Amigurumi Sunflower Doll – On Light

Normally I lament the winter’s early dying sun, but this year I find myself embracing it.

I like the way the old amber streetlights come on, all at once, a shimmering chorus, after the sun dips into the ocean. I like, too, the multi-colored Christmas bulbs that come on more slowly, as each neighbor makes his or her way home. But mostly I like the evergreens as they peek out, bedazzled and glittering in their holiday finest, from behind half-drawn curtains and through the open slats of Venetian blinds.

I’m reminded of that old Edith Wharton quote, “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” And this time of year I often find myself wondering, which am I?

I suspect that I’m meant to want to be the candle, the bulb, the shimmering chorus. But if I’m honest, I’m not one to burn. I wouldn’t make much of a David. I seek no Goliath. And I would, most assuredly, as Dylan Thomas warned against, “go gentle into that good night.”

But in the dark hours of this season, I do not lack for light.

There is a stack of gifts by the bookcase that sparkle with string lights. Birch branches on the mantel that glow. Candles that flicker in the fireplace.

Just enough to read by, to crochet by, to create the little dolls and toys and delights of the season. Little gifts and reminders of our reflected goodness. And this season that is enough for me.


Want to make your own sweet little sunflower doll? This amigurumi was made with Bas den Braver’s adorable Sunflower Sam pattern. Find all of his work on his website:

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


Amigurumi Doxie – On the Cost of Beauty

From the top of my green flecked hill the setting sun is as yellow and fat as a fried egg yolk. The sky that surrounds it creamy as orange sherbet veined with a swirling raspberry ribbon of clouds. 

Terrible things can appear beautiful, given enough distance.

People the world over marvel at the loveliness of a Southern California sunset, but only locals know the price: the smog, the windblown dust, the smoke and ash and ember that rise from the wailing hillsides to scatter the dying sun’s light to this enchanting creamsicle rainbow.

And with enough distance it does seem beautiful. But a body, born and raised in these hillsides, can feel fire in the air before it strikes. Our noses finely tuned to the differences between the woodsmoke of a cozy fireplace, a backyard barbeque, flaming brush.

And what can be done? It is in the nature of these hills to burn. While we all danced in relief at last year’s rain, we knew this would be the cost.

And what can be done? But to watch the horizon and mourn? To pray the howling winds ease and spare our northern neighbors? To wait for news of damage and what is needed of those of us whose only saving grace is that we happen to live just a couple hours further south?

What can be done?

From the top of my green flecked hill the air smells old and ravaged, but her face is made up in the finest rouge. She is beautiful. A glowing sherbet rainbow. And horrible. Made of ember and dust.

And I can only behold her. And wait.


In distressing times, craft can be a welcome relief from anxiety. Need a productive distraction from the worries in your life? Find this pattern (Dachshund Sam) from Stip & Haak at their website:

Looking to help the victims of the Thomas Fire in Ventura County? Consider checking out the Thomas Fire Fund, a joint effort from the United Way of Ventura County, American Red Cross of Ventura County, and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services. If you’re an animal lover like me, you might also consider checking out the Humane Society of Ventura County, which has taken in hundreds of animals since Monday as a result of the fires.

Amigurumi Harp Seal Pup

In December the sun goes down and the lights go up. Store entrances chime with little gold bells and the smell of pine and sugar cookies and cold, damp concrete transform me into the small girl I sometimes forget that I still am.

That little girl loves this time of year. She loves the feel of a warm mug in her cold, gloved hands. She loves to walk through the neighborhood in the early dark and marvel at the candy cane colored lights. She especially loves picking at the glitter that falls in a soft ring around the base of the tree and sneaking off to the forgotten places to hunt for unwrapped gifts.

I love what it feels like, the memory of her. I love the lightness of her being. The strength of her joy. Her delight in small and simple things.

I think she would like me, this person we have become. I think she would inhale my toffee bars and lick her lips after every sip of the hot chocolate I make with whole milk warmed on the stove. I think she would want to touch every glittering ornament and peek through every craft box stuffed with yarn and ribbon and shining beads.

On Christmas morning, I think she would want to run her hands over each well packaged gift and light up when she found one that had her name. I think she would love my amigurumi, especially this one, a harp seal pup, her favorite, and wonder at all the things my (our) creativity can call into being.


Want to make your own? I’ve made my Huggable Hugo the Harp Seal Pup amigurumi pattern available free here on my blog. Click the link to check it out!

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

Amigurumi Reindeer – Good November

November brings gray skies so thick even our brilliant sun can’t break them. She brings the first of the bare trees, frozen in waiting, for better times. She trails the spiced scent of woodsmoke, a warm relief, but also a reminder, of brother October’s hungry wildfires.

In this way, she seems to slow the turning of the world, to give pause, and I think this is why I love her most.

Whatever this life we have is for, it is often hard, for every one of us. We move so quickly, grow old so fast, cause wounds despite our best intentions.

Gray November reminds us to breathe. She strips the old and unneeded, washes us clean with her rain, brings the long, cold nights needed for introspection. And perhaps for you a good night is entirely different, but for me, the best nights are amber-colored and wrapped in fleece. They strike just the right tone for all my deepest loves: jasmine tea, chocolate brownies, ambient music piped through earbuds, books filled with plucky heroines and magic, and, of course, crochet.

The start of this November brought me the opportunity to test my favorite amigurumi designer’s latest pattern: a little reindeer with a striped scarf. It was a joy, to sit in lamplight, rocked to contentment by quiet music, and create. The finished product is a perfect, optimistic look to the weeks ahead as the weather cools and the holidays near. And I thank good November, for the nights only she can provide, that allowed me such a gift.

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Want to crochet your own little reindeer with a striped scarf? This little guy was made with Ilaria Caliri’s latest pattern. He’s not out just yet, but be sure to check for updates, and all other pattern selections at her website:

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

Amigurumi Fox – On Making the Best of Things

The year I turned eight my parents split for good. It was a difficult time in its way. But it also had its own kind of magic.

My mother decided to be the one to leave what was once the family home, opting instead to pack my brother and I up to housesit for a colleague in what we in Riverside call the Wood Streets.

The Wood Streets occupy an area of Old Riverside. The streets are narrow. The houses well spaced and small. And everywhere the trees. Deciduous and towering, they cast the well kept homes in a charmed, dappled light. The particular house we lived in was smaller than most, just two tiny bedrooms, so my brother and I had to share a futon in what my mother’s colleague used as an office. But the home smelled of years of well-cooked dinners, the floors were made of real wood buffed to a gloss, and the windows were wide and bright and open.

When we arrived there were two goofy golden retrievers to greet us. They loved everything and I loved them, often sneaking to the backyard to bury my face in their soft, yellow fur. I loved my time with them the most, lying on my back in the brown soil, watching the orange leaves break away from their mother trees and drift into the soft piles that lined the white, wooden fence.

I think it was this that spared me the excessive heartache I heard about from so many friends who shared my fate. The yellow dogs, the orange leaves, the brown soil, the white fence. The time alone to be a child. To play. Like a crafty little fox, to sneak around and steal away the hours of my time in a narrative of my own making, in the charmed little house cast in dappled light.

I have loved this time of year ever since.


Want to make your own crafty little amigurumi? I have opted to provide my Fearless Fausto the Fox pattern for free to celebrate my favorite time of year.

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

Amigurumi Elephant – On Forgetting

Generally, death comes to us first through the elderly. A grandparent, a distant relative, an older neighbor passes on and we learn what it truly is to lose someone. We learn what it means for someone we knew to never come back.

That’s not how it worked for me. Perhaps because I was raised on a social island by introverted parents. Perhaps because my own grandparents, who lived so far away, were so long-lived. But death came for me first just after college. I was not quite 22, living in Los Angeles, and visiting my father in Riverside for the weekend when my boyfriend called to let me know that Joe had died.

Joe. Joe who would be turning 23 in less than a week. The Joe I had known since I was so small our gatherings involved button-mashing Mortal Kombat tournaments and crackers slathered in butter and grape jelly for snack. The Joe that years later taught me how to make a proper margarita (always way more tequila than you’d think) and who I had always looked up to because he was a year older than me at a time that that one year seemed like an eternity. And because he had always radiated a kindness that so many don’t.

I remember most the feeling that there had been some sort of mistake. That of course Joe hadn’t died, because I’d written on his Facebook wall that morning. Even while seated at his memorial, watching pictures of him scroll by while music played. It all seemed a kind of terrible, strange dream.

This year marks ten years since Joe died. It still feels like a kind of dream. In fact, he does visit on occasion while I sleep. Even after all this time. Always the same 22-year-old boy with blue eyes and dark, curly hair. My first question is always why we were all told he died. As though he was so special he was spirited away to some top secret project, or whisked away into witness protection until it was safe to return to us.

This year, on the anniversary of his passing, while all of us who knew him take a moment to remember the goodness of his life, I notice that I have stopped looking up to him. That so much time has passed that he now seems a boy to be cherished, rather than the elder to be looked up to.

I notice, too, that the memories have become hazier. Distorted. Like a record that has been played too many times.

I realize that I am forgetting. That a remembered moment or a story shared brings first a smile and then the pang of loss, while for so long it has been the other way around. I realize that all of us who knew him have become such different people. That we walk such a different earth. And that even in my mind, my heart, he is becoming different. A photocopied version of himself.

And I think this is good. The forgetting. The moving on. I think he would have wanted us all to grow older and more complicated. I think he would have wanted the memory of what happened to fade as well. For the hurt to become smaller, or at least to have its hard edges worn down smooth like river stone.

You would have been a good man, Joe. So much better than most of us. Like the proverbial elephant, I will never forget that. I will always believe the world would be better with you in it. I will always mourn this truth. Bye again, Joe. For the rest of my years, I will always be saying goodbye.


This amigurumi elephant was made using Stephanie Jessica Lau’s English translation of Japanese artist, Chisachi Kushima’s pattern. Find Stephanie’s free English translation on her All About Ami blog here.

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

Simple Amigurumi Succulent – Multiplying Joy

I spent the better part of my Sunday on the floor of my garage with blackened hands and a paring knife.

Technically speaking, any invasive action to a plant’s root system should take place during a period of inactive growth. For aloes, this is apparently late winter or early spring, but my mother plant had been a busy woman, and she sat, full to bursting in her green and cracking pot, with ten healthy pups ready to branch out on their own.

It was time.

And because I live in a second floor apartment, I have no hose or backyard space to do the easy work of washing down roots for separation…thus the garage floor and the blackened hands.

I must admit I was very content in the silence of the small concrete box that comprises my garage. Clawing my hands through the rich soil, shooing the spiders and other miscellaneous arthropods to the dark corners behind the plastic tubs of Christmas ornaments and camping supplies.

It’s a delicate job, pulling away the dirt, separating the tangled root mass into neat plaits, and finally, with a sharp, sharp knife, cutting the new life away from the old, wrapping it gingerly in old newspapers (as my grandmother taught me to do with her iris bulbs) and waiting for the oozing cut to callous and be ready for a pot of its own.

I love this about succulents. That when one is happy, well nourished, it will multiply itself, generating clones to share in its satisfaction with the world. I love that I can buy a little plant in a brown plastic pot from Home Depot for $4.99 when I’m feeling down in the dumps, and in two years send the happy offshoots I have nourished into the homes of friends and loved ones. I like the feeling that we are all sharing in the same joy. That we are connected by the happiness of this thing that loved its life so much it became more.

I try to use it as a reminder that, though it may take exceptional time, I can make joy out of sorrow. That life can flourish in my careful attention. That, in my quiet way, even with blackened hands, I can be a propagator of simple joys.


This amigurumi cactus was made using my own pattern and small amounts of Caron Simply Soft yarn.

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

Amigurumi Snowman – On Inheritance

I recently found out that my grandmother, my father’s mother, the one that died of leukemia long before I ever came to be, was something of a seamstress.

My aunt tells stories of her mother walking down the main street of their small town in post-Dust Bowl Oklahoma, trailing a line of needful children, by the early 50’s, 5 in all. Without enough money to buy the latest fashions, she instead brought pen and paper and stood in front of the window displays of the department store. With just her eyes, she poured over the latest lines, a wider lapel here, an A-line hem there, making notes and drawings on her little pad as her mind worked away. And then she walked home.

She pulled apart the clothes that no longer fit, the sacks of flour that she bought in patterned fabric, and she set to work making her 2D sketches into patterns for beautiful clothes. And so her poor family never looked quite so poor. And everyone grew up with what they needed.

My maternal grandmother has always proclaimed she needs a pattern. That she’s not creative enough to making something brand new. I always believed I took more after her. After all, we both crochet. We wring our hands in the same way when we’re nervous. We have the same sweet tooth for peach cobbler in the summer and toffee peanuts come Christmas-time.

But unlike my maternal grandmother, I do make my own patterns. And I’ve always started in a very particular way: with a sketch pad and pen and my eyes. I decide what I want to create…maybe a snowman. I look at photos on the internet, I scour my imagination, and I sketch, I scribble largely incomprehensible notes, and then I grab my yarn and hook and begin.

I make the 2D image on my paper into a 3D image in my mind, and then I build my pattern, row by row, stitch by stitch.

I have always felt so disconnected from my father’s mother. I knew I had her dark, dark hair, her brown, hooded eyes. But who she was, how she lived, has always been such a mystery. But now I know I have this, too. This ability to make something from an idea, a sketch on a pad becomes a physical, beautiful object, and I see how her memory lives on through me and these little, happy things I crochet into being.

I like to hope that, were she still around, she would like me, that she would be proud of these things I create, that it would bring her joy to see her talent carried down the line.

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Want to make your own little snowman? Find the free Chill Charlie the Snowman pattern on my blog here!

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:

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.