Saturday, January 28, 2012

Book Review: 1,000 Clever Sewing Shortcuts & Tips

As a last bit of holiday spending, I obtained 2 new books with a Barnes&Noble gift card this past week.  A big kiss to Mr. Skooks' grandparents for that one.  :)  I'm going to tackle my reviews of them in separate posts.

The first one I chose (which I have had my eye on for quite some time now), was 1,000 Clever Sewing Shortcuts & Tips by Deepika Prakash (of PatternReview fame).  Remember back when I tackled the organization of my interfacings?  Well, I gleaned that nugget of organizational awesomeness from an excerpt of the book that I read online . . . the sample chapter I saw put it on the short list of sewing books I wanted to get.

Now that I have it in hand, I'd like to share a few things about it for those who might be interested.  This book is LOADED.  Just tons and tons of info.  I'm going to come straight out and say that I'm glad I own this book.  I can see that it will be a nice reference to have in the sewing years ahead.

With that being said, I'd like to point out that it heavily focuses on tips and tricks for garment sewing, which is not something that I am hugely into at the moment.  My experience with garment sewing is pretty small . . . probably 4 or 5 dresses for Little Miss over the last 4 years . . . and fairly simple ones at that.  This is not to say I have no interest in garment sewing, but it's just not something that tends to get me terribly jazzed up these days.  (I blame the CPSIA, without which I would probably have sewn LOTS of kid clothes to date.)

This is not to say that there is nothing in there for us non-garment sewers.  Actually, there is quite a lot in there which is worth reading and noting.  If you're on the fence, see if you can find it in the library or in-store and breeze through it ahead of time so you can make a more informed decision as to its usefulness in your sewing journey.

Like I said, if you're a garment sewer, I'm pretty sure you'll love it.  If you're all over the place like me, I still think you'll find good stuff in it (and it may even give you the confidence to tackle garment projects if you've been scared off from trying) . . . though you may find yourself skimming over several sections.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Four Things Friday - er Twelve

Sooo . . . when I said, "wouldn't it be fun to do this little funny 4 Things you don't know about me Friday thing" what I really meant was "I'll do a random 4 things post once ever couple months." 

Whatevs.  It's Friday.  Here's the 4 . . . and by 4 I mean 12 . . . things.  (Hat tip to my pal, Jane, for the questions.)

1. How long have you been blogging? 

  • I started a personal blog when Little Miss was about 3 months old.  That was almost 5 years ago!  Crikey . . . I didn't even realize that until just now.  The blogging thing . . . not how old my daughter is.  This blog is somewhat younger (I started it towards the end of 2009), though when I started it I took all the sewing/creative posts from my personal blog and transferred them over to keep all that stuff together.  It was a bit painstaking and those posts were meant for family and friends so they're probably a bit less cohesive than the ones since I started SP, but I'm still glad I did it.
2. What is your favorite restaurant and why? 
  • Hmm . . . I'm inclined towards many different ones, though I tend to choose Red Lobster when the occasion and the budget allows.  This is to say that I don't live anywhere near the sea and really love seafood.  If I lived somewhere a bit more coastal, I'm sure I would love a more "local" and less "chain"-like place.  As it stands, I haven't found better seafood in my town than at RL, so it is what it is.  In more you-won't-find-these-everywhere-else locales (and if you're ever in Grand Rapids), I have had great meals at Marie Catribs and Twisted Rooster.
3. If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?
  • Hmm . . . hard to say, not knowing how much is in the pot.  But I would love the ability to pay off my mortgage and put aside money for my kids to go to college and for Mr. Skooks and I to retire someday.  It would be divine to actually quit my job if I could do so.  If'n there was money left over after all that, I hope that I'd resist the urge to buy useless things and instead be abundantly charitable with others.
4. How many pairs of shoes do you own? 
  • You know what, I have no idea.  And that's not because I have crazy amounts of shoes.  There are probably only 3 pairs that are in the rotation right now (one pair are boots, one are sneakers, and one are just everyday casual kicks.)  I've got a few good pairs of flips for warmer weather, a few pairs of sandals, and only one pair of heels that I ever wear for those very infrequent times I actually dress up for something.  I try to buy quality footwear over quantity.  Cheap shoes just don't hold up, and I don't have the money to waste on stuff I will wear infrequently or won't last. 
5. What is your favorite day of the week and why? 
  • Every day brings different stuff.  These days I dig Wednesdays just because Tuesdays are usually horribly exhausting for me, and Wednesday is a nice no-obligations day in for the kids and I.  With that being said, I do have great love for Fridays because it means that when Mr. Skooks walks in the door in the evening, he is going to be around all day for the next few days and I always prefer it when he is around.  :)
6. What’s your favorite color to wear? 
  • I'm not much of a clothes horse these days.  I tend to enjoy any color (read: shirt) that fits well and doesn't make me feel like a whale.  I'm now in my third trimester . . . thanks to my awesome neighbor I do have a few "colors" that fit into that category.
7. What is your favorite fruit?
  • Hands down, it's avocado.  Yes people, that's a fruit.  And I can't get enough avocado in my life.  I do love guacamole, but I love it just as much just sliced up with some lime juice and salt on top.  Mmm.
8. What TV show do you most enjoy watching? 
  • Depends on my mood.  I'll admit, I'm addicted to the Biggest Loser.  I'm a sucker for how it changes people's minds about how they see themselves and helps them see that life is worth living WELL.  I'm also a big fan of Fringe (really, any show that JJ Abrams has had a hand in . . . I've pretty much seen them all) and Up All Night.  For totally worthless laughs, Wipeout gets me going every time.
9. Who is one person, alive or dead, that you would love to have a conversation with? 
  • Jesus.  I've got questions, and he's the only one who can answer them for me.
10. What is the worst decorating/crafting/fashion mistake you’ve ever made?
  • Hard to put my finger on any one thing, but I cringe at a lot of the . . . ahem . . . "design choices" I made in our first apartment.  Just about everything we had was hand me down, but we tried to make it look like it wasn't . . . which . . . didn't really work.
11. Coffee or tea?
  • Um, pop?  Coffee only works for me if it is sugared up, flavored in some way, and about 8 million calories (think Starbucks Vanilla Latte).  I almost never have it.  Tea is ok at times, but I tend not to reach for it very often.  I really have to be in the mood.  I wish I didn't like pop so much, but it is what it is.  So now you know.
12. What’s the temperature in your city today?
  • Well, most of the snow has melted off so it's probably in the upper 30s.  Now that I'm checking the weather though, it looks like it's going to snow all night and through tomorrow.  So much for the melt-off.  The weather is kind of on an acid trip lately.

Anyway . . .  that was fun.  If you want to play along, please do so and come link back.  I'd love to read more about what's going on with you too.  :)


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

WIPs - Inching Along

It doesn't feel terribly sexy to use the bulk of my Field's gift card to buy quilt batting, but that's just what I did.  I've got 3 quilts at varying degrees of done-ness and the reason they have been left undone (largely) is because I was out of batting pieces large enough to accommodate them.

When I went in for my extra battings, I had a nice conversation with the employee who initially helped me with my choice of sashing for my Vintage Sheet Freedom Bee quilt top.  I have no quilting calculator and didn't feel like crunching the numbers, so she graciously helped me figure out how much extra Kona I needed to beef up the sides a bit (I'm not looking forward to the actual quilting of this thing due to its size, but I would like to make this into a picnic/beach quilt so it needed to be a bit bigger than it already was).

Vintage Sheet Freedom Bee Quilt Top

I also got a lot of oohs and aahs from the other ladies who were working . . . I would have blushed a bit if I had more to do with it.  As it was I was happy to brag on the awesome ladies who made the bulk of the blocks.  :)

So, some Warm and Natural, some Warm and White, a cut of some shade of Kona blue that I'll figure out when I compare it to my color card, and some variegated purple thread later I walked out armed and ready to tackle my WIPs.  (That's Works In Progress for the less make-something-partway-and-then-sit-on-it-for-half-a-year people.)

The Warm and White is for this beauty:
Glow Happy Quilt Top

The actual quilting step is definitely NOT my favorite part of quilting (probably because I don't have a long arm, or any faint clue what I'm doing), but in order to make these endeavors worthwhile they need to be finished already!  I've got other goodies on the horizon that I would like to make before Peanut Pants makes an appearance in a few months, and I need to clear some of these things OUT of the sewing room first.  NO EXCUSES!

