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The Making of an Angel

A Christmas tree should be topped with something worthy of this premium spot, and years ago I made my Mary Catherine Grace angel to fit that bill.

Today, The Daily Artisan starts a week of holiday posts leading up to Christmas Day on Saturday. And I’m pleased to start it with Mary Catherine Grace, one of my annual holiday traditions!

Searching for just the right Christmas tree topper was a challenge, and I became a bit obsessed with finding the perfect one. Some people top their trees with a star, bow, crown, snowflake, Santa’s hat, or poinsettia. Others go with the ever-popular and more traditional angel.

That’s what I wanted – an angel – and I was determined to find one that felt worthy of this location that presides over all the ornaments on the tree.

I looked online and in person at every tree topping angel I could find, but nothing felt right or like what I had in mind. And then one day after Thanksgiving, I was in a Target store buying Christmas gift tags when I saw my angel.

It was her. Well, at least part of her was her.

Instead of a tree topper, she was a Christmas ornament – connected at the back of her head to a looped string for draping over branches – but she had what I thought was the most serene countenance, surely worthy of a promotion to top of the tree!

Unfortunately, though, her outfit was, how shall I say it, hideous, and had I not seen her beautiful face and expression I never would have stopped as I walked past her. The best way to describe her dress would be a green velvet and gold lame bag with brown ostrich feathers at the wrists … and that’s being generous.

But, I was sold … and she was sold to me for $7.95 by Target!

And that’s when the real work began.

It had never occurred to me that I should hand make my Christmas tree topper, but when I saw this ornament I realized serious renovation was going to be in order. We’re talking completely uncharted territory here as I had no idea how to make a Christmas tree topper, but I knew she could be much more than she was, hanging out at Target.

White satin and lace had to be a part of it all, that much I knew. So I got started, and using tiny scissors, basically took everything apart and got down to just that beautiful face and head along with some rather odd looking limbs and torso that were wrapped in white packing foam that’s used for shipping things.

I did like that her arms and torso would articulate so I could change her from a hunched-over figure into one standing tall with welcoming, outstretched arms befitting an angel. And I figured I could repurpose the white wings that came with her.

All kinds of lace-trimmed fabric pieces were under consideration for her outfit, but I knew first I had to physically convert her from something that hung by a loop over a tree branch to a standing figure on top of the tree. I made a cone of heavy-weight paper patterned with gold metallic swirls, and attached the base to her torso (after gently and surgically removing the loop from the back of her head).

Next, the sketches I’d made for her angel’s dress began to come to life, first using a needle and thread to make and sew on a right sleeve and then a left one. I made the bodice of her dress from smocked white satin with a ruffle at the hipline, and sewed it to her sleeves.

This angel was starting to look … angelic!

White satin rosettes were added to her shoulders, and then I made a delicate white lace slip to go over the cone and under her dress because every angel should wear a slip, right?! Over her slip, I made a long skirt of white satin with a lace overlay, also dotted with pearl-centered rosettes.

Everything sewn on her had to look good from all angles and directions since she would be at the top of the Christmas tree.

After reattaching her salvaged white wings, I used a sparkly garland of gold stars to wrap around her waist and also fashioned it into a tiara for her head.

And it was around this time that her name came to me.

I had told myself she wouldn’t be named until I’d finished her transformation into a tree topper because I wanted to first see what she finally looked like before I picked a name.

At this ending stage of the work, it hit me out of the blue that her name should be “Mary Catherine Grace” (all first name) because I wanted her to be as close to God as possible and this sounded perfect!

She would grace the tree each Christmas season as the new and improved Mary Catherine Grace, and for years she has held the place of honor I believe was her true calling, having been delivered from the aisles of Target (and a really bad outfit)!

Mary Catherine Grace is for me a beautiful symbol of hope and perseverance in that sometimes if we keep looking, we find something even better than what we thought we wanted in the first place! And I can’t imagine a more perfect (transformed) angel than Mary Catherine Grace for my Christmas tree!

What fun crafts have you made for the holiday season? Be sure to comment below!



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