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 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 Koala – On Human Contact

You can hide in the shade of a blue umbrella on the soft sand. You can lie back on the oversized towel that’s been through too many washings and listen to the laughing and the crashing and the crying of gulls.

Or you can take the small hand that has offered itself to you. Race tiny feet to the place where the sand cools and becomes solid before it is taken in smooth sheets by water that feels more like ice. You can marvel at the small, warm body that races toward the waves that tower in the distance. You can call over the crash, “Not too deep! Not too deep!”

You can stand, arms outstretched to receive the now chilled flesh, squealing with delight. Lift it to your chest. Breathe the sunscreen and salt. Feel the grit of loose sand on small fingers that clasp themselves around your neck. Let yourself be rocked by the passing waves, toes tickled by bubbles that burst in the sunshine.

You can repeat this exercise. Releasing the body to the water. Lifting it high when it returns. Tumbling, laughing. Until the water is warm and the sun has shifted low and it is time to return to the soft sand and the overwashed towels.

You can take it with you. The trust of the small body that held itself to you against the tide. Grasped you, koala-like, as though you were the great tree from which it feeds. The warmth of flesh on flesh. The soft sand that you will find between your toes a physical marker of this memory.

Take it with you.


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Want to make your own? This is an upsized version of Mariska Vos-Bolman’s cute koala amigurumi pattern.

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

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 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:

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.

Amigurumi Sheep

When I was eight years old I nearly slept through the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Nearly, not for the vigorous tumbling of the great earth, but instead for the violent shouting of my father, “Cassie! Cassie!” as his strong hands wrenched me from bed to join him and my small, frightened brother in the cramped “hallway” between our bedrooms, the three of us clinging to the swaying beams of the doorways, waiting in that terrible twilight for the ground to still.

I remember no fear, only the annoyance of being so roughly pulled from my sleep, the irritation at the inconsolable crying of my four-year-old brother, “No more bumpies Daddy! No more bumpies!”

But that same girl, fearless and somnolent in the face of nature’s fury, was also prone to insomnia while staying at her mother’s house. Counting sheep was just never enough to put me down. Instead, once I was sure everyone had fallen asleep, blanket and pillow in hand, I quietly, quietly tiptoed down the hall to find meager comfort on the floor outside my mother’s room, sometimes under my brother’s elevated bed. I remember clinging to my Tiger Electronics Talkboy in the dark, a tape of Raffi singing “Baby Beluga” playing just audibly under my pillow so as to not wake the others.

So which was the real little Cassie? The utterly fearless or the desperately afraid?

And now? What about now? Which is the real me? The magna cum laude graduate? The woman who upended her life three times in her twenties to find gainful employment and meaning throughout our Great Recession? Or the woman who needs the 10 milligrams of Lexapro to keep the crying at bay? The woman who has had to leave two jobs to seek help? The woman whose mind sometimes races so violently to catastrophe that yoga and meditation and seven years of therapy have been unable to rein it in, that sometimes the only answer is a 0.5 milligram tablet of Ativan?

I think too often we create these kinds of false dichotomies. We hold on to the idea of a “true” self, and set off on a grand journey to seek it out.

But both of those little girls were me. And both of those women are me. And the longer I look for my “true” self, the more I realize there is no true self to discover. The more I watch my mind work, the more I discover not the essence of my soul, but instead a dynamic being with shifting tendencies. Perhaps the more helpful search then is not for the yet discovered “true” self, but instead for the environment that best supports my tendencies toward kindness, happiness, or at the very least, toward stability.

Hefty doses of sunshine boost my optimism. Serious conversation keeps my mind positively engaged. A good breakfast (no added sugar) keeps the hangry at bay.

This, this current, stable(-ish!) me, this is the best version of myself I know how to foster with the tools I have at hand. It is work to keep her in this place.

And even after all this effort, counting sheep is still not enough to lull me to sleep. Now crocheting sheep, that is slightly more helpful, but I’ve found audio tracks of Sir David Attenborough’s nature documentaries to be my best sleep aid.

I imagine your work will be different, but hopefully no less rewarding. May you find the space, the people, the small elements of life, that help you foster the best version of the particular human being that only you can create.


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This amigurumi sheep was made using Lydia Tresselt’s Lupo the Lamb pattern. See more of her fantastic work and patterns (including this one) at

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

Textured Slouchy Beanie

I feel Spring creeping in, but maybe there’s time for one last winter beanie.

I wanted to run head first into the warmth, the long days, to be like the bright, happy flowers that turn their round faces to the brilliance. But part of me wants to keep the rain. Stay cocooned in the heavy darkness. Place a pause on this relentless cycle we’re all caught up in.

