Love and Fear in Equal Measure – Amigurumi Wolf

Life, lately, has been a little bit unkind. An old friend’s father suffered a stroke last week. The news has me thinking of my own father’s cancer, diagnosed early last year. I suppose this is the problem with your 30’s. All around you, the giants of your life begin to tumble.

My father’s cancer is not life threatening, at least not to my knowledge, but my experience of his struggle is complicated by our broken relationship, my lack of willingness to engage with a man that I love and fear in equal measure. He is my wolf in sheep’s clothing. I never know whether to expect the sharp tooth of his anger or the warm comfort of his intelligence and love.

My favorite memories are silly ones, when the teeth were concealed and the danger felt far away. My father rose early, always. Six a.m. brought the sound of the coffee grinder and tinny classic rock from an old clock radio that sat on the shelf just above his pillow. On weekends he made pancakes, as round and wide as the cast iron skillet. Sometimes bacon, chewy from the microwave, but still delicious, especially coated in syrup and washed down with milk.

My brother was not the early riser we were and my father delighted in teasing him for the zombie state in which he left his bed every morning, light brown hair tufted, gray-blue eyes still crusted with sleep.

One weekend morning my father rose with the usual cacophony of dark roast and Zeppelin. He served up my brother’s pancake, again as usual, on a dinner plate with the Aunt Jemima and a tub of margarine, a paper towel set off to the side to reign in the sticky mess. But instead of the small salad fork I was proffered, he handed my brother our largest serving fork, the one I only saw at Thanksgiving, three-pronged and wide as my brother’s young palm.

I paused in my eating and looked up to my father. He pulled his right index finger silently over his lips: shhh. My brother, so groggy his sleep shirt was still set askance picked up the fork and frowned, “How come I have to use such a big fork?” Without missing a beat, my father, all matter-of-fact seriousness, “The fork isn’t big, you’re just holding it too close to your face.” My brother frowned again, shifted the fork to arm’s length, nodded, seemed to decide this was, as my father had indicated, normal and correct, and began struggling to eat a pancake with a fork he almost could not fit in his mouth, confused as to why my father and I couldn’t stop laughing.

I think about that morning on the rare moons I decide to make myself pancakes, at dinner parties when a friend pulls out a serving fork. I wish all my memories of my father could be like this. I wish I could trust that this was his true self, toothless and silly.

But, at least for now, this is what I have. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. A broken relationship and memories. A strong love that I hope absolves me of the decisions I have made in my fear.


Want to crochet your own amigurumi wolf? I have opted to provide this pattern for free here on my blog.

Want to see more of my work? Find me on Instagram: @handcraftingalife or on Etsy:


Amigurumi Pansy – On Doing Things Differently

In the winter of 2008 I lived a boxed life. The apartment I shared in West LA with my husband (then boyfriend) was a white cube just under five hundred square feet. I left that cube every morning just after 7 to hop the red brick 704 bus into Century City. I then exchanged that red brick for a glass and concrete slab off Century Park East that, 5 floors up, housed my little cubicle where I helped people fill out boxes on forms that might, one day, help them become American citizens. Then at 6pm every evening, I packed myself up and took my series of boxes home.

Every day for two years, I lived my little boxed life. It’s hard to overstate how incredibly important this was to me. I actively worked to be average. I wanted, more than anything, a safe, stable existence. I thought this was the only way to be good, the only right way to…be. I had no other model for how to live a respectable life.

But none of it was ever going to work out, because I could never quite cram myself into that perfect, little box.

There were hints. As February rolled around my boyfriend and I made reservations for a nice Italian place up off Westwood Boulevard. Because isn’t that what you’re supposed to do for Valentine’s Day? Dinner and drinks at an upscale restaurant?

Night of we hopped in the car, dress in rumpled, work-worn faces and our best clothes, and began the ascent up Wilshire.

After an hour of exhaust fumes and honking we’d made it three blocks (I don’t ever miss you LA), and I…a little bit…lost it.

