“Angels need wings. I have never made big wings before, only gauzy ones, so these grew a bit like Topsy! I had, fortuitously, a ball of crochet cotton which exactly matched Gabrielle’s dress, but I had already used crochet to make the lace on the overdress. Needlelace seemed an option if I could find a suitable former to hand. Wire proved to be too thin, and the thread slipped about, so in the end I made a frame from one strand of the plastic coated wire of electric cable. Yes, I know you can buy purpose made formers but I wanted to do it now.
After drawing the shape on heavy card, and arriving at a good shape was an interesting exercise in its own right, I couched on the wire at widely spaced intervals, then covered the wire and its plastic coat in blanket stitch using my turquoise crochet cotton. Not only did this cover the wire but it provided a anchor for the needlelace itself. I used pea stitch at first then increased the number of loops in each group first to five and then to seven to add “weight” towards the lower edge. I hadn’t provided a former across that edge as I didn’t want it to be rigid, but needlelace requires just such an edge! A single thread helped a bit but a piece of applied crotchet finally did the trick.
She looked balanced, if a bit subfusc for Christmas, so I added sequins, left over from one of Rachel’s childhood projects, mainly cup-shaped but the lower ones are long ovals to suggest pinions. Again, the colours, turquoise and silver, were a perfect match. Some people have all the luck. Rachel added crystals to increase the “bling”. The halo is a cardboard former covered with cloth of gold. I used the gathered side to suggest an aura of radiating holiness and backstitched a banner “Gloria in excelsis Deo” in red on cloth of gold, too.”
We timed our photography just right, too – the last sunny day of Autumn, before the weather turned thoroughly nasty on us…
Outside, hanging from a fir branch in the garden, Gabrielle made a remarkably effective member of the heavenly choir.
Lest you imagine my talent for complex projects sprang out of nowhere, I have asked my mother to write a couple of guest posts about one of hers – Gabrielle, the Christmas Tree Angel. Gabrielle figured on our Christmas cards this year, and she took nearly a year because she was being improvised as she went along.
“Looking at my collection of crochet hooks, I decided that I needed to do something quickly if I wanted to use the smallest one before my eyesight made it too difficult. I am becoming increasingly long sighted as the years progress, and my myopic Impressionist wonderland is receding. Coincidentally, it was Christmas tide, and we had just rejuvenated Bethlehem. (Ask Rachel!) A Christmas Angel for the top of the tree seemed the next proper project.
Gabrielle herself is one of Rachel’s dolls, rediscovered when we were tidying the loft. She is just the right size for our Christmas tree. A rummage through my stash of cloth provided enough satin, a beautiful turquoise, and a square of fine silk which had been the Virgin’s veil when we made a crib one year using Rachel’s dolls as the cast.
To make the dress I cut out a cross shape wide at the top and bottom narrowing towards the crossing place out of the turquoise satin. The cross piece itself, which formed the sleeves, was short and narrow. I hemmed the cuffs and a small opening for her head before folding bottom to top and sewing the side seams.
Next I tackled the silk over-dress. A line of open blanket stitch along the selvedge gave me a base for the crochet work I so wanted to do. Again, I used ordinary sewing thread and kept the design simple. It was surprisingly easy to work. In no time I had a sizeable length of delicate lace.
The original intention had been to make a cottar such as altar boys used to wear, but the very small size and filmy silk made my stitching look crude. Instead I used two pieces of folded silk over the shoulders fastened lightly to the satin and covered the raw ends with the very gathered edge of my lace bordered silk. It looks more like a pinny, but billowing satin displays the lace beautifully.”