This tutorial will help you to inexpensively craft your own jeweled vase in the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) style to fill with traditional wild marigolds (cempasuchil), and then easily DIY calaveras de azucar (sugar skulls) napkin rings and wine glass charms to decorate your Halloween dinner party table with. Sugar (azucar in Español) is said to balance the bitterness of death (muerte), and calaveras (skulls) are traditionally offered on All Saint’s Day (November 1) to departed loved ones as one would leave flowers graveside. As Halloween serves to poke fun at all things scary, Dia de los Muertos is intended as a way to accept death as inevitable… and also to honor dearly departed loved ones. Representational calacas (colloquial term for skeletons) symbolize the idea of life being inextricably linked with death, and have migrated north from Mexico into American Halloween celebrations as themed décor. By using one celebration as a theme for the other, the two concepts combine to poke a little fun at death as not being so scary!
To craft the calaveras de azucar (sugar skulls) napkin rings, begin with either a package of glittered skulls or cut your own shapes from glittered paper. Another option is upgrade a readymade skull banner. (All of these items are available at Le fidèLe Designs craft supply affiliates Michaels and/or Joann whose clickable ads may be found in the sidebar.)
To decorate these with the traditional sugar skull designs of flowers, hearts, swirls, and apostrophe type marks, I utilized Tulip brand Crystals (= glittery like sugar) T-shirt paint. It works really well on many materials besides cotton. The small tips allow the paint to come out just like icing does on real sugar skulls. If you prefer the control of a paintbrush, just squeeze some out onto a paper plate to use as a palette. Let these dry overnight to cure, and ensure that no unwanted marks are impressed into the paint.
Cut 6 inch lengths of grosgrain ribbon to serve as the ring. (I found this skull printed roll on clearance, and didn’t find out until much later that it’s a “Monster High” motif. Oh well, it worked!)
Hot glue each end of a ribbon length onto the center underside of a skull.
Ring a ding ding, look who made a napkin ring!
To create wine glass charms, begin with Jolee’s Boutique dimensional scrapbooking stickers. Pull the plastic fronts away from the flat backings.
Use the same T-shirt paint in white to add a layer of sugary glitter to them. These will dry clear. (To make this easier, I made a finger loop of masking tape to hold them while I dotted on the paint, and then just slipped them off onto the table to dry overnight.)
Tie these onto jumbo jump rings with a strand of colorful yarn or ribbon. (I used the same yarn on all my Dia de los Muertos crafts for continuity.)
Since the skulls come in colored sets of 2, why not color-code the drinks by kissing couples!?
Quickly create a calavera vase by upcycling an old vase with crystal stickers or by gluing crystals on. You can use a complete picture, lay on crystals individually, or both. (If you need to use a pattern, just tape a coloring page to the inside of the vase and adhere crystals to the outside of it over the lines.)
Tie on a length of ribbon to coordinate with the other crafts, and fill the vase with black marbles.
Fill it with traditional wild marigolds to use as a centerpiece surrounded by more calaveras.
Happy Day of the Dead!