I knew I was supposed to want the fancy dinner with the white table cloth and the single red rose, but for the life of me I couldn’t understand why. This was not a box that was making me happy. What I really wanted was jeans and flip flops and what I could see just out the window: Fatburger.

So I cried, raged a little at the traffic (I know, SO DRAMATIC), and then stepped out of my carefully crafted box to tell my boyfriend what I really wanted. Today, it seems so sad to remember how hard that moment was, how difficult it was to realize that, in that moment, I was no longer going to be able to hold down or hide my difference. My catastrophic brain thought that if I let it out, my boyfriend might no longer want me, that I might prove myself to be what I had always feared: weird and unworthy of love.

But all that happened was that we turned around and parked the car. We walked the three blocks back to Fatburger, holding hands on a cracked sidewalk lined with pots of pansies so I could prop my feet up on a plastic chair and cover my hands in grease. And you better believe that burger was goddamned heaven.

The little box of our apartment lasted just five more months. The job? Just one more year. And in the ten years since, I’ve had to over and over again learn the lesson that just because something comes in an average, safe, pretty little box, that doesn’t make it the right choice for me.

Because not all of us are roses and white table cloths. Some of us are cracked sidewalks and potted pansies. And all of it is, truly, fine.


Want to make your own mustachioed pansy? Find my free Proper Percy the Pansy pattern here.

Want to see more of my work? Find me on Instagram: @acassafrass or on Etsy:

Amigurumi Octopus – On Surviving Illness

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about illness. Perhaps because of the flu raging around. Perhaps because of the novel I’m currently reading on the 1918 epidemic. But mostly because I saw my psychiatrist last week, and we decided together to have me try weaning off the medication I’ve used for the last year to help treat my Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

I’ve done this before. Gone off, I mean. I was stable for six years before the monster returned. For a time I was naive enough to believe I had beaten it. But after this most recent episode I can see that, no matter the foolhardy promises of so many on the internet, this thing will always be with me.

And that’s OK.

Because though it is not ideal, generalized anxiety disorder is manageable. And each time it takes me down I learn more about it, become more adept at recognizing its approach.

I used to live in fear of my illness. I saw it as the drowning man, so desperate in its fight for survival that it became a monstrous, tentacled thing. And it was always my best self it took down with it.

Our culture loves to prop up the idea of the tortured genius. As though the cost for great art or literature or scientific enterprise is sanity. Maybe that’s an encouraging thought: better to be average, sane, but perhaps forgettable than to be extraordinary and unwell.

But as someone with no great genius, who is just as average and (perhaps) forgettable as you, and is, and always will be, companion to this illness, this myth is a great frustration. My illness doesn’t imbue my life with creativity. When it flares, I am reduced to the body. My mind so hot and twisted into itself that it is more than I can manage to go out in public, to eat, to sleep, to stop and just…be.

My best art comes only when I am well. She will not approach when I am wrapped in the tentacled thing.

And so now, as I reduce the medication that has kept my monster at bay, I wait. Has he been here all along, preparing to wrap his suckered arms around me? To pull us back down into the inky expanse of my illness? Or has he perhaps been placated? Have the drowning man’s feet been placed on the sand? Can he see we’ve been in the shallows all along?

I hope for the latter. Because when my illness is well managed I can see how beautiful it is here. This life I have cobbled together despite everything.


Want to make your own amigurumi octopus? This guy was made with Kate E. Hancock’s Claude the Octopus pattern. Find all her fantastic work on Ravelry under her design handle, Patchwork Moose.

Want to see more of my work? Find me on Instagram: @acassafrass or on Etsy:

Amigurumi Mermaid – On the World’s Goodness

Lately it seems easy to discount the world as ugly. It feels impossible to ignore the dangers of modern society as they’re broadcast to our simple, tribal minds in stunning, 4K Ultra HD.

But I still strive to find its goodness.