I've got a sewing date with my friend this Saturday so I'm hoping to make loads of progress this weekend to that end.  Until then . . .


Friday, January 20, 2012

Button Heart Clutch with Removable Wrist Strap

Remember how I was going to open an Etsy shop someday?  And then I got all frustramatated because I wanted to make stuff for kids and there was all that stupid CPSIA malarky that scared me away from pursuing that?

Well, that happened.  And it really took the wind out of my sails for awhile.

So I shelved it.

Awhile later I resurrected the shop idea but decided to switch the focus because the CPSIA was giving me the heebs.  I shifted my eyes to BagsPursesClutches.  Not because I am a person that needs to change my bags out constantly . . . more because they're fun to make.  I'm all about beautiful and USEFUL.  :)  So I got my sew on and made an assortment of goodies for my eventual shop.

And then I sat on them.  For like A YEAR.  Umm . . . more than that.  A variety of other factors took the wind out of my sails about the shop idea AGAIN and those precious items were (lovingly and sadly) put aside for the *someday* that seems to never have come.

Then I got a call from one of my very best friends who wanted to know whether I had ever gotten around to opening that shop that I was talking to her about a year ago?  As it turns out, she had seen some of the things that  I made oh so long ago and had been waiting for me to "put them up for sale" so she could buy a specific clutch purse from me.

Whazza?!  Why the world did I not sell it to her a year ago when she was right in front of me looking at it and telling me she wanted it?  I have no idea.  Seems silly now . . . I think at the time I was in the headspace that I wanted to have an impressive "opening", and it was taking me longer than I thought it would to create my first batch of inventory.

Anyway, the moral of the story is, if someone is standing in front of you holding an item you made and offering to buy it . . . SELL IT TO THEM RIGHT THEN.  I know what you're thinking . . . that's some impressive kind of  special knowledge I have of business dealings.  I should start a class.  Oh wait . . . then I probably shouldn't have shared that little nugget with you.  I should have just sat on it for a year plus while I proceeded to come up with like 5 other little nuggets of joy that I would proceed to never share with anyone since that seems to be my M.O.

All this to say, my overly patient and loving friend recently became the new owner of this gal:

Button Clutch with Removable Wrist Strap

It was made using a pattern by Noodlehead.  I'm sure some of you recognize it.  I love buttons in all shapes, sizes, and colors so I added some of those to give it a bit more . . . ahem . . . heart.  I have to say, it was my favorite of all of those kind of clutches that I made, and my heart sings a little bit knowing that one of the best people I know will take over her care.

Here are some shots of the inside that I took a million years ago that were not at all professionally staged (HA - - as if anything I photograph is) so the quality is not awesome . . . but it gives you an idea of what's happening inside:
Gathered Clutch Purse - Inside View
Hard to tell from that photo, but there are actually 2 credit card pockets and a small pocket on the other side (lipstick, chapstick, what-have-you).

You know what . . . it felt good to sell one after all this time.  Maybe I'll do it again sometime.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fresh Floral Contemporary Table Runner

I don't consider myself a pro in the sewing world.  Far from it.  I believe I've gained a lot of knowledge and ability through trying many different kinds of projects and through quite a bit of trial and error.  I've definitely gotten better over the years . . . I can see that when I look back at some of my older projects compared to the more recent.  For sure.

The thing is, sometimes . . . even though I KNOW I'm not a pro or whatever, I still eye up a pattern and think "easy!" and then proceed to make stupid mistakes on it . . .  with the utmost confidence that I'm making *no errors at all*.  It makes for a frustrating "finish" when I turn the whole project right side out and see the silly mistakes that I made.  Blargh.

Anyway, though I don't have pictures of the mistakes I made on this project (that I tried my best to take apart and fix, though at least a bit of the damage couldn't be undone), it is now done and ready for gifting.

Fresh Flowers Contemporary Table Runner
The only fabric repeated in this pattern are those 2 orange squares on each end.  My mother-in-law lived in Latin America for many years and LOVES color.  :)

I made this little runner for my mother-in-law for her birthday which is next week.  I was able to use 2 of my previous *wins* to make this project come together . . . namely the Deb Strain Fresh Flowers layer cake I won from Fabric Donkey a few SMS giveaway days ago and my copy of 101 Patchwork Projects (which I won from somewhere, but cannot for the life of me recall).  The pattern called "Contemporary Table Runner" was written by Vivica Hansen DeNegre and is a great project to use if you want to show off a lot of different little bits of fabric.  :)
Fresh Flowers Contemporary Table Runner Stitch Detail
You can see a bit the transition from green to white in the stitching . . . I really like using variegated thread sometimes.

Something I added to the pattern was some decorative stitching around all the borders using some Sulky variegated thread (kind of a green to white with a bit of sheen to it).  I used some Kona Tomato for the backing that was sitting in my stash.  One thing that didn't show up as well as I had hoped was some yellow variegated thread (from Coats . . . no sheen . . . nuts) that I used for the top stitching of all of the x's.  It just doesn't stand out particularly well . . . makes me wish I had used the Sulky for that part as well so the whole thing had shine on it, but oh well.  I'm still pretty pleased with the results.
Fresh Flowers Contemporary Table Runner Close Up
You can *sort of* see the sheen in the thread in this picture . . . it shows up a bit better in real life.
Other than the Coats thread I picked up for the topstitching, this was a total stashbuster project which feels AMAZING.  I even had the perfect sized piece of batting left over from the quilt I made for Kee-ku way back when to give the runner a bit of heft.  Hurray!

Any finishes for you yet this year?  I'm about 70% done with a Christmas decor project that I never got around to making last year that WILL be finished to hang up in 2012.  I'm on a mission!

Partying with all the best linky parties RIGHT HERE.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Happy Mochi Yum Yum . . . and a Plan

Yesterday was a BIG day for fabric at my house.  All the Happy Mochi Yum Yum came in . . . oh MY.  The bounty and the awesomeness.

So one thing about just straight up buying fabric you love is that with it you sometimes get a big fat question mark.  What to make with it?!  I always worry when getting fabric with no plan that it will just sit on the shelves . . . and the longer it sits, the less likely I'll be to use it . . . it just becomes too precious and I want to make sure I use it for the *perfect project*.  Is there such a thing?  It sure feels that way sometimes!

So I've been on the prowl.  Ever since I hit that BUY button.  And then last night I had a EUREKA moment.  Because I stumbled on this:

Oh My Stars (A Quilt-Along)
Sheila (from Thought and Found) decided to make up her quilt in vintage sheets (which I could totally do as well . . . the vintage sheet stash has kind of exploded up in here over the last year) - - but I love the idea of using some of the HMYY to work this pattern up.  Can you imagine?  Check out the layout:
The Plan - by Sheila from Thought and Found
I love all of the various sizes (there are star variations written for those who want to throw some different kinds in there)!  I think it gives the whole thing interest without making things too confusing with tons of different block styles . . . or traditional (not knocking the traditional quilt-makers out there . . . it's just not as much my thing).

So that's the plan.  The only thing that intimidates me with the whole thing is that it is WAY bigger than the quilts I've made in the past (generous twin) . . . I worry less about the piecing (which will, admittedly, take awhile!) and more with the quilting (which I'm not sure I can handle doing myself on my own sewing machine - - and I don't know anyone who long-arms *period* much less someone who long-arms for a price I can afford).  This means I might end up making it smaller . . . haven't really decided all that yet, but we'll see.

Anything you're gearing up to make these days?  Any large projects on the horizon? 


Sunday, January 8, 2012

How I Spent My Christmas Gift Money

So, I've decided that 2012 should really be a year of FINISHES as I've got a fair amount of UFO projects (as well as a couple lingering IOU stuff that I keep putting off until later) that are at varying degrees of done-ness.

Case in point - -

  • I have 2 quilts wherein the tops are completely pieced, but they have been sitting in a drawer waiting for me to get off my lazy (and also busy) bum and just quilt and bind 'em up already.  You may remember them as the Vintage Sheet Freedom Bee Quilt of Purpleliciousness . . . and my beautiful I-don't-care-that-I-made-it-EXACTLY-like-Monica-did-I-love-it-completely Glow Happy Quilt (really super bummed out at myself that I didn't finish this one off completely to enjoy it during this past Christmas when I was SO CLOSE to being done with it.)
  • Due to some generous angeling (umm . . . yes.  That's the verb form of "angel" in case you never heard of it before) by my bee-mate, Sarah, I now have all the blocks I need to go ahead and finish piecing my Bee Vintage quilt top (umm . . . and quilt and bind it . . . clearly *not* my favorite part of the process as shown by my previous 2 un-finishes):
  • My Christmas nativity, which has sadly been a work in progress for *years* now . . . I've got all the pieces cut out for the wise men and have begun to get them together, but I need to just finish this project already so that I can move on with other Christmas making without that sitting in the back of my mind forever.
  • IOU stuffed friend for my sweet nephew who at this point is too young to realize I have totally neglected him in the "specially made for you by your loving aunt" department, but might be entering the small window wherein my special handmade gift might be foisted on him unknowingly and thus become his favorite toy of all time.  (Sinister?  LOL.)
  • IOU handmade something for my very good friends' baby boy who was born November 1 . . . the collaboration I did with Little Miss counts more for her than it does for me . . . even if I *did* do most of the actual work getting it together
  • That's all I've got off the top of my head . . . I'm sure if I went into the sewing room to investigate I would find more little UFOs that want my love and attention, however, I feel that I've got enough FINISH MEs staring me in the face as it is.  Why add insult to injury?
So that's where we are today.  Or rather, where *I* am.  Or, whatever . . . I'm going to say "we" because you read along on all this crazy stuff I try to pull off so you're in this with me.  Except you're not helping me finish these projects by coming over and working on them for me. 

It's ok.  We're still cool.

And now that I've completely diverted off the title of this post, let me bring it all back around.  :)  I was so very generously gifted some serious moneys for Christmas by my extravagantly awesome and thoughtful in-laws, who must know that I want to hang out at the fabric store all day and pet the fabric.  1/2 of the moneys came in the form of a check, which is nice because then I can scout around for what I really want both in-store and online and find the best deals and hard to find gems and whatnots.  The other 1/2 came in the form of a gift card to my favorite fabric store in town.  No complaints!  Both of these things are AWESOME.

I've decided that the half of the money that's in gift cards I'm going to hold in reserve for the odds and ends and bits and bobs I need to finish up the projects in the above list (yes - - there's a part of me that is quite practical and I, like many of you probably, don't overflow with $$ these days for sewing related stuffs).  With the cash, I decided to indulge in some fabrics that I can't get in town, and that I've been drooling over for a long time.  So this is what I gots (well . . . what I just ordered and am already licking my chops in anticipation of getting!):
Some Swim Sisters fabric a la Spoonflower scored from Janey Mac on Etsy - to add to my fledgling Heather Ross collection

And . . . the MOTHERLOAD of Happy Mochi Yum Yum a la Monica Solario-Snow a la Happy Zombie a la!  How do you like THAT for a photo caption?!
I had a little bit leftover after all of that frenzied purchasing of fabric deliciousness so I decided to finally pull the trigger on a print that I've been eyeballing for my upstairs half-bathroom since first I saw it:
"on se reveille on se brosse les dents" by my friend, Sarah (aka theantibride on Etsy) - a hand-pulled linocut the translation of which is "we get up, we brush our teeth!"
Hooray!  Can't wait for my mail to EXPLODE.  :)


Monday, January 2, 2012

The 2011 Creative Year in Review

Well . . . it's 2012.  I rang in the new year with some of my favorite friends of all time, as is the tradition.  It was fabulous.  If you had even half the belly laughs that I got in during this past weekend, I think you're starting off the year on the right foot.  :)  In crafty news . . . well, there isn't any.  Well, no *current* sewing news other than the fact that I have some generous gift money that I was told I MUST use on sewing related things.  I mean - - if you twist my arm . . . ;)

And now that we've discussed how we are all moving forward, what better moment to take a quick look back? - -

So here it is . . . the Skooks' Playground 2011 Year in Review!


