Friday, October 31, 2014

Quilts (and free patterns) for Dia de los Muertos!

Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) is celebrated on October 31st, November 1st and 2nd. The tradition honors those who have passed, whose souls are thought to come back to drink, eat and be merry with their loved ones. It is also a great time to admire Dia de los Muertos quilts!  In addition to the inspiring show quilts, scroll down for some free skull patterns, printables and projects.

Beauty Parlor de los Muertos, 76 x 59", by Nancy Arsenault

Beauty Parlor de los Muertos, which was exhibited at the 2014 AQS - Phoenix show, is another fabulous realistic afterlife quilt by Nancy Arsenault.  The skeletons are engaged in typical beauty parlor activities while under the hair dryer. The woman on the far right is reading a Quilters Newsletter magazine! Nancy says, "This salon scene was inspired by personal experience.  Does it look familiar to you too?"

This good-looking hairdresser is wearing a real white shirt, a tooled vest, and bola tie... in the shape of a skull, of course! Our favorite character is the fluffy white poodle shown below... he is all bones!

Nancy Arsenault is an award-winning Arizona quiltmaker who made the first of her series of Dia de los Muertos quilts in 2006;  you can read an article on Beauty Parlor de los Muertos at Quilters Newsletter. For more quilt inspiration, visit Pinterest and check out Nancy's AZquiltmaker board, Quilts I've Made.

Dia de los Muertos, 39 x 43", by Alice Morgan

In the tradition of Mexican folk art, this quilt is bright and colorful!  The blanket-stitched appliqued skulls are set at a jaunty angle and they have button eyes.  Alice used a broderie perse approach to embellish the blocks with big, colorful flowers. Alice Morgan says, "Don't these skulls make you smile?"

This is an adaptation of a commercial pattern but with lots of embellishments. Alice Morgan's was photographed at the 2012 River City Quilters Guild show in California; the pattern on which her quilt was based is shown below, along with the link.

Sugar Skull, 41 x 44", pattern by Quarter Inch Publishing

Dia de los Muertos, approx 12 x 12", by Rebecca Navarro (Texas)

Rebecca Navarro says, “The Day of the Dead is a time to remember those who have died. The deceased are honored with food, beverages, and flowers."  Rebecca’s original design  was machine pieced, inked, and free-motion quilted. The quilt was embellished with scattered seed beads.

As you can see in the close-up photo above, the flower centers were decorated with tiny skulls. Rebecca Navarro's quilt was exhibited in the miniature quilts exhibit at the 2013 Houston International Quilt Festival.

Jose Guadalupe Posada's Door, 18 x 24", by Cathy Hawthorne (Arizona)

Jose Guadalupe Posada's Door was exhibited in the Mavericks Art Quilters 2013 Door Challenge. The participating artists were challenged to design an 18" x 24" quilt showing the back door that an artist of their choice might have had on their house. This quilt honors the Mexican artist, José Guadalupe Posada (1851–1913) who was renowned for his drawings of calaveras (skulls).

As shown above, Cathy appliqued many fabric skulls on the quilt using broderie perse, and hung a small skeleton holding a mesh bag of skulls.

My Idea of Heaven, 41 x 53", by Janet Windsor

My Idea of Heaven is one of our favorite Day of the Dead quilts.  Janet Windsor explains: "I love the Dia de los Muertos holiday in Mexico.  I cannot imagine a happier place to end up than at my sewing machine. So I borrowed an illustrator friend’s skeleton and took photos of it sitting at a featherweight sewing machine. I did a drawing from those photos which I then fused, appliqued, and embellished with buttons, beads, ribbons, silk flowers, and milagros."  We  featured Janet Windsors' work in a post published in October, 2012.

Life Everlasting by Ann Horton

Ann Horton says, "In the tradition of The Day of the Dead celebrations, this quilt embraces life after death with happy assurance. [It was] inspired by my 89-year-old mother's faith and life."  The dancing skulls were created with digitized machine embroidery.  We first featured Life Everlasting in our post on the 2013 Houston International Quilt Festival.

The Day of the Dead is becoming very popular in the U.S. Perhaps this is because we don't have a holiday to celebrate and honor our dead.  Here are some free projects to inspire your own celebration!

Free patterns for Dia de los Muertos

Block Party house block with fussy cut skeletons by Pink Chalk Studio

Cross Stitch Sugar Skull, free pattern at JoAnn Fabric and Crafts

Sugar Skull pillow, free fabric painting tutorial at Fabric and Art

World Tour quilt, free pattern by Parson Gray for Free Spirit Fabrics (note: make the quilt with or without crossbones - as shown in our variation below - for Dia de los Muertos!)

World Tour by Parson Gray; variation by Quilt Inspiration

Sugar Skull Dancers by Larene Smith, free quilt pattern for Dan Morris prints at eQuilter

Frida's Garden Quilt, free quilt pattern by Luana Rubin for Frida Kahlo fabrics at eQuilter

Day of the Dead pillowcases, free tutorial for JoAnn Fabrics by Kathy Cano-Murillo; see the tutorial at Crafty Chica

Sugar Skulls, free printable designs and projects

Above, clockwise from upper left: Free muertos printable in gold or black by Cocorrina, guest blogger, for My Life Box; Free Dia de los Muertos Sugar Skull Embroidery Pattern at Elemental Stitches; see the pattern here and the finished embroidery here; Easy Halloween décor, free colored skull printable, at Hello Little Home.

Image credits: All images are copyrighted by their owners. The photo of My Idea of Heaven is shown with permission of Janet Windsor; for her gallery, see her website at Janet  All other quilt show photos were taken by Quilt Inspiration.  For the free patterns and tutorials, please respect any restrictions the artists have placed on the use of their designs; complete information can be found at the  websites provided in the links.  Some of these are tutorials while others have downloadable patterns; we have tried to note which is which in the title above each photo.  If any links are broken, we'd love to know; please email us at quiltinspiration {at} gmail {dot} com. 


  1. Wow, you sure did your homework on this post!
    And here I am in a land where people won't walk through a graveyard at night ... even if it is a shortcut to the station ... and they cut all the branches off a weeping willow in the winter because it looks like a ghost.I guess we won't see these in a Japanese quilt show.

  2. Wow.....Wow.....Wow.....all of these are fantastic! As a hairdresser and a quilter, of course my favorites are The Beauty Parlor and My Idea of Heaven! Thanks for the links to the freebies!

  3. What a wonderful post. I love the quilt skeletin stitching. Thank you for so many esign sources.

  4. Love all the quilts here. So colourful and pretty!

  5. These are great - they really got into the spirit of the day. So colorful! I invite you to link this post to Hexie Weekend (ends today, midnight). You just never know how many of my readers don't know about your fabulous site! I get so much inspiration here.


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