I think some of what makes our world is good is its inherent beauty. The way the waves fold against each other at high tide. How the bright gibbous moon rises fat and orange over the hills.

But mostly I think the goodness of the world is a thing we make and give to each other. Good as a verb, not a noun. Allowing a frantic motorist to merge in front of us during rush hour. Catching, gently, the lost bee that has made its way inside with a drinking glass covered with a magazine and returning her to the flowering trees outside. Listening, with true interest, to the often inane and broken stories of young children just learning to express their hearts. Putting our headphones on while gaming so our spouses don’t have to listen to the gory throes of Skyrim battle while they bake chicken in the next room.

The vast majority of the goodness of our world is made in this way. In a thousand tiny acts. A thousand little compassionate choices.

These choices are easy to make when we’re paying attention. So I strive to pay more attention.

I watch the world and its unfolding and then I do what I can to try and add to its collective goodness.

This week, I crocheted a mermaid. A small thing with a pink tail and hair as red as Ariel’s. A little toy that might one day make its way into the curious, not-yet-coordinated hands of a toddler. I know it is not a grand act. I know there are, perhaps, more efficient ways to do good, that will impact more people. But this, this amigurumi mermaid, is what I know I can do today with the tools and knowledge I have on hand. And so I make my good and send it into the world.

And I hope others choose to do the same.


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Love this amigurumi and want to make your own? This little mermaid was made with Ilaria Caliri’s fantastic Sandra the Mermaid pattern.

Want to see more of my work? Find me on Instagram: @acassafrass or on Etsy:

Amigurumi Batman – On Difference

When I was a little girl I had a stuffed seal. It had pure white fur that started soft but quickly grew matted and tacky with tears and slobber and food remnants and dirt. I remember a coal-black nose and dark, half-globe eyes that were once shiny as obsidian but transformed to a gray matte with time. It was the right size to rest my chin on while I held it to my heart with small arms.

In short – I loved the absolute hell out of that sucker. It was a soft and beautiful sponge for my love and I allowed it to soak me up.

My little brother on the other hand, had Batman. Not stuffed, not small. Batman was a full 16 inches of hard plastic and polyester cape. His ears pointed and sharp like a cattle prod my brother used to stab people in the ass, because, you know…butts LOL.

But he held Batman to his chest as I held my seal. He cried into his cape as I cried into that fur. And he took Batman to bed. And into the car. And on aimless walks through the wilderness of our backyard.

I’ve always seen this as yet another way my brother and I are opposites. The girl who preferred the soft white seal. The boy who preferred the dark, plastic superhero.

I’m not sure what this narrative serves. Seeing us as so opposite.

As adults we have a near non-existent relationship that is made no closer by attempts at birthday cards where we pass back and forth the same $50 Amazon e-gift card across the years, the failed rendezvous to celebrate the births of new children, holidays where nothing is shared but polite chit chat, the type I typically share with grocery store cashiers. I have carried all these years a fear, a shame, that this makes me a bad person. That I have failed in my duties as a sister, as the eldest, to bring us together, to make a shared narrative of our often sad and uncomfortable history, to make something whole and beautiful out of the broken past.

But perhaps this year is the time to let go of the idea of this particular failure. Perhaps what the years have shown is that our journeys, at least for now, need to be separate. That, in these times, meaning is best derived in our own space, on our own time, in our own, separate, ways.

And perhaps it is also time to let go of the idea that we are so opposite. I loved a white seal and he loved a plastic Batman. But we both loved. And cried. And slept. And journeyed. And perhaps that’s the tie that binds. And right now that’s enough for me.


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This amigurumi Batman was made freehand with a US 7/4.5mm crochet hook and small amounts of Caron Simply Soft yarn. Facial and emblem details are made with felt and hand sewn.

Want to see more of my work? Find me on Instagram: @acassafrass or on Etsy:

Amigurumi Dove – Rest in Your Beauty

These past few days I’ve had trouble engaging with the world. I find that the bleak, incessant reel of news that clouds my screens hurts more than it informs. And I, alone in this bedroom that doubles as my workspace, am powerless to do much of anything.

