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Conversational Threads

Palmer/Pletsch how to find out about it?

Stillsewing | Posted in Fitting on

I took a break from sewing for myself for about five for various reasons. Since I returned to dressmaking for myself over the last 6 – 7 years I have been through the horrors with regard to fitting any garments I make for myself, in order to have them fit me. I have moaned on these Threads each time I wrecked something and I have had very nice supportive replies. I have now bitten the bullet and signed on for a two day course in fitting to see if that will help me.

In the last few days the course material arrived, a pattern, a very detailed measurement chart, and a list of equipment to bring with me. All that is fine but the notes say that the instructor uses the Palmer Pletsch method of fitting. I have no idea what this is. I checked on the Palmer Pletsch website and this did not enlighten me either. I also checked out the instructor’s web site – no mention either. Could some kind person out there direct me to where I could learn a bit more about this method of fitting.

Thanks in advance.


  1. sewelegant | | #1

    Were you asked to bring checked or gingham fabric?  Palmer/Pletsch have been around for a long time and I think they initiated using the gingham to check how well you were getting the grain right while you were going through the steps of fitting a garment.  I think McCalls and Vogue both used them.  Other than that they seemed to follow the basic rules of fitting.

    1. Stillsewing | | #2

      No, they say they will supply the calico on the course. Of course that may be checked on the day. Thanks for replying so speedily. Never having attended any sort of a course on sewing before I just want to be as clued up as possible in advance so that I can take full advantage of it.

    2. patipalmer | | #42

      As an update, Palmer/Pletsch no longer uses gingham. However, in our 4-day workshops we do let students try on our ginghams made from McCall's 2718. Each bodice size is made up in 5 bra cup sizes. Our teachers who train with us will use muslin to make up the same 45 bodices for their students to try on, mainly because true 1/4" gingham by Dan River was discontinued. During the 15 years I traveled teaching pant fitting throughout N.Am. I had pants made in every size out of gingham---hence the gingham connection. Today, we tissue-fit pants and it saves a ton of time and is very accurate. When I teach a 4-day pant workshop here in Portland, Oregon, we tissue fit and then when the students cut and pin fit their pants we have an almost perfect fit. A little tweaking of ease for each fabric is all that is usually needed. Pati Palmer

  2. patipalmer | | #3

    Hi, I just joined the Threads Newsletter. I hope your class went well. Was it pant fit or top/skirt fit? If your teacher took our 4-day Fit Workshop in Portland, Or and it is a bodice fit class, she would have you try on one of the bodices she made out of ginham or muslin from the basic fit dress pattern we designed for McCall's, # 2718, in order to find your size and bra cup size.  Then you would have tissue-fitted the bodice to create your "road map" of how you differ from a standard pattern. Then you would have fitted a fashion pattern to determine which of those adjustments you would need in that fashion. In our 4-day workshop, we spend the next 2 days having you fit any fashion pattern you choose and cut some of them out in fabric and pin fit the fabric as well. Our goal is to have you KNOW how to fit yourself before you go home.  If your class was pant fit, we no longer fit in gingham first. We go right to tissue-fitting. Palmer/Pletsch designs for McCalls include alteration lines printed on the tissue to make altering easier. I hope this helps. Sincerely, Pati Palmer, President, Palmer/Pletsch

    1. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #4

      Pati, thank you for taking the time to reply. It is wonderful to have you here on Gatherings. Cathy

      1. patipalmer | | #7

        Glad to be here. Pati

    2. Stillsewing | | #5

      Gosh, thank you for such a full and immediate reply. I have not gone on the course yet, it is scheduled for the end of the month. The course is about fitting a dress. I was given the choice of two patterns to use and I chose Simplicity 2917, a basic princess line dress. From the notes I have received, I'm expected to check out the pattern and fit it to myself in advance of the class and make the adjustments that I see as necessary. it is of course a multi sized pattern. I presume that this will checked out before cutting out the toile on the course. It is a two day course in Midhurst, Sussex in the south of England. I live in Ireland so it quite a journey for me, complete with sewing machine etc so you can understand that I was anxious that your Palmer/Pletsch system would not throw me as I want to make the most use of my time on the course. I must look out for your pattern 2718 for McCalls. I always loved their patterns but they became impossible to buy here. Now with the advent of the internet that has changed!Again thanks for explaining your system of working, I feel more confident about it all now.

