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With one week left until Halloween it’s time to start getting creative again! Carving Halloween pumpkins has a long tradition in my family as it’s a great way to spend some quality time together. Each year we’d gather around my parents’ kitchen table to create some beautifully scary pieces of art which are then going to be displayed in the front yard until… they fall apart actually.

If you haven’t tried carving pumpkins before or if you’d like to enhance your skills you should read on! Also, don’t forget to check out my little gallery of pumpkin designs at the end of the post!

Step 1: Get your pumpkins

It depends a lot on where you live but there are several options to get your pumpkins. It might be well worth it to ask around whether someone you know has pumpkins in their backyard or wherever. This year we got six beautiful pumpkins for free because a friend of a friend who has a farm “didn’t need them anyway”. If you’re not that lucky you might be able to buy them at a farm, a florist or at the grocery store. Also, in my area there are sometimes little stalls near the street in the countryside that’ll offer pumpkins – keep your eyes open!

Step 2: Get your weapons

My mum bought a pumpkin carving set for kids at a flea market a couple of years ago. You would never believe just HOW HELPFUL this is! If you want to take pumpkin carving to the next level I’d strongly recommend getting a pumpkin carving set+. They’re just a couple of bucks but tools like a tiny saw come in so handy. If you want to take your pumpkin carving to the pro level I recommend getting a linoleum carving set+ (or something similar) that’ll allow you to create various levels of transparency on the surface of your pumpkin. Get creative when it comes to choosing your tools: we’ve even used nail salon equipment.

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Step 3: Choose your design

It doesn’t always have to be a face. There are plenty of interesting pumpkin designs out there to choose from – we’ve done everything from a cat in the window to a dragon eye to the Deathstar. I’d recommend printing them out in full size. This will make it easier to get the design on the pumpkin surface. Bonus points if you can come up with your own unique design!

Step 4: Prepare!

Set aside about one to four hours for carving your pumpkin. Depending on the complexity of your design the time will vary. Usually this is a great activity for a weekend afternoon. Make sure you have:

– old newspapers to cover the table or floor (I swear it’s a coincidence we used obituaries…)

– a large bowl for excess pumpkin entrails / seeds

– a large bowl or freezer bags for pumpkin flesh (Why? See below!)

– your tools

– kitchen towels

– a great playlist

– a cup of hot tea

– good company

(a huge thank you goes to my sister and brother-in-law who helped me create this post for you guys)

Start by cutting off the top of your pumpkin and carving it out. Don’t throw away what’s inside! Instead, use it to make a delicious pumpkin soup that’ll warm you on cold autumn days – here’s the recipe! Make sure to make your pumpkin very thin-walled so the light of the candle can shine through later.

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Step 5: Start with your design

You can either free-hand draw your design onto the pumpkin with a pen or, if it’s more complex, put the print version of your design onto the pumpkin surface and trace the outlines with a pointed tool. That way you’ll have the carved outlines on the pumpkin.

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Step 6: Let’s set to work!

If your design doesn’t feature different levels of transparency you’ll probably want to start by sawing out your objects / animals / faces. If you’ve drawn on your design with a pen you should trace the outline with a pointed tool first.  Always make sure the pumpkin remains stable by not making support structures too delicate. If you chose something a little more complex that requires some parts to be brighter than others use the carving tools to carefully thin out the pumpkin where necessary. There are designs that don’t require you to saw out anything at all as they only consist of areas of varying transparency. If that’s the case be sure to add some “ventilation shafts” at the back or at the top of the pumpkin so your candle gets enough oxygen.

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Step 7: Light them up!

I recommend using large tealights to light up your masterpieces. For large pumpkins you might want to use two if there’s enough room inside. Don’t use tall candles as they might burn the pumpkin lid. We always place our pumpkins in the front yard and arrange them on the stairs or on upside down buckets so they can be seen from the street.

Hope you’ll have just as much fun carving your pumpkins as we did!

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