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Sugar skull chic.


Add fun Day of the Dead sugar skull embroidery designs to a basic knit top for a festive look.


+ Knit portrait neckline top pattern (such as Burda Style 10/2014 #110)

+ Stretch jersey knit fabric (amount according to pattern envelope)

+ Thread: all-purpose & embroidery

+ Needles: ballpoint & embroidery

+ Lightweight cut-away stabilizer

+ Temporary spray adhesive

+ Tailor's chalk

+ Pinking shears

+ Two sugar skull designs (approximately 2 3/4" x 3 1/2"; see "Designs.")

Note: Select a top that has a reasonable amount of shoulder space. The featured pattern has a front self-facing that conceals the embroidery stabilizer and adjustable neckline-gathering loops to allow for design placement flexibility.


* Cut out the top front, back and straps. The featured top straps were lengthened to 6V4" and the sleeves were shortened to a three-quarter-length sleeve.

* Fold the front at the self-facing along the designated shoulder lines with wrong sides together; pin. Mark the shoulder and armscye seam allowance using tailor's chalk.

* Print out each sugar skull template.

* Place the left-facing skull template over the right shoulder. Position the skull at an angle and align the skull head and jaw near the shoulder and armscye seamline markings. Mark the template horizontal and vertical centerlines onto the top (A).

* Repeat to mark the right-facing skull template onto the left shoulder.

* Unfold the top.





* Load the skull designs onto the machine.

* Hoop two layers of lightweight cut-away stabilizer. Spray temporary adhesive over the stabilizer. Position the top front over the stabilizer, centering the left-shoulder horizontal and vertical centerlines within the hoop; finger-press to secure.

* Embroider the left-facing design, changing thread colors as needed:

* Remove the hoop from the machine and the stabilizer from the hoop. Cut away the excess stabilizer from the design perimeter using pinking shears.

* Repeat to embroider the right-facing skull onto the left shoulder.

* Construct the top according to the pattern guidesheet.


Many of us are familiar with the eerily cheerful and colorfully decorated sugar skulls associated with the holiday Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. Less familiar are the history and traditions that are part of this unique celebration. A celebration in honor of the dead may seem like a morbid occasion, but Dia de los Muertos is actually a celebration of life.

Although many countries have celebrations around the time of All Souls' Day and All Saints' Day in November, the symbols of Dia de los Muertos, including elaborately decorated sugar skulls, originated in central and southern Mexico. The Dia de los Muertos holiday contains elements of both indigenous and Spanish Catholic religious beliefs and practices, combining them into a uniquely festive occasion. It's believed that the dead don't like us to be sad, so their visit is a time for love and laughter, sharing funny and endearing stories about those who have passed on and bringing them up to date with what is happening in the lives of their loved ones.

Dia de los Muertos is actually a two-day event, starting at midnight on October 31, when it's believed that the gates of heaven open to allow the souls of the Angelitios, young angels, to visit those who knew and loved them in life. On November 2, the adult angels have their turn. Families build elaborate "offerndas," altars with offerings such as colorful wild marigolds and other local flowers and the loved ones' favorite foods and drinks to nourish them when they arrive from their long journey. Graves are cleaned and families often gather in the graveyard to spend time with their loved ones, both past and present.

Sugar skulls originate from the arrival of Catholic missionaries in Mexico. Sugar was an inexpensive and plentiful material, and the Mexican people learned from European missionaries how to sculpt it into fanciful shapes. These sweet offerings became the most famous symbol of the holiday, which decorate offerndas and graves to honor the memory of the departed. Although they are made mostly from edible materials, the beautifully decorated skulls are meant purely for decoration.



Learn how to create an applique to easily add embroidery to a finished top without having to embroider directly onto the top fabric.

* Embroider the designs onto the fashion fabric or a lightweight fabric, such as organza, that matches the fashion-fabric color.

* Apply seam sealant to the design perimeter wrong side. Carefully cut out the design close to the design perimeter using applique scissors.

* Construct the top following the pattern guidesheet. Handstitch the design onto the finished garment at the desired placement.


Villalba, A. (2016, February 16). History of Day of the Dead & the Mexican Sugar Skull Tradition. Retrieved from


Sugar skulls: Urban Threads, Sweet Skull Uno (UT2731), Sweet Skull Tres (UT2733);


Burda Style provided the top pattern 10/2014 #110;

SVP Worldwide provided the Pfaff Creative Sensation Pro machine:

Try different design placements on garments, such as at an angle along the upper hip on a skirt. Most sugar skull embroidery designs are dense, so place the designs where the stiffness doesn't Interfere with the garment drape.
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Author:Walker, Katrina
Publication:Creative Machine Embroidery
Date:Sep 1, 2016
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