle in her post, you won't want to miss it.
Update: The Prairie Girl is now available individually from Emmaline Bags, click here to purchase.
I've tried to scale back my pattern testing lately in an effort to make life a little less busy. I do enjoy it tremendously though; I'm definitely not a designer, so it's nice to still have a small part in bringing a pattern to life. When Anna of Noodlehead asked me to test out this latest bag pattern of hers, I couldn't say no. I always love her elegant designs, and this bag is no exception.
I've been hoarding Sarah Jane's Out to Sea since I bought it a few years ago. It's such a cool collection and I find it so inspiring. I still have a complete map from the collection that I'm saving for the perfect project. The name "Compass Bag" instantly made me think about navigating the open seas, so I paired Out to Sea with Sarah Jane's newest collection, Magic. The mermaids spark the imagination, a perfect partner to adventure. I also threw in some Michael Miller metallic arrows, because they went with the theme, and it helped tie in the metallic Essex Linen I used for the main exterior of the bag. This was my first time using the metallic Essex Linen, and my only complaint is that it's super hard to photograph how awesome the sheen from the metallic threads looks.
The bag comes in two sizes. I made the large. It also comes with instructions for two different types of exterior pockets. I chose the more simple version, to better show off the prints I used. The other pocket option offers pleated pockets with flaps. The construction of the bag is also part of the design feature, with its pieced main panels and topstitching along the centre line. The subtle curved top makes it trendy, yet classic. The flat bottom allows the bag to stand up on its own.
Inside the bag is ample room for your next adventure, or even just a trip to the bank, as the case may be. There's an interior zippered pocket, as well as a divided slip pocket.
There's a bit of hardware in this bag, so it's great for those wanting to try it out. The rivets are optional, but I think they look great and they're easier to add than you'd think.
It's a really versatile pattern and you can really change the look depending on the fabrics you choose. Oh! I almost forgot to mention: it's pretty quick, so would work really well for some Christmas sewing.
If you want to see other versions of this bag, or want to get the pattern, head on over to the Noodlehead website.
Hi everyone! Summer's almost done, kids are heading back to school, and now maybe you'll have a chance for a little bit of "me time" so this new free pattern will be perfect for you. I had a chance to test this latest pattern from Sewing Patterns by Mrs H.
I found this pouch to be really quick and easy. The most time consuming part is sewing the elastic spots for your nail polishes or essential oils.
The pattern suggests using the Internal Wire Frames - Style C, available at Emmaline Bags (North America) and Bobbin Girl (UK). I used the frames for the first time and I was impressed that they withstood inserting into the channel, which had a few really tight spots. The frames also help the bag hold its shape when opened. Because the zipper extends past the frame channels, the bag opens nice a wide.
Don't let the style and shape fool you: this is a big bag! It measures about 14" wide and about 9" tall. There's a ton of room in there, and I actually like it as a chic evening clutch. One of the testers added full straps and turned it into a beautiful purse. You can really customize it so many ways to make it your own.
Did you spot my new labels? I got them custom made at Brickbubble. I highly recommend this small business, for excellent quality and service. I also used zipper ends from Emmaline Bags instead of making the zipper tabs (instructions in pattern for making zipper tabs).
This pattern has an overlay that is a perfect way to try out vinyl. I used the brown vinyl from Paccana and think the rich mottling of browns is a nice contrast to the peacock blue print I used from Hawthorne Threads.
I'm probably the odd one out here, but as a kid, I really looked forward to going back to school in the fall. Now as a parent, I notice my kids aren't as excited as I was, but I still try to make the start of the school year a big deal. I find getting them involved in the process really helps: deciding what I'm making, picking the pattern, and picking the fabric. Are you adding some handmade love to your kids' school routine this year? In most of Canada, we have almost 2 weeks left before they go back. I've gathered up some great projects that I think would work well for the school year.
The staple of back-to-school bags!