      1. patipalmer | | #6

        We have had some instructors from England take our course in Portland. So she might be one of those or she might be simply using our book Fit for Real People. Don't bother with McCall's 2718 if she isn't using it. It takes a skilled teacher to help you make a body map in such a fitted pattern. The die-hards who come to Portland always want that, but fashion, with more ease, is easier to fit.  You can tissue-fit any brand.

        On another note, we just finished publishing a book called The Food Nanny Rescues Dinner and the author Liz Edmunds from Utah had a woman from Ireland who used to produce television shows ask her to come to Ireland to do a cooking class. I think it will happen next spring. If you'd be interested in knowing the dates and locations, let me know at [email protected].

        Good luck in the class and tell the instructor hello, especially if she is one I know!! Pati

        1. sewelegant | | #9

          What a treat to hear from you, Pati.  To me you are a super star of the sewing world!  I was in one of the mini classes you and your partners went around the country giving back in the late 70's or early 80's.  It was in Fairfax, VA at a Minnesota Fabrics. (I really miss those days!)  I still have the book I had you sign... I think it was "Painless Sewing".  Thank you for all the inspiration I have gleaned from your efforts over the years!

          1. patipalmer | | #10

            Thank you for the kind words.  We are still keeping as busy as ever. I don't do as many seminars as we did in the "OLD" days. But I just did the keynote and some seminars at the national ASG convention in Chicago. I also will be in Hartford, CT doing a seminar for ASG on Oct. 25th. Margarete is taking registrations at [email protected] .

            I also keep busy teaching workshops in Portland, Oregon. We have a fabulous array of fabric stores here, so our post workshop shopping trip is always a hit. Linda Griepentrog, former Sew News Editor just hosted an ASG tour here last week and people joined her from all over North America. They came to my house Sat. afternoon for refreshments and a tour of my sewing room and short talk about our PerfectFuse interfacings and McCall's patterns.

            I too miss Minnesota Fabrics. They were a great chain. I am hoping with a female president, Hancock will survive as a fashion fabric store. They have more fashion than JoAnns.

            Take care and again thanks for the kind words. Pati Palmer



          2. MaryinColorado | | #20

            I love Perfectfuse!!!  Wish I'd discovered it years ago!  It's an excellent product!  I do wish you would make it in a deeper flesh tone too.  It solved my difficulties with cutting out rayon fabrics and the draping is not affected in the least.  Now it is one of those "must haves" in my studio.  Thank You!  Mary

    3. MargieT | | #8

      Welcome to Gatherings Pati.

    4. MaryinColorado | | #19

      Welcome!  We are so lucky to have you join the forum!  I look forward to your posts! Mary

  3. SewFit | | #11

    If you have access to or can check out the book FIT FOR REAL PEOPLE published by Palmer/ Pletsch, it will give you some insights into their method of fitting the tissue pattern to the body. I just purchased this book about a year ago and it is wonderful.

    Edited 9/14/2008 12:27 pm ET by SewFit

    1. Stillsewing | | #12

      Thanks very much for that, I have put it on my "to get" list. All I really want to know is what size pattern to buy. The various brands of patterns seem to vary so much! Ah well! maybe I'll know it all after I attend this course!

      1. User avater
        ThreadKoe | | #13

        Each pattern company lists the measurements for their sizes on the envelope. For now, purchase the pattern according to the bust, waist and hip measurements closest to YOUR measurements. If you are above a B cup, use the upper bust measurement for the bust measurement. Most patterns have about 2 inches of ease built in, so you can round off to what is the closest size. A tad bigger is usually better, as it is easier to take in than let out when fitting in the beginning. Have fun with your course. Hope this helps. Cathy

        1. Stillsewing | | #14

          I know what you are saying but years ago when I was a size 12 (US) I used to buy size 12 Vogue. I could cut this out without checking the pattern (I nearly always did), I just had to add two inches on the hips. Always! so I only bought Vogue. Then for various reasons I didn't sew for myself for years and since I retired four years ago I took it up again. Of course I have put on some weight and now I wear a size 14 (US).I know that the ready made sizes are meant to flatter but I have increased by one size so I think that I should buy a pattern one size bigger than before ..... but it doesn't seem to work like that. My 41 inch bust would suggest a size 18 or 20 which I know is miles too big for me. So I have made clothes that are too small for me and then over compensated and the next thing is too big. I have had some major disappointments with Vogue that I have sworn off them. Trouble is i don't know where to swiych to! I made a really difficult coat for last Winter and it is much too big - such a disappointment -- so I am going on the course. It is a long time since I left school! I'd love to able to rely on a particular size. If I get that much from it I'll be happy.

          1. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #15

            I really truly understand your frustration. You will learn in your course that the pattern size is the starting point in your project, and they will show you how to fit the pattern to YOU. The pattern size is set up based on a set of very old averages that do not apply to our modern shapes. You need to take your current measurements and compare them to the measurements listed on the pattern. If you find the patterns a bit on the big side, you need to use the UPPER BUST not the BUST measurement. For example, if your UPPER BUST measures 36, and your BUST measures 41, buy the pattern using the 36 for your bust measurement instead. This indicates your frame size better.
            You may find that you cannot rely on just one pattern size. I find each company has slightly different "fit" and have to buy accordingly. For me, I am between sizes, so I buy Up a size with Simplicity, and down with McCalls. That is my experience.
            RTW is an arbitrary sizing system all of its own that does not have anything to do with reality, as it can reflect what the manufacturer wants it to be, and vanity sizing is common. I wear a size 14 in quality RTW, that corresponds to a 22 at Walmart! You will really enjoy your course, and learn lots. Happy sewing, Cathy

          2. Stillsewing | | #16

            That explains a lot to me. It sounds like I should use a 16 which is what I thought. Obviously I always check that it will be big enough. Some years ago I wrote to Vogue asking for advice and was advised to use, I think, size 20. While not using RTW as a yardstick I know I had not increased from a 12 to a 20. 14 pounds does not make that much of an increase. I shall check out a size 16 and see how I get on. Again thanks very much.

          3. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #17

            You are welcome. You will probably still have a lot of adjustments you will have to make, such as increasing the darts for a fuller bust, nipping and tucking here and there, letting out here or there, but once you figure out YOUR figure, it will all make sense. I am a rather curvy tube, just as wide as I am thick. Patterns need a LOT of adjustment, but that is half of the fun of sewing. But they fit soooo much better than RTW which is an exercise in frustration (and usually tears) Cathy

          4. fiberfan | | #18

            Many of the big 4 (Vogue, Butterick, McCalls and Simplicity) patterns have too much ease, IMNHO.


          5. Stillsewing | | #22

            This is exactly my problem. It is knowing when the ease is necessary for the intended garment. I know that if you are are making a something like a coat out of a heavy weight material then you need to make it somewhat bigger than say a fine silk dress. I used to have no bother years ago -- I picked the pattern for the object in mind and off I went. Now I don't know whether the extra inches in the pattern is necessary ease for the style and the cloth, or just too many inches which will make the garment ill fitting.
            There was another thread on this forum which discussed a topic something along the lines of ---- what makes a garment look home made? ---- I think that is when the garment is big and sloppy looking and the sleeves have too much fullness at the sleeve head then it looks home made or amateurish to say the least. (If it's too small you won't be wearing it). I suppose we just have to keep trying.

          6. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #24

            There are some key words on the pattern back that may help you right from the start with refining your fit.Wearing ease is the minimum amount of looseness added above and beyond your measurements that is needed for movement in a garment.
            Most patterns use about 2 inches of wearing ease in a pattern. So to determine how much extra ease is in a pattern, take your measurement+2 inches=minimum amount needed for movement.
            Everything above that is design ease.Fitted patterns have little extra room beyond wearing ease, at most 1 or 2 inches,depending on the type of garment, more for jackets, less for dresses.
            Semi-fitted patterns have 2 to 4 inches of extra design ease beyond wearing ease.
            Loose fitting or pull over stlye have 4 to 6 inches of added design ease.
            Very loose fitting garments will have over six inches of added design ease.Depending on the style of the garment, and how loose you like to wear your garment, you can adjust some of the design ease for a tighter fit.
            This is also why some garments may seem to fit large on you. The fit or design ease may not have been what you expected, based on the drawing on the front of the pattern envelope. Cathy

          7. Stillsewing | | #26

            That's a great deal of information, thanks very much for that. I suppose that a bit more up to date practise in making garments would be a help for me. I did make a loose fitting Vogue pattern about two years ago and it was so loose fitting it seemed like a tent. As it had raglan sleeves it was very hard to try it on before it was finished. It went straight to the nearest charity shop! I suppose it was a few misadventures like that, that made me hesitate before cutting into any more expensive material. Anyway thanks for the explanation.

