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Motif Afghan Crochet-Along: Crochet Techniques, Part I

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Motif Afghan Crochet-Along: Crochet Techniques, Part I

Last week I showed you how to start a motif in the round using a sliding loop. This week and next, I’m going to share a few more tips that might make our stitching more attractive and attend to some of those nagging details that keep our motifs from looking their best.

Now that you’ve got a few motifs under your belt, take a good look at them. Are you happy with the way they look? I’m not talking about the color this time—that was last week. Now I’m talking about their overall appearance. It’s hard, but try to be objective. This is just you looking at your own work—nobody else is in the room, so you can be as harsh a critic as you dare.

Are the stitches even? Are the corners symmetrical and the sides straight? Is there a wonky chain-stitch line where you’ve been beginning the rounds? Do you have an ugly bump at the end of the round where the join occurs? If you’ve been working in ends as you go, are the tails peeking through on the right side?

Whenever you are working from a pattern, you should realize that the designer had to make certain assumptions, and perhaps to obey certain pattern-writing conventions that make patterns more standardized. In other words, the designer can’t possibly put into each pattern every single “improving” technique that she might know. It’s up to the crocheter to learn and apply some of these techniques for herself (or himself). Now, before you get into a huff about this, think: it’s no different from cooking. Recipes don’t tell you every single move to make, but you’ve learned cooking techniques and apply them all the time. It’s the same for crochet.

By now, hopefully you have a pretty good idea of how the motif is made, and perhaps you are stitching without even consulting the pattern. Fine! But now let’s take a closer look at how the motif is constructed. I encourage you to refer to the chart for this part.

Changing the beginning of the round
The motif we are working on was written as if the entire thing was going to be worked in one color, or with one continuous strand of yarn. Those of you familiar with reading crochet patterns will have deduced this already, because the rounds flow directly from one to another using joins to end a round followed by chain stitches to bring the hook up ready to work the next round.

As written, the pattern calls for a hdc join at the end of Round 1. This hdc takes the place of a (ch-2, slip st) join; it creates a “ch-2” space, but leaves the hook in place to begin Round 2. I could do it exactly as written, adding my new color on the final joining stitch. However, because I am doing every round in a different color, I am going to finish off the color at the end of every round, then join a new color for the next round. I don’t need to use the hdc join, because once I finish Round 1, I’m going to be changing colors. I can start my new color anywhere.

End Round 1 with ch 2, slip st in 4th chain of ch-6.

End Round 1 with ch 2, slip st in 4th chain of ch-6.

If I change the location of the first stitch of Round 2, I can keep those beginning chain-stitches from stacking up on top of each other and creating an unsightly line. Refer to the chart and just pick a spot—any spot—to start your Round 2. You may begin in a chain-space, or in a double-crochet stitch. It really doesn’t matter, as long as you make sure to do six sets of 5-dc groups, separated by ch-3 corners.

Standing double crochet

But hold on… I so dislike the look of a beginning “ch-3 (counts as dc)” that I avoid it whenever possible. In this instance, I can just start my Round 2 with a double crochet. Wait, did you say, just start with a double crochet? How is this possible?

As I mentioned, the purpose of the beginning ch-3 would be to get the hook up to the top of the next round. Once I’ve finished off Round 1, however, my hook can be anywhere it wants. Therefore, if I just start with a slip knot on the hook, I can insert the hook into any stitch or space and work a double crochet. I do end up with a slip knot kind of hanging off the back of the work. I’ll get rid of that later when I am weaving in my ends. I call this technique a “standing double crochet”.

Begin with slip knot on hook, yarn over and insert hook into stitch or space.

Begin with slip knot on hook, yarn over and insert hook into stitch or space.

Pull up a loop, then yarn over and complete double crochet in the normal way.

Pull up a loop, then yarn over and complete double crochet in the normal way.

Completed double crochet

Completed double crochet

Reader challenge: See if you can spot the beginning and ending of Rounds 2, 3 and 4 in the photo at the top of the blog.

OK, I know this is the part you’ve all been waiting for. There are many ways to join motifs as you go. The best method is the one that gives you the results you like in your particular project. With each new project, I find it necessary to experiment with several methods to figure out which one is going to work best for me. That’s why I asked you not to finish off your final round, so you can rip back a bit and play with different joining techniques.

Today I’ll show you the join-as-you-go method that I’ve determined suits me best for this particular afghan. If you don’t like it, or if you don’t like the way it looks with your project, stay tuned. Later I will be giving you additional options for joining, including another joining method and a relatively painless way to join motifs after they are all complete.

Work the final round to the point where the stitches are to be joined. Note that I dropped the stitch from the hook to make it easier to see how the stitches

Work the final round to the point where the stitches are to be joined. Note that I dropped the stitch from the hook to make it easier to see how the stitches align.

Complete the last double crochet in the corner, then drop stitch from hook. Insert hook from front to back under corresponding stitch in first motif, then into dropped loop.

Complete the last double crochet in the corner, then drop stitch from hook. Insert hook from front to back under corresponding stitch in first motif, then into dropped loop.

Pull loop through to right side to complete join

Pull loop through to right side to complete join

Here you see the second double crochet stitch at its half-way point. Continue working all the way across the edge, completing each dc, then joining it to the corresponding dc on the first motif.

Here you see the second double crochet stitch at its half-way point. Continue working all the way across the edge, completing each dc, then joining it to the corresponding dc on the first motif.

A completed join. Finish this round with ch-3, join with slip st to first dc. In this case, the corners themselves are not joined. Continue joining motifs along their side edges.

A completed join. Finish this round with ch-3, join with slip st to first dc. In this case, the corners themselves are not joined. Continue joining motifs along their side edges. Some motifs will be joined along 2 or more sides.

Cool, huh? I’ll be talking about some additional technique refinements next week, and you can find these and many more in Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs.

I’m sure many of you more experienced crocheters have your own tips that you’d like to share with us. We would all like to hear from you. What are your favorite tips and tricks?

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  • Wow!!!
    This join as you go is the greatest thing EVER!
    You can’t imagine how many projects I avoid because of the endless squares that need joining.
    Thank you! Thank you!

    Edie says: And this is just one of several ways to do it.

  • Hey, Edie

    I like that join as you go, but it does require that one knows already exactly how the colors in each motif will be arranged, and how those motifs will be arranged in the final ‘ghan. I’m afraid I have not looked that far ahead, so I think for this “design as I go” ‘ghan, I may just join all the motifs after they are finished. 🙂

    And, as you say in your post, only a couple of the sides will be joined as you go because of the shape. I really love mitered squares for joining as I go. 🙂

    Sande in Fresno, CA

    Edie says: Yep, Sande, you do have to plan ahead. That’s why I usually don’t join as I go. I like to be able to change things up at the last minute!

  • ah, me again – I forgot to write about the “slip knot will be dealt with later.” In your book, you mention that one can just unpick the knot and weave it in. I’ve been pulling both the end-of-the-round tail and the standing join tail thru the same loop, pulling that loop shut and crocheting over the ends on the next round. If that method doesnt look good, I’m weaving the ends up and down thru the sts.

    Can you skip ahead just a bit and let me (us) know if your method is different from either of the ones I’m using? I hate to have some of my motifs look pretty bad (the ones I do before your tips are published) and some look wonderful (after I use every tip I can garner). smile

    Sande in Fresno, CA

    Edie says: My motto is “whatever looks good/functions well is the correct method”. If you are happy with pulling both ends through, then that’s fine (I’ll have to go try that!). I tend to work some of my ends in as I go, if there are enough solid stitches to really hold them down. However, the majority of my ends get woven in with a tapestry needle after the fact. Yes, I know everybody hates that, but it makes for really secure ends. I’ll be talking about that later.

  • Holy Mackrel. I was just pretty dang proud of myself for being able to follow the pattern and make the motif at all! I love that there are so many options (the recipe comparison was great) but I think I’m going to hang out in the shallow end on this one and follow the pattern, joining all motifs at the end. Maybe on my next afghan I’ll venture a little deeper into crochet magic tricks. 😉



    Edie says: And you should be proud of yourself! Just take the tips that work for you and ignore the rest. (As I said earlier, my preferred method is usually joining at the end.)

  • Hi Edie,

    So far so good. I’m still playing catch-up (only have a couple motifs finnished). My question goes back to the tail left by the double loop. Can I cut that off or should I weave it in?

