Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What I Made Wednesday {A Harry Potter Birthday Party: Setting the Scene}

Party ambiance is crucial to a successful party. Besides fun, we had one goal in mind for this birthday party celebration for our son. We wanted to take the kids into the world of Harry Potter. We wanted to surround them and immerse them into the world they have read about and seen on the big screen. Every birthday celebrated at our home has been about giving the kids more than a party, but rather an experience. When our son turned double digits, we knew we wanted this to be the most memorable experience to date. This W.I.M. Wednesday Series began last week with the invitations, click here to get caught up.

Over the years Super Hubby and I have planned A.MAZE.ING birthday parties for our son. We really do make a great team. Super Hubby's strength lies in the imagination and creation part of the party. He comes up with the impossible. I hem and haw arguing his idea is way over the top and impossible to do. "Can't be done" is usually my first response. But, then I take his impossible suggestions and ideas, let it simmer in my brain for awhile, and find a way to make the impossible possible.

Building the framework.
The design was built in an "L" to separate the shops better.
So, when Super Hubby suggested we convert our garage into Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade I responded with "Can't be done" and just let it sit on my brain. I continued to let it brew, actually hoping this particular idea would just fade away, until Super Hubby and our son took down the 2 by 4's from the attic one weekend and started building the framework for the buildings. Shoot, they've started, the train has rolled out of the station and there's nothing to do but get on board and ride it out to the final destination. Secretly I was thinking how awesome it would be if we could pull it off, and awesome just doesn't describe the final result!

Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade
By change of sign, Ollivander's changes to Honeydukes.
By change of sign, Flourish & Blotts changes to Dervish & Banges
The idea was to start the party in Diagon Alley where the kids would pick-up their wands at Ollivander's and their cloaks, textbooks, and quills from Flourish & Blotts. In the middle of the garage we placed a round table where the guests could lounge at The Leaky Cauldron enjoying Pumpkin Juice and throwing magnetic darts for Pin the Tail on Dudley. These same stores would turn into HoneyDukes and Dervish & Banges by the end of the party while in Hogsmeade. The Leaky Cauldron turns into The Three Broomsticks where all partake in our special Butter Beer recipe (will share in a couple of weeks).

The areas were built as an "L" frame so one shop wouldn't interfere with another and we didn't need a wall in between. The key to making this work is to procure LOTS and LOTS of huge pieces of cardboard. Ask your local appliance house to save as many as they can for you, as they are happy to give it away. We got lucky and had one of my husband's clients give us HUGE pieces of cardboard (toy company that makes large outdoor playsets). This will take awhile to collect so get started early.

Using a sponge, make the "bricks" on one of the cardboard walls. For rocks, we cut up sponges in various shapes and sponged in black, brown, and tan. To make wood siding, I just painted lines in brown and made "v" notches every so often. Afterwards, I took the same brown paint and added some knots to make it look more like wood.

Dry ice in the cauldron - so eerie!
The roof was quite simple but required a lot of paint layering. Using a sponge, I started with the brown paint and stamped rectangular squares using a brick pattern. Then, I took the black paint and stamped over the brown, but in an opposite pattern, never directly on top of the brown.
Shoppe bells on doors.

Super Hubby staple gunned the cardboard to the 2 by 4 frame and used a utility knife to cut out the windows and doors. I painted the doors and added a kick plate from some left over scrapbook paper. Super Hubby attached real handles he found from Lord knows when and even installed a bell on the doors, just like a real shop! How cute is that?

Twinkle lights under the roof overhang added a great effect!
See how the "L" makes for a better design?
Look carefully, the sheet is covering all the Hondeydukes candy! Shhh!
At Ollivander's Wand Shoppe, Super Hubby rigged up a fan and lighting to a surge protector, foot at the switch. With each child who visited the shoppe, he went through the same dialogue as in the movie, "Ah, Mr. SoandSo, it seems like just yesterday your parents were in here buying their first wands." The wand boxes were behind Super Hubby and he'd choose one for the young wizard to try. Sadly, nothing would happen and "Mr. Ollivander" would take the wand, place it back in the box, and look a bit perplexed. Seeking another wand box from the shelf behind him, he wonders if this is the right wand. He asks the young wizard to, again, give it a whirl, this one being the ONE! When the wand selects its wizard, Super Hubby's foot hit the on switch and a fan would blow on the wizard and a beam of light would shine down. We should have taken video!

