Fabric and fiber

Okay, so now I get to update you all on the quilting progress.

I kind of wish that I had planned out the color scheme better before I started sewing:

IMG_4023w

Right now, I’ve got at least one seam going on one side of all of the diamond portions of this square. Some of the wedges at the lower part of the image already have two triangles sewn to them, though. I’ve been doing this all by hand, so it’s quite labor-intensive. Not to mention, trying on my fingernails–! But I picked up some type of clear flexible rubber thimble, which may help protect the thumbnail I’ve been using to stop my needle.

Something I realized too late was that I would want the edges of the pieces to line up so that they make 45º wedges. I’m not entirely certain exactly how to make sure this happens. I know that after the wedges are made, I’ll want to sew them to each other and then to those larger outer triangles, then sew the resulting squares together.

The problem is that I’ve just been trying to sew 1/4″ (around 6mm) from the edge of the fabric. Not all my cuts are as extremely precise as they would need to be for this method to hold up on a large scale, though.

Right now I’m using mini acrylic shape templates, and a rotary cutter. I have just figured out how all the shapes would be cut out of a strip of fabric, which should help, later. If they’re lined up, they can all be sliced out of one long strip, with minimal waste.

I’ve also just figured out that if I stop sewing 1/4″ from the edge of the piece, I will want to start sewing the next seam at that vertex, again 1/4″ in.

It’s helped to kind of try and lay out what I think I want to do (as I did in my “Ideas” post), because then I have something to measure against when I find something else I also may want to do. These pieces were laying out on the craft table, and when they’re easily seen, it’s easy for me to work on them first. I’m not entirely certain, why.

I also know, though, that I do want to toy around with knitting, more; and at some time it will be worth it to make those pants! I think right now, though, making quilt squares may be less intimidating for me, while I build my skills.

Why knitting? I think I’m attracted to knitting because it’s hard. And because it’s meditative. I used to hate it, but that was when I was in the very beginning stages of learning it (I’m not sure what happened). I still can’t remember how to do a long-tail cast on, but I’ll get it, some time. (It’s possible that I like knitting a lot more now because I’m using actual wool yarn instead of acrylic yarn.)

I also just remembered that I never took photos of all my little knitting swatches…hmm. I should do that…

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Ideas are fun :)

Yes, I am still generating ideas of things to do. 🙂

As I was cleaning up the craft table, I ran across a printout which I realized is the exact dimensions of one of my linoleum blocks (2:3).

flowers in greyscale

The image to the right is what it looks like in greyscale (though I can’t remember if this is the 4″x6″ version or the 11″x14″ version, and am away from my source photos and image editor. It looks like the 11″x14″ version, though). I wouldn’t think it would be possible to do this and preserve the character of the image, but I ran across a posting earlier this week which does show that delicacy can be exhibited by a linoleum block print.

I’ve also realized that I don’t have to look at this in a painterly fashion; I can look at it as something to draw. With contour line in there, I can express the shapes. I can also edit and get creative with the background — with the lower left corner, I’m thinking of blacking it out and adding in lines of light to hint at vegetation behind.

So, there’s one project I can play with. The next one is a bit more ambitious: this is a pair of Japanese field pants (monpe), which I have some nice fabric for, but haven’t started, yet. I know I will have to make a trial pair of these, because with the version of the pattern I have, I’m one size above the maximum (I think I’m a size 16 in Misses’, right now). Luckily, this pattern isn’t difficult to alter, as it’s basically a couple of big rectangles which are slashed and stitched back together.

Apparently, the name for a trial garment is a toile. And…apparently, I don’t have to wash the muslin before I cut and stitch it, though it seems like a waste of muslin, otherwise.

I’m also not sure whether to use the elastic I have for the leg openings at the bottom. This is basically because I know latex degrades, and the elastic I have is YEARS old! But…maybe that’s OK for a trial garment?

In addition…do I stitch it by hand like I want to, or do I stitch it by machine, which will be faster and more durable?

(I think I want to stitch it by hand! I will just have to figure out a method to bind the seam allowances.)

On top of that, there is an option to integrate snaps into the legs, instead of using elastic. I’m just not sure if that’s what I want, yet.

But I guess that’s what a toile is for, right?

(And yes, I do want to make a pair in pink, now, in addition to the one I’ve got planned in black, blue and grey ikat…after this! After this!!!)

