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This is where I was yesterday:

This is just a smidge of the lovely selection at Nancy’s Sewing Basket, where despite a gorgeous array of charming prints and top top quality wools, I failed to purchase anything. Somehow as I perused this store, everything I gravitated to turned out to be 100% cashmere. Sigh, the Selfish Seamstress and her expensive, expensive taste. But if you’re in Seattle, this store is definitely a winner and you don’t want to miss it.

All was not lost, though. I caught up with my old friend Mel, who is on a fabric diet and has barred herself from any new fabric purchases. We decided it would make for a good photo if we pretended something was REALLY funny:

And we also got to meet the adorable new mommy Christina of Assorted Notions,

who saved face by purchasing a turquoise zipper! Seriously though, is fabric gluttony a thing of the past?? Three avid seamstresses leave a wonderful fabric shop with one zipper among them?

I haven’t had the opportunity to meet many other sewing bloggers in the past, and I have to say, meeting Christina would have been a delight, as she was so sweet and charming, but I was too busy seething with envy at her lovely white Burda blouse with contrast topstitching. I think she had somehow sensed that I had traced that pattern out some years back and not gotten around to sewing it. Perhaps she has some sort of envy ESP. She didn’t say as much, but I’m guessing she wore it to make me jealous. And it worked.

Since she’s got a new baby though, I refrained from challenging her to a fight. (Aww, the Selfish Seamstress is such a softie!) Instead, I decided to wrestle one of her possessions from her hands and refused to give it back. **

This looks like a great sewing reference so far, and I don’t own a lot of reference books. I’m particularly keen on reading the tailoring section on my plane ride back, a topic about which I know very little:

Mel and I also checked out Stitches, another great independent fabric store, with yet another wonderful selection of prints, also well worth a drool-inducing visit next time you’re in Seattle:

And guess what… I came away empty handed again! Now readers, I understand that you’re probably disappointed in me, but 1) my lack of purchases wasn’t for lack of trying and 2) whatever, I don’t shop for your sake :) But that means that my total, rather mundane haul for the weekend consists of two patterns and a half yard of fusible fleece from the sale at Jo-ann. What can I say, I’m a model of restraint.

In any case, although I’m leaving with a suitcase only half-full (or, as your rather pessimistic Selfish Seamstress likes to think, HALF-EMPTY), the trip has been great. Old and new sewing buddies, a little interaction with really soft cashmere, and 99 cent patterns are nothing to sneeze at.

Oh, and I may have managed to snag three packages of Chukar cherries from Pike’s Place Market:

What’s that you say?  You only see two packages? Hmmm… I wonder why that is. Perhaps just a little gluttony has been happening here on my end…

** It is possible that Christina meant to give the book to me anyway- if so that would explain the gift wrap (Thank you, Christina!) But the Selfish Seamstress sees no reason to wait until something is offered when she can simply snatch it away like a spoiled child.

You know when something is so terrible and horrifying and bad, but you just can’t stop looking at it because it’s a total train wreck? Well, I have to stop looking at this train wreck because every time I do, it just makes me MAD. Beeyatch (and by that I mean one beeyatch in particular), if you want to make fun of the Selfish Seamstress, go ahead and do so and expect to pay the consequences. BUT YOU DO NOT MAKE FUN OF DAN. Calling him out as an example of bad style?? That is *SO* not cool. Only the Selfish Seamstress is permitted to make fun of Dan.

Sure, Dan may have a skeleton in his closet as the result of a mandatory home ec project in junior high in which he was given almost no creative control, but doesn’t it say something that he’s game for putting it on for a photo? And the guy is no style slouch. I mean, how many guys do you know who are comfortable in pink or purple:

And will confidently leave the house in man capris, and look great in them?

And can rock technical athletic gear:

And be just as comfortable and in an elegant tuxedo?

Sure, he may not be a fashion innovator, or walking around the city looking like Joan Collins if all of her clothes were made of old tatty bedsheets. But he always looks appropriate, lovely, and effortless no matter what he wears or where he goes. And if Mr. I’m-52-And-Still-Haven’t-Figured-Out-My-Personal-Style doesn’t think that’s the very definition of “style,” he going to need more help than a handful of reader comments and suggestions.

