Making new angels from old hymnals touches the heart

People in Hillsboro have been touched by an angel, and she’s filled with inspirational music.

In fact, many small hymnal angels made by Sally Andrews and the children of Hillsboro United Methodist Church are gracing pianos and spreading their message at Christmas time.

“It’s a way of displaying-out in the open-a book that could possibly be special to you,” Andrews said.

Andrews and members of her church have taken hymnals and transformed them into angels by folding the pages, adding ribbons and lace and attaching a head on one end of each book.

“Some people put them up all year round,” Andrews said.

“But definitely, if you show the Christmas music on the wings, it brings it back to Jesus as the focus of Christmas. And that’s kind of cool.”

Andrews is a staff nurse at Hillsboro Community Medical Center Long Term Care Unit. Husband Gary is the superintendent at the Hillsboro Golf Course.

As a mother of two girls, Gina, 16, and Lora, 13, Andrews said she keeps busy with her family, the full-time job at HCMC LTCU, a part-time job at Hillsboro Family Practice Clinic, another part-time job helping her husband mow lawns at the golf course and her volunteer work as a 4-H leader.

But she also takes time to enjoy her hobbies, which include making various craft items and mementos.

“I like to make different ornaments, and I do a lot of sewing,” Andrews said. “I like to do a lot of fabric things.”

She said she has developed an appreciation for antique fabrics.

“I go to flea markets, and I love antique lace, crochets and doilies,” Andrews said.

And sometimes, antique lace can be found draped over the bodice of her angels and along the hem of their skirts.

She started making hymnal angels in November 2001, after the children at her church made about 12 to be auctioned at a church benefit.

The church purchased new hymnals prior to the auction and gave the old hymnals to church members.

For the craft auction, parishioner Jody Anderson helped the children make the angels out of the old hymnals, and they were a successful item at the event,” Andrews said.

“The kids’ angels last year sold for $50 (each),” she said.

After the auction, church members who weren’t able to purchase a hymnal angel approached Andrews and asked her to make angels out of their hymnals.

“They wanted one, but they ran out of them at the auction because the kids’ parents were trying to buy the ones that their kids had made,” Andrews said.

She didn’t charge church members for the angels she made. Instead, she asked them to make a donation to the church.

Her hymnal angels are inspired by Anderson’s design and by similar angels purchased by Andrews’ dad at a church auction in Culver.

“It’s not that hard to make them,” she said.

“It just takes a long time to get the pages turned. For the most part, it’s a fairly easy craft, and anybody who does crafts could do this if they have one to look at.”

Working at a space created on her kitchen table, Andrews spends a total of about 4 1/2 hours making one hymnal angel.

She begins by opening the book and creating the wings made from a group of pages closest to the back and front of the hymnal.

“I fold those from the bottom edge up to the middle,” Andrews said. “And then the skirt part, you fold the top edge to the middle, and you fold them down. When you fold the pages, you try to make them even.”

Andrews has figured out a way to make sure the right- and left-hand pages formed by the wings-and remaining on top of all the others-are pages of music that have special meaning to the owner.

One Hillsboro man from her church ordered an angel to give to his mother for Christmas. He told Andrews the two pages he wanted visible on the wings were a Christmas carol and one of his mother’s favorite hymns.

The skirt is the most difficult and time consuming part of the craft-making process, Andrews said. That can often take as much as three hours to fold.

To make the angel’s head, she uses a 2 1/2 inch styrofoam ball cut in half and covers it with a page of music. Then to secure it, she inserts wire into the head and attaches the head down into the spine of the book.

Hot glue is used to adhere the lace onto the pages, and the angel’s outfit can be completed with some craft ribbon and beads.

“The angels will be different sizes, depending on the hymnal you have,” Andrews said. “Some hymnals are really big.”

By the second week of December, she was in the process of finishing the angel for the church member’s mother and had one more angel to make before Christmas.

“I won’t be able to get any more made before Christmas,” Andrews said.

But if given enough time, she would be agreeable to making more angels after Christmas for people outside the church, she said.

“I could probably make them for $25,” Andrews said. “I’d have to have them bring a hymnal. And if they want antique lace, the cost would be extra.”

One problem unique to her angels was how they could be safely stored when packed away after the holidays.

“If you bend the pages or if you give it to somebody for Christmas and they shake their package, it’s a goner,” she said. “It’s kind of a delicate thing, but sometimes when you put the lace around the edge, it makes it a little bit sturdier.”

She hasn’t made a hymnal angel for herself because she doesn’t have a piano-the most appropriate place to display one of her seraphims.

But the idea of showcasing a Christmas memento of a loved one personally appeals to her just as it does to others, Andrews said.

In remembrance of her mother, who passed away at age 77, Andrews has created another Christmas craft.

Going through her mother’s estate, Andrews discovered family jewelry dating back to the 1940s.

“It was mom’s earrings and pins and things like that,” Andrews said.

Knowing that the jewelry was too dated to be worn today but not wanting to put it away in a drawer, Andrews decided to display it on a small artificial Christmas tree in her home.

“I used the pearls and necklaces for garland, and the small pins, I used for ornaments,” Andrews said. “I used a large pin for the star on the top and some velvet fabric of hers for the skirt.”

She submitted her memento Christmas tree to Craft magazine, and her idea was published in the October issue.

“So all of this is a neat way to bring (mementos) out of the closet and remember your loved ones,” Andrews said.

And to make sure an angel is hovering around the house, just put a hymnal angel on the piano at Christmas.

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