Not-So-Tiny Explorer Backpack
Here's the Not-So-Tiny Explorer Backpack I made my son last year. You can read all the details in this post, but the gist is that I bought the Diedelbug Tiny Explorer PDF and followed the tutorial to expand the bag, making it the perfect size for most primary kids. These aren't quick or cheap to make, but they last. My son is happy to be using this one again this year.
My other son has asked me to make him a backpack and after looking through many patterns, he's set on the Sew Sweetness Cumberland Backpack. It comes in 2 sizes, so I'll make him the small. I love the shape!
Blue Calla Convertible Backpack
This one would be great for a teenager who wouldn't need to carry too much. It fits my iPad plus some extras. I remember as a teenager, a large backpack cramped my style a bit, so I only brought my big backpack if I knew I had a ton to carry. Otherwise, I would have loved one like this, with just enough room for the essentials. The Calla Convertible Backpack from Blue Calla can also be worn as a purse, just move the straps to the front and carry on your shoulder! Don't forget to use the exclusive discount for Happy Okapi readers OKAPI10 to save 10% on any Blue Calla pattern.
Don't forget to eat! Lunch Bags are one of my favourite things to make; probably because they're something practically everyone can use, and they're fairly quick to make. I make mine insulated and I find the insulation works really well to keep foods cool all day long.
Emmaline Luxie-Lunch Bag
I made this fun, framed lunch bag with fabrics designed by Jackie McFee. The pattern allows for several different prints and I thought these fun flowers, chevrons and dots were perfect. You can find the pattern, and required frames from Emmaline Bags. It's a really great size and allows for a full lunch with all your reusable containers.
Sew Sweetness Peas and Corn Lunch Bag
This is actually a set of PDF patterns. I made the rounded zip top one last year, and it's such a cute shape that my son has requested one this year. Head over to the Sew Sweetness site to see the other bags in the set.
Happy Okapi LunchBag Tutorial
My very first tutorial was for a lunch bag and I actually just retired the one made in this tutorial, to make room for another of the same design, but with a new print. These ones are so quick to make and have lots of room for containers, water bottle and ice pack.
These are so quick to make; it probably takes longer to decide on a pattern and print!
Noodlehead Pencil Pouch
This pattern is in Handmade Style by Anna Graham of Noodlehead. I made this one in another fabric collection from Jackie McFee, this time is classic black and white with a pop of yellow from the zipper. If you're pressed for time but want to get a quick sew in, this is a great project. The binding makes it so fast and best of all: no hand sewing!
Sew Sweetness Filigree Double Zip Pouch
I made this large Sew Sweetness Filigree Double Zip Pouch, which works as a cosmetics pouch, but there's no reason it couldn't be used for pencils and other supplies. The pattern offers 3 sizes, so you could make one of each!
Sew Sweetness Annex Double-Zip Pouch
Sew Sweetness also offers this boxy version of a double zippered pouch, which looks to be perfect for school supplies.
Laptop and Tablet Bags
Back to school doesn't always mean loaded up with text books. So many students heading back to campus leave the books and bring the tech!
Swoon Dorian Messenger
This Messenger bag pattern is so versatile and I've seen many in masculine prints, making it perfect for boys and men.
Shades Laptop Bag from Windy City Bags
This laptop bag from Sara Lawson's book Windy City Bags is on my must-try list. I think the unique design makes it so functional, yet stylish. I also like that it's easily unisex.
Sew Sweetness Lilium Laptop Bag
The Lilium Laptop Bag looks like a fancier take on the traditional messenger bag, and made with enough padding to protect your device.
Tablet Shoulder Bag - On the Go Bags
I made this Tablet Shoulder Bag from the On-The-Go Bags book; this pattern is from Sara Lawson. I like that it looks like a purse, but it actually carries your tablet! There's a padded pocket inside to protect your device, plus plenty of room for a notebook and pencil case. I used yet another Jackie McFee collection of fabrics for this bag. I think the mint and grey colour combo is both trendy and sophisticated, plus the geometric prints remind me of DNA, taking me right back to my college days.
Here are a few projects that didn't fit into the other categories but they're great to have and worthy of a share.
North Pond Notebook Cover
I made this North Pond Notebook Cover from Radiant Home Studios (and you can read more about it here) as a cover for my bird journal, and I love the idea of covering a notebook for each class.
Creative Maker Supply Case
I've made several of these Sew Sweetness Creative Maker Supply Cases, and they really are great to have. You can customize the case so easily too! Any art student would be thrilled to have their supplies so nicely laid out and available. The pattern comes in 3 sizes: the small is perfect for a child's crayons and small colouring book (pictured below right). If you like the idea of the Creative Maker Supply Case, but think you need more storage, check out it's fully-loaded big brother version, the Ultimate Art Organizer.
Swoon Dallas Vintage Duffel
You may have seen me post about this bag recently. I made the medium duffel for my son, and I think it would work for a gym bag for an athletic teen, with plenty of room for some books and lunch. Check this post for all the details.
Well, after compiling this round-up, I've concluded that Sara Lawson of Sew Sweetness must love back-to-school as much as I do. How about you? Are you doing any special sewing for this time of year?
I've been active on Instagram for a little over a year now, and I often see really amazing, inspirational works of art received as part of swaps. I've seen sign-ups, but never signed up for one myself until my friend Carla hosted an "Under the Sea" themed swap. Growing up on the Pacific Coast, I've always felt a connection to anything ocean-related, so this particular swap was calling my name.
This swap had a few requirements: it couldn't be a simple item, specifically it had to include at least 2 of the following features: embroidery/handstitching, patchwork, paper piecing, english paper piecing, multiple zippers, quilt blocks. We were sent a small questionnaire filled out by our recipient with their favourite colours, fabrics, likes/dislikes etc.
My recipient loves sea turtles and I wanted to challenge myself by trying paper piecing for the first time, so I set out to find a pattern.I find this great sea turtle that comes in 3 sizes designed by fernstitchco. I've had the Noodlehead Maker's Tote pattern for a while now and figured this would be the perfect opportunity to give it a go. So by now I'd figured out what I was going to make, but I had a little problem: I actually didn't know how to paper piece.
Right about now is when I got really happy I have creativebug! I hopped over there, thinking there ought to be a class, and I was right! Not only is there a paper piecing class, it's taught by Carolyn Friedlander - how cool is that?! My membership includes as many classes as I can watch on so many different types of creative outlets.
Once I had the turtle paper pieced, I created the background large enough to be the front of the tote and continued with the instructions for the Maker's Tote. I also did some quilting in different blues and greens in wavy lines to make the exterior look more ocean-like.
I had so much fun with the outside and the inside was exciting too! I decided to use mesh for one the pockets on one side, just because that seemed more ocean-like to me, plus I just got some in a pretty colour and wanted to use it. I used some of my all-time favourite fabric, Mo Bedell's Full Moon Lagoon for the interior, and also the side panels. I also used Patty Sloniger's Into the Deep from Sitka Fabrics and I love the fresh vibrant look those collections have when combined with the anything-but-basic Cotton + Steel Basics from Fabric Spark.
Another first for me with this project was hand-binding - I'd never done it before, and was a bit intimidated at the prospect. I asked my friendJenny, who does amazing work, if she had any tips. She gave me some pointers and a big dose of encouragement. I must admit, it was a lot nicer to do than I expected. I was able to watch a show while doing the hand-stitching, something I don't do at all while sewing otherwise. So I guess I understand how people say they enjoy hand-stitching and find it relaxing. I might even find some more hand-stitching projects to do!
For the very last step of the bag, I used rivets to attach my handles instead of sewing them on. I thought the metallic from the fabric would go nicely with the rivets.
Overall, this project really got me out of my comfort zone and I'm really thrilled with how it turned out. It was pretty hard to part with. My partner has received it, and she seems really happy with it.
Know what I got for the swap? A Maker's Tote! Isn't that a funny coincidence?! I love that adorable whale! Both the one I made and received are the small size Maker's Tote; the pattern offers instructions for small and large.
When I first started sewing, I was so intrigued with Kam Snaps - they looked so enticing, with their rainbows of colours. Most of the people I saw using them were making diapers though, so I wanted to find a use that would suit me. I came up with this insulated cup cozy. I had seen cup cozies before, but they were usually closed with buttons or hooks, or made out of something else entirely. My design allows the cozy, or sleeve, to be completely reversible, so you get 2 for 1!
A friend introduced me to the reusable Starbucks cups a few years back, and I use mine daily. I designed my pattern to fit these cups; if you are wanting to fit different cups, you may need to adjust the pattern. I get a lot of requests for my pattern, so I finally got around to making it in a shareable version for everyone. I'm offering it here on my site to you for free!
It's a perfect project for beginners and experienced makers alike. It's a fun, quick project and makes a great little gift.
To make the cup cozy, you'll need less than a fat quarter of 2 prints each. I like to use quilting cotton, but a linen blend could work too. You'll also need some insulated batting; I use Insult-Bright, available at Funky Monkey Fabrics, and Connecting Threads. You also need 2 complete sets of Kam-snaps and the pliers or press, and awl to install them (4 caps, 2 studs and 2 sockets). You can find Kam-snaps at Stay-Home Fabrics. You might find a point turner helpful too.
Start by downloading and printing the pattern. Make sure to print at 100%. You can check the test square to see if it measures 1" square to make sure the pattern printed at the right size. Cut out the pattern and tape together at the dotted lines to get the full piece.
Cut out a mirror image set of your exterior fabrics. You can do this by either placing fabrics right side together and cutting out the pattern piece once, or just cut out one fabric from the pattern piece, then flip over to cut the mirror image. Then cut one Insult-Bright piece.
Place fabrics right sides together and the Insult-Bright wrong side against one of the fabrics, matching the shape of the pattern, then pin or clip around the edges. Starting at the bottom of the cozy (where indicated on pattern piece with turning gap) sew around the perimeter, leaving a small turning hole, with a 3/8" seam allowance, making sure to backstitch at start and stop. Trim corners and seam allowance, except leave seam allowance intact over turning gap. Trim away Insult-Bright over turning gap.
Turn right side out, making corners nice and sharp. Tuck in seam allowance and press all over. Topstitch around cozy 1/8" away from edges, closing up turning gap.
To add the snaps, you can use the pattern placements (4 circles on the pattern piece) as a guide, but I suggest trying it out on the cup you're going to be using it with before piercing holes with your awl. I do this by wrapping the cozy around the cup, nice and snug. One end should overlap the other, it doesn't matter which one since the cozy is reversible. Once I have a placement I'm happy with, I hold the cozy where the ends overlap and quickly slip the cup out. If you aren't confident with doing this, you can pin or clip the cozy in place before you remove the cup; a bobby pin or paper clip would work well here too. Now while still holding the overlapped ends, I take my awl and pierce the top and bottom, through both ends of the cozy. Note: For this step, you need to make sure the hole you're piercing is well within topstitching on both layers, otherwise your snap may miss a layer.
Once your holes are pierced, you can let go of the overlapped ends and install the snaps. You'll want one set of caps showing on the left end of the cozy and one set of sockets on the right end for side A, and when you flip the cozy over to side B, it should have caps (the other side of the sockets from side A) on the left and studs on the right (the other side of the caps from side A).
You're done! Rinse and repeat for all those teacher/neighbour/coworker gifts. It's great for scrap busting too! I would really love to see your cup cozies! Please tag me @reecemontgomery and use #HappyOkapiCupCozy on Instagram, or share on my Facebook wall.
If you aren't a coffee drinker, they double as power cuffs!
Want to make a cozy, but don't have snaps? My friend Rachelle used Velcro on hers; check out the changes she made for it.
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Hi! I'm Reece and I love to sew! I'm also a mom and a wife. I love being crafty and sharing tips.
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