    Edie says: Why not leave it where it is right now? It won’t hurt anything, and we’ll be talking about finishing steps in a couple of weeks.

  • For the join as you go method, is there any preferred yarn color to use if the two motif backgrounds (last row) are different colors? (Lighter versus darker yarn, or completed motif versus non-completed motif, or consider both at the same time?) I am not quite sure if I should attempt this, or just change my pattern idea to a constant color background.

    Thanks for you help.

    Edie says: The answer to this is the same as my answer to just about anything fiber-related: you won’t know until you try it. (also known as: swatch, swatch, swatch) I think that the method I showed you looks pretty good with two different colors joined, but you are the only one who can make that determination with your chosen colors. Try joining a few motifs with different-colored final rounds, and see which you think looks best.

  • Wow, this was a really informative post. I’m not much of a crochetter so I’m watching from the sidelines and this was really educational. Joining and starting new rounds is always tricky for me so thanks!

  • Well as a new crocheter I am proud to say I have 16 blocks made so far and they are looking good. I am going to have to join at the end though, because I am unsure of the placement as of now. That being said, I found your join as you go very interesting and am going to try it on a sample. Question though,the edges of my motifs curl up slightly. Is this normal? If not, how do I correct it? The rest of the block seems to lay pretty flat. Thanks!

    Edie says: Are your edges cupping up, or ruffling? If they are cupping, you might try working a bit more loosely on the final round. Can you share a picture on Flickr or Ravelry, so I can see what’s going on?

  • Hi Edie,
    Wow, I’m really good with the stitches but the finishing is difficult. I didn’t finish off each color but joined the new color mid stitch. I feel like I should do them over using the method described above. Edie – what do you think?

    Edie says: Helene, you are the Master of Your Crochet, so only you can answer that question. 🙂
    You have to be comfortable with what you are creating. If you are terribly unhappy with the way they look, then by all means do them over. On the other hand, you could just decide that this is a learning experience and leave them as an example to yourself of how your crocheting has improved.

  • Hi Edie,
    I have some questions, but first let me tell you of the colors/yarn I have chosen, besides one of my questions has to do with my yarn. I looked thru’ my stash and since I didn’t have enough of any color for such a project as this, I decided to base my color scheme on some Lion Brand Wool print (Flower Garden) that I had and went shopping for some solid colors to go with it. I looked at Vanna’s Choice, but did not think the colors matched well. So, I chose these Jiffy colors: denim, violet, and blush. My question is am I setting myself up for failure by planning on using 2 different weights of yarn? I am planning on using a large hook when crocheting the wool and a smaller hook when crocheting with Jiffy. Is there anything else I should consider, other than washing instructions?
    Another question, last time I made something with granny squares, my squares weren’t all exactly the same size, I think some varied by almost 1/4 of an inch. Is this normal? I do struggle with gauge – I’ve made an afghan that was several inches narrower at the end than the beginning.

    Edie says: About gauge: On the granny squares, were you using different yarns? That can make the size of the squares different. On the afghan, are you sure you had the same number of stitches at the beginning and the end, or did you lose some stitches along the way? Were you using the exact same hook throughout the entire project? Even hooks labeled as the same size can give different results.

    If none of the above apply, then maybe you just need some practice in working consistently. Sit down somewhere without distractions, if that’s possible, and stitch the same motif over and over until you are getting the exact same thing every time. Here’s where swatching comes in: If you are learning a new stitch pattern, sometimes it takes a few tries to learn the stitch and settle into a rhythm. It’s not until you are comfortable that your gauge settles down. By the way, I answer a lot of gauge questions in my little book The Crochet Answer Book.

  • I thank you so much.

    I was following the pattern as written and could not figure out the way to change the colors and my attempts were more frustrating than anything else. Thanks so much for the information because I was just going to stick with the pattern and use only one color but that is not what I really wanted.

    With this information I will now be able to complete the motif the way I truly wanted to.

    I know with time I would have figured it out but sometime that frustration just result in something added to the work in process pile.

    Thanks again

    Edie says: So glad that my tips helped. When you find yourself getting frustrated, try what I do: Quit trying to follow exactly what the pattern says, and think through the problem yourself. Think: What am I trying to accomplish? How can I accomplish it? You may well come up with a better solution than what is written in the book.

