Halloween is less than a fortnight away, and I’ve already started prepping for the Pumpkin Carving fiesta at our house. Last year it was a big hit, with friends and family assembled in our backyard, carving creepy designs like cats, owls, pirates and more. This year, as Ritika is excited to have her own pumpkin to carve, it will be even more fun, and as I was collecting my carving kit and other crafting supplies from last year, I thought it would be appropriate to share a few really neat tricks, yes I said NEAT, because they are a bit different from the ordinary tips that you might have heard about, and that’s the reason they are extremely helpful when you want to carve and preserve your pumpkin masterpiece for a long time!
The first year when we did it, I have to admit we needed a lot of help from our friends. But over the years, I have gathered some useful tips and tricks that have helped all of us do this in a fun, stress-free way. Following the right method is important in creating your pumpkin masterpiece. So here is a step-by-step tutorial that will walk you through the entire process, from selecting a pumpkin to carving and preserving it during the Halloween season!
How To Carve a Pumpkin
With Halloween around the corner, this step-by-step tutorial filled with loads of tips, tricks and pictures, will help you create your best carved pumpkin to display on the night of Halloween! From choosing to cutting, prepping, tracing, carving and preserving the pumpkin, we have you covered. Don’t forget to check out some Free Printable Stencils for your Pumpkins at the end of this post!
Choosing the Pumpkin
First and foremost, when you go to buy your pumpkins, make sure you buy a size you are comfortable with – don’t get carried away by those big fairyland pumpkins that are enormous in size! Yes, they look great on your doorstep, but its a LOT of work to cut, clean and carve them. So choose a size that you know you can work with.
Second, select a pumpkin that has a nice stem, because it is the stem that provides all the nutrients to the pumpkin, keeping it fresh and healthy, even after you have carved it. And that brings us to the next phase of cutting the pumpkin.
Making the First Cut
Contrary to what you might have heard, and have been doing for years now, an expert friend of mine shared this tip with me that “Don’t ever cut your pumpkin from the top“. Removing the stem makes the pumpkin go bad early. Instead, make the first circular cut at the bottom of the pumpkin. This not only preserves the stem, but also makes it so much easier to just remove all the seeds which are clotted to the bottom of the gourd. You can easily scrape them off with a knife, and cut off the membranes, without having to dig and scrape and hurt your hands if you try to scoop it all out from the top! Makes perfect sense, right?! Plus, its so easy to lift the pumpkin and put a candle underneath, rather than burning yourself while trying to place the candle in from the top!
Cleaning Your Pumpkin
Now that you know that it is much easier to clean the pumpkin by cutting a circle at the bottom, just go ahead and use a scraper or a home knife to cut away the membranes and remove all the seeds. Make it as dry as possible, because there’s nothing more ugly than a bunch of seeds hanging through your design as you light up your Jack-O-lantern!
Tracing Your Pattern
Carving a pumpkin for the first time can be intimidating, but these days, there are several tools and stencils available that make it easy and simple. Always invest in a good pumpkin-carving kit, because you are going to use it for years to come. Select stencils from your art and craft stores, but make sure you choose the design according to the size of your pumpkin. Place it on your pumpkin first to see if it fits, with enough room at the top and bottom of the design so you don’t cut into the edges of the gourd. You should have at least 1-inch space above and below your design.
You can trace the pattern onto the pumpkin using a black marker. Or the other way is to tape your pattern on to the pumpkin, then score the design into the skin by poking holes through the pattern with a nail or plastic poking tool, available in your pumpkin-carving kit.
Carving Your Pumpkin
Now its time for the main artwork! Always start carving from the center of your design and work outwards. This avoids putting pressure on areas already carved, so you don’t break them or cut into them accidentally. Always use the correct tools, as outlined in your carving-kit. read the instructions once, so you know which tool is used for what purpose. Always punch the outline first by poking holes, then gently proceed to cut through the outline with a knife. This way you will be able to make clean and precise cuts and follow the pattern well.
As each shape loosens up, gently push it out of the pumpkin with a finger or the back of the punching tool. Proceed to complete the entire design, moving outwards. If you cut something you didn’t intend to, don’t be alarmed or disheartened – just stick a toothpick through the flesh side of the piece and fit it back into place.
Lighting Your Pumpkin
Once you are done with your carving, it is time to light it up and take pictures as soon as possible! These days, there are several candle-free options available in the market to illuminate your carved pumpkins. I love the the color-changing strobe lights, battery-operated tea lights and the Rainbow LEDs that are made specifically for this purpose! Or you can go the traditional way and use tea-lights if you like.
Preserving Your Pumpkin
Once a pumpkin is carved, it begins to deteriorate in about 24 hours. But don’t worry, there are ways to enhance the life of your creation. Making a cut from the bottom and preserving the stem on the top is the first technique to elongate the life of your pumpkin. If they look too wilted after a couple days, just dump them into a bath-tub filled with water for at least 15 minutes. The skin will plump up and look fresh again. Or use a lemon-water solution to sprinkle on the inside of the pumpkin. This will make it stay fresh longer.
I hope this tutorial addresses all your questions about the best pumpkin-carving techniques. If you follow it well, you can ensure an evening of fun and creativity with your friends and family. And just to throw in some freebies, here is a list of my recommended links to download your FREE Pumpkin Carving Stencils!
Recommended Free Patterns for Carving your Pumpkins
Free Beginner’s Patterns from HGTV.com
Disney’s Free Character Patterns from FamilyFun.com
Free Patterns from BetterHomes&Gardens.com
Free Halloween Templates from MarthaStewart.com