In which we mess around with Norah Gaughan’s Swirled Pentagon Pullover

Note from Steph: I’m almost done, I swear it. This is the last of That Laurie’s phenomenally interesting guest blogs, and it will (almost) coincide with me running out of time to write the book. If anyone cares, the “writing” part is definitively done, and I’m onto all of the revisions and re-reading and organizing…and writing the introduction, which for reasons I have never been able to reconcile, I always do last. (Dumbass, but true.) I’ll be back soon. Perhaps a hollow shell of my former self…but back.

My sincerest thanks to That Laurie for the blog rescue mission. Those of us who blog can guess at how long it took her to put these together…and I’m very grateful.

By now you may be tired of spirals, You may not even be interested in moving onto swirled pentagons, even though the construction is really quite different. This sweater design appears in Norah Gaughan’s delectable book, Knitting Nature. There are several projects in this book that I have in my sights, but my absolute favorite is the swirled pentagon yoke sweater. I found this pullover even more appealing when Grumperina knit one without the turtleneck, and I realized that the yoke all by itself looked pretty cool.

So once again I was knitting a yoke, but this time I wanted to have my color ranges WITHIN the six individual pentagons. Off to do more dyeing, but this time I did it by space dyeing relatively small rovings, 1.5 to 2 ounces. And I even spun and swatched to see if I was getting the color array I wanted:


Once I was SURE that the pentagons would look the way I wanted, I spun up all my little skeins and began knitting them sequentially onto each other:


And here is my completed yoke:


One of the nice things about working this way (top-down) is that you really get to take a good look at what the crucial section of the sweater around your neck and head. And, of course, you can manipulate the shaping to fit your body as snugly or loosely as you wish as you knit your way down the body!

However, from here I had to do some moderately challenging things in order to knit DOWN from the yoke. I used three-ply yarn from roving dyed the same color as the Myrtle Green in the pentagons. And I used Barbara Walker’s book shamelessly, taking a lot of her advice to make the top-down set-in sleeves.

My first step was to use short rows in order to knit down on both the front and back edges to the depth of sleeve listed for my size. Please note: I did the back first and then, trickster that I am, rechecked my gauge to make sure that the total stitches I was planning for the body would really, truly fit my particular shape well before knitting the front down the same way.

Then, at each edge of the front side and back side, I cast on the same number as the original pattern indicated for the bind-off for the sleeves. I joined the front and back and knit a couple of inches so I would have a totally stable sleeve opening before the challenges of a top-down set-in sleeve.

At the upper edge of each sleeve I picked up, relatively closely together, the same number of stitches that Gaughan lists as the bind-off AT THE TOP of her sleeves in my size. I centered these around the “shoulder seam.” Then I placed a marker so I would know where the top stitches of the sleeve were. Then I took note of the total number of stitches her sleeve reached BEFORE the first bind-offs as the knitting moved UP the sleeve. That number was my target for picking up the stitches around the sleeve opening. When I reached the place where I had started picking up, I put another marker. That set of stitches at the top of the sleeve served as the center stitches for my shortrowing. Basically I knit short rows all the way down the sleeve cap, picking up one more stitch with every row until I reached the stitches that I had cast on when knitting down the front and back. Those I picked up all together.

I actually picked up the stitches around the sleeve opening for BOTH sleeves before starting to knit either sleeve. Then I began to knit down on both of them simultaneously so I could match and check shaping. That way I could try it on!


PLEASE forgive the extraordinarily smug expression; it is actually a grimace because my husband takes pictures while offering a running commentary about how strange it is that I want pictures of things before they are completed!

To finish the project off, I reiterated the shirttail hem from the Quiggle sweater…. And here you go:


I hope my explanation of top-down set-in sleeves was not too confusing; it really does make sense when you try it!

Just to answer a few of the questions that have come up over the last few days, I offer the following information.

The Charlotte Quiggle pattern uses the shirttail hem and gives a nice description of how to achieve it with shortrowing. You can manage the same effect in knitting on the way down by beginning short rows once you reach the sweater length where you want your shirttail to begin. By that point you have a really good sense of your row and stitch gauge! Sally Melville has a super, detailed description of how to get the exact curve you want in Great Knits: Texture and Color Techniques (82-85). This essay also appeared in Threads 47 (June 1993): 34-37. The book is a wonderful collections of Threads articles, but it is now, alas, out of print. You can usually find it via interlibrary loan.The basic principle is easy–you want steeper shortrows in the upper third of your shirttail hem, achieved with single stitches between turns, and you want less steep–that is wider spacing– between short rows in the lower parts of your shirttail hem.

On the raglan issue and yokes for narrow shoulders, I have some suggestions. Raglans look dreadful on my narrow shoulders because of the strong diagonal line of the increases (or decreases as you knit UP the sweater); however, I can significantly counter that effect by creating some kind of strong color contrast in a stripe that falls at or near my shoulder width. If you are knitting the raglan in the round, this strategy is particularly easy. The stripe then makes a square (or rectangle) that actually emphasizes my shoulders and makes them look wider. Along the same lines, if I place my yoke design so that the color work (whatever it is) ends at or near the edge of my shoulders, the design makes the most of the limited space I have from shoulder edge to shoulder edge and makes that area look larger.

To do the offset spinning, I arrayed my colors (roughly) as follows for the different plies:

ply #1 — .5 oz. purple, 1.5 oz raspberry, 1.5 oz. aztec gold, 1.5 oz. golden ochre, 1.5 oz. aztec gold, 1.5 oz raspberry, 1.5 oz. purple

ply #2 — 1 oz. purple, 1.5 oz. raspberry, 1.5 oz. aztec gold, 1.5 oz. golden ochre, 1.5 oz. aztec gold, 1.5 oz raspberry, 1 oz. purple

ply #3 — 1.5 oz. purple, 1.5 oz. raspberry, 1.5 oz. aztec gold, 1.5 oz. golden ochre, 1.5 oz. aztec gold, 1.5 oz raspberry, .5 oz. purple

This array makes .5 oz pure purple, 5. oz rasp/purp/purp, . 5 oz rasp/rasp/purp, .5 oz rasp/rasp/rasp — and so forth.

81 thoughts on “PentaYoke

  1. Take a deep cleansing breath… will soon be done! Keep taking those knitting breaks during the process,it will renew you & inspire!
    😮 )

  2. OMG! I got here first??!!!?!
    Got to try those spirals too,Beautimous!
    Forgot to ask…when’s the book coming out? No pressure mind you…..just curious ;o )

  3. WOW! To both of you!
    Stephanie, your ability to crank on these books to keep us entertained is astounding.
    Laurie – each yoke is more interesting than the last!

  4. Dear Steph, to me it makes perfect sense to write the introduction last. After all, when you introduce a person to another person, you have to already know the first person, right? So when you introduce a book to an audience of readers, you should kinda know the book first. How can you do that *before* you write the book? See, you’re doing it exactly how it should be done. 🙂

  5. Wow, Laurie, thank you. As always, your posts are very inspirational and chock-full of valuable information I’m certain to come back to over and over… (I still read your rainbow-dyed roving posts.)
    And I understand that the husband-commentary during photo shoots is a more universal issue. Mine seems to often miss the fact that it is the knits that need their photo taken, not me…
    To Steph: hang in there, and I’m sure it’s already great and getting better… Thank you for all your hard work, I’m looking forward to the finished product!

  6. That Laurie, I just love uber-clever spinners. I am saving your guest posts for when people ask “why do you spin yarn when you can buy it at Wal-Mart” which is even harder to answer than, “Why do you knit socks when you can buy them at Wal-Mart?”
    That is not a smug expression at all. I rather like it. It says “up yours” in a delightful way. It reminds me exactly of Tom Petty’s expression on the cover of “Damn the Torpedoes,” when he had just won a battle with the record company to keep the price of the record down (they had suddenly wanted to do a drastic price raise when he got famous).
    And Steph? Though not a Famous Writer like yourself, I kind of understand about the difficulty of writing the introduction. My own bugaboo is doing a bio-blurb about myself for seminars. I hate that.