FREE!!!

I am just coming off of an attempt to write creatively, which…isn’t working all that well at this point. I think the material is too close to me, plus, I just finished pretty much all of my schoolwork for Spring Session. That means I had a lot of writing and synthesis to do, and Creative Writing…I’m not sure if it’s too different, or too much the same.

My material deals with “psychic” phenomena (or “mental phenomena,” if you like) from when I was young. I had an insight about it the other day, but it may be both too personal for me to write, and maybe it’s something that shouldn’t leave a trail. (It has to do with confusion between good and evil, and lack of discernment. It could be a seed for a poem, or more likely, a story or novel.)

Anyhow, yes, I did finish my Finals! Right now, what’s left are some backed up readings, and after that, a bunch of housework. I was helping re-pot some plants earlier, which was really nice.

For now, I know I can clean up this office, my bedroom, and my bathroom.

There are some things I also want to do as versus have to do. This includes quilting, and getting back to embroidery. Sewing is one of those things that’s on the back of my mind (I still want to make a pair of monpe), but it isn’t urgent.

The other things…are testing out the new watercolors, and getting through organizing my art & craft supplies.

Anyway, heh, yeah, I should get going for now! I hope to check back in later.

Cultural location and creative context: Part 3

I suppose this is where I can get into the multiracial and multicultural aspects of what I’ve realized, is the impact of my personal, cultural, social, and generational identity upon my art. If I were really trying to be thorough, I would add in gender identity and sexual, “identity,”…but that’s still something I’m working on. (I’ve made more progress on the former, than the latter.)

It might actually get interesting here — or, well, at least new.

In doing the research for one of my most recent assignments, regarding the impact of (Japanese) Zen on Japanese art, I ran across a couple of sites of tension. One of these is the definition of, “Japanese,” as in, “when defining ‘Japanese art,’ what do we mean by ‘Japanese?'”

It is relatively clear until large amounts of Japanese people begin leaving the islands to live in other countries. Then they have kids, who may not be totally ethnically (that is, culturally) or, “racially,” Japanese; then their kids have kids, and it goes on. All of them are also influenced by the cultures they’re living in.

In addition, once artists within Japan begin bending the rules and incorporating outside influences into their art, is it still, “Japanese art,” or has it morphed into something beyond that?

This impacts me if only because I am at a site where I have to choose where to go with my art, as with my mind and identity and purpose; I am not totally Japanese, and trying to be so would likely not work in my favor. I am also not totally culturally of African-American descent, though I can’t know how much of what I get from that side of my family, is sourced from where.

By the fourth generation (of Japanese diaspora), it’s extremely common to have a lot of mixed-race youth of partial Japanese descent, loved by their parents and representing a conundrum for earlier generations, who may have wished their family to remain, “Japanese,” whatever that means.

There is no question for me that Japanese culture does have its own value and gifts to give to the world. However, conflict arises within the idea that people should not blend, racially or ethnically; that we can have a global civilization as long as we each keep to our own kind.

It sounds harsh, but I’m not sure how else to put it. And I’m not sure how much of it comes from the Internment, and how much of it comes just from nationalism.

The ideal of marrying within the, “race,” is something my nuclear family has had to deal with, long-term. It has been a large site of conflict from the Japanese-American side of our family. Obviously, I’m racially half-Japanese-American, and culturally…well, that’s more of a mixed bag, given the fact that my family has been in the U.S. for multiple generations, and local culture’s impact — by this I largely mean California, Mexico, Louisiana, and possibly, Hawaii — has been extremely strong.

In American lexicon, there is a difference between “Japanese (from Japan),” and “Japanese-American (a citizen of the United States who is of Japanese descent).” These concepts are paralleled in the nihongo (Japanese language) terms nihonjin (or Japanese-from-Japan) and nikkeijin (or Japanese-of-foreign-birth).

Even here, though: I would likely have learned Japanese as an undergraduate major, if I thought I could expect decent treatment within Japan. I wanted (and still do want) to understand how those cultural links have helped form who I am now. However, the interactions I’ve experienced within my own extended family, have taught me that this isn’t something I can look forward to — at least, outside of Hawaii, or other various settlements of Japanese diaspora. This is especially because my skin is relatively dark (something I do take pride in), and my hair, voluminous. Unless I’m in Hawaii or my name is known, I generally am not recognized as of Japanese descent (though it used to happen more often when I was younger).