I can’t, of course.

I think, perhaps, my body is bracing against the memory of last year. That Spring, that false beauty, in which my anxiety began to (again) grow its terrible, hungry tendrils. My body shudders against the thought of the relentless heat that followed and burned, quick, quick, through my hard-won stability.

But though this season is a return, it’s also renewed. The days to come fresh and moldable.

So I will be gentle with my hesitant flesh. I will walk cautiously through these fields littered with the seedlings of last year’s barbed memories. I will take comfort in the remaining white that caps the blue mountains. I will open my window to what’s left of the night’s chill. And I will craft one last ode to the dark, still season and then I will turn my bright face to the now rising sun.


Are you a crocheter? This beanie was made with Justine Walley’s Elise beanie pattern. This talented maker has a wide selection of fantastic hat patterns. I highly recommend her work!

Chevron Baby Blanket

Creativity is my birthright. A gift of blood. There is not a woman with whom I share the mother line that isn’t called to create. We are writers and bakers, crocheters and painters, gardeners of the earth and spirit alike. My grandmother, the savant. A woman truly gifted.

When I was a girl, I ran through the towering stalks of corn she lifted with care from the earth, plucked and shelled fresh peas from her tangled vines. I remember resting on the dusty couch in the enclosed back patio afterward, safe from Oklahoma’s thirsty mosquitoes, eating bowls of fresh peach cobbler made with fruit plucked straight from the tree, so rich and sweet I would eat to bursting.

Each bed in her home was topped with a hand-stitched quilt. The nooks and crannies of every room were stuffed with needles and thread, half-used skeins of yarn and fabric, books and photos and happy little things rescued from yard sales. Even the dish rags in the kitchen were finished with her signature crocheted edging.

I aspire to this vitality, this intensity of talent. But I am not the savant.

I can’t raise food from the earth, but my potted succulents are fat and colorful and prone to bloom in excess. I’m no good at cobbler, but I can make a peanut butter cookie as large and round as a saucer, so rich it can replace a meal. And I can’t quilt, but I can crochet.

I began as a girl, plopped in front of the television with one of the half-used skeins of yarn I pilfered from the wicker basket that held the leftovers of my mother’s creations. The first stitch I learned was chevron. I liked the bold zigzags, the texture you could build by working through the back loop only. In those early days I was prone to crying, to throwing the hook down, to frogging my work and leaving the tangled heap of yarn puddled on the floor until I could gather the patience to try again.

These days I cry for different reasons. I have little connection to my mother line. I haven’t spoken to my mother in years. I send letters to my grandmother, but most go unanswered.

I don’t know how to fix these things. Not without opening myself to the anger and abuse that came along with the creativity.

Perhaps this is what drives me to make, over and over again, those first projects. Simple baby blankets made in textured chevron stitch. Happy pink and cheery white. A celebration of the good. A way to spend time with the beautiful aspects of my mother, a chance to honor the heritage gifted to me by my grandmother.

A way to pull beauty from these difficult things.


This baby blanket was made with a bold, textured chevron stitch. If you’re a crocheter, or looking to learn, I highly recommend the tutorial provided by Stephanie Jessica Lau of

Amigurumi Popsicle

Today is my 7th anniversary.

Not the sweet kind; not the kind commemorating union and achievement. The kind that marks hardship. That splits life in two. Into the blissfully ignorant Before.

And the horrible After.

The hard stop between a great scar down my vulnerable middle. A panic attack. A $15,000 trip to the emergency room. The death of the myth of my invincibility. The birth of my struggle to come to terms with my flawed humanity.

This day used to bring pain. Memories of a fear that shook me to the pit of my belly and was only released by the right medication and months of intensive outpatient therapy. It was once a day of tears, of burning.

7 years later, this anniversary brings a different feeling. I feel a sadness for that girl and her struggle. But it is a compassion for another. I can reach through memory to hold her, tightly, promise that she will find her way back to life. But there is too much space now, too much change. I know: she is gone. I am no longer her. And that day of suffering is over.

She has been replaced (slowly, slowly) by the woman before you. By this creature that wakes before dawn to drink tea and read before cooking breakfast for her husband. By this being that does yoga and preaches compassion. This living animal that ponders the complicated struggle of life while crafting happy little things from yarn.

Perhaps now, after all this time, this day can finally be a day for sweet things, too.


This amigurumi popsicle was made freehand with Caron Simply Soft Yarn and a US 7/4.5mm crochet hook.