Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween DIY: Harry Potter Great Hall Floating Candles

Tomorrow is Halloween... and I am pumped!

Definitely my favourite holiday of the year, especially the magical, fun and joyful feeling in the air!

This year, finally, we will have at least some trick or treaters and I began to get excited for Halloween in early September. Crazy? Well, thank goodness I got an early start because my favourite decoration this year actually took that long to create.

While looking on Pinterest I decided that I would create something magical, something fantastical for our house and carefully save it in a special "Halloween Box" now that we have a basement. I saw a pin for Harry Potter's Great Hall with floating candles and drooled a little. The link was to a blog post where the author posted pictures of her friend's Great Hall with the description of: "painted sky, painted toilet paper rolls and LED lights". I can totally do that!

Ahem. Right. So... it turns out that the author's friend was holding out- cuz logistically that was some complicated crafting right there.

But guess what? I TOTALLY did it. And... today won the "Nightmare on Mainstreet" CBC spooktacular decoration award! Yay!

I thought perhaps I'd share a tutorial for how the eff I managed to make a Harry Potter floating candle Great Hall- for all you peeps planning for next year!

Harry Potter Great Hall Tutorial:

(sky in the final stages, pre-stars)
1. Making the sky
I really wanted my sky to be gorgeously ethereal and dark with swirls of galaxies and such. Taking an old hemp shower curtain, lining the floor with flattened cardboard boxes underneath, I used water based paints and have at 'er. It took 4-5 one to two hour sessions before I was able to complete it. One afternoon in September I painted outside on the deck as it was so gorgeous out. I painted during the entire three weeks of my death cold. I used the back of the paintbrush to dot out the stars.

In the end, I was pretty pleased with the result. It wasn't AS magical as I would have liked, but it would do (the lack of blue paint really restricted me...).
(Sky with the beginnings of the stars, almost done!)

2. Making the candles
I knew I needed different sized candles, and since we're a no-papertowel family, I had to beg friends to save their paper towel rolls for me. Which yielded 4 paper towels (I was thankful they didn't waste papertowel just for my Great Hall). I also had to paint the candles in stages as I used up toilet paper. Each candle was painted an off white and had to dry.

In the end, 4 paper towel rolls wasn't enough so I taped together three duos of toilet paper rolls and instead of painting glue gunned paper to cover up the seams. I also then had to cut down the paper towel rolls as they just looked weirdly long in comparison to the toilet paper.

All along, as candles dried I was glue gunning LED tea lights to the inside of the toilet paper rolls. This happened over the course of weeks (we needed a lot of toilet paper rolls). I soon realized that the toilet paper was not the same size circumference as the tea lights, which meant there was a gap along one side. Which meant the candles were lopsided in weight. This was important when it came to the logistics of hanging the candles.

3. Attaching the candles to the sky
Closer to Halloween my friends were asking how I was going to hang the candles. Good question. I had this vague idea that I would attach them individually to the sky using white thread. But... this would have been a nightmare of accurately measuring the string and there was no way I was tacking on a zillion thumbtacks into our ceiling.

My friend Heather suggested I "sew" the candles in a loop through the sky, attaching both ends to the candle. Brilliant.

Except... when it came time to actually sew the candles I quickly realized it was going to take HOURS. And it did.
(Candles, sewn and placed!)

First I placed all the candles approximately where I wanted them on the sky (which was on the floor) in a sort of "dry run". Then I took a piece of cardboard and held it up to the ceiling to decide where i wanted the candle bottoms to be. I then put both the toilet paper rolls and the paper towel rolls against the bottom of the cardboard to give me guidelines for measuring the string (shorter string for the paper towel and longer for the toilet paper so the bottoms of all the candles were about at the same height).

Then, using a needle, I thread white string through one side, tied it together with the end, thread it through the sky at about two finger lengths "stitch" (the width of the toilet paper) and back down. This is where it got really tricky since I couldn't just attach it directly across from the first knot since the weight wasn't evenly distributed. That meant I had to guestimate how much I should off shoot the second tie, test run it by holding both strings up, and re-poke another hole if it was lopsided and try again. I then double checked the length against my cardboard measurement before tying it off.

I did this for 21 candles. Thank goodness my friend Heather was there- she did all 7 larger candles. Three hours later we were ready to hang the sucker.

4. Attaching the sky to the ceiling
(in the light of day... a miracle they are still up two days later)

I had no idea why I thought it would be a piece of cake to hang this monstrosity up. With 28 candles, it was no longer simply some fabric, but a heavier Great Hall. Since thumb tacks and nails were out of the question, my friend Diana suggested the heavy duty picture hanging velcro. A trip to Home Depot and we were set (I thought).

Except, that stuff doesn't stick to fabric. As we stood there, four of us, each holding a corner while the candles dangled precariously within our cats' reach, I honestly thought we we'd have to sew each velcro on individually. After three hours of sewing I was ready to give up.

"Do you have a stapler?" BEST SUGGESTION EVER

We stapled the suckers to the fabric.

We then set up the ladder and stuck the velcro up one corner at a time along with some velcro in the middle to decrease sagging. We conceded in the end TWO thumbtacks.

Amazingly, the whole thing has stayed up since Tuesday night.

5. Turning on each light
While gluing the LED lights I realized... how the heck was I going to reach under to turn them on? My fly by the seat of my pants plan? Using some sort of utensil to lever them from underneath. Thankfully Andrew has long fingers so he is able to turn on all the toilet paper sized candles and with some finagling a butter knife works for the longer candles. AND because they are looped through the sky, if they are easily adjustable to be made straight!

6. The end result: RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME.
Ok, so yes it was a phenomenal amount of work. I'd say close to 20hrs worth. But. It just looks so darn cool when it's all lit up. Honestly, these pictures do not even come close to how magical it looks. Was it worth it? Oh yes.

Carefully into the Halloween Box it will go so next year the work:awesome ration will be significantly less...

Happy Halloween!!


  1. AMAZING! Just like at the "real" Hogwarts.

  2. I was thrilled to hear your interview on CBC. We were actually in the tantallon area and if I could have found your house.....

  3. I actually have a projecter that places images of the sky with swirls and stars on my ceiling and will use it instead of making the sky.. it does look amazing though..;)


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