I suppose I should mention that a lot of people of my grandmother’s generation and before, did have to deal with the question of what it meant to have been in the Japanese Internment, and how to deal with the problem of discerning or defining, “Japanese,” identity. That wasn’t fun stuff: I ran across it on reading a bit of D.T. Suzuki.

The introduction to his book, Zen and Japanese Culture (2010 edition) mentions some attempts of Suzuki’s then-contemporaries at establishing Japanese identity in a global context. (Jaffe in Suzuki, xix-xx) With the publication of this book having been so close to World War II, this is obviously…not easy stuff for anyone to deal with, and apparently Suzuki did not address the issue, at least in this book. (Jaffe in Suzuki, xix)

At a certain point, I feel better acknowledging that I am mixed, and that I have an American metropolitan perspective, rather than having a burden and privilege of, “racial purity.” It was never said to me in exactly those terms, but that is what was meant.

I may have mentioned in the past, that my grandmother tried to make me as ethnically (i.e. culturally) Japanese as possible, regardless of the fact that I was racially different. But this is only partially the case.

When I declined to wear a maru obi on top of my kimono at about seven years old, because of its constricting function (I have a big thing about not being constricted in my movement, which is one of the reasons I began to cross-dress as a teen), she never offered to show me how to tie one again. Nor did she relate the importance of knowing how to tie one, or that I would not be seen as authentically Japanese-American by my Japanese-American peers, without one.

That is, I know that she held something against me because of my non-Japanese parent, and/or because I refused to be traditionally feminine. But those two things are separate variables. (Or, maybe she thought I was right.)

The major problem that I had and have been dealing with is that the majority of the ethnic identity I can identify, is Japanese-American. The other side of my family relates to me via what I don’t know how to describe as other than folk ways. Particularly, I gain insight into spirituality and the unknown from that side, as well as a knowledge that it’s okay to be fiery, powerful, and blunt; and when need be, sometimes rage actually is an appropriate response. (My parent on that side did characterize me as having a, “warrior,” mentality, much like them: we’re both straightforward, and it goes against our nature to disguise our feelings.)

I’m not sure from where those ideas originate, or where exactly those traits come from. With my great-grandmother, great-grandfather, and grandmother on that side having passed, my grandfather absentee and now apparently passed, and the rest of the family scattered, I’m not sure I will know.

I could always ask those who are still alive; though I don’t often see them.

The thing is, I don’t see those traits as particularly ethnic, more than just who that parent is. I mean, who they are overrides any way they might (but don’t) think they’re, “supposed to be,” because of the culture they grew up in.

And yeah, actually, that is kind of cool. 🙂

Edited to add links to: Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

One pressure valve, released. Two to go.

I can say that today, I gave myself a break from studying. I also reorganized a good section of my art and craft supplies, and me being me, I realized that I have way more than enough stuff to play with. And if one mode of expression isn’t working out, as things currently stand, I can switch to a different medium.

Also, though: I now have 29 different Fat Quarters (quarter-yards of fabric) to work with. Actually, I have 31, but am probably not going to use a solid or the fabric I bought today which I found was screenprinted! The solid was for embroidery practice…and now that I think of it, I have some of it stretched on a hoop around here, somewhere. The other, I really liked, but on getting it home realized that…it’s not at all what I thought it was (the upshot is that I only lost $1 on it, and I can use it for a wall hanging or something).

I have also realized that it’s possible to make a quilt top with nothing more than Fat Quarters and Jelly Rolls (long strips of fabric). And that libraries are sometimes (much) better sources of books than Amazon, because Amazon seems to run on what’s popular more than what’s useful.

So, my last major assignment for Reference Services (the Research Guide thing) went well, though I was up late working on it, and didn’t get to bed until early morning. I had basically been working on it really hard-core for at least three days, which is probably the reason that I barely thought at all about my other two classes, today.

I still have to take my Final in my Database class, which means I should study. Even though the Mock Final was easy, it was also ungraded and just a study aid, so I don’t know if my answers were correct. I’ll want to make sure I can confidently answer the questions, before I start. If I’m lucky, it will take around 30 to 45 minutes. I would like to do that before the material becomes too stale in my memory.