    A thinking crocheter is an expert crocheter, no matter what level of experience she (or he) has.

  • Oh, my gosh. I have been avoiding crocheting blocks for years because of having to sew all those pieces together. I will be joining as I go for this one, since it is for myself and not a gift. It will give me a good chance to perfect it with practice.

    I really like your joining technique. I have been using the “catch the new color in the last part of the previous stitch” technique but I don’t really like it when I am joining light to dark colors.

    Thanks for all your suggestions. They have all been new to me and fun to try.

  • Hi,
    Thanks for the information. I also was having trouble with my hexagon. Iv’e been making a few practice pieces.I was also considering doing each hexagon in a solid color. Last night I made a perfect hexagon. It looks great.

  • Oh my!! I did not even think about starting every row new (I am using different colors on each row also). I really dislike all the ends and starting a new color half way thru a stitch. Now thank-you for reminding that I can just end each row = so much easier!! And that joining was a bit confusing but I got it after a few tries. It is nice and neat. The only joining I know how to do are chains with a slip stitch, so this was good thank-you.

    To Brenda, I am also using different weight yarns within each hexagon but using the same hook size throughout. So far I am coming out to gauge for this. Changing hook sizes will put your gauge off and also make it harder to crochet thru stitches made with the small hook when you are using the larger hook.

    Thank-you Edie and Lion Brand for this CAL, I am really enjoying it and reading what others are saying. It is also nice to see that others think like I do or have the same questions. Don’t feel quite so silly:)

  • Veronique,
    Hmm, I hadn’t thought of that, good point. So which hook size should I use, one for worsted weight yarn or one for bulky? Or one inbetween the two?
    But I struggle with keeping a consistent gauge, especially within large projects. How will I know if I’m doing it right or wrong?
    Wish I could just go try it right now, but I’m in the middle of making supper.

    Edie says:
    Combining yarn weights successfully takes some planning. Veronique did a nice job responding to your question about different size yarn/hooks.
    If you work a bulky weight yarn with a hook usually used for worsted weight yarn, your resulting stitches will be very stiff and tight–not what you want for a nice fabric. A too-large hook on a worsted weight yarn will make for a loosey-goosey fabric. Again, not what you want. You’ll probably have to experiment with an in-between hook to find something that gives you a nice fabric when using both weights of yarn.

    I say it over and over again: the most important thing for a successful crocheting project is to swatch (make samples) until you are absolutely happy with the result you achieve. Sometimes this means that you match the gauge of a pattern. It always means that the fabric you are stitching is not too stiff and not too loose for its purpose. In this case, gauge is not that important, but a nice fabric is crucial. It does NOT save time or money to throw together yarns that don’t work together, just because you have them in your stash. You won’t be happy with the outcome. (Brenda-this is not aimed at you–it’s just a general comment.)

  • This is SO interesting and informative. I’ve been crocheting for years, but never saw any of these “cooking techniques” explained anywhere. The books all just assume you know, even the teaching books. For example, one question I’ve always had, and since we don’t look silly asking here, I’m going to ask it: when turning our work, should we turn it clockwise or counterclockwise, or does it not matter? Does it have anything to do with why crochet in rows curls at the corners? I know it doesn’t really apply to this project, unless some people are turning for each round, as some posts suggested in the first week. But I’d really like to know. Thanks for all your patience, Edie.

    As for the joining-as-you-go needing advance planning, I think I will crochet all the motifs but leave the last round till later – kind of a hybrid between plan-ahead and play-at-the-end. Then I can play with the placement and crochet the last round and join at the same time.

    Edie says: What a terrific question! Even though I answered lots of questions in The Crochet Answer Book, I never thought of this one, and I must admit I don’t know the answer. I suspect it doesn’t have anything to do with curling corners, however.

    I hope someone else will chime in with an answer. Meanwhile, I’m going to go do some experimentation and see if I can tell a difference…

  • I have two blocks completely finished with the all the rounds. I have ten more that just need the last round and seven more started with just the first round done. I am going to have to try the join as you go method on another project as I am working with scrap yarns for this project so I will have to make sure all my colors are evenly distributed.

