Navy Bonehead minky back detail

Secret Sugar Skulls

In 2018, Quilt Projectsby S Adams

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I met up with my college friends Mary and Tracy in Arizona in November of 2017 for a girl’s weekend.  We hadn’t been together in a long time and it was great to catch up and gab about the old days.  One day we ended up wandering around downtown Scottsdale where we ran across a little Dia de los Muertos display.  Not long after the trip I ran across some Michael Miller minky called Bonehead that had adorable sugar skulls on it.  I snapped up a couple yards in two different colors and let the ideas begin to form.

Scouring the internet for inspiration, I determined that I wanted to do a pixelated sugar skull quilt to surprise each of my friends to commemorate our get together.  After unsuccessfully searching for a pattern that I liked, I decided that I was going to have to design one myself.  I managed to find a cross-stitch pattern that was a good starting point.  It had about the right number of squares assuming that I used 2″ finished squares for my “pixels”.  I wanted it to be more friendly than scary and leave lots of room for color.  I used lots of inspiration pictures and dinked with it for several days before settling on a design.


One of my decisions was to work just from my stash (except for the minky backing of course). I chose eight different cream colors for the skulls and eight different shot cotton colors that coordinated with each minky for the backgrounds.  I would probably use more colors if I did this again, as it was hard to keep the same colors from touching.  But since it pretty much used up a fat quarter of each color, I went with it.  I really hadn’t registered just how big these quilts would be on the design wall.  The unfinished squares were 25% bigger than they would finish, and I needed a step ladder to get to the top of my design wall.  In fact I had to redo my design wall and make it bigger so that all 900 pieces would fit!

Laying out the squares took far longer than sewing them together.  I did one quilt at a time and changed my process from one quilt to the next.  The first quilt I assembled in “blocks” because I don’t really like sewing long rows together.  This made ironing seams far more complicated than necessary and the second was done in long rows, which was much easier.


Initially I had wanted them custom quilted with traditional sugar skull motifs, but I ran across a Sugar Skulls pantograph by Urban Elementz and decided that would work perfectly.  I’m not sure how I did it, but when I prepared the binding for the navy quilt, I had only about an inch extra.  Scared me silly when I finally attached it, but luckily everything worked out.

The surprise gifts were shipped off in early December and I told my friends that the were NOT Christmas presents, and that they should go ahead and open them.  They both seemed really happy with their quilts.  Yay!

The Project Photos


The Project Details…

Pieced By: Me
Piecing Done: Gray minky: March 2018
Navy minky: October 2018
Quilted By: Karen Walker
Quilting Done: Gray minky: September 2018
Navy minky: November 2018
Pattern: 900 2″ finished squares each, about 500 cream colored and about 400 accent colored
Fabric Line: Various creams and shot cotton solids
Size: Both: 50 1/2″ x 72 1/2″
For: College friends Mary and Tracy
Occasion: Commemorate getting together after WAY too long!