Scherenschnitte Angels

Have you heard of scherenschnitte? It’s the German name for a very old tradition of cutting paper into decorations. Grandma Marilyn (whose maternal grandfather was German) is a master of scherenschnitte (pronounced shear’ en-schnit-tah). She’s sold her creations for years and has even been asked to dress up in costume and give demonstrations at local historic events.

Grandma gave me the pattern for these angels when I was a teenager. It came from an old book of designs by a folk artist named Pam Neely. I made the angels for all the aunts and uncles and my friends that Christmas and have continued to make them ever since. I like to give them to teachers and friends and others who have been like real angels in our lives. You can give one as a gift all by itself or attach as an embellishment on a wrapped gift.

Here’s a pdf of the angels if you’d like to give it a try: scherenschnitte angel. (You can play with the scale to get them to the size that you’d like.) To make the angels, use a pencil to copy the design onto thin tracing paper. Then secure the tracing-paper pattern with tape onto cutting paper that you’ve folded in half. Line up the edge of the angel design with the fold in the paper. You can use plain computer paper or antique-looking paper from a craft store.

You’ll need to cut out two of the folded-over angels using sharp little scissors. Then you just line up the folds and sew or staple them up the middle (two staples work fine). Thread a needle with some white or red thread or string, poke it through the top, tie it up (leaving enough excess thread to hang it on your Christmas tree), and you’re all set.

I’m grateful to Grandma for passing this tradition on to me because seeing these angels hanging on our tree and knowing they’re hanging on the trees of so many people we love is part of what makes Christmas so special for me.