          8. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #28

            I just do not want you to get so discouraged that you give up! A little (or a lot) of information can be on the back of a pattern envelope, but sometimes it seems to be written in code. I hope you understand better what to look for in patterns to get what you want, so you have a better starting point. Cathy

          9. Stillsewing | | #29

            After all the discussions on this thread I do feel a bit wiser. Thank you for all the help and encouragement. and i will not give up!

          10. Stillsewing | | #30

            Hi folks! Thank you all for your support and interest in my quest to find out about the Palmer/Pletsch method of fitting. I've been on my course and back now full of knowledge. The tutor did not use this method, she worked to her own agenda but did say that this was a good system but in general she used her own. Fair enough. She has been in the rag trade for many many years and watching her operate in the class it is quite obvious that she knows what she is doing.
            The course I attended was organised by the editor and some staff of the mag Sewing World. It covered three different segments."Dressing Well with Janet Moville:
            Learn to fit a dress and never have a problem again! Using a basic shell dress pattern, learn to alter the pattern and make a toile to suit your own individual needs.Also available were;
            Fabric Fantasy and Amazing Manipulations with Jennie Rayment:
            Twiddled, fiddled, rolled and folded material magic! Create a hanging/small cot quilt or a waistcoat.
            Fabulous Finishing and Heirloom Stitching with Lorna Knight:
            This is a workshop to demonstrate some professional secrets and finishing techniques to give garments a lift as well as showing how to use heirloom stitching to best effect."I took the first one but the participants in each class turned out great work. I never had an opportunity to attend anything like this before and it was so interesting. Just to be in the company of so many people that share your hobby!I must say I learnt a lot about fitting. The format of the weekend was very friendly and supportive. I think that I will be able to choose the correct pattern the next time that I decide to make something - at least if is a dress! Coats, jackets are another story! The dress we worked on was a princess line style.There were ten in the class. So it took quite a lot of time to get us all fitted, and all the others had to have a “large bust adjustment” (LBA) but of course I was looking to have a “small bust adjustment” but that does not appear to be something that has a name. I must say the way the LBA is done is quite interesting and extremely scientific. It was quite enjoyable to watch! However when I go to fit a dress for myself in future without a princess line I will still have to deal with the extra fullness in front. Ah well! I have a dress form now and I will try by using that. Tackling the underarm darts or in fact the dartless tops is still a mystery!
            However for an enjoyable useful weekend I'd recommend it. So again thanks for the interest and support.

          11. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #31

            It sounds like you had an interesting course! I am positive that by the time you have sewn a few more garments, everything will have sunk in and you will have figured out how to apply the knowledge gained to other garments, you will see. Thanks for the update, as I was wondering how it went. Cathy

          12. Stillsewing | | #32

            CathyThanks for your interest. I have just noticed that when I made my last post I addressed it to myself. -- Getting bigheaded!!-- I forgot to mention that I had to use Simplicity size 18 for the dress and interestingly the tutor took it in under the arms, or should I say, the side seams. Also I think that she let it out a tiny bit across the back but that was negligible. The really interesting fact for me was to note the size used by others in the class. Those that I would thought would be using a smaller size than me were using the same as me. It seems to be just what you said, it is trial an error to get a proper fit. For the record we pinned the paper pattern to our measurements, had a fitting, then added tissue to bring the paper pattern to the correct size (or cut it back) redrew the cutting and seam lines, then cut out the muslin, made up the toile and had a further fitting and transferred the changes made from the toile fitting back to the pattern, which is now ready for cutting out the dress fabric. It was a long process but a good discipline and a great learning process. I am going to make up the dress in the next few days, hope that it works out. it not the type of dress that I would normally go for. I think that I prefer more structured garments.
            Once again thank you for your encouragement.

