I’ve attended several quilt shows this year as a vendor in our Sassy Feet booth. It’s a real pleasure to be in a room hung with gorgeous quilts and to meet some of the amazing women who make them. There are some drawbacks to displaying at a quilt show, however. The biggest is that I risk buying some of the cool stuff I see!

This happened last spring in Santa Clara, where Destiny and I had a booth right across the aisle from a very creative lady, Jane Tenorio-Coscarelli, who designs and sells quilting books, patterns, and fabric primarily with a Mexican theme. One of her quilts caught Destiny’s eye.

Sugar skull pattern It was called Dancing Sugar Skulls and was created to celebrate Day of the Dead. Now, for some reason, Destiny is a young woman who loves skulls. She was so enchanted with the pattern, I bought it for her and offered to make one block of the quilt as a pillow for her birthday.

I figured this would be no big deal because even though the pattern called for a lot of applique work, I could make it out of some bright pieces of wool felt I’d been hanging onto for a special project.  Then I found out that while Destiny may love skulls, she LOATHES felt. Something about its tiny little hairs projecting above the surface of the fabric makes her skin crawl.

Uh-oh.  Applique and I are not close friends. What was I going to do?? That’s when I remembered that I have lots of brights scraps of leather in my stash and I could use leather instead of felt. It has the same non-ravelling properties.

So I pulled out the pattern pieces, traced them on plain paper, and cut them out. Then I dug through my stash and found leather scraps in red, lime green, purple and yellow. Good Mexicolors! I placed each of the smaller pattern pieces on the leather, traced around it, and cut everything out.  Then I found a generous-sized piece of off-white leather with a sort of crackle pattern in it — perfect for the skull. I also grabbed a large scrap of black leather to make a background for the skull.  These I cut out with pinking shears.

Skull pillow closeup 1 at 72dpi-1 Here’s a closeup so you can see what I’m talking about.

I glued the leather pieces to the skull using a product called Tanner’s Bond. The next step was to put a leather needle in my sewing machine, thread it with strong thread in bright red, and stitch the white leather skull to its black leather background. This took a little testing on scrap leather to get the tension right.

At this point, things got much easier as all I had to do was sew fabric, something I’ve been doing since I was 13. I dug through my stash and found some Kaffe Fassett fabric in two different shades. This was perfect because the pattern, which includes directions for making a pillow, calls for placing the skull on a rectangle that’s offset against the rectangle that covers the pillow. I stitched the skull to the offset rectangle, then stitched the whole thing to the 16″ square that would be the front of the pillow. Then I added some brightly embroidered rick-rack around the edge, leaving enough room for the seam allowance.

The pillow form itself was 16″ square, but I used a trick taught to me by Betty Boster of The Cotton Ball quilt shop in Morro Bay, CA, where I live. Betty recommended that I sew the cover for a throw pillow one inch smaller than the pillow itself so that the pillow would fit snugly and puff out the cover nicely. So my pillow front and back were each 16″ square, then sewn with a 1/2″ seam allowance.

At this point I got fancy and put in a zipper, then seamed the front and back together on the remaining three sides (wrong sides facing, of course).

Skull pillow at 72dpi-1

Even though I’m not a skull kind of girl, when I got done with this pillow I found I’d gotten sort of fond its goofy grin. And my thanks to Jane Tenorio-Coscarelli for her wonderful Sugar Skull pattern!

P.S. Destiny loved it!

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