I started carving pumpkins by myself when I was in middle school. I remember taking my time to get it just right and being so proud of my work. In 8th grade I entered a Jack-o-lantern contest at school and won! One of my teachers liked it so much he asked to bring it home. It was a carving of a cat's face. It took a while to complete but with a pattern and the right tools it wasn't all that hard to make. I let him take it and then I made another one for my house. :)
The pumpkin in the intro photo is a unicorn carving. My daughter was dressing up as a unicorn for Halloween and wanted our pumpkin to match. I guess it's a cross between a pegasus and a unicorn, since it has wings. ;)
Below you'll find tips, tools and patterns to help you carve your Jack-o-lantern. I hope this lens gives you some great ideas for Halloween.
Cat's Face Carving - My Jack O' Lantern for Halloween 2007
curated from my Flickr account
These were the two patterns mentioned above. The cat and the unicorn.
The pattern book that I use, and that I've had since my middle school days, is Carve-O-Lantern: A Unique Way to Carve Your Halloween Pumpkins produced by Pumpkin Ltd.
Time to Start!
The first three steps.
Step #1: Picking out your stencil.
If you want to create a detailed Jack O'Lantern you'll want to use a stencil. You can buy them, print out free stencils, or draw your own by hand or on your computer.
Step #2: Cutting the top of the pumpkin.
As you cut, angle the knife in toward the center of the pumpkin so the lid you are creating will have something to rest on. I cut in a circle but like to add a square notched "key" in the lid so it can always be put back in the right position.
Step #3: Cleaning out the pumpkin.
Remove all of the pulp from inside the pumpkin. Separate the seeds into a bowl if you want to roast pumpkin seeds. I love pumpkin seeds! Make sure to scrape the inside of the pumpkin as clean as you can. Wipe down the outside when you are finished.
Basic Carving Tools
You'll want pokers and a few different size mini saws if you are using a pattern to carve your pumpkin.
Looking for Free Patterns?
- Pumpkin Masters
Pumpkin Masters created the first pumpkin carving kit. Their site offers carving tips, free patterns, pumpkin recipes, contests and more.
- The Pumpkin Wizard
This site has over 500 patterns, 300 of them are free. They also have a bulletin board set up for people to ask questions and share ideas.
This site is devoted to the art of pumpkin carving. They have 100 Free patterns to choose from.
- Better Homes and Gardens
Free Printable Pumpkin Carving Stencils for Halloween - BHG.com
- Yes We Carve
Download, carve & share your Barack O' Lantern.
Step #4: Transferring the image onto the pumpkin.
Tape the stencil to the face of the pumpkin. Start at the top, then the bottom and end at the sides. You may have to fold the stencil a bit to get it to fit the shape of your pumpkin. That's ok just try to make the creases where the pattern will be the least effected.
Using a poker tool, follow around your pattern in 1/8th inch intervals by pressing the tip into the pumpkin. You are creating the guidelines to cut later with a saw. Make sure to mark every corner and use enough pressure to pierce the pumpkins skin. You'll need to be able to see the marks clearly so you know exactly where to cut. When you finish with the stencil carefully remove it so you can refer back to it if need be.
Kits from Disney
The final 3 steps
Step #5: Carving the Jack O'Lantern.
Start with the smallest shape that will be removed. Using a small carving saw, push the tip of the blade into the pumpkin and start following the dots. Use short back and forth sawing motions. Don't rush and pay close attention to corners. Gently push out the pieces you cut. Make sure the check the inside of the pumpkin when you are finished and clean out any pieces that have fallen in.
Step #6: Protecting the Jack O'Lantern.
When I'm done carving the pumpkin I coat all of the cut surfaces with petroleum jelly. I don't do the inside, but if you want to keep your Jack O'Lantern for a while it is best to coat the inside as well. This helps keep the pumpkin from drying out too soon. You don't want a shriveled up moldy pumpkin right away after all of your hard work!
Step #7: Mmm Mmm Good
If you have cinnamon handy sprinkle some on the underside of the lid. When the candle is lit and it warms up the pumpkin your jack-o'-lantern will smell like pumpkin pie.
Patterns for Sports Fans - NFL & MLB
Floating Pumpkin Carving Kit
Includes 1 scoop, 1 safety knife, and 1 pumpkin hanging system.
Books on the Subject
Sensational Shadows Pumpkin Pattern Book - From Pumpkin Masters
Includes 8 different pumpkin patterns with shadows.
A Fantasy Pumpkin - The Midnight Hour
This was originally posted on hallmarkmagazine.com which has since ceased publication.
What You'll Need:
1- 12" tall pumpkin
4- 4" tall gourds
4- ornate drawer pulls
3- ornate metal belt buckles
1- ornate lamp finial
2- 1/4" dowel rods (cut to the approx. diameter of your pumpkin)
Pencil or marker
Heavy-gauge florist's wire
Cordless drill fitted with 1/4" bit
1. Trace the inside of each belt buckle onto the pumpkin and cut to create openings for two windows and a door.
2. Glue the hardware over the openings.
3. Remove or cut down the stem until it's even with the flesh of the pumpkin, and twist the finial into the top.
4. Drill a hole through the center of each gourd.
5. Insert one dowel rod into the holes of two gourds to create an axle, and secure with glue. Repeat to create a second set of wheels.
6. Finish off all four wheels by inserting a drawer pull into the outside hole of each gourd for hubcaps.
7. Line up the two sets of wheels next to each other at about the same width as your pumpkin. Then wrap wire from one dowel rod to the other to fasten the axles together and to create a webbing for the pumpkin carriage to sit on.
8. Gently place your carriage on the wire.
For illustrated instructions take a look this Pumpkinhowto.pdf
Every year I look up how to cook pumpkin seeds on multiple websites and every one has something different to say. I haven't been able to find a sure fire way to roast them. I've seen varying temperatures to set the stove and varying lengths of time to leave them in.
This is what I used last year. If you have your own pumpkin roasting experiment let me know the results! I really want to find the perfect "recipe".
Ingredients: seeds from 1 pumpkin, 1 teaspoon of butter, and salt.
Instructions: Place the seeds in a strainer and rinse them. Drain them and let them dry. Preheat Oven to 250 degrees. Melt the butter and coat the pumpkin seeds. Place the seeds 1 layer deep on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle them with salt. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown, stirring 2 to 3 times.
An alternative to carving - Mr. Potato Head Pumpkin Decorating Kits
Pumpkin Carving on Squidoo
While it's home was on Squidoo, this page was chosen as Lens of the Day on October 23rd 2008 and again on October 29th 2011.
It was also the most visited lens on Squidoo October 29-31, 2007.