So, in Male Pattern Insecurity-style, readers, I present you with a poll. Please weigh in!

In short, do NOT mess with the Selfish Seamstress’s well-dressed man. She’s armed with blog and she’s not afraid to use it.

I’m at the airport surfing the internets waiting to board my flight, and happened to check out the enemy territory. And it got me thinking about my style icons. Of course I worship at all of the usual shrines of Dior and Edith Head, but being at the airport also reminded me of one of my favorite “fashion” websites ever, Uniform Freak, an online “museum” of flight attendant uniforms collected and maintained by a former KLM flight attendant.

Check out some of these adorable vintage TWA flight attendant uniforms. I would love to wear one of these!

And after a trip that took me through Dubai, I very nearly considered applying to be a Gulf Air flight attendant, just so I could wear this fantastic hat:

My flight’s leaving… see you in Seattle and have fun browsing the sartorial heyday of stewardesses!

The Selfish Seamstress is heading to Seattle for part of next week to bring her own special brand of attitude problem to the mellow Pacific Northwest. In addition to attending a wedding, picking fights with random people on the street, and irritating waiters by summoning them with the phrase, “Hey you, granola boy, can we get the check here?” she’s hoping to squeeze in a little shopping time. Oh, you know what kind of shopping.

So, granola girls, have you got any suggestions for stuffing the Selfish Seamstress’s suitcase? Favorite haunts for the hobby seamstress? Please share – I need to know in order to go there and buy up all the stuff that you wanted for yourselves.

No new sewing to report on my end, but I just noticed that the model and shirt sample for this Burda pattern look a lot like Dan and the shirt I made for him for Valentine’s day:

Uncanny, right? But I like mine better :)

Where in Scandinavia is the Selfish Seamstress headed? How bad will her jetlag be and how many times will she fall asleep in her all day meetings? Will she have time to go to Marimekko despite her all day meetings? Will she once again refrain from buying Pieni Unikko fabric on account of the fact that she doesn’t know how to handle the strong horizontal and vertical elements of the print in a garment she’d want to wear? Will she spend her entire three hour stopover in Frankfurt going to every newsstand looking for issues of Patrones and La Mia Boutique? How about on her return trip? How many fried muikku can she fit in her mouth at once? Why isn’t there an English Wikipedia page for muikku? Oh, I guess there is. Since when is “reindeer” just another word for caribou and why don’t they look anything like the animals that pull Santa’s sleigh? Will she be able to find the long skinny fruity licorice ropes that Dan wants even though she can’t even find a picture of them on the web? Is it going to be as freezing cold as it was last time she was there? Do any of you know of other good places for fabric in Helsinki?

Find out the answers to some (but not all!) of these questions and lots more about when the Selfish Seamstress brings you “The Selfish Seamstress: Helsinki Edition“! Just because she’s not sewing in Finland doesn’t mean she’s going to stop yapping.

[And, ugh.  While I’m in transit and without means to engage in online blog warfare with my foes, can someone please head over to Male Pattern Suckness and kindly tell Peter that lies, libel, and polyester hair are all extremely unbecoming? Seriously, what is that guy’s problem?? Maybe try to use the words “jerkface” or “doodyhead”? If anyone would be so kind as to defend my honor as a selfish b, that would be just super.  Thanks!]

I just created a new FAQ page to address some of the questions I commonly get in comments or via email. Let me know if there’s anything I missed that I should be addressing!

This is a first around here: The Selfish Seamstress “shares” her blog with a guest blogger! Though admittedly the guest blogger would (rightfully) disagree that the Selfish Seamstress is doing this out of generosity or any understanding of the concept of sharing.

A few days ago, I noticed an insightful and potentially controversial observation from a reader about the current trend of “precious” clothing for women in commercial and DIY fashion. Curious to hear more, I asked reader Inkstain if she would be interested in elaborating upon her perspective for everyone. Lucky for all of us she was up for it, and her writing is fascinating and articulate. Plus she’s really good at putting the Selfish Seamstress in her place! It turns out (and I didn’t know it at the time I invited her to write the post), Inkstain, a.k.a. Dinah Lee Küng, is an award-winning author and journalist! Lucky us, right?? If you enjoy her essay, wander over to her website to learn more about her writing, and maybe pick up a copy of her Orange Prize 2004 nominated work of fiction, “A Visit from Voltaire: A Comic Novel.

