Arts & Leisure

Painting with thread: Mona makes crochet sculptures

MONA RICHARDSON OF Middlebury has been crocheting since she was a young girl. Her craft is reaching new heights as she breaks into large-scale crochet sculptures. She

If I get into the groove I just don’t want to put my hook down. Sometimes I’ll be at it for six or eight hours at night.
— Mona Rae Hill

What do you do with “really big string,” “really big hooks” and “really big hands?”

Why make really big crochet doilies, of course.

Just ask Mona Richardson (a.k.a. Mona Rae Hill — that’s her artist’s name) who has made probably the biggest doilies in all of Addison County.

“I’ve been crocheting since I was 15 years old,” said the Middlebury resident, who’s now 60. “I learned from my grandmother… but she had small hands and did lots of lace work. Lace was definitely not going to work for me — I have really big hands, and you know what they say: ‘Go big, or go home!’”

Richardson’s doilies stand about 5 feet tall, mounted on circular wheels that she had around. She made them with 3- or 4-ply garden string and a large (like, really large,) crochet hook. 

“I followed a pattern for both of them,” she said, adding that her inspiration came from an exhibit at the 2017 iLight Marina Bay Festival, where 56-foot crocheted sea urchin sculptures were installed around the Singapore bay. “One of the patterns I used was a Russian pattern from YouTube… but they left off row 40, I think it was, so I had to come up with a plan… It wasn’t too bad. Once you get to a certain level of expertise you can just kind of knick and fill.”

The other pattern came from one of Richardson’s many books of patterns.

“I have enough patterns to last me three lifetimes,” she said laughing. 

Richardson has been focusing on her crafts (mainly crochet) full time since she became disabled after a “botched surgery” in 2010. 

“My hysterectomy surgery was supposed to take two hours and it took 12,” she said. “I lost nerves in my pelvis… I feel very fortunate that I can walk.”

Before the surgery, Richardson had worked for 13 years for the post office, as a clerk for a zoning office, and in HUD housing. “I worked a lot in my life,” she said. “I was a Jane of all trades.”

Now, however, those on-your-feet jobs are off the table for Richardson. These days she spends many hours each day in her zero-gravity easy chair with her feet up, her iPad on the table to one side, her hooks on the other side and she crochets. 

“If I get into the groove I just don’t want to put my hook down,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll be at it for six or eight hours at night… I just poke away at the patterns and eventually something gets made.”

That’s exactly what happened with the massive doilies.

“It was kind of a fluke,” Richardson admitted, after she’d constructed them this past spring. “They came out really good. Now they’re just out on the back deck.”

Richardson is open to renting the oversized doily screens (for an event like a wedding, perhaps) or even selling them. 

“The screens are pretty durable,” she said. “I imagine that they’ll last until the end of the season.”

Richardson does all sorts of crochet, including what she calls “fillet-crochet” and “picture-afghans” — techniques that are more similar to drawing or painting with the thread. In fact, “Painting with Thread” is what Richardson has in mind for naming her craft business… but that’s still in progress.

For now, crafting is more of a hobby and meditative practice for Richardson. 

“After the surgery, it forced me to do a lot of meditation,” she said. “I probably meditate for at least two hours every day… As a practicing Buddhist and follower of Marshall Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication methods, meditation is a big part of my life.”

Richardson shared some of the trials that afflicted her as a youth growing up in a small town in New Hampshire.

“We all grew up very poor,” she said. “We lost our father when I was nine, then a brother a year later, and my mother was mentally unavailable… We didn’t grow up easy. It’s been a great help to me to learn nonviolent communication and Buddhism; and make it my adult-life work to be more peaceful. I think my childhood propelled me toward that.”

Alongside these hard memories, Richardson beams with unmeasured peace and raw joy. 

Some of her lightheartedness must definitely be attributed to her two little dogs, Tootle and Tittles. “They’re Maltapoos,” Richardson chuckled. “They’re less than 10 pounds, the both of them. They’re characters.”

And some of her contentedness must also come from crocheting. 

“It’s great therapy,” Richardson said of her craft. “It’s something I do. I love seeing the images come alive under my hands.”

Editor’s note: Mona keeps her online presence minimal. To connect with her to see more work or ask about her oversized doily screens email [email protected].

Share this story:

More News
Arts & Leisure

ART student creates costumes for ‘The Tempest’

Mirabelle Markowski, a junior at MUHS and in her first year in the Addison Repertory Theat … (read more)

Arts & Leisure

New salon-style series sparks community conversation

‏Thanks to a grant from Vermont Humanities, Vermont Book Shop and Town Hall Theater presen … (read more)

Arts & Leisure

Americana music takes the stage for next Wintertide Concert

On Friday, March 8, at 7:30 p.m, Town Hall Theater’s Wintertide Concert Series continues w … (read more)

Share this story: