7-ish Questions: Michelle Remold on crafting kindness into gifts, building camaraderie

Michelle Remold, a clinical social worker at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, has tapped into her love of crocheting to make gifts for co-workers to mark special occasions or to help them through challenging times. See what motivates her to spread joy among her colleagues.

It's only been six years since Michelle Remold began working at Mayo Clinic. In Mayo years, she's practically a newbie.

But in that short period, Remold, a clinical social worker at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, has tapped into her love of crocheting to make gifts for co-workers to mark special occasions or to help them through challenging times. She's made teddy bears for colleagues expecting a newborn, stuffed animals for someone who may be facing chemotherapy, ornaments for the holidays, and more.

To date, she has made more than 100 items for colleagues.

Breanne Prothero, a nurse practitioner in Urology, and her husband, Ryan Cardarella, a senior specialist in Communications, were the lucky recipients of Remold's craft and generosity before the birth of their child.

Remold first gave them a crocheted blanket as a baby shower gift. She also surprised Prothero with a teddy bear, just because.

"I was not expecting such a thoughtful and caring gift," Prothero says. "It was such an unexpected gesture of kindness that really made me feel seen and appreciated. It was the kind of moment that embodied the spirit of Mayo Clinic and made me feel closer to my team."

The News Center team caught up with Remold to find out what motivates her to spread joy among colleagues, and why she wants to keep the tradition going.

Tell us about your background and what brought you to Mayo.

I am a clinical social worker with Behavioral Neurology and have worked at Mayo for about six years. I am from Faribault originally, so Mayo is practically in our backyard. My family has come here for care for many years. My background is in gerontology with an emphasis in Alzheimer's and related dementias.

I wanted to work at Mayo in hopes that, someday, a position like the one I currently have would open in either Neurology or the Alzheimer's Research Center. And I could help people receiving a dementia diagnosis and their families in a way that was lacking when my family was going through the process for a family member in the mid-90s.

When and from whom did you learn to crotchet?

I learned to crochet from my grandma when I was about 10. It was something she wanted to pass on to me. I didn't start reading patterns and making more complex items until I was in my 20s when I wanted to make a baby gift for one of my cousins.

What inspired you to start making gifts for colleagues?

I started giving my crocheted things to co-workers shortly after I began working at Mayo. It started by giving the social worker I worked with at the time a teddy bear for her niece. Since then, I have made ornaments for the holidays for my co-workers and tend to hand-make gifts when they have children. I also give bears to co-workers I know are going through something challenging, like chemotherapy.  

How many items have you made so far?

I have made around 50 bears, 15 other stuffies, 3 baby blankets, 30 hats and headbands, and many more beaded socks, ornaments, ear savers for masks during COVID-19, and bookmarks.

Do you have any favorite moments from when people have received them?

Overall, the response has been great. I love seeing the looks on people's faces when they see something I made, and they didn't know what it was or that I made it. I don't have a favorite memory because each reaction is special. Everyone has appreciated the work that went into each item.

What keeps you continuing this tradition?

Crocheting is a good stress outlet for me, so I am constantly working on something and like trying new patterns. I don't have space to keep everything I make, so I usually give them away. I also like to give away the things I have made because, as soon as I start charging for them, it becomes a job and it becomes stressful. I have sold a few items, but it is very rare. I prefer to make things and give them away as it usually allows me to be creative and each project comes out as one of a kind.

How has this helped build camaraderie on your team?

It has really fostered team building and getting to know each other. I am often asked what I am working on, and I am always happy to show off my projects. People usually like to know where they are off to as well as each item goes someplace different.

What advice do you have for others wanting to do something similar?

The best advice I have is to just try it. It wasn't until I got older that I appreciated the fact that my grandma took the time to teach me how to crochet. There are many more resources now than there used to be that make learning crochet so much easier.  

View a slideshow of Remold's creations: