On Quilting…and Gratitude

It’s my birthday. I recently starting quilting and so this year, my grandmother’s standard birthday card came with a gift. You can fit a lot into a 12 X 12 X 6 Priority Mail Large Flat Rate Box.

A completed lap quilt. Two finished quilt tops ready for me to sandwich and finish. Two pattern books from the early 80’s, the yellowed margins riddled with notes, pages marked with hand-drawn stencils. A packet of red ¼ inch bias tape. A fall-themed table runner. A crocheted trivet in the shape of a strawberry. A small plastic tub filled with pastel size 20 ball point pins. A crocheted hat the size of my palm that my grandmother has used as a pin cushion for as long as I can remember.

What can I say, she likes to share. I get this from her. I love that our enthusiasm is so often expressed in gracious giving.

I also know that, at 91, her memory is failing her. She is at the stage that she can tell me how much it bothers her, the small things that are slipping away.

I am so grateful for this gift she has taken the time and care to send to me. I am so excited and honored that she trusts me to continue on with her work. I am so worried that much of this abundant graciousness comes from a desire to tell me goodbye while she still can.

A Neil Gaiman quote that has stuck with me says, “You get what anybody gets – you get a lifetime.” In March my husband lost his grandfather (his mother’s father). Last week he lost his grandmother (his father’s mother). He is now grandparent-less. My own grandmother is the only one of our grandparents that remains. I find myself painfully aware that it does not last forever.

I was desperate to get my book done and published before my grandmother’s eyes failed her. I worked like a madwoman to finish my first quilt and waited impatiently at the Walgreens counter while the photo clerk finished up the full color prints I was ready to stuff into a pre-stamped envelope to send her way.

I know why I do this. I am under no delusions. I live to bask in her pride. I feel golden, radiant under her gaze.

All my life she has ended every phone call and letter with, “I love you.” She said it every time I walked out her door. She signed it into every birthday card. She is the only member of my family who ever said this to me with any regularity, who made me feel it, despite every time I acted like a little shit kid growing up, despite my struggles with my mental health as an adult, despite all the things I have ever felt shame for, that I am loved, even more, that I am loveable, worthy human being.

I think I worry if she no longer remembers me, if she is gone, then so is the love. I use every excuse I can find to write her a letter, send her a picture, so can I horde every last card and letter she sends in response. I read over and over in her perfect, loopy script,

“I love you.”

“I love you.”

“I love you. -Grandma Lois”

My therapist will remind me that this is not how love works. It does not disappear when a person forgets or passes on. Love is not a monetary transaction, granted in response to my art or success. My grandmother loves me not because of what we share or because of what small accomplishments I have been able to make, but because I exist, because I am here. AND she’s excited for me to carry her love of craft on down the years.

My birthday always falls right around Thanksgiving, and so on this day I am always wrapped up in thoughts of gratitude.

This year I am grateful for love. I am grateful for the skills I have been taught. The pride I have been lucky to bask in these past 33 years. I am grateful for this lifetime, for my grandmother’s lifetime, for however long we get.



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: etsy.com/shop/lascosaschiquitas

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: etsy.com/shop/lascosaschiquitas

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: etsy.com/shop/lascosaschiquitas

Grandma’s Quilt

On my way to check the mail yesterday evening I found two little girls lying in the still-warm grass. The elder of the two, towheaded with a face nearly swallowed by her round, red-framed glasses. The younger, a chubby Latina with a wide, gap-toothed grin.

They were gazing up into the tall palms, giggling, surrounded in a wide arc of white rose petals.

“Your turn!” the eldest shouted and spread her small arms wide. The younger sprang up, scooping fistfuls of freshly plucked blossoms into the folds of her shirt until she had a great mound.

“Ready?” the younger smiled.

“Do it!”

And she did, tossing the huge mound into the air, watching as it dissolved into hundreds of fluttering white flakes that drifted slowly to the earth while her friend lay wide-eyed and giggling, reaching for the last of the still-floating petals before they could settle and become almost indistinguishable from the tangled mass of her light hair.

It was hard not to stare. I remember being those girls. I remember the afternoons that seemed to stretch into forever, when all that existed was that very moment of delight with your best friend.

My grandmother recently turned 90, and so I took the 4 hour plane ride from my home in Southern California to Oklahoma City to wish her well. I found her as I always have: gray-haired, active, fussing over her flowers and scaring off wildlife out back.

So many things were just as I remembered from when I was a girl: the air, so hot and thick you seemed to swim through it, the fireflies that winked to life as the sun settled below the horizon, the piles of puzzle books and quilt squares by my grandmother’s favorite chair, the way she wrung her hands with worry, the same way I do now.

But some things are different. She lives with my mother, who is now also completely gray. She no longer bakes, not that she could do much without her fruit trees. My grandfather and his Stetson collection have long since settled into history.

While walking with my grandmother through her new garden, I found myself wanting to be young and in the moment again. Gathering fireflies in a mason jar with my cousins. Eating warm peach cobbler with cold vanilla ice cream on the porch while swatting the mosquitoes from our bare legs. Watching as the vast bowl of the Great Plains night sky came to life.

But it’s gone. Too much history between now and then. The weight of the years and everything that has gone wrong. I found myself spending more time swatting away unwanted thoughts/feelings than mosquitoes, avoiding the looming presence of my mother.

But before I left, my grandmother opened her hall closet and, like she always has, pulled out a new quilt for me to take back to California. The pattern a bright array of sunbursts, in every color of the rainbow. And then she returned to her chair by the window, a pencil and a pad of puzzles in her lap, where she could watch for the wild turkeys out back and scare them off before they got to the almost-blooming hibiscus.

And I returned the nearly 1500 miles back to California, retrieved my mail from the community box, smiled at the girls in the grass, and returned to my bedroom to bury myself in my new quilt. To watch the last of the evening light bleed through the sunbursts and be sad for all the hard ways my life has changed and happy for all the good things that have stayed the same.


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This quilt was hand-stitched by my grandmother, Lois. I like to think that my skill in handcrafts comes directly from her.

Sunny Amigurumi

I walk this earth always with a song in my heart.

While the song may change, the music never ceases. Lately, when the world is silent, Stevie Wonder and his piano sing to me.

“You are the sunshine of my life.”

Why? Why this song? Why right now?

I am not one to turn the dial to easy listening. I was born long after the seventies waved their funky goodbye. But still my mind has pulled this song from the dark recesses of my haphazard collection to spin over. I’m sure it has its reasons.

Perhaps my subconscious knows better than I what it is I need in this moment. A piano and a crooner and a happy thought.

“That’s why I’ll always stay around.”

My father has cancer. Prostate. Low stage. Noninvasive. Survivable. But still. It’s uncomfortable to see Death wave at us, even from this distance. And all this comes at a time when my relationship with my father is in shambles.

“You are the apple of my eye.”

I don’t know what the right thing to do is. And I don’t want anyone’s advice. I want it to be gone, but here it is, and I must find my way.

“Forever you’ll stay in my heart.”

Perhaps my subconscious knows better than I.

“You are the sunshine of my life.”


This sunny amigurumi was made freehand with a US 7/4.5 mm hook and worsted weight cotton yarn from Sugar ‘n Cream.