  1. FABRIC!  It was kind of a fabric blowout in 2011 for my birthday.  :)
  1. Vintage Sheet Quilt Blocks: In 2011, I hooked up with Bee Vintage and replaced one of their members who had to bow out early.  It was an awesome experience, and I met some lovely and generous new friends.
  2. Kona Fat Quarter Solids
  3. Sew Fresh Fabrics Scrap Quilting Bee Block: Maybe this shouldn't be under swaps, but I made them a block for a charity quilt and in turn I got to keep the remainder of the scraps they sent me.  LOL.
  4. Japanese Import Fabric Charms
  1. HOSTED: The Curvy Clutch Giveaway as part of Sew Mama Sew's May 2011 giveaway day.
  2. WON:  
    1. My new favorite sewing + style book, Signature Styles by Jenny Doh 
    2. Probably one of the sweetest magazine project books I have ever seen: 101 Patchwork Projects 
    3. A boatload of awesomeness on Giveaway Day 
  1. My fabric!  On comic book boards . . . who knew?
  2. All of my ribbons and trims.  This was a long time coming and it's so concise and lovely now.  :)
  3. My Kona fat quarters, in a revamped box.
  4. DIY Design Wall - so I don't have to spread all my quilt blocks out on the floor to figure out the best arrangement
  5. THE SEWING ROOM!! - Some of this covers the above bits I already outlined, but encompasses putting the whole room together (or rather, re-putting the whole room together by changing my mind about how to organize almost everything) . . . a room that I might be losing in this form in the near future when Baby #3 arrives.
  6. All of the many interfacings that I was unwittingly ruining with my old method
Sewing Notions Reviewed (You can check out all the "Tools of the Trade" posts I've done since this blog's inception right here):
  1. Wonder Tape
  2. Quilter's Grid
4 Things Friday:
  • This seemed like a great idea until I only did it once.  Hmm . . . maybe should re-evaluate this as a regular "feature".

Your Questions Answered 
  1. Thread and Tension Issues - I tried with this one . . . some good ideas came in the comments from more experienced sewists as well.
Toddler Crafts (we did much more than this, but I got super lazy with photo-documenting and blogging this kind of stuff in 2011 - - oops):
  1. Little Miss did our first mother daughter drawing-to-fiber collaboration . . . a little hoop for our friends' new baby
I was Featured:
  1. Cool Mom Picks - yeah, I was completely shocked too
  2. Made By Rae - she liked the quilt I made for my nephew!
  3. mmmcrafts - starstruck . . . absolutely.  Larissa featured the monkeys I made for the kiddos using her patterns.  :)
  4. Poppyprint - I made her crop circles table runner
  5. Crafty Storage - one of my favorite craft room inspiration blogs picked up on my sewing room reorganization movement
I Made Some Treasuries for the first time . . . they are lots of fun and I should definitely make more  (Of course, I also made friends with Pinterest in a major way this year and kinda went crazy on that venue):
  1. Green Me Up, Scotty
  2. If I Lived in a Wee Little House
  3. Orange Teal-light!
  4. The Fox ROCKS
And as is the custom (apparently) . . . The Down and Dirty Projects Completed 2011 Stat Sheet:
  1. Quilts/Blankets:
    1. Glow Happy Quilt - almost there! 
    2. Vintage Sheet Freedom Bee Quilt - top done . . . waiting to be quilt and bound
  2.  Softies:
    1. The Deer/Stag
  3. Accessories:
    1. Little Elephant Baby Doll Carrier
  4. Home Decor:
    1. Mi Amor, My Love Valentine banner
    2. Tissue Paper Poms - Another V-day special that we saved and re-used for Little Miss 4th birthday party
    3. Bench Cushions - for Mr. Skooks' aunt
    4. Crop Circles Table Runner - a gift for my newlywed superfriends
    5. Curtains for the Kids' Room
    6. Stitch Sewing Machine Cover
    7. My really cool until it totally broke and won't keep the correct time - sewing room clock
    8. Cherry Blossom Throw Pillows for my sister's apartment
  5. Bags:
    1. A new backpack for Little Miss
    2. Aviary Damask Purse set
    3. Fancy Beach Bags - painstaking lessons learned in zipper-land, but the end results were pretty special
I feel like I crafted less and less as the year wore on . . . it's nice to make that list and see that I did make stuff actually.  And that gets me excited to make more.  Hurray!  After I spend my "mandatory sewing moneys" (whee!!), I'm planning on going on a Craft Burn of sorts . . . a whole lot of use what you've got . . . and I hope some of you will join me in that.  Looking forward to more making over here, welcoming my little peanut, and seeing all of your sweet projects in 2012!

Happy Craft-y New Year, everyone!

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