Grab a beverage and settle down whilst I tell you the thrilling tale of a school bag and an idea that grew and grew.
Do you ever have one of those ideas that takes on a life of its own and before you know it its well and truly got way beyond what you thought it would be; this is the story of one of those ideas.
Several months ago, somewhere around June, I happened to go into a brand new store opened by the UK retailer Primark as I had heard that they had a Harry Potter section and being a fan I was interested. It was very quiet in the store, so I was able to browse at leisure and whilst browsing I saw a black Hogwarts cotton bag and the idea hit me with the force of a speeding express train. That wouldn’t it be a lovely idea to buy one of these bags and a ‘few’ things to go in it for my wife and give it to her on 1st September.
At this stage I had no idea how deep a rabbit hole I was falling down and I happily parted with money for a bag, a planner, a blanket, a wand pencil and several other items; thinking what fun this would be.
My purchases smuggled into the house and hidden away I started to wonder how I could improve the surprize and I thought what better than a personalised Hogwarts acceptance letter, I think this might have been the point when the idea took on a life of its own and I started plummeting down the rabbit hole.
So, off I went to Google and started researching Hogwarts Acceptance Letters; happily, this is not as complicated as it might first appear, in fact you get quite a lot of options and this is where the problem starts. So I waded through many sites and many guides to creating the ‘perfect’ letter until I came across Robin’s at 10 Digit Design.
This man is a genius, he has done the research, created fonts, text and templates for you to download and a full set of instructions that allow you to create the perfect letter.
Other than creating the seals (which is another story) I followed Robin’s instructions and using his templates and fonts I was able to create a bespoke letter; there was a little tinkering as I do not have the same software as Robin but I can assure you it can be done using MS Word and basic image editing software.
The parchment paper you need for the letter and the envelope is generally available through places like Amazon but as I wanted to see it before I bought it I ended up at the Paperchase concession in Selfridges and I bought a pad of A4 parchment paper, I’m glad I did it this way as I got to see what I was buying and I would recommend doing it this way.
Then parchment paper in hand I printed the letters and envelopes and then after some very careful trimming with a very sharp knife and scoring to make the creases in the envelope (for this I recommend the EK Tools Bone Folder, but don’t worry it is plastic not bone), I was ready to assemble the letters.
As I had decided to use real wax and a seal, I took the precaution of making three letters and envelopes; this turned out to be one of my better decisions!
There’s two ways to go on the seal; firstly, you can follow the book and use the full Hogwarts crest and purple wax and for that I recommend spending the extra money and buying the official Noble Collection seal, the imitations are nowhere near as good.
Your second option is to use an ‘H’ seal as seen on the envelopes in the ‘Philosophers Stone’ and this is not readily available. Robin has instructions which show you how he made an ‘H’ seal and several other sites have instructions for making similar seals. However, if you are like me and not remotely talented when it comes to making things your only resort is to find someone who will make one for you, which is exactly what I did. I tracked down a design ‘inspired’ by the seals in the first film and sent it off to have a brass seal made.
Now a word of warning here whilst this all sounds good what you need to remember is a good custom-made seal is expensive because it is one-off piece of work. How little did I consider this when I said ‘Sure, send me quote, it’ll be fine’. I dutifully stumped up the pennies and my seal arrived a few days later and, I have to say, I’m glad I did it this way. Yes, it was expensive for a one-off seal that was only used for one job but the letter looked so good when it was finished it was worth every penny.
If it had stopped at one seal and a few sticks of wax that would have been fine but guess what, it didn’t, but more on that later.
So, you’re thinking what else what next; at this stage I was about a month into the project and I was thinking ‘Mmmm what next?’ and then it occurred to me that ‘Galleons’ were a good idea, but where to buy Galleons?
You can’t exactly drop in at Gringotts on the way to work and pick up a bag of Galleons so back to Google I went and Google took me via a circuitous route to Galleons page of Mr Goods Emporium at his Etsy store. I liked the look of them and ordered some (they are really good Galleons), however, my adventures in Etsy did not stop here……………
Along the way Google had shown me some of the delights of Etsy and I decided it was time to go back and do a little more exploring and that’s how I came across Kookie and Rookie. They have a wonderful store on Etsy selling all sorts of tempting things, so into my basket went Gryffindor quidditch socks, house pins and this is where things went a bit wonky. Attempting to make the purchases on my cell ‘phone app is where I somehow managed to turn one order into two orders and still leave duplicates in my basket.
Anyway, I wrote to Kookie and Rookie and Kat fixed everything and even offered to send me a refund for the excess postage I’d paid but as I had caused her so much bother, I didn’t think it was fair and I declined. A couple of days later a slim box arrived and I opened it and enclosed in a sheet of the Daily Prophet was my order and few other things including a Gryffindor Prefects badge and a really lovely set of Deathly Hallows earrings.
The customer service was outstanding and the quality everything Kat sent me was second to none; I really do recommend you pay them a visit next time you want something Harry Potter, I’m currently waiting for my house scarf.
By now the 1st September was closing in fast and I still felt there was room for a few last minute additions such as a train ticket, so you guessed it back to Google and this was quickly found, printed, trimmed and added to the letter which at this stage was in an A5 folder from Muji and this just didn’t seem enough.
So ‘borrowing’ Kookie and Rookie’s idea of using a sheet from the Daily Prophet to wrap things in I set off to find a printable sheet (completely forgetting I had one in the box from Kookie and Rookie). I found it, I printed it and I wrapped the letter and ticket in it and with one week to go decided this still wasn’t enough.
And this is where we pick up the story of the seals again; on the 23rd of August I decided that the A5 folder was lacking something; I had already gone to the trouble of ordering some Bank of England red sealing wax and a 5ml brass spoon from Custom Wax Seals (bye the way very good tools and wax and great people to deal with) to replace the small metal one I had that conducted heat a little too efficiently and had led to a minor conflagration when melting wax.
I decided that the folder need to be a little more ostentatious which translated to more seals, so with time running short I went to Amazon and just hoped that what I wanted was available on Prime and it was so the following day I took delivery of the official Hogwarts and Gryffindor seals from the Noble Collection so along with my ‘H’ seal I fired up the candle, melted some wax and applied all three seals to the cover of the folder.
On the 1st September, minutes before I was to give my wife the Hogwarts School Bag, I made a last-minute addition; I dropped in to the bag a set of Harry Potter potion bottle decorative lights (originally bought for Hallowe’en) and so I handed her a glowing bag.
That is the story of the Hogwarts School Bag, I hope you enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun with this project and if you are stuck for gift ideas at any point this might be the way to go.
Disclaimer: Everything purchased for the ‘Hogwarts School Bag Project’ was purchased with my own funds at retail price. The opinions expressed in this review are my own; and I am not connected with either the retailers or manufacturers in any way, I am just very grateful to everyone who contributed, in whatever way, to making this project possible.