Jack-o-lanterns, ‘guising, apple bobbing and trick or treating are all recognisable as Halloween celebrations, and conjure up excitement and nostalgia for this time of year – crisp cold evenings and autumn leaves; bonfire night followed quickly by Christmas...the start of the cosy season! For me, that means being snuggled up on the sofa with a blanket and a cuppa, a crackling fire and a cat on my lap.
But this November marks a whole year without our beloved ginger cat Henry, whose sudden loss has had a lasting effect on the Distracted household. A mishap when we first got her lead to us thinking she was a boy for the first six months of her life, hence the name Henry, but she was such a loving cat - always pleased to see you, always wanting to sit as close to your face as she could to the point it was comedic. The anniversary closely coincides with Halloween, so I decided I would make a t-shirt to honour our own beloved departed.
Since my birthday at the end of September, I have become the proud owner of a Cricut Explore Air 2 (thanks to Mr Distracted rallying family and friends). This allows me to, amongst other things, cut my own t shirt designs onto heat transfer vinyl (HTV). The design software is quite limited, offering a selection of free and purchasable images and designs that you can adapt, however it’s also possible to upload vector files from AutoCAD – which in layman’s terms means I can create anything I want! Mwahhahaha (echo-y Halloween laugh).
But where to start…
It seems the customs involved in Halloween celebrations have a complicated and mixed background. In the UK Halloween is most likely to have originated as a Pagan festival to mark the end of summer and the start of winter, to draw attention away from the colder, shorter days that would follow. Combined with the traditional folklore that surrounds most festivals, usually designed to frighten children into good behaviour, Halloween is particularly linked with warding off supernatural beings and evil spirits, and the costumes and decorations are centred around this theme – think witches and vampires and skeletons. It’s a time to be spooked!
But that isn’t the case in every country. In Mexico the full three days of All Hallow Tide is celebrated; All Hallows Eve (Halloween), All Saints Day and All Souls Day (The Day of the Dead). Death is embraced as part of life and It is believed that the spirits of the dead return to spend time with the living. Offerings are made to them such as food and drink, and pillows so they can rest after their long journey.
Costumes and decorations celebrating the Day of the Dead are colourful and lively. Sugar skulls are part of these offerings and have become iconic to the identity of the festival. These traditional calaveras (skulls) are made from cane sugar or clay and are colourfully decorated with icing, beads and feathers before being left out for the returning spirits.
The positivity surrounding the Mexican traditions and their appealing decorations made me settle on designing a cat calavera to adorn my t-shirt and celebrate Henry. Drawing the design was quite easy and enjoyable. I used the Cricut iron on metallic foil vinyl in ‘lemon grass’ (which is just a fancy pants name for a yellowish green).
I cut Version 3 of the Emmeline t-shirt pattern by the Little Tailoress, and made it up in black cotton jersey (it is Halloween after all), an easy sew now that I know how to handle jersey! I have made the Emmeline Version 1 in cotton a couple of times, so I had the pattern already printed - but I didn’t think to size down to sew it in jersey so of course it was quite big across the shoulders and neckline! I ended up taking a couple of centimetres off the shoulder seam so that it wasn’t too loose around the chest and arm hole, and actually I quite like the shape of the finished garment.
This was my first attempt at an iron on transfer; it took 20 minutes to cut, weed (remove the bits you don’t want) and iron onto the t shirt. It looks A-MAZ-ING, but the metallic effect was really difficult to photograph without a hint of a supernatural glow! A fitting tribute to our lovely absent cat, and I shall wear my offering with pride this Halloween!