Top 3 things to know about Dia de los Muertos …

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Picture of Ingrid Alteneder

Ingrid Alteneder

Hey there, I love fabric, sewing, quilting and most of all Foundation Paper Piecing. Welcome to my blog!

What’s the difference between Halloween and Dia de los Muertos?
The two are related somewhat, but Dia de los Muertos and Halloween differ greatly in traditions and tone.
Whereas Halloween is a dark night of horror and mischief, Dia de los muertos festivities unfold over two days in an explosion of color and life affirming joy.
The theme for the annual event is death that’s true, but the point is to demonstrate love and respect for the deceased family members. And isn’t that beautiful?


Viva la Frida/ Dia de los Muertos quilt block pattern

sacred heart quilt block
sacred heart quilt block
sacred heart quilt block

These sacred heart quilt blocks were made with Riley Blake Designs Fabric line Eleanor by Kathy Cano-Murillo. This fabric line is absolutely perfect for these Dia de los Muertos quilt block patterns.

The festivities of Dia de los Muertos are full with symbolic meaning.
The more you know and understand about this feast for the senses,
the more you will love it too.
Here are 3 essential things about Mexico’s most colorful annual event.


Sacred hearts quilt block pattern

Several thousand years ago , Dia de los Muertos originated with the Aztec, Toltec and other Nahua people, who considered mourning the dead disrespectful. Death was a natural phase in life’s long continuum, for theses pre-Hispanic cutures. I find this way of honoring the dead both reassuring and beautiful. The dead were still members of the community. They were kept alive in memory and spirit and during Dia de los Muertos ,they temporarily returned to Earth.
Today’s Dia de los Muertos celebration is a fusion of pre-Hispanic religious rites and Christian feasts.
It takes place on November 1 and 2, which is also All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day on our Christian calendar.

sacred heart with birds

sacred heart with thorns

sacred heart

sacred heart with cross quilt block pattern

sacred heart with cross quilt block pattern

Built in private homes and cemeteries the altar is the centerpiece of the celebration.
These aren’t altars for worshipping the way we know altars, they’re meant to welcome spirits back to the living. Therefore they’re loaded with offerings, water and food for hunger and thirst after the long journey, family photos and a candle for each dead relative.
The sacred mexican heart is one of the most common motifs in religious folk art created in Mexico. The idea is that the physical heart of Jesus is a symbol of his devine love for humanity.
The Mexican sacred heart comes in various forms. It comes with flames around it, with a crown and sometimes with a crown of thorns. They and all represent the same thing, Jesus’ compassion for humanity.
And of course, you know that almost everyone in Mexico is Catholic so these images are commonly seen throughout the country.
Again you can see the blend of pre-Hispanic tradition and Christian beliefs.

Sugar Skull quilt block pattern

Sugar Skull quilt block pattern

Calaveras/ Sugar Skulls

Skulls go all the way back to pre-historic times, where the skull was a predominant figure in Mesoamerican ( todays central America )societies and cultures.
These civilizations believed in a spiritual life after death so the skulls were offerings to the god of the underworld, Mictlantecuhtli -don’t ask me how to pronounce this :-)-.
He would then assure a safe passage into the underworld whee he ruled.

With the arrival of the Spanish conquerors and Christianity, these traditions were lost in it’s original form, and yet a part of them was kept alive by maintaining the figure of the skull in a sweet confection that can be placed on altars as part of the offerings to the deceased.

Calavera means ‘skull’. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, calavera was used to describe short, humorous poems, which were often sarcastic tombstones epitaphs published in newspapers that made fun of the living. These were called literary calaveras.
In the early 20th century, Mexican political cartoonist and lithographer José G. Posada created an etching to go with his literary calavera.
Posada dressed his personification of death in fancy French clothes.
In 1947 artist Diego Rivera ( Fried Kahlos husband) featured Posada’s stylized skeleton in his masterpiece mural “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park.”
Posada’s skeletal bust was dressed in a large feminine hat, and Rivera made his female and named her Catrina, slang for “the rich.”
Today, the calavera Catrina, or elegant skull, is the Day of the Dead’s most prominent symbol.

a Frida inspired quilt block pattern

a Frida Kahlo inspired quilt block pattern

Frida Kahlo
Who do we all associate with Mexico?
Exactly, Frida Kahlo… the great mexican painter or better yet great Mexican artist.
She’s known for her many portraits and self-portraits.
Her paintings often have strong autobiographical elements mixed with realism and fantasy.
She was born in 1907 to a German father and a Mestizia Mother and spent most of her childhood and adult life in her family home in Coyoacan ‘La Casa Azul’ the blue house.
Although the was disabled by polio as a young child Kahlo had been a great and promising student headed for medical school until she suffered a bus accident at the age of 18 which left her lifelong suffering and medical problems.
In 1927 she met Mexican artist Diego Rivera, whom she married in 1929 and spent the next 20 years painting and travelling in Mexico and the United States together.
Throughout the 1940s, Kahlo participated in many exhibitions in Mexico and the United States and worked as an art teacher.
Her always fragile health began to decline in the late 1940s.
She had her first solo exhibition in Mexico in 1953 shortly before her death in 1954 at the age of only 47.


So what better way than to combine the two …. Dia de los Muertos and a Frida Kahlo inspired quilt block pattern …. in a stunning quilt, that features not only the bright colors of Mexico but also Frida and all the amazing Mexican symbols…..
I am still working on mine, it might take a little while until I’m all finished, so stay tuned on news of this fun project…..Let me know what you would make with these patterns? I can’t wait to see all of your
fantastic creations.

I made several sacred heart quilt blocks with Riley Blake Designs new fabric line Eleanor,
​its absolutely perfect for these patterns.

Ingrid x

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