How to Needle Felt a Sugar Skull Mask

I’m needle felting a sugar skull mask today, with a tiny bit of basic hand embroidery thrown in, for good measure. This is a time-consuming project due to the details and methods used, but well worth the effort. You’ll have a beautifully colorful, intricate mask that can be worn (if you choose to cut out eye holes), hung on the wall, or made to honor a loved one’s life. I chose to make my mask as a wall hanging, hence the flower eyes rather than the holes.

Why I Chose a Sugar Skull Theme

I believe the Mexican holiday, Día de los Muertos, to be a beautiful way to celebrate, honor, and remember loved ones who have passed. It is believed that death is not final, but only a step in an ongoing journey.

And so much love goes into the celebration – glowing altars, food and drink, and festive parades. Sugar skulls are a huge part of the holiday, handmade and intricately decorated in bright colors (some with the names of their lost loved ones), to encourage or guide the spirit back to their family.

I chose to use a Sugar Skull theme for my project due to the beauty of the love behind the true Sugar Skulls made for Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead.

Felting a sugar skull mask inspired by the Day of the Dead.

Sugar Skull Style Meets Felted Mask

I adore the bright colors and intricate details of Mexico’s homemade sugar skulls. They are so much fun to look at, and evoke a smile from me every time I see a new and interesting design. I’m kind of winging it, but I sure enjoy the creation process of this sugar skull mask – SO FUN. I’m already looking forward to next year!

Materials needed for your Sugar Skull Mask: a thick felt sheet for your mask foundation (big enough to cut out an adult sized mask), a skull template, wool craft felt (no acrylic), wool roving, felting needles, embroidery needle and thin ribbon. Optional for hand embroidery: embroidery thread.

Your foundation felt for this mask should be thicker than a normal sheet of craft felt. This will make it sturdier and able to hold it’s shape better when worn. I found mine in a small wool shop and it was called “rustic felt” – it was just what I wanted, but I didn’t know it until I saw it. You could probably find thicker (2-3mm) wool felt sheets on Etsy, Weir Crafts carries it, or maybe you can fuse 2-3 thinner pieces together before cutting out your skull mask. It’s not a requirement, just a suggestion, so you don’t end up with a floppy mask. 🙂

Steps to Felting a Sugar Skull Mask

  1. Locate a skull template that you like online, just for the shape of the skull, and print it out. Make sure you print it out in the size that you’d like your mask to be. It took me three tries to get it just right.
  2. Pin your template on to your foundation felt and cut around the outside.
  3. Now it’s time to prep and design. Start with the face features first: eyes, nose, and mouth. Use your other colored felt sheets to cut out your design shapes. You can search online for sugar skull design ideas.
  4. Once your have your basic face shapes cut out, lay them on your foundation piece to get an idea of proper placement and then let your creative juices flow. What colors do you want to use? What style? Male or female? How will you use the mask? I cut out many shapes in different colors, but I also incorporated strands of roving, and little bits of batting. Try different design ideas – not all will make it to the final stage, but you might find something new and interesting by playing around with different colors, shapes, and textures. NOTE: If you are planning on wearing the Sugar Skull mask, please remember that you will have to cut holes in the appropriate areas on your foundation piece, background cut-out, and eye pieces.
  5. If you’d like to decorate any of your smaller cut-outs, do so now, before attaching them to your skull. For example, I needle felted flowers on the eyes before stitching them onto the mask.
  6. Remove any pieces you have laying on your felt. If you’re doing a skull border, attach that first. Then, pin your background pieces (for your eyes, mouth, etc) in place and felt or stitch them down. Secure your next layer in place: eyes, nose, and mouth. Lastly, add your details and decorations using needle felting, hand embroidery, or hand stitching to finish up your design. For my Sugar Skull mask, I used a basic whipstitch around the eyes, blanket stitch around a heart design, and added a few french knots near the top.
  7. Finally, cut a 24″ piece of ribbon and knot it at one end. Thread it on a sharp embroidery needle, and run it (from front to back) through one side of your felted mask and then through the other side (from back to front). Knot the other end. Now that your ribbon is securely attached to your mask (for wearing), pull the ribbon taut in the back and cut it right in the center. Now it’s adjustable! Just tie a bow to attach around your head.

When you’re satisfied with your Sugar Skull mask, stop and admire your beautiful handiwork! If you’re like me, this won’t be your last Sugar Skull craft project. Thank you so much for visiting us today. I truly hope this project was as fun and inspiring as it was for me.

Now I have sugar skull ornaments dancing in my head…..

If you’d like to learn more about Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), please watch this video: “Understanding Mexicans” Día de los Muertos. It’s part of this man’s culture, and he explains it so well, and in such detail. 

About Rachel

Rachel grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where much of her inspiration comes from. Crafting and crocheting has always been a part of her life, and she can't imagine a life without it.

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