The other thing I have to do is depersonalize my Instructional Design proposal, and make an example of something I would use in my proposed Instructional Unit. That shouldn’t be too hard, and I already have something in mind (a timeline of the evolution of thought around gender variance in the U.S.), but that will likely take more energy than I would like to put into it, considering it’s due so soon.

It’s easy for me to conceptualize what happened in what order, but pinning down hard dates is going to be much more difficult…unless I hardcore utilize some history texts, or contact a nearby Historical Society.

In the meantime, what I’ve started to do is reorganize all of my art supplies and storage, which might get me to use it again. My problem is that things are put away out of sight, and then I forget that I have them. They just become furniture. A bunch of 11″x14″ pads of paper, I’ve moved to the place where I stored my ArtBins, while the ArtBins are now under the craft table. My charcoals and Conté crayons and pastels, I also found tonight. They have an allure — maybe from the fact that they get my hands dirty.

(Though a bunch of my Conté sticks are missing. I’m not entirely sure where I put them — unless they’re with the rest of my unused pastels and charcoals, and there’s a good chance they are. However…being earthtone, they’re best for drawing people’s bodies…which isn’t what I’m inspired by.)

I actually have a set of 10 NuPastels and a set of Sargent Art hard pastels, the latter of which have never been used. The thing about NuPastels is that I know some of those colors are staining…which isn’t really comforting, unless you like that kind of thing (and it is possible to like it). I liked the stained fingertips, before I thought about it a bit (I’m fairly certain the culprit was Phthalo Blue. I still have those little guys [the blue NuPastels]).

The other thing is that they need to be sealed, but I’m not as against using fixative now that I know what I’m doing and also that I don’t have to do it. I’m not forced to do it for a class, that is. My biggest question is trying to figure out if I have the appropriate cartridges for my respirator (I would need “organic vapor and mists” cartridges); but now that I have an easel, I can spray much more easily, and out of the wind.

I do want to try and use the General’s White Charcoal stuff again, though, even though I’ve been wary of whether it’s toxic or not. From what I can tell, it’s likely that the Prop 65 warnings are on there just because of titanium dioxide nanoparticles, but without knowing…it’s kind of tough to decide to just use it.

I am cautious, though. I am. And I know what I’m doing, so…that probably makes a big difference.

I also threw out some stuff which needed to be thrown out, and put my brushes into an empty furikake (rice topping) jar, which is almost kind of perfect. I took them out of their travel case, because the case was just getting dusty, and the brushes were staying hidden. I know myself a little better now than I used to. If I can see something, I’m more likely to gently edge myself into using it, and end up painting before I’m aware of myself enough to stop.

So there’s that which I want to photograph — just so I can remember where everything is — and the watercolor lightfastness chart four-month results I never posted here (I’ve eliminated some colors from my “good to use” list, for various reasons, while some — like Prussian Blue, which fades a little in intensity after four months in direct sun, but is still beautiful and handy for mixing, I’m a little torn about. Just get some anti-UV glass and don’t put your paintings in the window, I say).

😉

You know, I don’t believe I’ve taken my medication, yet. I should probably do that.

I was wondering how I could be so energetic, so late…

And before I forget, I’m going to remind myself here that if I am at a loss as to what to do with my watercolors, just try mixing chromatic greys, neutrals, and black, and seeing what comes of it. The test images can be anything I want…

Today’s work.

Today was spent exchanging research materials at the library, and studying for the Database Mock Final…which is not difficult. I am very glad. In a few days, my Art + Zen Research Guide will be due. Though I wanted to study for that, I found it more important to focus on the Database class, because Database Management is basically the hardest course I’ve got going this semester. And the Mock Final was due tonight.

Luckily for me…I took a lot of notes. I have an A4 notebook for class with 40 sheets of paper which is basically full from the first page, to about 40% of the last page. I was actually kind of flabbergasted that I filled it up almost exactly (I was scared of having to double-back and write on the backs of the pages).

But I think I’ll be using these notebooks, again: they’re much better for what I need them for, than buying American-sized notebooks (which can go 60-80% unused, and have worse paper, if you’re using pen). This is not to mention that the American-sized notebooks generally cost about 5x as much (I’m getting my stuff from a Japanese dollar store). There are the 8″x10″ things for ~$1, but I hate the texture and absorbency of those, so…

Also luckily, the nonfiction books I’ve been looking in for my Research Guide seem fairly well-organized, so it isn’t difficult to locate needed chapters or sections.

I have gotten to the point where I believe that when some of my sources refer to “Void,” they’re referencing sunyata, or Emptiness, the realization of which is key to understanding “Buddha Nature.” How I’m going to explain this is yet to be determined (and I suspect Zen would probably approach this from the angle of not trying to explain it), but I know that I need to toss sources which refer to Zen being based in nihilism. I read at least three different sources today in the Reference section, which dispute the nihilist claim.

Actually, as a matter of fact, the first book I picked up on Ch’an Buddhism has a first chapter which is about sunyata.

So…there is something in this that is causing me to feel the spirits are with me. 🙂 And…yeah, there is a bit of stuff in there about, “wait, I thought things were without soul/self (anatman)?” But that’s only partially correct; things are without self-arising self-identity, but phenomenal self, exists. (It is also implied that clinging to a phenomenal self gives rise to duhkha, or “suffering” [which is a poor translation].)

And I’ve read that psychic phenomena and the ability to undertake sorcery do arise on the path, and just to ignore them and keep on doing what you’re doing.

Well.

I guess it’s like being reborn in a more fortunate position than many can cause one to crash back into lower Realms, because it’s too easy to get lax in one’s conduct and mind…

I’m not certain at this point how I’m going to put this all together, but I should probably start diagramming on something. I have several different sections I could use, though it might be more useful to combine some of these:

  • Japanese Zen (Bodhidharma, on)
  • Ch’an Buddhism
  • Taoism
  • Emptiness/Void
  • Satori
  • Zen and Brush Painting
  • Zen and cha-no-yu
  • Philosophy
  • Wabi and Sabi as aesthetic principles
  • More aesthetic principles
  • Introduction of Zen to the West
  • Distortions (nationalistic, linguistic, etc.)

I would be more readily accessing the template I’ve been provided, but I’m unsure as to how to delete things once I’ve created them…

Laying off the schoolwork (I’ll get back to it tomorrow)

The semester’s winding down, I’ve decided to take only one unit in Summer Session, and I’ve been re-learning knitting and crochet over the past two days. I mean, it’s been two days with minimal studying.

I think I’m ready to get back to my Zen & Art project, although I haven’t been in the mood to read. What I may take away from this project, though, may be the idea of making art for the process, instead of focusing on achieving a planned finished product.

That is, I’d be focusing on the method and whether I enjoy the method (and the quality of the method), not necessarily the goal. By that, I mean instead of striving for perfection as regards an ideal finished product, just let the process be what it is and enjoy it. (Kind of like focusing on the process of exercising, as versus just trying to get through it so I look better…when the first method is more effective at helping my posture and appearance.)

I never did take a picture of my workspace (a.k.a. the “craft table”), but I need to clean it up, anyway…I have little drawers which are full of creative tools. Maybe I should photograph it after I fix it up.

It’s taken me a bit of time to realize this, but I believe I am still in a learning/sampling mode where it comes to my own art. By that, I mean that I’m still searching for a favorite medium, which affects me in that I don’t want to invest too heavily in one art form just to find out I don’t like it.

I’m hoping Watercolor isn’t going to be this way, but to be real about it, I got into watercolor because I like playing in colors (and I just like the way watercolor disperses and floods the paper and is easily mixed and diluted), not so much because I want to paint things that already exist.

The issue I’m having is that I’ve established an identity as a creator, but have gotten so detached from my own core identity, that I’ve had to reclaim it in order to empower a creator identity. It’s easy to slide under the radar as “normal,” but I think in any artistic endeavor, you’ve really got to be willing to put yourself out there if you want to be honest in your work. Without honesty (however that can be expressed), it’s extremely difficult to say anything…that I would want to say, I guess.

Maybe art hasn’t always been about self-expression, but for me it is; and this is why I’ve chosen not to get a job in Commercial Art. This is also why I’m getting the Library degree, so that I won’t have to make things I don’t agree with and don’t actually support (or which contribute to harming people), in order to stay alive.

