Learning to use my Bernina B480

Posted August 5, 2019 by sewingplums
Categories: sewing technique


The new 4 series are Bernina’s top sewing-only machines. I am pleased with the facilities on this 480 machine.
But I think Bernina is very wrong to say the 4 series are suitable for beginners.
There are so many options, it is a very ’sensitive’ machine. It needs to be threaded exactly correctly. All the settings need to be just right for it to do what you expect, and often you have to find out what those are for yourself. I’m an experienced sewist and I have not found the 480 quick and easy to learn.

I have used a Bernina 330 for years so I know Bernina basics (I love my 330 but wanted more decorative stitches and more buttonholes). I have a Bernina 500E (embroidery-only machine, also difficult to learn) so know something about this screen and bobbin.
And I know the sources of support.
There are Bernina video tutorials for the new 4 series (click tutorials tab). But some of them skip through a quick demo with little explanation – I suspect only an experienced sewist can follow what is going on.

The very good and much more detailed Sewing Mastery videos for the Bernina 710 show the previous version of this screen and software. Many useful tips which apply here too.
Note November 2019 : the wonderful Sara at Sewing Mastery has started filming videos about the Bernina 480. Perhaps I should have waited 6 months and then I would have been able to learn how to use this machine with much less pain !

I really needed all my experience when I first had this machine, to sort out what was going wrong and why. The first few days I was reduced to tears and thinking I had a lemon several times by all the problems. Okay it all turned out to be user error, but it was not a happy time.

Whoever writes Bernina manuals does not think the way I do. I read manuals, but this one doesn’t mention much of what happens. The threading guidance is clear.
The new Bernina workbook is sometimes more helpful.
Typical problem – the workbook frequently tells you to use the transition arrow/window, but the word ’transition’ does not appear in the manual – the same function gets several names there.
I’m glad I’ve got pdfs of both manual and workbook for quick ‘finds’ as the index is not much use.
The ? button on the machine is also good, so long as you’re not too flustered to remember to use it ! It’s the only source for meanings of the Sewing Consultant icons.

My guess is the manual was written by engineers, the workbook by teachers (who know user needs), the engineers have higher status in the company and are in head office so their opinions have precedence, and the two groups don’t communicate very much.

I also guess Bernina assume the old support model of customer working closely with dealer to learn how to use a machine, and working with a personal teacher to learn how to sew. But here in UK most Berninas are bought online, and most sewing teachers wouldn’t know how to use this machine.

I do now know :
– I need to make many exploratory samples, to find how to get the machine to do something before doing any process ‘for real’.
– it saves me much hassle if I go through the workbook exercise the first time I do something. I can still end up puzzled, but not as much as if I try to work out for myself what to do. . . Often the results seem random, but that usually turns out to be because some function I hadn’t realised is important is not switched on or off as it should be.

The manual/ workbook/on-screen tutorial instructions are not complete, and you need to try things out to fill the gaps. I make notes, and sometimes have had to try several times before I found what works.
I like detailed written instructions when I’m learning, and what’s provided was not enough for me. I don’t know how a ‘jump in and have a go’ learner would get on with this machine, I got thoroughly confused when I tried things that way !

Yes it’s good to have so many options on this machine. But many options make for a complex machine, and choosing between the options is also complex. It would have been good to have better help with learning to do that.

After 6 weeks of using this machine I am gaining confidence.
And the sewing is not a problem ! I have sewn 8 layers of cotton batting, also one layer of rayon challis, both without difficulty.

I haven’t yet explored or mastered all the options, but I think the 480 has excellent modern-style facilities for an experienced sewist :
– 5 presser feet supplied – general 1C, overlock 2A, buttonhole slider 3A, zipper 4, blind stitch 5 : mine also included a walking foot 50.
– presser foot pressure control, ‘free hand’ knee lift for presser foot, foot pedal control of needle, big front-loading bobbin.
– securing stitches, thread cutter (some choice about how those are used, I found the defaults confusing, and now just press the buttons when I need them),
– classic Bernina rotary knobs for changing stitch length and width while stitching,
– 9 buttonholes, 2 eyelets, proper bartacks – on-screen measure of button size, adjustable buttonhole width, density, slit width.
– 9mm width decorative stitches (5.5mm on the 435, 475), about 250 of them, and 3 western alphabets with lower case – which can all be combined (a challenge to learn),
– pictorial colour touch screen for stitch editing and combining (edits include mirroring, number of repeats, lengthening with stitch density maintained), screen shows each sub-stitch in a stitch pattern – during stitching the screen shows the current needle position in the stitch pattern,
– automatic adjustment of top tension with stitch type.
– personal memories, plus usb socket for external storage.
– on-board support : brief written operating instructions, sewing consultant suggests stitch choices and settings to use for main fabric groups, ‘eco’ standby mode, choice of display styles, servicing information.
– optional extras :
. . . many other presser feet as both 5.5mm and 9mm feet can be used (if the foot hasn’t got the top ’sensor’ the machine automatically defaults to narrower stitches, and if you try to sew a wider stitch the screen shows an animation of the needle hitting the foot !),
. . . BSR for free-motion sewing,
. . . gold (high tension) and red (thick thread) bobbin cases for special techniques.
And the stitch quality is a treat.

Now I know how to learn to use this machine, I am enjoying what it can do. You need to be determined to keep trying, if you want to find how to use this machine to its full potential. But it repays putting the work in.

But beginners won’t know enough to know what a machine ‘should’ do, or how to recover when things go wrong. I think this will be a ‘machine too far’ for most, and they would be very much better off with one of the Bernina 3 series machines. Those may not have all the fancy facilities but they do everything needed for general sewing of garments, home dec and crafts. With one of those, a new sewist can get confident with sewing basics. Learning to sew is difficult enough without having to try to understand a complex machine at the same time.

– – –

Links available August 2019

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Sew a garment in less than 3 hours ? – 2019 patterns

Posted March 2, 2019 by sewingplums
Categories: speedy sewing

These are patterns which the pattern companies claim you can sew in 3 hours or less.

These times assume you’re an experienced sewer ! And they usually only mean time at the machine, and don’t include preparation and cutting out time. Also they use quick techniques which may not give the best quality result – from looking at some of these instructions, they may not include seam finishing and pressing time. . .
But still these times are reasonable, they’re not stressed-sewing. They’re much easier than the patterns that Great British Sewing Bee contestants are expected to make in 3-1/2 hours.

These are the timed patterns I’ve found in print in March 2019.
Speedy patterns are mostly basics which stay in the catalogues, but there are a few new ones since I last wrote on this (2016), and a few have disappeared.

There are 100s of patterns in general for men, see this post. But there are very few speedy patterns for men.

In 2016 I also wrote a post on patterns that are quick makes but the companies don’t claim specific times for : Very quick and easy patterns which are not timed (I have not checked that for still-valid links.)

Obviously these patterns have to avoid any technique that takes time. So they have few design features and little shaping. But there are designers who provide interesting shapes and design elements that don’t need much work.

Very few of these patterns include pockets.
Add a patch pocket taken from another pattern.
Or with a little more time : here are instructions and pattern piece for in-seam pockets, from Sew Over It patterns.

And allow for the sewing techniques you’re relaxed about. Most quick patterns avoid zips, buttonholes, collars, set-in sleeves, any hand sewing. But if you’re a sewist who can do those in a whizz, then why not.

Fabric choice can be crucial.
Quality fabrics can give a luxury look to even the simplest of styles.
For easy making : choose wovens with a bit of body, so they don’t need much support from interfacing and don’t change shape while you’re cutting and sewing them. Not slippery, don’t fray easily. Similarly with knits – choose stable ones, that aren’t too floppy. Knits have the advantage they don’t fray, so no need for seam finishing.

– – –


These are the Big 4 time-limited patterns available in March 2019.

Outfit patterns

4 hours for a 2-piece outfit, 6 hours for 3 pieces ? Well, perhaps double that to include preparation and cutting out time.

Simplicity 1563, knit tee and tank, woven elastic-waist pants/shorts and kimono/robe – unisex casual wear, nightwear.

For a quick capsule, make all those items at several lengths in casual and dressy fabrics (tee and tank dresses, capris. . .). Perhaps add a dressier top and a skirt from the patterns below.

New Look 6816, knit top, skirt, pants.

Tops, Dresses

Surprise – the patterns above are the only timed knit fabric tops. Of course many people find knit tops a quick make, but the pattern companies don’t label the patterns with times.

All the patterns here are for woven fabrics. All have bust darts and no waist seam, unless mentioned.
The dress patterns can be shortened to tops and tunics, or vice versa.

Butterick 5948, classic dartless tops. Butterick used to claim these could be made in 2 hours, but they’ve changed the envelope.

New Look 6483, sleeveless and short sleeved tops.

New Look 6892, peasant style tops with gathers.

New Look 6347, sleeveless dresses.

McCall’s 6102, short sleeved dresses with 3 cup sizes.

McCall’s 5893, sleeveless and short sleeved empire waist dresses.

New Look 6352, sleeveless and short sleeved dresses, no bust darts.

McCall’s 6465, sleeveless and short sleeved dresses.

New Look 6889, sleeveless and short sleeved dresses.

McCall’s 6558, peasant style tops and dresses, gathers at shoulder and waist.

McCall’s 6098, girl’s dresses, no darts.

printed for you, USA only, very expensive :
Simplicity EA591701, jumper dresses, no bust darts.

Shirts, also for men :

Simplicity 8180 1-piece collar shirt, tie.

In previous editions of their unisex shirt patterns, Palmer-Pletsch claimed their camp shirt and banded collar shirt patterns took 2 or 3 hours. They’re now not so optimistic !
McCall’s 6932, 1-piece collar camp shirt (Palmer-Pletsch say 3 hours on their web-site, McCall’s don’t).
McCall’s 6613, band collar shirt (no time now given).
Lengthen for a shirt-dress.

Skirts and Pants
for women

There’s no longer a timed commercial pattern for the basic ‘sew 2 rectangles together with an elastic waist casing’ skirt, but there are several in the other post about quick patterns. The Hassle free make your own clothes book says you can make one in 10 minutes 😀

These patterns have elastic or knit band waist unless mentioned.

McCall’s 5430, wrap skirts with waist tie.

Simplicity 6338, girl’s skirts, knits and woven.

New Look 6843, skirts with darts and zip.

printed for you, USA only, very expensive :
Simplicity EA701501, skirts.

New Look 6399, skirts and pants.

Butterick 5153, shorts and pants.

Pants for men :

All have elastic waist, no pockets.

Butterick 5153, casual shorts and pants, no fly opening.

Simplicity 1563, casual shorts and pants, no fly opening.

Simplicity 8180 shorts, fly opening with snap closure.

printed for you, USA only, very expensive :
Simplicity EA995801, boxer shorts, fly opening with snap closure.

for women

Except for the blazers, none of these have any shaping darts.

Pullover layers :
Try Butterick 5948 or New Look 6892 View A,B
1 size larger for 2″/5 cm more ease, 2 sizes larger for 4″/10cm more ease.

Layers with front opening :

A camp shirt is classic casual layering : try McCall’s 6932. Check the finished garment sizes and make larger if you prefer.

McCall’s 2260, unlined vests.

Simplicity 8219, lined vests.

McCall’s 6209, ponchos.

McCall’s 6084, shawl collar cardigans, woven.

Simplicity 1563, kimono, perhaps shorten for a jacket.

Butterick used to have a quick pattern for waterfall front jackets, Butterick 4989, now out of print.

Butterick 4138 was an unlined blazer pattern they claimed you could sew in 2 hours ! That is oop, but it’s interesting to know someone thought it’s possible 😀

McCall’s 6172, the latest version of the famous Palmer-Pletsch 8-hour lined blazer pattern which sold over a million copies, is out of print but still available from Palmer-Pletsch.
This has been replaced at McCall’s by a unisex blazer pattern, McCall’s 7818.
Palmer-Pletsch claim this is an 8 hour pattern, McCall’s don’t !
Palmer-Pletsch say this has ‘boyfriend’ styling for women. Roomy and straight with shoulders wider than hips, so best for wide-shoulder inverted triangle, rectangle body shapes.
McCall’s 6172 blazer is for women only and has more shaping and closer fit, line diagrams here. Probably better for full busted inverted triangle, hourglass, triangle.

There are many other quick jacket patterns. Some of them are on this pinterest board. But very few jacket patterns are given specific sewing times, which is the focus of this post.

Layers for men :
All mentioned before.
camp shirts : Simplicity 8180, McCall’s 6932.
kimono robe : Simplicity 1563.
blazer : McCall’s 7818.

Costumes for men and women

McCall’s 7229, nativity, adult.

McCall’s 7228, nativity, children.

McCall’s 6142, clown.

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These are just a few patterns I’ve found which claim specific making times. I’ve looked at very few of them, so give no guarantees !
There are many more independent pattern companies mentioned in my other post on quick patterns : Very quick and easy patterns which are not timed.

Pattern lines :

For modern casuals, try Seamwork download patterns from Colette Patterns – supposed to take less than 3 hours in total (a few for men).

Seamingly Smitten claims most of their download patterns can be made in an afternoon.

‘Made in a day’ :

With a little more time – Decades of Style ‘Everyday’ patterns are supposed to be sewable in a day. Most are also rated ‘easy’.

If you love making your own patterns there are several simple tops and bottoms, many of them knits, among the Sure Fit Designs Made in a Day styles. Most of these can be made starting from any basic top and pants fitting slopers, not just the SFD ones.

Individual patterns (only the first is for men) :

For a very quick unisex fleece jacket/coat, watch Shirley Adams show how to make a jacket without a pattern and only 2 seams – in her Bog coat video. She claims 10 minutes. Take a little more time and add strips to the front opening if you want it to close.

These free download patterns from Camelot Fabrics are said to take an afternoon :
boxy dress – for variations : shorten to top / tunic, change neckline shape or finish.
cropped jacket – for variations : lengthen, change front shape.
pyjama pants – with elastic waist and side seams. Make a size smaller for a daywear version ?

Christine Jonson Studio Collection draped vest and jacket download patterns for knits. She says the vest can be sewn in 5 minutes !

CNT patterns : ‘A little somethin’ 3 hour shawl collar jacket.

Fancy Tiger Crafts free pattern for a One Hour Top is a simple dolman shape knit top. They have a video class for it at Creative Bug, with download pattern and showing how to make it on a serger/overlocker and a sewing machine.

If you enjoy self-drafted patterns from a book there’s the 1920s One Hour dress by Mary Brooks Picken.

Sew Over It claims an Intermediate sewer can sew their Ultimate Shift dress paper / download pattern in 3 hours.

Silhouette patterns :
600 classic blouse, with 1-hour sew-along webcasts.
85 sweater wrap, basically a knit circle with added sleeves.

Allow for 4 hours : French company Louis Antoinette have several patterns. And I think this is 4 hours total time.

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Of course you may well have your own patterns which you can whip up in a short time. This post is about patterns the pattern companies are willing to make a commitment on. They show that everyone can make a garment quickly, not just people who have a serger/overlocker and are making a tee 😀

Surprisingly, there are few knit patterns in this post, though there are many in the related post : Very quick and easy patterns which are not timed. Perhaps there are so many techniques / tools / notions for making knit garments, the pattern companies don’t want to guess the time you might need.

Whether you enjoy using these fast patterns may depend on your sewing style.
I prefer slow sewing and quality, and I don’t do well under pressure. I need to develop the fit of a pattern and get secure about the techniques used before I’m relaxed about making it more quickly.
But there are many people who love to jump straight in for a quick reward to their sewing.

So Good Luck with developing a range of speedy Tried ’N True patterns, if that’s what you enjoy.

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Patterns and links available March 2019

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Pattern making for front openings – 2. combined facing to front edge and neckline

Posted December 6, 2018 by sewingplums
Categories: pattern making for clothes

The first post about pattern making for front openings was about adding zips or bands down the opening edge, with a separate finish for the neckline.

This is about finishing both front opening and neckline with a facing.
Again starting from a basic pattern, perhaps your TNT pattern for a pullover style, or your personal bodice block.
Doing the pattern work is still easy. But not quite so easy !

2 sections here :

Pattern making
Neckline facing patterns have curves, so it helps to draw them on paper first.
I give 3 examples, each a little more complex.

General guide to adding a facing to an unlined garment.

Then a separate post with ideas for how you can add to a pattern with faced opening.

– – –

Pattern making

Tools :
– starter pattern pieces for front and back, with marked centre front CF and centre back CB.
– measuring tape.
– pencil.
– ruler.
– french curve – I have one with width measures round the curved edge, makes it easy to add seam allowances, here’s an example.
Consumables :
– pattern paper you can see through.
– transparent tape for joining paper pieces.

Edge to edge front opening, with cut on facing

Sorry my photos have got rather blurry at reduced size, but you only need to see the general idea.

attach pattern paper to CF of basic starter pattern which you want to adapt.
half size practice pattern from Czachor & Cole

fold paper on CF.

cut out along neckline, shoulder seam, lower edge, then unfold.
mark inner edge of facing.
set the facing width by eye or by measure, usually 2-3″ / 5-7 cm.

cut along this line.
Finished pattern

Overlap front opening

Add an overlap strip to the centre front.
Usually the width added to CF for the overlap is width of button.
This overlap/extension may be called a ‘buttonstand’.
So choose the size of your buttons before doing your pattern making !

Overlap with cut-on facing – often used on blouses.

attach paper as before.
add overlap extension width and draw fold line.

fold paper back on this line.

cut out along edge of neckline, shoulder, lower edge, then unfold.

mark inner edge of facing, at least 2x button width, usually 2-3″.
Blouses / shirts / dresses / skirts usually have vertical buttonholes, with horizontal ones at stress points such as shirt neck and waist.
Jackets / coats usually have horizontal buttonholes, so you need to allow a wider facing to have space for them.

cut along line.
Finished pattern

Overlap with separate facing – often used on jackets and coats.
A seam along the front edge gives a firmer result with more support, better able to stand up to wear.
Extension for double breasted/wrap styles can go out to about bust point or 4″/10cm beyond CF.

attach paper to CF.
add extension.
mark stitching line.
add seam allowance.
mark and cut on cutting line.
This is the front pattern.

You can trace off a facing pattern from this, or make it by cutting as before.
Pin to pattern paper and cut around.

mark width of facing :
– remember to include width of seam allowance down the front.
– facings for jackets and coats are often wider – out to bust shaping, so the garment looks good when worn open.
cut along marked line.
2 pattern pieces

If you prefer professional quality instruction 😀 here’s a video from the University of Derby. She’s using a half-size practice pattern block without seam allowances.

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Back neck facing

Use the same method to make a back neck facing pattern.
Either trace the top of the back pattern.
Or pin the pattern to paper and cut out round the edge.
Make the facing with a CB fold, even if the main garment back has a CB seam.
Match length of back facing shoulder seam to length of front facing shoulder seam.
Then mark the facing edge, and cut out.

If you prefer a video, here’s one from Aneka Truman of Made to Sew.

Those facings are the same width all round.
Perhaps add interest by making your back facing deeper at CB.
Here’s a how-to video from Louise Cutting.

And of course, making a facing pattern for a front neckline without a front opening is just as easy.
Or a front neckline facing for a pattern with a front band or zip.
Or a facing to finish a sleeveless armhole.

– – –

Sewing a facing

These are general points which usually apply to sewing a facing to an unlined garment.
Just a list of what to do, not how to do it.

Prepare body unit :
Staystitch neck edge.
Sew, press, finish shoulder seams.
If possible do neckline-front opening work on main body unit before sewing side and sleeve seams – so the body unit can lay flat and is much easier to work on.

Make facing unit :
– interface facing pieces (optional).
– join front and back facings at shoulder seams.
– press seams open.
– finish facing edge.

Join body unit and facing unit :
– baste/pin facing in place, right sides together.
– stitch main body and facing along front opening and neckline edge.
– clip or notch so seam allowances lay flat (good advice in this photo tutorial from Sew 4Home on clipping and notching curves).
– grade/layer seam allowances (trim them to different widths so they don’t make a lump by all ending at the same point – trim main fabric s/a to about 2/3 width, facing s/a to about 1/3 width).
– under stitch (tutorial from Colette patterns).

There’s a wealth of facings information in this pdf from the University of Kentucky, though it’s not very visual.
If you prefer video instruction, here’s one on sewing facings from Sure Fit Designs.
Sarah Veblen has a photo tutorials class at Pattern Review on facings (not free).

Note different experts use different techniques. That can be disconcerting at first, but try them all and see which suits you best.

Then sew side seams, add sleeves, sew hem, add fastenings, and you’ve made your own design 😀

– – –

Enjoy using your pattern 😀
Then there are many ways you can vary it slightly.
Some ideas in the next post.

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This is the group of 4 posts about pattern making for front openings :
1. zip, button band
1b. adding extras to a front band
2. combined facing to front edge and neckline (this post)
2b. adding to a front-neckline facing

And here’s an earlier post on the opposite : closing a front opening.

– – –

Links available December 2018

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Pattern making for front openings : 2b.adding to a front-neckline facing

Posted December 6, 2018 by sewingplums
Categories: pattern making for clothes

As with a front band pattern, once you have your basic pattern with a front facing, there are innumerable things you can do with it.
Here’s the link to the starting-point post on making a pattern for a combined facing to front edge and neckline.

Basically, the seam along the front-and-neckline edge makes it easy to sandwich extra style elements between main garment and facing.
Here are some ideas.

– – –


Choose between fastenings which are added :
– between main body and facing, such as button loops, tabs.
– after the facing is added, such as buttons, snaps.
See this Craftsy/Bluprint class for ideas for special fastenings (not free).

Edge trims

Items to insert into the edge seam joining facing and main body include : frills, flounces, piping, beading, lace trims, broderie anglaise, fringing, zipper teeth, braid, pom-poms, ric-rac, prairie points. . .

Add these before sewing the facing unit to the main body unit.
Baste frills, button loops, trims, etc. to edge of main fabric – raw edges matching and right sides together. Trims point inwards from the edge while they’re being sewn on – one of those inside-out-and-back-to-front sewing techniques which doesn’t look right until it’s finished.

example from Vogue Sewing Book 1975

Then add the facing.

If you add bulky trim such as piping in the edge, it’s easiest to use a zipper foot when sewing facing unit and main body unit together.

Another option for a faced decorative edge (not an add-in) is to change the edge shape – to curves, zigzags, scallops. Change main body and facing edges to match.

Or attach the facing so it is outside rather than inside – though this does need some extra sewing techniques.


Like trims, collars can be sandwiched between main body and facing.

from Vogue Sewing Book 1975

Use the collar piece from another pattern.
You do need to check that neckline and collar stitching line lengths match up. Notes in this post about how to measure the neckline stitching line, and change the length of a collar pattern.

When attaching, placement of collar depends on collar style :
– stand collar : place outside of collar to right side of body, turn up once sewn.
– other collars : place underside of collar to right side of body.

Here are some videos.
Jules Fallon from Sew Me Something patterns demonstrates sewing collar and facing to a pyjama jacket.
This includes a collar with sharp corner – Sewing Quarter, 11 Sept 18, time 2.22 – 2.55 (drag time line blob along to time wanted).
More tips from her, especially about sewing curves and lighter fabrics – Sewing Quarter, 15 Nov 18, time 0.32 – 0.53.

This is the easiest method for adding a collar to a casual blouse/shirt/jacket. Much the same as making pjs – just different fabric !
And this is also the collar sewing technique used in many blazer and other tailored/lined jacket patterns.
There are yet more collar shapes you can add into a faced neckline which doesn’t have a front opening.
And use a similar method on a faced armhole, to add a cap sleeve or trims.

More comments on other collars in the post on add-ons to a button band front opening.

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Can you tell I’m a fan of facings – an invisible edge finish and a hidden feature with so much potential 😀
Get inspired 😀 😀

And have a lovely holiday period enjoying yourself in whatever way best suits you !

– – –

This is the group of 4 posts about pattern making for front openings :
1. zip, button band
1b. adding extras to a front band
2. combined facing to front edge and neckline
2b. adding to a front-neckline facing (this post)

And here’s an earlier post on the opposite : closing a front opening.

– – –

Links available December 2018

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