          13. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #33

            Yes, it seems like a lot of work, but I think you will be pleased. The whole process of pinfitting the paper pattern, making the muslin, fitting the muslin, re-drafting the pattern, before you even cut and sew the dress is an amazing amount of work. Yet the finished dress, will fit like nothing you have ever made before. It will all be so worthwhile. Then you go through the process again with the next pattern you do. After a while, you can compare your patterns, and you almost know what to do before you cut your muslin! Cathy

          14. Stillsewing | | #34

            You sound like you have gone through these steps yourself! I have decided to use a silk georgette to make up the dress but as it is semi transparent I am making a black slip to go under it. I decided to do this because the cloth is so light that if I line it, it might be very difficult to get it to sit properly, hence the separate slip. Well, to cut a long story short, I more or less made the pattern for the slip myself and have had it on and off many times and am happy with the fit now. Tomorrow I will go on to cutting out the dress. The slip will be useful again in the future I suppose for other garments. I have never put so much work into anything else!

          15. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #35

            yes, I have. It was a major part of the college courses I took, and was needed in every class, for every pattern, even the ones I drafted myself! A design idea can work out so different from paper to fabric. Even once done in the fashion fabric, the odd tweak here and there sometimes becomes needed. All part of the custom process. You will enjoy it, believe me, when you begin to see the results. Cathy

          16. Stillsewing | | #36

            CathyI think that I will have to slow down and make a few items rather than a lot. As I've said before I never needed to do any adjustments to size 12 Vogue (other than hips) for about 20 years and that was great. Now at this late stage in my life I'm having to learn. It's interesting to note that even when you drafted your own patterns, that you still had to go through the fitting process. My mother always drafted her own, then cut them out with lots to spare and then used endless fittings to get the effect she really wanted. She certainly didn't go straight into making things up. I have now seen that the fit certainly varies from paper to toile.
            I also know that it does vary from cloth to cloth -- in fact I love using the same pattern over and over in totally different cloths.

            If nothing else this all this thought and work has rejuvenated my interest in sewing for myself. However once this dress is finished I have a set of net curtains to make for the front of the house -- then I can indulge myself again. Thanks for all your encouragement!

          17. Stillsewing | | #37

            Dear CathyYou were good enough to give me lots of encouragement when doing my course and so helpful on the subsequent discussion on the toile etc. So just to update you on the outcome!
            I told you that I was going to make it up in a transparent georgette. I made the slip for it then discovered that I did not have enough material to make the dress. I had a beautiful piece of cotton that I had earmarked for a Summer suit in my "stash" and made the dress out of that. Thought that with all that fitting, having a toile done etc that I could cut it out and not have to do too much fitting until it was nearly finished --- wrong --- Because I hate having a seam down the centre front of a dress if I can avoid it I had removed the centre seam from this dress. However when I had assembled it I found that I had to take the dress in well over an inch in the centre front. Hey presto, I have a seam down the front again. I even checked to see if I had mistakenly included the seam allowances when I was cutting it out, but no, it was probably due to the fact that the muslin that we used was very stiff and the cotton I used for the dress has a very good drape to it.I only heard of an FBA in the past few months from another thread on this forum. There is no one out there that understands a SBA, my newly diagnosed problem or if they do they are not bothered. By that I mean the fitting books etc. I bought another McCalls pattern and it has one of Pati Palmer special fitting guides included. All it mentions with regard to bust adjustments is -- you've guessed it an FBA or even an FFBA. Anyway I feel more confident now and am tackling a lined linen dress. Made the toile for the top and am enjoying making it as it has a waist line unlike the last one where I only finished it because it was a class project.Thanks again for all the help and encouragement.

          18. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #38

            It looks like the class was the good starting point you thought it would be.  Good for you on finishing the project.  Yay! 

            Yes, fabric choice does make a difference in fitting as well.  The same pattern in two different fabrics requires fine tuning in the fit.  Such as it will always ever be.  The more garments you make, the more intuitively you will know what has to be done, and it does become easier. 