  7. Steph, writing the intro last is NOT dumbass. I actually used to recommend that to my students all the time. So often we only clarify what a piece of writing is really about by actually writing it. So it isn’t until we are done that we know what the heck we are introducing.
    glad you are almost done. Laurie’s guest posts have been very interesting. No wonder she doesn’t want her own blog if she puts that much work into each post 😉

  8. Steph, can’t wait for the new book! Are you going to give us any clues (title etc) or are you going to make us wait? (Very impatient knitter here…)
    That Laurie, your ability, to make the impossible seem suddenly logical, is amazing. I’ve looked at that sweater a bunch of times, and never ONCE thought, “Oh, I wonder how I could knit that top-down”. You make it sound like a piece of cake!
    Kudos to you both!!! And thanks, That Laurie, for keeping us entertained while the Harlot is working.

  9. I knit colour yoke sweaters in the 80’s & never thought I’d want another, but that is gorgeous, inspiring, I needs one.

  10. Ooh, that’s such a cool sweater! I love how you did the color variations within the pentagons. =)
    Steph, it’s completely normal to write the intro first, don’t worry. =)

  11. Ok, here’s my idea: Stephanie’s next book should be a collaboration between Steph and Laurie, about sweaters. Shoot, I’d pay money just to have great color pictures of all the sweaters I’ve seen from you two!

  12. Laurie, these sweaters are gorgeous… and your design and thinking is totally impressive. Something to aspire to in times when I have more time. Thanks for the excellent and inspiring instructions.
    To Stephanie:
    Hang in in the editing phase. Remember to backup you files!!!
    [Was that you I saw last night in the show Restaurant Makeover??] Pretty sure given the child’s name…. and hey, there was beer.

  13. Thank you That Laurie! I really enjoyed your guest blogging. Your sweaters are each marvelous, designed and skillfully executed in a way that makes them both gorgeous and totally sensible clothing items. Many many thanks to you, and many thanks to the Harlot for sharing her blog space. I really enjoyed that.
    p.s. Yarn Harlot: I’m off to work on the introduction to my book as well (sadly not on knitting.) See you in intro land. And yes, it’s my last chapter too. Yay. Almost done.

  14. Thanks to Laurie for all the wonderful info on beautiful sweaters – you have every right to look a little smug!! And special blessings to dear Harlot as she finishes the new book. And take it from a business consultant…you can’t write an intro until the book is done. We teach business plan writing and the summary cannot be written until there is something to summarize. You have to have the body to make an introduction! Knit on!

  15. WOW! Laurie, you really outdid yourself with this one. It is really just SO stunning! And happy belated birthday.
    And to the Yarn Harlot: I sympathize with the writing thing. I’m under the gun for dissertation writing; I guess the big difference is that everybody reads your books (because they’re so fabulous) and no one will read my diss. (not a bad thing, really). But it’s still pressure and deadlines nonetheless.
    (Good thing I’m spending precious time reading blogs, eh?)

  16. thank you laurie just posting a
    comment takes time and thought and click
    on preview and i did not mean to say that
    i am really do enjoy reading about how one writes
    and readies a book for the publishers i like to read some books backwards and watch the author
    get to the ending from the first words
    then wonder if they will thank me next time
    for reading the book

  17. Good job, Steph. One more sprint to the finish; then it’s champagne and chocolate for everyone!

  18. I had a great composition teacher in 11th grade who told us to write the introduction last and I’ve found it to be great advice. I’ve done that for all of my papers and theses.
    Good luck!

  19. I am beginning to see that That Laurie is inhabiting a completely different knitting universe than mine. One where a person does math and has a plan before casting on. One where a person curses and cries a much lower percentage of the time. One where a person creates stunning works of art.
    Yup, clearly not my universe.

  20. Great thanks to That Laurie for the facinating guest blogs. Not only can she figure this stuff out, she can communicate it coherently.
    Steph, I totally agrre with others. How could you know what you need to introduce if you haven’t already written the stuff that needs an introduction? Things change, tone shifts, and ideas don’t always follow the outline through the course of a book’s birth.
    Please take a bit to decompress before you jump back into things here. I’m sure you have more pressing stuff, like Mount Laundry and the Dustbunny Foothills, to surmount first.

  21. My head is spinning!! I am a weaver, and I dye my yarns, know lots of spinners, BUT you lost me several sentences (blog entries back) on the top down part…. I will need to read your entries repeatedly to get the hang of it. Or I may have to try it to “see” it working. You packed a TON of information int three entries, and left me dazzled. Thank you that Laurie and Stephanie. Keep ’em coming!
    Nancy In Houston

  22. I am completely stunned at the beauty of that yoke. I think That Laurie totally needs to write a book. Genius like that needs to be more out in the open, so we may hope to catch some of it!
    I have a teeny suggestion: whenever I see the sweater ‘in progress’, I want to say: stop there!! Don’t make it longer to cover your beehind. you have a beautiful figure and I like the cropped version.
    Just my 2 cents.
    Stephanie, make sure you get some well deserved rest!! Promise? You don’t want to come down with that awful cough again…and we need you to be well for Rhinebeck!

  23. So yea… Now I’ve just been totally intimidated and in awe of your knitting…

  24. These are just so beautful – I want to move somewhere where the average temperature is less than 30C so I can wear sweaters like these!!!
    And Harlot? There’s nothing wrong with writing the Inroduction last. How else will you know what you’re introducing???

  25. Ahhhh. Thing of beauty. And a workshop’s worth of fascinating info. Brava, Laurie! Excellent explanation of so many things! Thanks much for the expansion on raglans/yokes/narrow shoulders, especially. Huge thanks for the wonderful guest blogging and inspiration.
    Stephanie? What everyone else said re intros. When you stagger away from the the computer, wild-haired, glassy-eyed, vibrating in place from over-caffeination, and appear in front of Joe like Banquo’s ghost to triumphantly announced you done did it…I think he should give you several tots of Screech (once he recovers from the shock, although he should be getting used to it by now), take you out to dinner, then gently push you into Lettuce Knit. Without expecting to see you for a good 8 hours after. Hang the post-stove budget temporarily. Mama needs some wool fumes!
    ‘Sides, then he and the girls will have time to do a quick whip-through on the house. [veg]

  26. I’ll echo what many before me have already said–intros come last for a great many writiers. I’m figuring it will be the last thing I write for my dissertation. And perhaps the hardest!
    Laurie–gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!

  27. I never could figure out why anyone would bother spinning when there’s so much fabulous yarn in the yarn stores, but I started to get the idea with Stephanie’s multicolored sock yarn and now I totally get it.

  28. Steph – congrats on almost being finished!
    That Laurie – My stars – this sweater is GORGEOUS!!! What beautiful colors!

  29. That Laurie – thanks for all the info on knitting top down, and especially the offset color plying.
    Steph – I think lots of authors write the introduction last, so I wouldn’t worry about that.

  30. Hang in there Stephanie! You deserve a nice rest and a big treat when this is done.
    That Laurie, just amazing! It will be many, many years before I can even dream of that level of skill. You are so artistic.

  31. Thanks for telling about the offset spinning ….. am going to keep this in my idea bank! You’ve done a wonderful series of posts, and I already have my library looking for some of the books you have recommended! Great job! How will top this the next time Steph needs relief?
    Steph we are all rooting for you, take deep breaths, eat chocolate and soon you’ll be telling us all about those “dark days of finishing”.

  32. Wow, thanks That Laurie, both for the wonderful guest blogging, and for addressing my question about the shirttail hem! I’ll check those resources out!
    Steph, keep on keepin’ on! And have a beer!

  33. Unlike other occasions when I have offered an opinion – I have not read through each and every one who has preceded me. (The challenge is just so much greater when there are hundreds and hundreds of commenters involved. And I really **should** be working.)
    Two points:
    One to Stephanie: An Introduction is supposed to be written last! Don’t your wonder publishing people teach you ANYTHING?
    Yes, written last – as strange as that may sound.
    Second to That Laurie: One of your yoke pentagons would make a lovely dishcloth! hint, hint
    I’ve got the cotton yarn, all I need is the pattern. hint, hint
    Take care you both and happy knitting,

  34. I adore that sweater. It turned out simply marvelous. And I completely understand the husband-babbling-and-taking-pictures “smile”. 😉

  35. Your sweater is stunningly beautiful and your method is hopelessly beyond me. I feel like I’m smarter, just for being in the same blogosphere with you That Laurie. I do wish you had your own blog, as I would like to occasionally go and bask in the warm glow of your knitting expertise!

  36. That Laurie … how fast do you knit woman? I must be the slowest knitter in the free world. I’m still working on last year’s sweater.
    And Steph…have two beers. Congratulations on finishing your book. Can’t wait to buy a copy. Perhaps you can offer it as a signed edition to your blog readers at a higher price and raise money for your cause? Just a thought….

  37. Ohmigod, That Laurie! You are indeed an artist. Where did you learn to do all of these wonderful things? I bet you’re just a natural who always imagines things for which there are no existing patterns. Way above my level of competence, but I will aspire. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    Brava, Stephanie, for completing your text. When will hints be available as to subject, publication date, touring schedule, etc.? No pressure, no pressure at all! Since life is what happens while you’re making other plans, don’t forget to stop and smell the yarn fumes, add to your stash regularly, and knit for inspiration and relaxation. And don’t be so hard on yourself.
    Thank you for That Laurie as your temporary replacement. A book collaboration wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Bet That Laurie wouldn’t get so much done is she were blogging, writing, and touring!!!

  38. Talk about spoiling us! A Saturday post. Woo hoo. The Harlot has big shoes to fill.
    Laurie, I am once again humbled by the beauty of your work.

  39. Fantastic. I wish that you lived close enough that I could come fondle your sweaters. Hmmm, that doesn’t look quite right, but I can’t think of a similar word to “fondle.”
    Anyway, that sweater is gorgeous. All of your sweaters are gorgeous. 🙂

  40. I love That Laurie’s ideas, and am now crazed to spin up some yarn for the pentagon yoke sweater (as well as the Quigley ribbed yoke sweater)! And Steph,if it helps, as a professional grantwirter I can assure you that it’s always easiest to write the intro/project description/abstract/etc after writing everything else. It is inconvenient that this is true, but it’s true none the less. Good luck, and as a proud owner of the last 2 books I look forward to whatever the new one will be.

  41. Check out Knitting Nature very carefully before you but it. There are many, many mistakes in almost every pattern, I learned the hard way. I made a sweater that was on gauge with the right size needle and yarn. The sweater is soooooooooo big, I am having it altered. Buyer beware!!!

  42. I loved the “unfinished” version, too. In fact, until you mentioned it, I thought it was the finished version. It showed off your shapely waist — hourglass figure, I believe it’s called, not pear!

  43. that Laurie I’m absolutly gobsmacked by the beauty of all the sweaters you have done. Amazing ! Good luck with the book Stephanie.

  44. I have vastly enjoyed this series. It’s made me wish I had more of an inclination to wear sweaters! While I appreciate the exposure to wholly new ideas, it’s cost me two new books!

  45. Thanks, That Laurie, for another inspiring and beautiful tutorial. What talent!!
    And to Stephanie and Joe — Happy First Wedding Anniversary!! Many many more to ya!

  46. Thank you, That Laurie. I have really enjoyed your posts. I am knitting my first ever top-down sweater (or jumper as we would say in UK!!) and loving it.

  47. That is a beautiful sweater, Laurie!
    And Stephanie – writing the intro last makes perfect sense. You can’t know what you’re introducing if you haven’t written it yet! This is how I always write class papers. 🙂

  48. Thanks to Laurie for her guest blogs. I loved the colors of the rainbow spiral yoke sweater and the pentagon sweater, what an artist! Congratulations to Stephanie and Joe on their first wedding anniversary – it’s the same day as mine so I couldn’t forget! Looking forward to the new book, when will it be published?

  49. Wow Laurie! What a mind to come up with all that. Navajo plying is the bomb! I love the fact that you dyed just enough roving to make the pentagrams! You must have a very liner mind. I can’t imagine the time it would it would take to make one sweater, never mind the amount Laurie has.
    Stephanie rock on! I hate deadlines, time awareness challenged that I am. What inspiration you have in having Laurie as a friend!

  50. Fabulous. I’ve really enjoyed your blogs, Laurie, and thanks for all the technical hints especially the shirt tail hem which I’m going to try on my next sweater. Cheers

  51. Thank you, That Laurie, for the design using that yoke. I saw it in Nora’s book, and am now raring to go to the dye pot! Great guest blogging.
    Steph–My Mom would probably say that the end of a writing project is a lot like finishing a really big knitting project (with lots o ends to work in, seams to sew, etc.). Just put your head down and keep at it!

  52. Bless you Laurie, you’re an awesome friend. You’re hubby is alright too. Nice knitting by the way. I love the color change. That part fascinates me. Thank you for sharing.

  53. You know, it makes sense to me to write the introduction last, since you have to wait and see how the work will turn out – it may be different than what you started out wanting to do. It’s interesting to read in an intro, the process the author used to come up with the final product. Saw a trivia question the other day, maybe you know the answer? How much wool can you get off of one sheep? It’s an easy answer, just wondered if you knew…! Good luck finishing up – can’t wait to see the results of your labors!

  54. Genius! You make top-down set in sleeves make sense – now maybe I won’t be afraid to try it. Thanks for guest blogging, and happy late birthday!
    Also, to Stephanie – I am assuming that a writing project, like many other creative endeavors, morphs from the original intent somewhat during the process of creation. How can you introduce the readers to your book unless it’s finished and you know what exactly you’re introducing them to? I think it makes perfect sense to do the introduction last. Good luck!

  55. Oh Other Laurie–I love this sweater. And I love the Knitting Nature book. I picked up the hexagon pattern that is on one of the sweaters that looks like a Star of David and am using it on a shawl for a lovely young woman’s Bat Mitzvah.
    I love Maine. I wish I were there right now.

  56. Laurie, this is a fantastic Pullover! I especially liked it, that you dyed and spun for the pentagons. I’m in awe!

  57. Once again, cool sweater!
    And Steph, no prob writing the intro last. Look at it this way, you now know for a fact who you want to thank and what you want to say about writing the book. If you had written the intro first, it would be just one more thing to revise!

  58. Hey,
    As a highschool english teacher, I say that writing the introduction last makes perfect sense. If you’re going to introduce someone at an event, you have to do some research and find out about them. It’s kind of hard to write an introduction to something that hasn’t taken corporeal form yet!
    So a book introduction will be most pertinent to the actual book, rather than the intended book, or vague planned book, if written after the book is established. What could possibly make more sense?
    So. . . keep up the good work!

  59. Wow is all I can say to That Laurie for her amazing brain that produces such sweaters. Wow is all I can to you Stephanie for the amazing brain that produces such books. I agree with Presbytera – I’m in a whole different universe, and I’m not even sure I’m in the same universe she is. My brain apparently does not function in a way that will conceive, plan and execute such wondrousness – I just lump along using patterns that are the product of other brains and hoping I can interpret them correctly enough to get a pleasing result. Congrats to both of you on sweaters, books, birthdays and anniversarys. Knit On! Chris S.

  60. That Laurie, wow. You bring design into everything you did, and clarified wonderfully, a lot of things that confuse about pattern choice by body type. I’m going to have to get some of the books you’ve recommended. I understand why a person wouldn’t want a blog, it does cut into knitting time, but beyond a doubt, we are the ones missing out. Great job, lovely knitting, and thanks for expanding this knitters view.

  61. Laurie, I love your sweaters and how you take a pattern and completely change it, but stay true to its design. Beautiful.
    I asked Jen (when she was visiting with Dan) if she thought you’d be willing to adopt me, or even just let me look through all of your yarn and watch you work at your house. She told me I should ask. I even assured her that I’d have to choose her over Dan if they ever broke up and she laughed, but couldn’t make any promises about you adopting me.
    So what do you say? Do you want another (slightly older) daughter?
    ~Denice (Dan’s big sister)

  62. Who cares if the intro is written first or last? Just like in knitting, there is no wrong way. Can’t wait for the new book. And That Laurie, wonderful sweaters and blogging.

  63. Sorry, I’m a little slow in getting into the loop – These have been just wonderful posts, Laurie. Thank you so much for this. Delights the eye, but makes my head hurt a bit to think about actually doing the knitting.

  64. Oh boy, I SO have to do some of the offset spinning. I’ve been wanting to for ages and That Laurie is truly inspiring! But first i have to finish two jackets I am making for Taos this weekend….
    Hope the book stuff is getting clsoe to being sorted!

  65. Beautiful sweaters!!! I love the 6 spiral yoke sweater but it makes my head spin to try to figure out how to pick up all those stitches and do the short rows so it’s not all rumpled. (Your instructions I’m sure are fine; I just cannot wrap my head around the idea. It’s my weakness, not yours!)
    Thank you for filling in for Stephanie!

  66. Thanks for the inspiration Laurie! I have that pattern– I’ve added this post to my favorites so I can reference it. This project has moved up in the line of interest! Thanks for the tips, tricks and visuals :o)

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