The standard disclaimer: The essay below reflects the opinions and perspectives of the author, and not necessarily those of the Selfish Seamstress blog.

MORE IMPORTANTLY: I welcome your responses to this essay, but please keep the tone of your comments civil and respectful to our wonderful guest blogger regardless of whether you share or disagree with her perspectives. After all, she has spent hours of her time writing something for you!

Little Girl Dressing

By Dinah Lee Küng

Is Selfish lazy as well as too selfish to sew for others? She’s asked me to guest post, which is another way of saying, “Do my job for me while I slack off and shop for wedding garters.”  I guess I should ask for something in return, like she herself recommends in a recent post, but in fact, I won’t. She’s too little to pick on. Nyah, nyah, snark, snark.

Despite my superior height, I’m going to bend to her will and expound on something that has been bugging me as I watch certain blogs and store websites. I won’t name names, but you know the brands and styles I was thinking of when I commented to Selfish last week, “What’s with this generation of grown women who want to wear dresses I would have assigned to nobody over eight years old? It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of adult females wearing birthday party frocks. As fashion morphed from one look to another, it’s suddenly landed on a very strange planet for those of us who’ve matured through the power woman of the 80’s, the grunge hippie of the 90’s and the retro of the noughties. I would never have predicted this turn of events. But now there’s no denying it. American fashion has elected Shirley Temple as the icon of the new decade?”

Am I just jealous? I’m too old to wear flouncy, full-skirted dresses that look like they go with pinatas and party favors, but I have to break it to you. Unless you’re still waiting to try on your first training bra, so are you.

Not that darling-little-girl dressing doesn’t have an honorable pedigree in American history. Notice, I didn’t say fashion. Let’s start with that hugely popular silent film actress, “Baby Mary.”
She was the biggest star of her own “noughties,” but hers was an image crafted for a largely rural society with a grade-school education and new to “mass media.” Backstage, Mary was known to her dashing husband, the filmstar Douglas Fairbanks Sr and her colleague in co-founding United Artists Studios, Charlie Chaplain as the savvy businesswoman Mary Pickford. Pickford wore little-girl dresses on-screen professionally, playing virginal prey for lustful villains who meant her ringlet-haired character no good. Watching her virtue threatened was a kind of cheap thrill in those days, but definitely a spectator sport, and pretty much everybody was in on the joke.

So much so, in fact, that the childish hair, the rouged cheeks, the ruffles and flounced dresses as sicko code were rightfully parodied in the hilariously ghoulish horror movie, “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” by a matronly Bette Davis.
But I didn’t think you wanted to look like that…

American fashion toyed with ruffles or “charming touches” on dresses in the thirties and up to WWII,  but with great success, because designers kept the silhouette fitted to a womanly form, highlighting the hips with a flattering bias drape to hems below the knees. No overkill, just charm. There’s no inherent problem with ruffles, bibs, puffs or lace, or as Dior dramatically demonstrated in the late 40’s, a cinched waist and full skirt. But one of the above goes a very long way. In the late 40’s and fifties, America wanted to recapture its pre-war innocence and send women back to the kitchen to free up factory jobs for the men, and so dressed up the classic shirtwaist look with homey touches.

Okay, I can go with Shirley Jones as Laurie in Oklahoma, because she’s supposed to be, you guessed it, virginal prey, with the honorable cowhand Curly fighting back the lustful, sweaty farmhand Judd.

Her dresses feature girlish items, but not too much, there’s a long skirt, or dark jacket or something to signal that she’s going to be a woman soon enough. And for her post-wedding trip, yup, Laurie wears a form-fitting dark tailor-waist suit with dashing hat. Message: American women aren’t permanent virgins.

But “charming details,” all piled on, all together? You end up with, gulp, Margy Frakes, the innocent farm girl at a country agricultural jamboree in the cloying musical “State Fair.” Rent this DVD, but I warn you, the viewing is not for those suffering from sugar intolerance. Margy parades the most god-awful succession of little-girl fashions I’ve ever seen on film, complete with piping, ruffles, petticoats, pin-tucks, lace and puffed sleeves, full skirts and bows, bows, bows. It’s to gag for.