            Have you done the fitting adjustments for the smaller bust?  You realize that it is merely the reverse of a FBA.  Where extra fabric is needed for the fuller bust, you need to take out the comparable amounts for the smaller cup size.  In otherwords, reverse the process, cut the lines where the FBA add space, and in your case, overlap the pieces to remove the excess fabric.  Then redraw the smaller dart.  Make sure that your bust point and the pattern bust point are in the same region.   If you do not follow what I am saying, let me know. 

            Thanks for the update on your progress.  I really appreciate it.  I always wonder how things go for people.      Cathy

          19. Stillsewing | | #39

            CathyThanks for that. In fact it would have been no harm for the instructor to have mentioned it on the course, as all the other ladies had the same FBA to carry out. I watched how it was done out of interest but did not take notes. However I think I understand the SBA that you explained and can look it up in the many books I have on fitting. None of them mention an SBA and soon I will think I am a freak. Maybe I should up my hormone intake!!

          20. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #40

            No, not a freak, just that most women with a smaller bust do not complain.  There are two sides to every coin, and the ones with the fuller bust are proud and loud....tee hee.   I do recall there being an article somewhere in one of the Threads issues about actually taking the darts out of patterns for a small bust.  I cannot recall at the moment what terms would be used to do a search, foggy headed with a cold, but will think some on it and get back to you on it, OK.   Cathy

            Perhaps if someone else remembers, they can jump in here for me?  

          21. fiberfan | | #25

            Do you have a similar item that fits close to how you want the new item to fit?  If yes, measure that item to find out how much ease you want in the new item.


          22. Stillsewing | | #27

            That's a very good idea, I think that I should be able to act on that. In fact I was about to throw out an old linen fitted jacket recently and decided to keep it in case I could use it in some way like that so yes i will try that.

  4. sewelegant | | #21

    Like you, I sewed with size 12 Vogue patterns for years without having to make any major adjustments.  Then, my magic bubble burst and I started putting on weight... it seemed like a run-a-way train, even though it was only about 5# per year!  I found the answer in the pivot and slide method of alteration that Nancy Zieman always used.  We do not get her tv show in my area so I do not know how she goes about it now, but I'm sure not much has changed.  It's a very easy method to understand and the end results are about the same as slashing and spreading.  You never have to cut the pattern, but you do need to copy (trace) the pattern so you can manipulate the changes easily.  Like the advice Threadkoe gave you, you need to find out your chest and shoulder measurement first and go from there.  I am posting the web page that shows her newest book about the technique.


    1. Stillsewing | | #23

      Thanks for the suggestion for the book on fitting. I actually have Sandra Betzina's one and I have found it very useful. I guess that I am very lazy and think that when I pay good money for patterns (they are very expensive over here as we don't get any bargains ever!) that I should be able to depend that a certain size should do and then make my personal adaptions or adjustments -- not have to look at a multiple sized pattern and then try to decide which size I should go for. This is why I long for when I used to use a size 12 and adjust them on the hips. I now find that I can make trousers and skirts with no bother at all as these are easy parts to measure and understand. It's the width across the shoulders, fitting in sleeves that I find difficult. Anyway I think it is a bit like seeking out the Holy Grail, I doubt if I will get there. All I can do is to enjoy the quest and keep trying! Happy sewing!

  5. patipalmer | | #41

    Hi, I saw your question about the Palmer/Pletsch method of fitting. It is a 3 step process. Buy pattern for tops by your high bust measurement. Match it to the bust measurement on the charts. If between sizes, use the smaller size.

    Trim and prepare the tissue for tissue-fitting.  Try on the tissue and determine where it doesn't fit. Alter it.

    After cutting the fabric out, pin the fabric together and try it on in order to tweak the ease depending on the fabric.

    Our books Fit for Real People and Pants for Real People go into great detail as well as our videos on the subject which you can view at http://www.palmerpletsch.com. We will be putting pages from the books on our site so you can see what they include, but I haven't had time to manage that yet.  It is on my "to do" list however. Take care. Hope this helps. Pati Palmer

    1. Stillsewing | | #43

      Thanks very much for your interest. I would love to have had the chance to attend one of your fitting courses. The last course I attended was in Engand and so was quite expensive! However here in Ireland where we have a small population and as as far as I can see, not many people still sewing so the small numbers make it very difficult to follow a particular hobby! Most people who sew nowadays seem to do patchwork.I have printed off your advice and will use when cutting out my new project. Thanks again!

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