  • Who’d a thunk it? It looks like I got this. My joining dc is a bit tighter then it would be otherwise but I’m guessing that will adjust with practice. Also It’s slow going since I have to take the loop off and replace my needle each time. I’m also haveing trouble with splitting yarn. I’m using Vanna’s choice and an H needle. Any suggestions on what may be causing this? Otherwise I think this is a beautiful and strong method. I have to say it truly turns motifs into one solid unit.

    I may be missing the point here but it seems to me this is a good method to use whether you join-as-you-go or save them to join at the end…no?

  • Re turning the work: either way twists the turning chain, but turning counterclockwise seems to twist it less. It also seems to keep the working end of the yarn aligned close to you (on the near side of the stitch), whereas turning clockwise puts it across the stitch. Sometimes I just remove the hook from the last turning chain and turn the work, untwist the turning chain, then replace the hook. Also, I made a scarf recently in double crochet, and it seemed as though turning the work counterclockwise made it easier to get the hook through that top (3rd) turning chain when I came back on the next row.

    Thank you, Edie, for the special tips and techniques. This CAL is like a special crochet course in itself.

  • Edie if you do not join a new color each is there a way to avoid the chain three look. I am making larger hexagons with jewel toned solid colors then edging them all in black. Thanks for the help Victoria

  • OMG, I’m just catching up, have been nursing sick grandchild with NIHI Flu..luckily it was caught early and she’s doing great…but, I love the join as you go, and the tip about changing colors, WOW..I have been sooo dissatisfied with past projects and joining colors…this will help alot. I have also avoided projects which require joining, and didnt understand instructions trying to explain join as you go. The pictures really helped. Hope to get more motifs going soon. Maybe during nap time. lol.

  • Edie,
    I tried joining as I go but it doesn’t go all the way across. After looking at your diagram and how to end the row I think I am supposed to start the 4th round with the second dc in the corner so that I can go all the way across and that is why the join ends with a ch 3 slip stitch. Am I interpreting that correctly?

    Edie says: Helene, that’s what I did in the photo, but my photos were just an example of what yours might look like. You won’t be joining every single edge of the motif you are working on–you’ll have 2-5 “free” edges. I find myself doing 1 or 2 full or partial sides, then when I reach a corner, joining all the stitches along that next edge to the previous motif. In practice, I prefer starting a round in the middle of an edge because I don’t like to join a final ch-3 to a beginning dc if I can help it.

  • Thanks, EL, your suggestion about taking the hook out and untwisting the chain is something I never would have thought of. That’s on a par with the join-as-you-go instruction to take the hook out and come in from the front of the stitch on the other motif. That answers something I had noticed before when making lace motifs for table runners. The instructions just say to insert hook in the picot or whatever on the other motif, and it always seemed awkward and twisted, and I never knew where to put the working yarn. Now I know why! Yay! I agree that the way you turn makes a difference in how easy it is to crochet into that turning chain at the end of the next row, but I had never quite stopped to think about which direction was easier.

    To Edie, I got a real boost when you said my question was terrific! The little kid in me said, “oooh, the teacher liked my question!” 🙂 You are obviously true teacher material, because you make every question feel welcome. (from a former elementary school teacher…)

    Edie says: Gee, thanks, Illehia. I love to teach (especially in person!), and I try to *take* classes whenever I can. I think we can learn so much from each other.

  • OMG Edie you are a genius! I’m not doing the CAL because I already have WAYYY too many projects on the go, including a bunch of hats I need to make and I think that you just helped me figure them out! They change color alot in the pattern and it was causing that unsightly seam up the back that no matter how good of a crocheter you are it looks terrible, but if I finish off each row, instead of changing colours it should solve that! Thanks! By the way love your motif book, it’s gorgeous, my husband even lets me leave it on our coffee table because it’s so pretty and I’m really enjoying following along on this journey everyone is taking.

    Edie says: Oh, Stephanie, you’re making me blush…I’m so happy you AND your husband like the motif book. You may also want to get The Crochet Answer Book, which I also wrote, and where I have answers to lots of questions about color changes, etc.