What I can say is that it’s hard to say something authentic when you’re afraid to say something authentic. The issue is that when you have to create or you don’t feel whole, that then gives you a choice between being a messenger of whatever good you serve, and/or using your talent to route money to a business or political cause. I would rather be the messenger of the Divine than replace that message with something that is designed to make someone else rich and powerful.

There are a lot of artists who work spirituality into their art, including one of my past Art teachers (whom I remembered while incidentally watching a show on Mediumship, last night). Today I saw a minor exhibit at a quilting shop (who knew quilting shops existed???) and it was really inspiring, especially with the Artist’s Statement which related material about visions, spiritual connections of the artist’s work, and being spoken to by the materials. This person was heavily into quilting, so much so that her work was art, more than practical (and was priced as Art).

And I’ve realized that different methods and strengths (and loves/passions) are needed for different art forms. For example, knitting and crochet are very tactile and involve a lot of repetition and high attention. Painting deals more with intellectual problems of composition and subject matter than I am altogether comfortable with…although I’m a color nut and so I am attracted to the colors just because they’re intermixable colors… Quilting seems different from both, but I haven’t gotten deeply enough into it to be able to tell you what it teaches me.

To bring in another contrast, I can mention relief printing, which deals a lot with drawing and carving, and the fact that hand-pulled prints are all unique even though they are taken from the same block. I started to do this, and even got the knives and blocks and stuff for it, quite a while ago. I just haven’t been back to it, and I don’t know why.

What I do know is that if I continue dealing with fabric and fiber, I will be able to block-print onto fabric. But that’s in the distant future, right now.

Because it’s almost Summer, I’ve been expending more on creative materials. I can see the chance to use them, on the horizon (this is as versus spending very little, except on necessities and books, during the semester). I think I may be celebrating in anticipation, though, instead of waiting until Finals are over and then planning to celebrate.

Lest I forget, the creative materials I’ve bought over the past few weeks include materials for quilting, watercolors, and needlework (this is a misleading term; I mean crochet and knitting, though I have still wanted to get back to embroidery as well. Then there’s also garment construction [sewing]).

The big common thread that all three of these have is color and color play, something that got me into beadwork as a youth, as well. Today I went to a yarn store which I didn’t even know was there (my folks found it for me) and bought actual nice yarn. Like wool yarn that isn’t scratchy.

It helps that I have some experience in this already and knew I was looking for DK (Double Knitting), Worsted weight, or Bulky yarn, and something which would hold good stitch definition (i.e. which would show the stitches) and not untwist as I worked it (this has been an issue with some 2-ply Fingering weight yarn…which I now know is irritating for me).

Yarn weights in the U.S. have specific names; from largest to smallest, they go something like this (I’m not totally sure this is accurate, by the way, but to give you an idea):

  1. Extra Bulky
  2. Bulky
  3. Worsted
  4. DK (Double Knitting)
  5. Sock
  6. Fingering
  7. Laceweight
  8. Cobweb

Basically, I had too much lightweight yarn (Numbers 5-7) and barely anything with any give to it which was midweight or heavyweight (numbers 2-4). This matters because heavier yarns work up into fabric, much faster. It’s also easier to learn on heavier yarn. I think some of the first good yarn I ever bought was this light laceweight stuff, and I didn’t realize that lacework was:

  1. best suited to experienced knitters/crocheters/tatters (it’s not that easy), and
  2. took forever, because you’re generally using a tiny hook or tiny needles, and that vastly magnifies production time (unless you’re doing a lot of openwork; that is, making something with a lot of relatively large holes in it).

Given that, I’m not entirely sure why the laceweight stuff is always in the front of the local yarn stores…

I also didn’t know to use bamboo needles (not steel or aluminum, which are both too slick), as a beginner; or not to use acrylic yarn to learn on (acrylic has absolutely no give to it, so when knitting, it can be difficult or impossible to force a needle into a loop that’s too small. It’s also a very poor insulator).

Anyhow, I got on here tonight with the idea of sharing the swatches I’ve been making, but I’m not sure I am all that capable of keeping my mind clear enough to photograph, edit, and then post the images. But I have three swatches I made today, and more than three which I made yesterday (I’m just not overjoyed with some of the ones beyond the three I mention).

I also now have a sizeable stash of decent (a.k.a. nice, a.k.a. pleasure to work with) yarn. If I wind a few hanks into balls, I can free up a lot more space in the yarn box, too.