Updated: May 30
Tori mcElwain from The Quilt Patch by Tori
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Potterheads unite! How are quilting and Harry Potter related? Here's what I think.
Me, Tori, at a quilting retreat circa 2019
I am a Pure Blood Gryffindor.
I've read the series multiple times, watched all the movies, and attended midnight premiers of the books and movies (are those still a thing?). I've explored Harry Potter World, pretended to cast spells on my dog and, admittedly, my child. I have cosplayed, and was even able to see The Cursed Child in person (eeek! SO much better than just reading it! I still have large complaints about Ron, but I digress). I've introduced this magical world to my husband and found that I married a Slytherin (can you believe that?!). I haven't had the time to get too far into Pottermore, having a kid and a business will do that, but it's on my "some day" list!
I love this beautiful, magical world that J.K. Rowling created and I also love quilting.
It's another passion, but also my business. One day, I found myself (dressed in a Gryffindor shirt and matching baseball cap) musing on how Harry Potter and quilting are similar.
Here are a few of my favorite connections! Let me know if you have any more!
1. Find wonder in everyday life.
To be creative is to be human.
Harry wandering around Diagon Alley when he is 11 years old and experiencing the magical world for the first time always fills me with a childlike wonder. Seeing things with a fresh perspective can bring forward so many wonderful, creative thoughts and ideas. As a creative, making time for new experiences helps get the creative juices flowing.
You can take trips and visit cultural and artistic places, but you can also create new experiences for yourself in everyday life by trying something new every day.
Drive a different way home from the office. Order something new for lunch. Take a short walk around the block when the weather is good. Then observe. Let your brain just take in the world around you using the 5 senses and feel free to wonder at the little things. It can brighten your world, and give your brain fodder for those times when you can sit down and create!
2. Be Brave.
It's only fabric and thread.
In the Triwizard Tournament, all 4 contestants had to face their fears and risk their safety (and their lives! I wouldn't want to steal an egg from a mother dragon!). If a bunch of fictional teenagers can do that, you can play with FMQ (free motion quilting) or try a new binding technique. After all, it's only fabric and thread! Whatever doesn't come out great, still makes a great learning experience!
3. Try, Try, Try Again!
Neville. Do I need to say more?
He is one of my favorite book characters! Just like Neville and magic, quilting did not come easy for me. Neville worked hard to be adequate at magic, he worked hard to be brave, and by the end of the series he was leading an army of students and came face to face with Voldemort in the Battle of Hogwarts. Not to digress too far, but I just want to add that Neville was the turning point.
Anyway... I won't be going into battle (I'll leave that to my husband, who's an Active Duty Serviceman, but trying something new and difficult is intimidating. Especially when it doesn't come easy. I loved fabric and modern quilts, so I kept trying. As with any task or new skill, quilting gets better with every quilt you make! You find your rhythm and make wonderful creations!
4. Some things may come natural, others through practice.
"The Boy Who Lived" was thought to be amazingly powerful. How else could he have beaten the Dark Lord as a baby? Well, he wasn't. He was good, but not amazingly powerful.
He had a natural skill as a flyer, and he was an amazing seeker, but he had to work at magic and practice to be good at it.
Quilting is very similar. I teach quilting and my two favorite things to teach are Color and Free Motion Quilting (FMQ). In both classes, my students tend to have a natural ability with a particular skill but struggle with another. For example, quilters tend to be good at one of two motifs when they begin FMQ, loops OR meander. My advice is to perfect the one that feels more natural and the other will come. With Color, students tend to stick with color palettes that are made up of either cool or warm colors. They look great! However, they tend to be better at identifying and mixing the colors they don't like rather than the colors they do! With practice, these skills become much easier.
5. We Create Magic!
Yes, as quilters we take perfectly good fabric, chop it up and put it back together, but look at what we create!
Quilts are the only expression of love (see 6 below) and art that we can wrap around ourselves for decades. We can surround ourselves with colors and designs that make us feel safe or even excited and empowered! They can match our personal preferences beautifully. They can comfort us when we are sick. Quilts can keep our loved ones close and our memories of them alive. They can be a creative expression of values or thoughts that lay heavily on our hearts. They give us a voice to express what we can't with words.
They can last a lifetime and even out-live us.
Plus they are SO snuggly! And warm! Pure Fabric Magic.
6. Love and friendship are the most important part!
Who do you make your quilts for?
In my interview series Coffee Chats with Quilters (on YouTube - link below) I ask my interviewees this question. Their answers always start with others. A friend had a baby, a relative passed and they wanted to celebrate their life with a memory quilt, or they wanted to make something for someone special and a quilt sounded perfect! We love creating for others. We also love to create for self-love! Artistic expression is a beautiful way to celebrate things that we love and are inspired by.
Harry survives against Voldemort because of love. It's a bit cheesy, but there it is. The Dark Lord was defeated by love. When Voldemort tries to possess Harry, remembering the love of those around him (his father, mother, friends, and friends who are family) saves him. Wanting to protect their friends and family is what motivated the Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore's Army to rise and ultimately defeat the Dark Lord and his minions.
Similarly, quilting revolves around love and friendship; creating for others or creating for self-love (artistic expression).
When COVID hit in March 2020, do you remember what the quilting community did? We did what we do best, we sewed. The quilting community rallied and put their skills to use to save others and slow the spread. Our beautiful quilting cottons were turned into beautiful masks, scrub caps, gowns, and other PPE. I personally made 998 masks and used around 30 yards of fabric. Those quilters who couldn't sew or didn't have the time donated bolts and bolts of fabric. The country needed our good fabric and we showed up. Other quilters continued to quilt, and donated those quilts to comfort others who lost loved ones to the pandemic. It's a beautiful example of love and friendship.
7. Books Can Only Take You So Far
Hermione vs Harry in Slughorn's Potions class.
The class was given an assignment to create a complicated potion. Hermione stuck to the book. Harry, having a second hand book filled with notes from a previous owner, decided to take the advice they had written in the margins. Hermione, frazzled and frustrated, finished with a less than perfect potion (to her ultimate frustration) and Harry finished with a perfect sample.
SPOILER ALERT - Those handwritten notes were Professor Snape's from decades before this scene. Notes made through experience, and a passion and gift for potions.
Just like with Potions, quilting books can give you great foundations and visuals, but experience and making mistakes are the best way to learn.
Want to perfect that 1/4 inch seam? You have to make a TON of 1/4 inch seams to find just the right spot on your machine, to find where you feel comfortable placing your hands, or how to guide the fabric through the machine. Want to bind a quilt by hand? Make a large quilt and get to stitching! I bet by the time you get it done you will be an expert (or nearly!) on the hidden stitch.
8. Don't Let the Dark Side Win
WIPs (works in progress) -- Those are my Dementors. Unfinished projects drain the life from me. They sit on my mind and mock me until I either stuff my face with chocolate (enter: peanut M&Ms) and ignore them, or remember something a quilty mentor of mine told me. She gave me permission to let them go.
Now I pass this on to you; don't let the WIPS get you down. If they don't spark your creativity anymore, accept them as stepping stones and let them go. Use WIPs for FMQ practice by testing out a new technique, chop it up for improv, or use it for tension checks! These may be better uses than "powering through" or just getting it over with. Don't let those Dementors get you down! Quilting is not your job, it's your hobby and should be enjoyed!
9. A Physical Patronus
Much like a Patronus Charm, a creative outlet can shield you from darkness (or at least distract you for a time and let you gather yourself.) Quilting can bring happiness through being creative. Couple that with being able to wrap up in a homemade quilt made with love, soft fabric, and beautiful colors, and you have a fabric Patronus!
If you have any more connections, comment below!
This was so fun to write! I am not a professional writer, I write how I speak (or close to it) and I wanted to thank you for sticking with me to the end! Cheers!
If you struggle with designing Quilting motifs or choosing fabric for your quilt, I would like to invite you to my next Quilting Design or Color Confidence for Quilters Workshop! See future workshops here!
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