Harry Potter Quilt – Part 1

Ever since I found Jennifer Ofenstein’s incredible Fandom In Stitches website I’ve been fascinated by the Project of Doom quilts created from the foundation paper-pieced patterns she has available for free, but I’ve always been way too intimidated by the prospect of even beginning one, let alone completing one. This year Rachel completed her fifth and final year of her general surgery residency and I wanted to commemorate it with something worthy of her amazing accomplishment. Since she is such a Potterhead, it seemed like the time. I knew it was now or never. One day I just decided, jumped in, and never looked back. It was not only a labor of love for her, but for my own admiration of the incredible works of J. K. Rowling. I was interrupted by a couple of illnesses, and in the end, didn’t finish the entire quilt in time to present it to her the way I had imagined — completely quilted and ready to be used or displayed — but the top was complete and hence this is only Part 1 of the project.

It was a daunting task. The planning stage was much longer than any quilt I’ve ever made. I first had to decide which of the blocks I wanted to put into the quilt, as there are so many choices and far more blocks than spaces on a quilt. Some of those choices changed as I progressed; ones I originally selected were removed and others put in instead, but most of my original picks wound up in the quilt. Then there were the books. As this is a bookcase quilt there were lots of books. I planned on using my embroidery machine to embroider titles on all of the volumes on the shelves, except for some that had too much piecing to put a title on. I also wanted it authentic, with titles being books actually referenced in the text of the 7 volume collection. I wound up with several Excel spreadsheets defining each block, its place in the quilt and what book titles would be embroidered in each block. There was the added complexity of making sure some of the longer titles were placed on the larger books, and creating an embroidery file for most of the titles. There are some extremely creative people out there on the web and I found some great embroidery files for many of the titles at TheBoredZombie.com.  I found a few others here and there, but most of them I created with my embroidery software.

Finally, the fabric selection. Yikes, that was both fun and horrifying. I knew I wanted the outer background representing the wall behind the bookshelf to look like a stone wall, such as you might find at Hogwarts. I chose a medium gray grunge for that, giving me the texture and color variation I wanted. I found a great quilting design that looks like stone wall and planned on quilting that outer part with that.

For the interior background, which would represent the inside back of the bookshelf, and would be the background for every interior block, I wanted something on the light side and with a little texture. I found a linen-looking cross-hatched fabric in a ivory/beige. Although it looks fine, I would probably choose a little cooler beige next time, and possibly a little darker. But it worked well; I like the texture.

I wanted the bookshelf itself to look like dark wood, and found a patterned brown I thought I liked. But after completing a row or two of blocks, I decided there was enough going on in the blocks that a pattern in the shelves was way too much – so I went shopping for a nice brown solid. Not as easy as I thought. Some were too orange, some too red, some too light. Ugh. Finally I found a nice medium dark brown solid that looked good with the yellow tones of my shelf background and seemed right.

For all the books and artifacts in the bookshelf I hit my stash and also had good time buying small quantities of some fun fabrics at my local fabric warehouse. I’m not much on gilded fabrics in general, but it seemed right for old books in a castle. I also found some special prints that seemed perfect for some of the titles, and bought a ton of small pieces of solid colors. Mostly though, the fabrics are from my stash.

Most of the patterns on Fandom In Stitches are assessed by the creator of the pattern with 1-5 broomsticks indicating easy (1) to very difficult (5). Since I had only done a little paper piecing previously, I didn’t create the blocks in the order they appear on the quilt (which changed later anyway), but started with the easiest and worked my way through the blocks based on difficulty. That was the best decision I made. As I became more proficient the designs got more difficult and I felt ready for the challenge. Some of the really difficult ones would have been disasters if I made them earlier. Furthermore, as I got better I got more adventurous and started getting creative by combining patterns, changing them in some ways, and even re-sizing some. In a project of this size there are bound to be some ill-advised decisions and just plain mistakes. One came after one of my adventurous re-designs. I had changed the size of a block by printing the pattern at 80% instead of 100% (all the patterns are pdf files and pdf readers allow scaling of the printout). I didn’t realize my pdf software remembered the last scaling used, so the next block I made, the Gryffindor crest, got printed at 80%. Instead of a 5″ crest, I made a 4″ crest. I didn’t realize it until it was time to piece the entire block together, when I found it didn’t work! 

Gryffindor crests: 4″ and 5″

I had the foresight to make sure I took a closeup photo of each block as I completed it.

Here are the blocks in the order I made them (sort of):

Finally the top was done and I have to say it’s a great sense of accomplishment. Rachel has seen it and loves it.

Now I’m thoroughly intimidated by the prospect of quilting it, so I’m thinking that through. I originally planned to do the wall in a stone theme and do just a simple crosshatch or something similar on the entire interior of the bookcase, but now that it’s done it seems to by crying for some custom quilting. I have a lot of learning to do. That will be Harry Potter Quilt Part 2.

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