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Are Signs
There were A.LOT of signs we had to make to bring authenticity to this party. Thank goodness Super Hubby was a graphic designer in a past life. The nice thing about doing a Harry Potter party is all the resources you have available online. We didn't have to create the HoneyDukes sign, it already existed. That was the case for many signs, although Super Hubby had to create a few to avoid a pixelated printout. We used our laser color printer to print out all the color signs. To make signs larger, we either printed on Legal-sized paper, or we enlarged the image and printed different sections, one at a time, and layered the sheets on top of each other, aligning each sheet and merging the areas together.

Every time we printed a sign, we mounted the output to foam core to give the sign some rigidity. I hot-glued eye-hooks to the top of the sign and into the foam, and hung each sign from chain or backed with velcro tape.


For The Leaky Cauldron and The Three Broomsticks, I used an X-acto knife to cut-out the sillouette images and used a silver Sharpie marker for the wording. After this party, I love X-acto knives as much as I love my hot glue gun! Now that's saying a lot!!!!

And, of course, with the buildings doing double-duty, acting as Diagon Alley at the beginning of the party, and Hogsmeade by the end of the party, we didn't want anyone to get confused as to where they were so we made this standing sign, one side with Kings Cross/Diagon Alley, then turn it around for Hogwarts/Hogsmeade! The paint job is our son's handiwork! Click on the picture to get a closer look.

Shopping for their school supplies.

Getting Around Harry Potter Style
Upon arrival, the guests were greeted by Hagrid. The young wizards were to travel to Diagon Alley via Flue Powder; see the fireplace mantel? Hagrid held out a cauldron containing sawdust and party snaps. The kids threw down the powder and thanks to the Party Snaps, loud pops blasted when it hit the ground, and they emerged under the mantel, through the "brick" and into Diagon Alley.

For Platform 9-3/4, I handpainted the sign right onto the foam core and attached the eye hooks at the top, into the foam with hot glue and hung it from gold chain on our porch. Using a tension drapery rod, I hung the brick curtain and cut a slit down the middle so they could emerge in the foyer, welcomed to Hogwarts by Hagrid.
For the brick walls, I bought a twin sheet from a cheapie store and cut the sheet in half length-wise since I needed two brick walls, one for Platform 9-3/4 and for the mantel backdrop. I took a sponge and stamped with red paint the brick pattern. WARNING: the paint will seep through the sheet so make sure you stamp over a drop cloth. When I hung the sheets, I cut a slit down the middle as the opening for the kids to run through.

The Great Hall
We removed most of our living room furniture and brought up a long portable table. I set out my gold chargers and made it really look like the fancy feast in the movie (more on food and props in the coming weeks). We hung battery powered candlesticks from the ceiling with fishing wire and this gave a very cool effect!
The Hogwarts pennant was purchased from Amazon for about $13 but I handmade the other pennants. I printed out each house's crest, cut each out with my wonderful X-acto knife, and glued them on 8.5 x 11 sheets of felt after notching a "v" in each (fold in half lengthwise and cut diagonally). Then I just hot glued each pennant to a dowel along with some string and voila, house pennants complete for about $2!

The Dungeon
This area was in the unfinished side of our basement so it was perfect for the dungeon. This is where the kids painted their basilisks (more on class details later) and did their Potions and Elixirs class. For all the junk on the shelves, I just used cobweb material to help hide the stuff and give it more flair.

This will be discussed in detail in the Food section of this series, but the candy was already there, covered by a silver sheet. Remember, Ollivander's Wand Shoppe becomes Honeydukes by the end of the party! We collected jars from our neighbors, cleaned them, and labeled each with the Honeydukes logo! We used the same names for candy as in the books and movies!

The Quidditch Field
The Quidditch Field was in our own backyard. We made the boundaries out of bamboo sticks and used sheer fabric to make pennants, gluing each of the house crests and Hogwarts seal. The goals, or pitches, were so easy to make. We took hula hoops and placed them through a T-fitting PVC piping attachment (you'll have to separate the hula hoop to do this). To make it fit securely, we wedged toothpicks into the pipe for a tighter fit. Then, we took the T-fitting and attached it to a PVC straight tube. We notched the end to a point so it would go into the ground easier, and that's it!
The Players
I did not spend a dime on my costume as Professor McGonagall. My son was Robin Hood years ago so that's where my green cape came from. I had the black turtleneck, the skirt, and brooch. The hat was borrowed from my dear friend and I did sew in the feather, sorry, didn't mean to lie; I did pay $1 for the feather. The glasses are mine anyway. So, people say I made a good Professor McGonagall, minus the gray hair and wrinkles.

Super Hubby was Professor Dumbledore and his wizard costume was made by my dear mother and father. My mom is quite a talented seamstress, although she'd never admit to it. It's a team effort with my parents sewing, as my mom is in a wheelchair. If you know anything about a sewing machine, you'll know that it takes the foot to trigger the machine to stop and start. My dad was my mom's foot. She'd say go and stop and my dad would activate the foot pedal for my mom. Teamwork, I tell you, teamwork!!! The material was difficult to work with, but they did a great job on the costume. The hat was purchased through Amazon and the beard came from a party shop.
That's a regular-sized fridge!

The winning ticket goes to Hagrid, however!!! He's a long-time friend and he surprised us with his no-holds barred costume. Look at how tall the platform shoes made him. With those shoes, he even walked like Hagrid. Amazing, amazing and we'll never be able to thank him enough for his spirit in this party! Thank you, dear friend!


 That's it for this week. Catch you next week for Part 3!!!

This project featured at the Fine Art Craft Guild!


Jessica @ Stay at Home-ista said...

Oh my gosh! You are kidding me! I have to pick my jaw up off the floor. I'm pinning, facebooking, tweeting, this is just ah-mazing! Honestly, I couldn't possibly gush enough. OK, So I have to follow you to keep up and get all the details as you reveal them:)


Unknown said...

Super ridiculous amazing! My kids would love this party! Totally awesome!

Jessica @ Mom 4 Real

Christine @ First Home...Love Life said...

Wow!!! I thought I went overboard for my daughters birthdays, but this is just outstanding. I'm in awe!

The Thriftiness Miss said...

OMG this is simply amazing! Great job!

Anonymous said...

Lilly, I'm at a loss for words - you created a world. Did the kids cry when they had to go home? I would have been begging to stay. Did your son plead to keep your home HP world? Will you put everything back up for Christmas? Halloween? Absolutely incredible. I wish we were neighbors (I know I say this a lot, and it is all true).

xoxo michele

I am LOVD said...

Aww, you guys! All your sweetness and kindness is making us blush:-) Thanks for sharing your comments!

Jaime Lyn at Crafty Scrappy Happy said...

coolest party EVER. Ohhh my goodness! You PERFECTED this party and every singe detail. Ohhh friend.... GREAT JOB!!!! Can I come to the party next time :) ?!?!

annies home said...

how cool you all went out for a very special birthday that is so cool

Unknown said...

Wow that turned out so great. What a fun birthday.I'm a new follower from a blog hop, please follow me back at

Maria said...

Oh wow what an awesome party, it looks just magical! I love Harry Potter, and love how you recreated that world! Very creative!

Rose :: Fine Craft Guild .com said...

This is unreal! Amazing!!!! What can I say: some kids are lucky beyond imagination!

Debbiedoos said...

That is quite the party and scene. What talent! Thanks for sharing with the newbie party. Please add my link or button. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Wow what a wonderful party and a great way to make happy memories. too. Hopping over from the newbie party XO

Melissa @ Loving this {crazy} life! said...

Looks like you guys thought of everything. It's obvious a lot of love was put into this party and that the kids enjoyed every moment of it! Harry Potter is one of my favorites!

Thanks so much for linking up to our party! Hope you had a great weekend.


Gina said...

Wow...this is amazing! You've thought of everything. I have got to show this to my kids, they're going to love it!

Craftberry Bush said...

Wow Lil... What else can I say that hasn't already been said...? Amazing...xo

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this with us! Some really amazing features.
jenna marbles dog

Anonymous said...

I am planning a Harry Potter/Hogwarts Party for my son's 11th birthday in two years. I'm starting my research for those parents that have gone before. You have done exactly what I dreamed of doing! How beautiful your party is and so well crafted. I will be taking tips from your blog and incorporating it into my party. I think I'll even try my hand at building/painting etc. I'm so excited at reading your blog and seeing your photos. It is simply amaaaaaaazing! Thank you.
Mom in Caifornia

I am LOVD said...

Mom in Cali...good luck and know that you CAN do this!!!! Send me some pics from the party. I can't wait to see what you incorporate!!! and Happy Birthday to your son!

LOVD tidings,

Anonymous said...

I'm planning a Harry Potter Party as well, I hope you don't mind if I use some of your ideas. Anyway, I was wondering where you got the Three Broomsticks sign?


Back to TOP

Boutique Blog Design