Really, I don’t think we, as humans, are built to deal with tragedy on this scale. We are not equipped to process this level of random, unearned suffering.

At some point it becomes necessary to disengage, if only to protect our hearts from the stress of such cumulative negativity.

In these times, I turn to poetry. Maybe that seems strange. After all, we encounter it so little these days. An occasional inscription on a park statue, sometimes a snippet on a wedding invite, a worn quote on a gravestone. But I think we’ve largely forgotten the power of these spoken words to teach us about how to deal with our frail humanity in the everyday. To help ease, as Wendell Berry describes it, our “despair for the world.”

In this, my favorite of his works, “The Peace of Wild Things,” he goes on to describe his method for dealing with this existential gloom:

“I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water…”

And it is this line that blooms in my heart. Because what is it to rest in your beauty? To relax into your nature? To do as you were built to do? As only you can do? To just be yourself, completely unselfconsciously?

After all, the wood drake does not question what it means to be the wood drake. He doesn’t mull over whether his actions make him good or evil. He has no doubt regarding his right to be on the water. Or to rest as he needs. He just…is. And in just being, he is the embodiment of beauty.

So when I suffer my despair for the world, I follow Berry’s example and lie down in the peace of the wild things. I become as the wood drake and relax into the talents that have been passed from my elders down through the generations into me, and find the beauty that is my own living being.

Legs crossed, crochet hook in hand, humming along to folk tunes with a calico cat and a pile of yarn at my feet, I, as Berry, “rest in the grace of the world” and build my peace.

Rest in your beauty, my friends.


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Want to hear Wendell Berry speak his master work? Listen to a recording here from the Murmurations Poetry Radio Project on the On Being blog.

This amigurumi dove was made freehand with a US F/3.75mm crochet hook and small amounts of Sugar ‘n Cream cotton yarn. Interested in seeing more of my work? Find me on Instagram: @acassafrass or on Etsy:

Photographing the Eastern Sierras – On the Need to Rest

Blue. Oh so blue.

The Eastern Sierras are awash in it. With snowmelt-fed lakes that spill down the mountains and leave wildflowers in their wake. With cool granite and old pines that rest on their sides and allow the beetles to slowly return them to soil. Friendly Steller’s Jays that chatter and beg for handfuls of homemade trail mix. And the great, swirling basin of sky that holds us all in.

I bathe myself in it. Scrub my mind with its jagged vistas. Pull the thin air deep into my lungs and breathe out the broken things that have made their way into my blood. I use my hands and swollen feet to guide me up peaks that leave me feeling good and small and ready.

Maybe after this I can return to my life with fresh eyes and unbroken skin. A well-fed heart ready to dream again. A renewed hope in the goodness that is waiting for me somewhere in that wide vista.

Amigurumi Teacup – On the Need to Burn

This has been a rough one, this week. This damn week. I have just enough energy for a cup of tea (loose leaf jasmine green) and solitude. Perhaps time spent here, on my apartment balcony, in the plastic chair that was made to look like wicker, will smooth my rough edges. Perhaps the afternoon sun on my bare toes and the rustling of the thirsty trees, the warm tea settling into my belly, will bring me toward a place of ease.

The hills behind my childhood home burned last weekend. I am used to fire (Southern California must sometimes burn to feed herself) but I am not used to it coming for the places that house my memories.

The Blaine fire, named for my childhood street, burned quick, quick, climbed the face of the first wild hills I ever ventured into, and reached, hot and angry, for the homes on the other side.

If you live in a place that burns, you know the sound of fire, the sirens, the collective wailing scream. You know to expect the rough beat of the choppers as they race across the sky with great buckets loaded with retardant, red like new blood. You know to watch for the pink spray that falls in great arcs from the sky and scars the untouched edges.

You know that tomorrow you will wake to a Martian landscape. You know the retardant will mix with the morning dew and coagulate on wilted, ruddy lawns. You know to expect the ash that will fall like black snow and coat the remaining beautiful things (the flowers, the ripe citrus, the bright tile of a backyard pool) in a thin film of death. You know there will be mourning through the long winter as you hike the black earth past the husks of great trees you knew as saplings.

But you also know the spring will bring shoots so fiercely green it almost hurts to behold them. You know what has managed to hold onto life will grow, fat and vital, to take the place of what was lost.

I expected this as I watched the video online.

What I didn’t expect was to also watch my country burn. To see faces, twisted, lit as they were in the mocking, happy amber light of tiki torches. Giddy, as they lapped at old, festering, hateful wounds. I didn’t expect to watch, helpless, as they marched quick, quick into a history I think many of us had fooled ourselves into believing we had long since left behind, and reached, bitter and spiteful, for a false enemy fashioned from their own ignorance.

I do not know what to expect in the tomorrow of this. I do not know how to walk this burnt earth, to mourn. I don’t know if I can have faith in the coming spring.

But perhaps my country, like my childhood hills, needs to burn to grow. Perhaps this is an opportunity for us to educate ourselves, especially those of us who are white, on history and power structures and race relations and violence. To break through old myths, to feel the uncomfortable, unwanted feelings that may come up, to tell the truth, ugly as it may be. To burn.

And then to watch and hope with all our might for those first green shoots of Spring.


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This amigurumi teacup was made freehand with a US F/3.75mm crochet hook and small amounts of Sugar ‘n Cream cotton yarn. Facial details are cut from felt and hand-sewed.

Amigurumi Moon

Is life just perspective? On clear nights, when you look to the full moon, do you see the man gazing back at you? Or is it the rabbit you find hiding in the lunar maria? Crouched, still, resplendent.

I have to squint to find the man. Tilt my head this way and that. Be reminded which shadows make his eyes, which the hollow of his mouth. But the rabbit was always just there. Nestled just so, on his bed of light.

I like the rabbit. I find him comforting. Perhaps this why I’ve come to dislike the man. He makes the rabbit disappear. My old friend gone and replaced by an awkward stranger.

I can’t see both at once.

Is this why change is hard? Because new truths by their very nature replace the old? Make it impossible to go back to the time before, when there was only one way to see. To be. And isn’t it easier to stick with old, comfortable friends?

I wonder.

Will there come a day I see only the man? Will I reject him in favor of the friend I thought walked this path with me all these many moons?

Could there room for both?


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This amigurumi moon was made freehand with a US F/3.75mm crochet hook and small amounts of white Sugar ‘n Cream cotton yarn. Facial details are made with felt and hand sewn to face with polyester thread.

Want to see more of my work? Find me on Instagram: @acassafrass or on Etsy:

Amigurumi Ice Cream Cone

I miss the time before guilt. When an ice cream cone was just an ice cream cone; bliss stuffed into a sugar husk and consumed with reckless abandon.

The time before we deemed sugar a poison and soft drink orders were changed to water, low ice, maybe a little lemon.

I miss it.

Perhaps because I have a sweet tooth. But perhaps also because the world itself felt lighter when I could coat the dark things in a candy shell and swallow them whole.

But sweetness is not only tasted. It’s seen in the elderly man holding his wife’s red leather purse while she heaves herself from the restaurant chair to the scuffed aluminum walker. It’s heard in the whispering of children on the beach as they build sandcastles and negotiate the unanticipated consequences of their newfound king and queendom. It’s felt in the soft nuzzle of a cat as you prepare dinner; the way she wraps her tail around your lower leg.

There are other ways to find a fix.

But perhaps most important is the knowledge that the dark things don’t always need a fix. Sometimes they just need to be dark awhile before they can alight. Sometimes a new perspective will show you they were only shaded. The hardest things are those that stay dark as burnt earth. The scorched holes in our personal timelines. It’s easy to get lost in that gloom.

And for those things, I still say a little ice cream never hurt anyone.