Margy is played by Jeanne Crain and wooed by the “worldly” and ambitious newsman played by Dana Andrews, Very sweet, but the message of Margy’s Wardrobe is not, I hope, your message: I’m a tasteless rube wearing clothes sewn on my mother’s treadle machine back at the farm, while I  wait to be rescued by a guy headed for Chicago. It’s almost unbearable to watch Margy twist her curls around and around and around. She even sucks on straws.

My condemnation of birthday-cake dressing has nothing in common with my admiration for the venerable lure of the “innocent” white collar and cuffs on a dark dress that lends a clerical authority to the “teacher look”–quite the contrary. There we’re not dealing with a schoolgirl, but rather the smoldering librarian you could kiss in the stacks. That’s a look Chanel got from the nuns of her upbringing and only current scandals about my faith prevent me from going on here about the now-discredited “I’ll spank you” allure. But if you don’t believe me that strict “innocent and puritanical” can be sexy, watch Ginger Rogers teach Fred Astaire to dance in Swing Time, wearing the look in white collar over flowing black georgette.

No, I’m objecting to the perverse effect of trying to shove a woman’s bosom and hips underneath a party-skirt, ruffles, puffed sleeves, Liberty Cotton farm dresses, and all manner of fussy stuff at the same time—that looks cute on 5-year olds only. In the fifties, Elia Kazan and Tennessee Williams co-produced a movie that was condemned as the most offensive and sexually corrupt movie of its day, “Baby Doll,” where two very grown men compete for the attentions of Carroll Baker playing an over-ripe virgin with less than her full quota upstairs.

Yes, thank heavens for little girls! as Maurice Chevalier sings in Gigi. There’s a valid American showbiz tradition behind that too-childish dress you’re eyeing in the shop window that’s been used by costume designers for a century. For all its cutesy disingenuousness, that dress may be sending a time-honored signal and here it is, in all its unflattering, unsavoury and mutton-dressed-as-lamb fetishism. “I’m inexperienced (or worse, sexually retarded), and prey for lonely, older men who are scared of grown-up females.”

Anybody for a lollipop?

Wow, is this new?  Burda’s got an issue just for kids patterns! I don’t remember seeing such an issue before, at least not in recent years:

I, um, really don’t care. But I thought maybe you might, so I’m letting you know.

As far as I can tell, the issue is a compilation of kids patterns from recent regular BurdaMag issues.  So if you’ve got a subscription, don’t bother.

But while we’re on the subject, what the f is this??

The Selfish Seamstress is no prude when it comes to showing skin, but even she can’t help but notice that they put that little girl in an awfully trampy bikini top. Seriously, Burda. I can’t tell how old the models are, but they look like they’re beyond the running-around-the-beach-naked age. That little tie-around thingy almost distracted me to the point that I didn’t notice the boy is wearing some sort of wrap-around skirt/gaucho pants combo. I’m guessing the photo was snapped a few minutes before he got beat up by some other kids yelling, “Dumb Pants!  Hey, Dumb Pants!”

Anyway, there you go. Lots of Burda patterns for those who fail to heed the message of the Selfish Seamstress and stubbornly insist upon sewing for their children. Pfft. Love, schmove.

Photo snatched from Grosgrain

I just randomly discovered that Grosgrain just completed a Coffee Date Dress sew-along, which ended with dozens and dozens of lovely versions of the dress! It’s quite a clever idea- they break the steps down over five days and everyone completes it in synch in a very manageable fashion. I’m a little bummed that they didn’t credit me for the design and drafting of the pattern (is that petty of me?), but oh well, I guess that’s just what happens when you put stuff out there for free on the interwebs.Maybe I’ll email them and ask nicely if they’d add a little credit. Basic as it is, I’m pretty proud of that pattern. [UPDATE: Just got email from Kathleen of Grosgrain and wow, is she nice! Getting credited :) Yay!  Oh, how the Selfish Seamstress loves a good ego pat.] You can download it and others for free off of my downloads page.

Lots of photos of beautiful finished pieces here and here, the original sew-along concept here, and if you go here, you can work backward through the five days to see the process broken down and illustrated step by step. Pretty cool. Now don’t you want to make your own in just five days?

If you’re a quilter, maybe you already know about this. In fact, I might be the last person in the entire sewing universe to have discovered this, but since it’s new to me, I figured I’d share it.  Hey everyone, did you know that there’s a not insignificant market for homoerotic beefcake quilting fabric? And oh, they are giggle-worthy indeed! I guess it’s not surprising, because you can get pretty much anything on quilting fabric. But I’d be curious to see a quilt actually made from these though.

All the usual hot ‘n’ heavy fantasy suspects are available for your sewing pleasure, including your chiseled, shirtless motorcycle cops: 

Your oiled-up construction workers/handymen types:

Buff and bronzed cowboys:

A couple of rugged lumberjacks:

The ever necessary ripply-bodied firemen (obviously the one on the left is doing the quick change into his gear on his way out to battle an inferno, not stripping for you. Get your mind out of the gutter!)

And lastly, the surprisingly tame and clothed package delivery guys for those of you who prefer a little mystery with your naughty quilts:

And no, I wasn’t prowling red light districts for R-rated quilting shops. These fabrics are surprisingly widely available on Etsy, eBay, and lots of online fabric stores like J&O, and Ladybutton Fabrics. I don’t expect I’ll be purchasing any of these anytime soon, but if you do and make yourself a really weird wrap dress or something, be sure to come back and show us, ok?

Between this and the weirdly steamy Burda 6.2010 preview, it sure gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “fabric pr0n,” doesn’t it?

The Selfish Seamstress has been taken hostage! Unexpectedly roused at 5:00AM this morning, told to pack clothes for the next three days and bring my passport. Yes on sunglasses, no on hiking boots, maybe on bathing suit. Bring comfortable shoes for walking, one nice dress, and one nice pair of shoes. I’ve been told that temperatures will be in the mid-60’s at this thus far undisclosed location.

Where am I being taken, and more importantly, what fabric stores will be there?

Place your guesses for where I’ll end up, and please provide crucial corresponding information for fabric shopping in said destination. I’ll let you know where I am when I find out!

Hi everyone:

Thank you again for all of your generous offers to send sewing gifts to Arielle! I’m sorry, but I’m on a business trip so I have not had an opportunity to respond to you all, but will do so soon.  I received an email from Arielle yesterday and she is very, very moved by the outpouring of generosity.  She was thinking, however, that it might be best if all of the items could be consolidated into a single package and sent at once, since she has to pay for all of the packages to get to her from her US courier address. At this time I am waiting to hear back from her about whether there is someone in the US who could handle collecting and consolidating all of the items.  If so, I will email everyone who has promised things and let them know of the updated address. So if you have something for her and haven’t yet sent it, could you please hold off on doing so until I hear back from Arielle?  Thanks so much!


Oh my goodness, your emails are pouring in so quickly that I can barely keep up – (not to mention that I’m trying to pay attention at a work conference!)  Thank you so much for your incredible generosity- I’m sure Arielle will be back up and sewing in no time thanks to your kindness!

I’m trying to compile a list of all of the promised items, and so far, here is what has been offered in the emails I have received so far (if you received a response email from me, then I’m counting the items you offered in this list):

  • Buttons
  • Zippers (regular and invisible)
  • Dress pins 
  • Thread (all requested colors)
  • Hooks & eyes
  • Snap fasteners
  • Steam-a-seam
  • Chalk, marking pens
  • Tracing paper, tracing wheel
  • Hand sewing needles
  • 3m tape
  • Seam rippers
  • Bobbins
  • Glad Press ‘n’ Seal
  • Ironing board cover
  • Rotary blades (both sizes)
  • Miscellaneous patterns and fabric

To help you out, this means that the only things left on her wishlist that are not yet covered are:

  • Ballpoint pins
  • 1/2″ shoulder pads

For those of you who would still like to send her things and not yet emailed me, it would probably be best to send the sort of things that “one can never have too much of”, e.g. pins, tape, zippers, tracing paper, snaps, rather than the things that one doesn’t need many of which have already been promised (ironing board covers, tracing wheels).  Email me at selfishseamstress[at]gmail[dot]com for her US courier address.

To answer some of your questions, I’m not sure at this point what other items may be helpful to her- she does have sporadic email access so you can try to contact her directly to ask (lakaribane[at]gmail[dot]com).  And I’m not sure if things need to be packaged in any special way as she did not specify, other than to say that you should not send any liquids of any kind.