  • I have decided to join later for more flexibility, but I do have a question in case I join as I go on a later project like this. You show joining one side. Since these are hexagons, they are actually joined on many sides (the number depending on whether the particular motif is an inner hexagon or outer edge hexagon). So, maybe it should be obvious… but… do you just “join as you go” into rows and then standard joining of those rows together – or do you join all the sides using the technique above – for inner hexagons, it would require joining on all sides. Hope my question makes sense. Thanks for all the great instructions!

    Zontee says: Hi Jill, please see Edie’s answer to comment #22 above.

  • Thanks for the wonderful tips. I am not participating in this CAL but just finished a motif blanket. I am mostly self taught and I don’t know any ‘tricks’. I have always started my new color by doubling the yarn and then I don’t have that end to sew in after, but it is usually thick and a bit unsightly. I look forward to your up-coming tips. Also, I am taking your swatching to heart whether it is knitting or crocheting. Thank you again.

    Edie says: Well, if I’ve made a swatching convert, then my job here is done…

  • Hi Edie and all,

    I’ve sat here reading thinking…swatching? WHAT? Then I realized that’s what I’ve been doing when I start a project the “frog” it and start over (rinse…repeat) sometimes many times. I love all the information, especially for being a lefty-self-taught crocheter/knitter. I’ve read patterns that call for a slip stitch on hook and proceed with blah and thought WHAT?!! What on earth!! So thank you for clearing that up. Question though…If I like to play and have a few different motifs could I crochet all my “squares” then choose maybe a 4th lighter or darker color and then go around one motif then follow with the join as you go method with the others? So, in case I lost you, can i crochet like a fool till I’m done then use your handy dandy method at the end with a totally different color? Thank You for all the great tips and can’t wait to see everyone’s pictures when they’re done!! ; )

    Edie says: Kris, swatching means doing a little piece of the work (not starting the whole thing), and doing it over as many times as needed to match the gauge of the pattern, and to get the feel of a fabric you like. I usually don’t rip out my swatches, but save them as a reference.
    And yes, you can absolutely do all the motifs through Round 3, then wait and do Round 4 at the end. Sounds like a plan.

  • That was my question too. I’ve done that with lace, so it made sense that it would work with this too. That’s my plan. I have 5 bright colours plus black, so I plan to outline them all in black, joining as I go, and hopefully achieve a kind of stained glass look.

    Edie, any thoughts on a half-motif for those of us who like a straight edge? I notice someone else asked about that too.

    Edie says: Oops, sorry I forgot to answer that other request about the half-motif. We don’t have a half hexagon shape prepared. The scope of this CAL is to show crocheters how ONE single motif can be laid out as an afghan.
    However, you can figure out your own half hexagon. You might need slightly fewer than half the stitches we used for the full hexagon. Hint: In Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs there are a few “half” motifs. If you have that book, you could study how they were created and use what you learn there to help you figure out a half-hex in this design.

  • […] Motif Afghan Crochet-Along: Crochet Techniques, Part I […]

  • I have been recieving these e-mails and all of a sudden the Motif Afghan appeared. I have done 2 American Flags, but am working on a Teddy bear afghan for my great nephew. These guidelines will certainly help me along. No time to join the greoup now but love the notebook
    Thank you Pam

  • very good 

  • Oh my gosh – how can I print this out so it can be stashed in my project bag?!

    • Hi Leslie, while you’re on the blog post, just hit “Ctrl P” on a PC or  “⌘ P” on Macs to pull up your print menu and print it out. Hope that helps!

  • […] Standing Double Crochet Stitch: The Lion Brand blog has a great technique buried in this motif afghan crochet-along post (though that’s worth checking out too!). It’s a great way to avoid that ch3 look that can stand out so much, when you’re joining a new color. It’s so simple and easy once you’ve seen it! […]

  • Thank you so much,,,love it xx

  • […] the other day too and another one that didn't even bother with the slip knot. Check it out here…. Motif Afghan Crochet-Along: Crochet Techniques, Part I | Lion Brand Notebook […]

  • Can anyone tell me what it means when the pattern tells you ending to correspond. I am attempting a bedspread. There are loops in 3 corners. The last corner is a popcorn stitch but does not say to chain 7 and slip stitch into the top of the popcorn stitch. It just says ending to correspond. I am a little confused.

    • If you are having trouble with a Lion Brand pattern you can also email our Pattern Support department and they can help you if you are getting stuck or unsure about a stitch.

      Hope that helps.

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