Ok, I’m gonna be real honest. I have a post about the quilting of the pinwheel quilt almost ready to post. But Alan Rickman. Can we just sob all weekend and watch HP and Sense and Sensibility and everything else? (My husband is insisting Die Hard is on the list.)
So today, I bring to you another pieced quilt top, the story behind it, and my musings over how it should be quilted and finished. Suggestions welcome because at this point, it’s been 14 years in the making and it’s still not done.
Way back in 2001, a Harry Potter fabric collection was released. Thank my lucky stars that I wasn’t as restrained with my fabric buying back then, and I got a few different cuts. Because for some bizarre reason, it was never rereleased. And all of us that have pieces are now clutching them tightly wondering what project is worth using up our limited edition fabric.
I had a “cheater panel,” a large printed panel that companies release for people to use to make quick blankets for kids or what have you. But I knew I wanted a full size quilt. My grandma Betty, who was a truly exceptional quilter, helped me pick out a traditional strip pieced diamond border pattern to edge the panel. We decided the Hogwarts crest cheater squares would be great in the corners. I could use some of my printed fabric to run the distance between the corners or some sparkly dark blue like the night sky and appliqué some of the tiny flying Harrys from the small cut of fabric I had.
I bought solid red, yellow, light, and dark blue for the diamond and the sashing. The diamonds were quick work; you cut long strips, sew them together, cut on the diagonal, and reassemble. So perfect. And I used tiny sashed squares of the crests from the allover print in the corners of the diamond border. So far so good. Then, as happens, life got in the way and it was pushed aside. I didn’t have enough of anything to run all four open spaces between the outer crests, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do about it. There was no more fabric available, and so it just sat. In a bin. For years.
Then the book series finished. And the movie series was coming to a close. And FFS, I wanted this done in time to celebrate it with the other HP nerds out there. I did a little Googling to see what other people had done with their center panels (mostly backed with fleece, and I will come to your house and slap you if you’ve desecrated this fabric that way). And I found Jennifer Ofenstein and her amazing paper pieced patterns.
I had never paper pieced before, but these patterns were amazing. Like cartoons in fabric. More like drawings than like quilt blocks. And she has them all on her website FOR FREE. Just for all the other sentimental fools who desire to quilt their love of all things nerdy. Paper piecing is done so backwards, you really have to watch five Youtube videos and do one yourself to understand it. I’ve linked Jennifer’s resource page, because she is a master. It’s messy, it’s wasteful, it’s confusing as you work backwards, and it gives you such glorious things you’d never be able to accomplish otherwise.
You take a pattern, cut fabric to fit the shape of the area you wish to cover, line it up so only a seam allowance extends into the space, sew on the lines through the paper, fold it over to cover the space, and press. And you keep stitching the next piece on top of the next piece, working in a numbered fashion, until you’ve covered every numbered area with fabric. If you’ve picked a pattern with different sections or letters, you assemble each section and then sew them together in letter order with a traditional 1/4″ seam allowance. Trim around the outside, true it up, and then you rip all the fabric away from every stitch and are left with your block. I didn’t take any process shots sadly, and the process takes way too long to do one before I post, but trust me. Such a cool process and freeing from having to always be accurate in your measurements and exact seam allowance.
Riddle’s diary from Chamber of Secrets, the whomping willow from Prisoner of Azkaban, and Voldemort’s eyes from his return in Goblet of Fire.
I selected a pattern to represent each of the books 2-7, assuming that Harry himself as the center serves as Book 1. I even emailed Jennifer and ask for the pattern for Godric Griffindor’s sword, as I saw it in her Flickr album but not posted as a pattern (turns out she hadn’t proofed it yet). I did have to take the patterns to Kinkos and have them scaled up to the measurements I needed to fit in the borders. The original patterns are scaled for 5″, and mine are 17″. And good lord, anyone that makes them finish at 5″ deserves a medal because those get to be some seriously small pieces. It took months to finish all the piecing and set it all in sashing, and I knew I would need to do some embroidery on the machine or by hand to embellish the blocks as I had pictured in my brain. Like the titles on the bottles to represent the potions in first lesson Slughorn teaches in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (you know, the Amortentia, Veritaserum, and Felix Felicis). The name on Riddle’s diary in Chamber of Secrets. The signatures on the scroll for Dumbledore’s Army in Order of the Phoenix.
The scroll from Dumbledore’s Army in Order of the Phoenix, the potion bottles and textbook from The Half-Blood Prince, and the sword of Godric Griffindor from Deathly Hallows.
The blocks filled the vertical spaces on either side of the main panel, but I didn’t have a fabric chosen to fill in the spaces on the top and bottom. And then it came to me. They would just be dark blue. And inside them, I would somehow work out via embroidery or quilting the wording of the prophecy in metallic thread like the night sky. Complete with a paper pieced, oldey-timey-book-worthy capital letter block in the HP font to start it off. I set in the two plain areas and it was done.
I wore it like a cape to the midnight premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 2 with my fellow HP girls. We brought along a permanent fabric pen and had the other people in our row sign the Dumbledore’s Army scroll block as the character of their choice. We all watched the final movie under the finished top, went home, and back into the project box it went.
Every now and then I get a jones on to quilt it, and I can never figure out how best to do it. An allover stipple doesn’t seem right. Nor does anything too traditional and planned. I could spread it out and fussy quilt around the characters and the crests, and use stitching as a second way of drawing on the paper pieced blocks to add texture and depth, but seriously how much work is that? So back into the box it goes. I did buy special metallic quilting thread to do the prophecy, along with a large eyed topstitching needle so the thread won’t snap, as is common with metallics. And I think I have figured out to type the text in sized box on photoshop, print it on a transparency, and rent an overhead projector like it’s 1994 so I can tape the quilt to the wall and trace out the lettering exactly as I want it. But after my quilting experiments with the pinwheel quilt, I’m not sure I trust myself to be that accurate with my stitching, and I may have to stem stitch the whole thing with an embroidery needle. By hand. Yeesh.
So what would you do? Send it out to have a professional do it? Just put it together with an easy stitch so it’s done? Forge ahead the fussy way and spend a year getting it just right? I’m open. I’ve been mulling it for years now. But I think this might be the year to get it done so I can use it. Because what 36 year old doesn’t want to sleep under a full king sized Harry Potter quilt?
If anyone needs me this weekend, I’ll just be hanging in my jammie pants curled up under the quilt top introducing my kids to the HP movies. Rest in peace Alan Rickman. You’ll be missed. Always.
Love from Wisco,