This tutorial will help you to inexpensively craft your own one-of-a-kind la calavera catrina costume mask in the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) style, and then easily DIY a Calaveras de Azucar (Sugar Skulls) banner to decorate your Halloween party. 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. These calacas (colloquial term for skeletons) have migrated north from Mexico into American Halloween celebrations as themed décor. In this same way, traditional parade skull masks have become party costumes. 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. The Mexican ½ face parade masks symbolize this idea of life being inextricably linked with death. So when you don this half skull mask for Halloween, be sure to make up the lower half of your face as a beautiful representation of life… and poke a little fun at death as not being so scary!
To craft the calaveras de azucar (sugar skulls) banner, 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.)
Attack black floral mesh squares to half of the skulls. Glue one end to the top of the front and the rest to the underside so that it looks like a lacy veil.
Next, glue paper rosettes to cover the front edge of the veils.
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.
Next cut lengths of colorful yarn or ribbon to string the banner on. If your skulls don’t have the right holes to string them through, just use a hole punch… or even poke some with an ice pick!
Hang them in the background of a themed party or over a candy buffet.
To make your own catrina mask, purchase a plain plastic one to embellish. (This Mardi Gras type can be found at Michaels for about $2, and Joann has some as well.)
Use the same T-shirt paint leftover from the sugar skull banner to cover the mask with. (I just used my finger to smear it around.) Let this layer dry well.
Begin using other colors to add designs to the mask. Dots are the easiest to make with these paints, but make an upside down heart for a nose decoration. (I made a girlier version than can be typically found at the Halloween stores by using softer colors than red and black and by making the eye sockets flowers instead of black rings.) Let this layer dry well too.
Cut a length of lace at about 10 inches across and at a length that will cover most of the hair of the recipient.
Glue the 10 inch edge to the top of the mask, pressing the fabric into the glue. Make small gathers to take up the width. This veil will expand over the head to better cover the hair.
Now pull off faux rose heads from their stems. Glue these on top of the lace, and hold them down until they don’t feel like they will slip off.
Further definition may be added to the edges of the paint lines with a fine tip sharpie permanent marker. (I think a little black helps to tie in the veil’s color.)
Try wearing this with a traditionally embroidered Mexican dress and a black lace shawl.
It may also be used as décor for a themed Halloween celebration.
Viva la celebration!