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This amigurumi ice cream cone was made freehand with a US D/3.25mm crochet hook and small amounts of Sugar ‘n Cream cotton yarn.

Want to see more of my work? Find me on Instagram: @acassafrass or on Etsy:

Amigurumi Dragon

I’ve lived my life accepting the labels others apply to me: shy, sullen, sensitive, cowardly. It’s hard to be my best self with my heart caged by such daggers.

And the truth is, these labels say more about their speakers (their needs, their expectations, their strategies to protect themselves against their own vulnerability) than they say about the “truth” of my character or humanity.

And I’m tired of tiptoeing around the barbed wounds of others. Cramming myself into boxes that have never fit. Attempting to pretzel myself into a less offensive version of my being.

So today I choose one label I am no longer willing to let apply: cowardly. It’s true, I’m an introvert in a culture that prizes extroversion. I like to take my work breaks in solitude, preferably outside, even better in the shade, lulled back to equanimity by the slight hiss of overhead leaves and the brown finches rustling in the grass. It’s true, I have an anxiety disorder. I need my medication, my therapeutic strategies, to move comfortably through this world. And it’s true that I’m a highly sensitive person. I was the child in the classroom that huddled into a ball during fire drills, eyes shut, ears covered, crying, just trying to get out the noise.

These things make me different, but surely not cowardly. It takes a fierce heart to accept and learn to work with illness and difference. A fiery spirit to walk a different path. It takes courage to love yourself in a world that does not prize your outlook, your skill set, your needs.

I have my shortcomings, but I just can’t count cowardice among them. Not anymore. I am, and have always been, dragon-hearted. I will stand in this truth. I hope you can, too.


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This amigurumi is my attempt at a Mega Charizard X. It was made (with obvious heavy edits) from Ana Amelia Mendes Galvao’s wonderful Charizard pattern, which can be found here.

Want to see more of my work? Find me on Instagram: @acassafrass or on Etsy:

Amigurumi Daisy

Last night, the hills above Camp Pendleton caught fire, and so I was lulled to sleep by the sharp tang of burning brush, the earth around me blanketed for miles in smoke and ash.

As sometimes happens while the earth burns, I dream of water. Of the sea and the kind of angry, black storm that can only come in with the tide. I remember running through high grass, scrambling and desperate for safety, aware only of the electricity in the air, the thunder rattling my heart, a vision of my friends just ahead, nestled safely inside.

And, as sometimes happens when I dream of the storm, I also dream of Joe. He always comes from the horizon, walking in, never hurried, out of the darkness. I am realizing that this year he’ll been gone 10 years. In my dream, my friends in the house are all older. I am older. But Joe is still young and beautiful in the way that all 23-year-olds are beautiful. Just as I remember with his dark, curly hair and light eyes and placating smile. He offers me a hand as I watch the sky around me shatter. He offers a different path than the one I stumble to try and reach my friends. But I hesitate to take it. And why? And when I wake I wonder what it all means.

Why am I still dreaming of Joe?

We were never close, but instead enjoyed the kind of casual camaraderie that can only come from being near each other so often while also not really working to be friends, namely, being raised in the same neighborhood, attending the same schools one year apart, being babysat by the same women year after year after year.

But his presence was a light. He was kind at a time when more were cruel. And it was hard to see that beacon of goodness taken by a car wreck in the night.

And so today my world is still burning, the horizon thick and brown and charred, and I am remembering a time in my life when we were all young and everything was different. And I realize that the world now is just that small fraction dimmer without Joe in it.

So I think today I will work to be a light. To radiate. To burn the darkness out of my life in the only way I know how. Namely with yarn and hook and a bit of creativity. And perhaps eventually something good will grow to help lighten the small, dark corner of my heart Joe once kept bright.


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This amigurumi daisy was made freehand using a US 7/4.5mm crochet hook and small amounts of acrylic yarn.

Want to see more of my work? Find me on Instagram: @acassafrass or on Etsy: