Monday, December 26, 2016

It Was a Harry Potter Christmas

Recognizing that college students are stressed out during finals week, we have tried to give them a bit of fun in the midst of their all night studying. Last year we created a whole Star Wars theme display with movies running, snacks, crafts, and I got into it by making a set of costumes and characters as posted on A Star Wars Christmas. This year we decided on Harry Potter since there was a new movie coming out and this was a theme our students could relate to having grown up with the books and movies. Once again I got to dress up the dress forms, create a character from scratch, and even entered the world of mannequins.

Harry Potter in the library
So how does all of this start? With a committee, of course. We all put in our ideas and how each could be executed such as floating candles, broomsticks, snitches, finding which house you belong to, and representing the characters themselves. At that point they all turn to look at me so I got busy with images and fabric.

Dressing up the two female dress forms was easy, thinking Hermoine and Dumbledore but couldn't figure out how to make Harry. I needed a mannequin so I was on the hunt. I found a great one but it was in Illinois. Who do I know in Illinois? My sister Sue lives there and, wouldn't you know it, it was right in her hometown, or at least in easy driving distance. They were coming up to Minnesota for a wedding soon and would bring him along. He was big, at least a strapping six foot model of a man so while we were excited to find him it was not going to be Harry. Dumbledore was the next choice but we knew he was quite a bit wider than our slim mannequin but we would just have to face this later.

Most of my adventures these days start with the outlet and thrift stores so I hit them hard over the next month and got Harry's costume of corduroy pants, white shirt, and gray v-neck sweater.  A co-worker donated a graduation gown. Hermoine only needed a white shirt with a gray sweater and skirt. No one wears wool pleated skirts anymore so I made my own with a piece of heavy weight gray knit complete with a zipper and waistband but skipping an actual hem. Both characters needed to reflect their house colors so I added stripes around their sweater necklines with ribbon. Harry got the addition of the dark red wool neckline around his robe plus a tie donated by our library director that was amazingly close to the ones worn in the movies. Both characters needed their house patch and we sent away for them and I brought my Elna Stella to work the day before Thanksgiving to sew on the patches:
Meet Harry Potter

and his friend Hermoine Granger
In the meantime, I get to work on Dumbledore who has arrived from Illinois and is huge:
My new six foot friend as he relaxes on the kitchen table
He came with a pair of black jeans and, I kid you not, black underwear, too. At least he won't be cold. Looking through my patterns I find one for a bathrobe that is generic enough but what about fabric? I remember a huge navy blue damask tablecloth that I couldn't resist from a church sale so I get it out and go to town with it. Despite how big the tablecloth seems I use every last inch of it with barely enough left over for his tiny hat. Various trims get pulled out and I keep going back to images of Dumbledore's many robes. It can't look like a bathrobe so I add rope piping and deep cuffs.  Down each sleeve I get the idea to add decorative stitching using gold and silver thread. This is not always a success but I have some thread that came on bobbins so I give it a try for the top thread and use the "automatic" stitches on my Brother Select-o-Matic. I simply follow the patterns on the damask down each sleeve and try to get them to match but who cares? This isn't a contest and we are just trying to get it to look like a character. His hat gets added and I'm glad he has a small head. I bring all three characters to school early one morning at 6:30 before my yoga class so no one will see them. They get dragged up to the storage closet on the 4th floor where they will stay for several weeks:
My friends in hiding
Facial hair gets added to Dumbledore with the help of a Santa beard, using rubber cement that later just rubs off. Glasses are found, hands are added with a pair of gloves, and he does get black slippers so his feet don't stick out. Now we need to get a Dobby character.
Dobby as a poseable doll
I have a pattern for a child sized doll from a 1979 Simplicity pattern and made my changes from there. Really, I didn't have a clue:
I just cut it all out and started to sew, making the legs skinny with big knees, adding coat hanger wire, marbles in the feet for stability, boots, stuffing as the character looked, adding ears, pinching up eyebrows, sewing on a new nose, and making fingers instead of mitts for hands. He was done but didn't look like Dobby:

Mr. Clean version of Dobby
He still needed a tunic of sorts but, more than that, he needed to look dirty. He's made out of a polyester cotton and was just so clean looking but adding makeup to his face and ears wasn't enough. After reading articles about how they make actors clothing look like they have been in a fight or on the trail for months, I finally get out a container of dirt and just rub it into his neck, elbows, knees, face, and ears. Now he looks like Dobby:
Donated t-shirt for a tunic

Look closely and you can just see his dirty nose
When they are all together in the display everyone stops and says "Oh, it's Dumbledore!" "I just love it!" and one night someone even stopped to give a sock to Dobby, a bit of folklore from the books where Dobby can be free if he's given an item of clothing. Yes, they believe.
The library Harry Potter display
There were two display cases that held memorabilia donated by staff and others. We had just finished a one day office Christmas walk where one of the offices had a huge Harry Potter themed Christmas. We were in awe of how much they did and even borrowed their Hogwarts house banners for the week but all of the rest of our display and activities were our own creation. You just gotta love a job that lets you use your creative juices like this to energize staff and delight our students. Not exactly Christmas at Hogwarts, but the next best thing to it.

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