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!