To those of you who have kindly offered to send money to me to purchase items for her, I apologize, but I’m not too comfortable sending or receiving money. I do appreciate the generosity of your offer- perhaps Arielle would appreciate a warm email from you instead; I’m sure she certainly understands that it is more expensive than it is worth for non-US residents to send a box of pins to a US address and would just appreciate that you are thinking of her. Again, I am very sorry that I can’t be more helpful on that front, but I’m nervous about handling or sending other people’s money.

I haven’t received a pattern wishlist from Arielle, so I’m not sure what kind of patterns she is looking for.  If I receive a list from her, I’ll be sure to post it here.

Thank you all again for your kindness and generosity- it’s truly heartwarming to see this community take care of one of its own.

Dear Readers:

Have you ever had one of those terrible days when it seemed like everything that could go wrong was going wrong, and everything that could possibly frustrate you, irritate you, exhaust you, or stress you out was happening at once, and at the end of it all, all you wanted was have a few moments of sewing and serenity to yourself? If so, this may help you to understand a tiny bit of what fellow sewing blogger and Haiti resident Arielle (Lakaribane on Pattern Review) is going through right now.

Arielle is a warm and lovely member of the online sewing community whom you may recognize from her enthusiastic and positive comments on other blogs, in addition to her own beautiful work. I and many others were ecstatic to hear that Arielle survived the massive Haiti earthquake, but she is now struggling with the aftermath of the destruction and has some harrowing stories of what she has lived through and is still experiencing every day. In my comparatively pampered state, I can’t even begin to imagine the horrors, fear, and loss that she has survived. But one thing I can identify with is when she tells me all she wants to do is sit down and sew.

Arielle’s home was destroyed and she has had to move. This is what became of her former sewing space:

Needless to say she lost a lot of stuff, including sewing stuff. Fortunately her sewing machines are still intact, but she lost patterns, tools, notions and some of her stash as well (it sounds like she had some heartbreaking Emma One Sock losses!) Unfortunately the current state of things in Haiti means that not only is money incredibly tight, but also that one can’t just walk into a shop and buy new pins- it’s not business as usual and goods are scarce.

Arielle still has limited internet access at the moment, but I asked her to take stock of what she has and send a list of things that she needs to replace. Now that I’ve received her wishlist, I’m hoping that perhaps some of you would like to send some of her wished-for items to her. To receive postal mail, she is currently using a courier service in the US which means you would send items to a US address and they will subsequently get forwarded to her by a private shipping service. This means that things won’t disappear in the Haitian mail (apparently a huge problem) and also that you’d only have to pay postage to ship to a US address.

Arielle has broken her wishlist down into “necessities,” “luxuries,” and “oddities.” If you would like to send her something, please send me an email at selfishseamstress[at]gmail[dot]com and let me know which item(s) and how many (if applicable) you would like to send. I will update this list to reflect purchases and email you back with Arielle’s courier address so you can ship the items to her. Here is her list:


  • Tailor’s chalk or other marking tool
  • Polyester sewing machine thread : black, white, navy, gray, brown
  • Tracing paper
  • Dressmakers’ pins, LOTS
  • Ballpoint pins for knits
  • Seam ripper (is this a sign?)
  • Class 15 bobbins
  • Rotary cutter blades: 60mm, 45mm
  • Buttons
  • Hand-sewing needles
  • Zippers, skirt and dress length, regular or invisible
  • 1/2″ shoulder pads
  • Hooks and eyes, skirts and pants sizes
  • Snaps, various diameters
  • Ironing board cover (I had one of those ruled ones but it is caput! Now, any will do)
  • Steam-a-seam, regular or lite (it’s addictive!)
  • Patterns (list to be forwarded soon, needs updating)
Oddities :
  • 3M Magic Tape
  • Glad Press n’Seal


Arielle has lost a lot more than sewing notions in this terrible tragedy and as much as we might wish we could, we can’t undo what has happened. But we can help to brighten Arielle’s day and get her back to the joys of sewing- please consider sending her a little treat!

About this blog

The Selfish Seamstress loves to design and sew garments, but only if she gets to keep them. I'm Elaine, known in the online sewing world as elainemay, and welcome to my selfish sewing blog.

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