Carving pumpkins is one of my favorite parts of celebrating Halloween — in addition to baking all kinds of pumpkin desserts and loading up on Halloween candy, of course — and I always carve at least a few jack-o’-lanterns in the week leading up to the big day.
When I was a kid, all the pumpkins I carved had big toothy grins. These days, I know that any design you can think of is fair game, and you don’t need to be limited by those traditional pumpkin designs.
A Craftsy-themed pumpkin is the perfect non-traditional jack-o’-lantern for your Halloween festivities. Here’s how to do it yourself:
Photos by Nicole Weston of Baking Bites
Step 1: Pick out a pumpkin and print out your template.
Any pumpkin that catches your eye is fair game for carving, regardless of size, shape or color. Larger pumpkins tend to give you more visual impact and are easier to carve details onto, so I tend to choose pumpkins that are at least 10-15 pounds.
For my pumpkin, I used an outline of a ball of yarn with some knitting needles. But, if knitting needles aren’t your thing, there’s also a “Craftsy” template, featuring the Craftsy logo! The template can be scaled up or down to fit your pumpkin. It doesn’t matter if the lines are blurry when you print it out because the template isn’t the finished product.
I want to carve a knitting-themed pumpkin!
I want to carve a Craftsy-themed pumpkin!
Step 2: Clean out your pumpkin.
Cleaning out your pumpkin is the fun, messy part of the job. Use a serrated knife to remove the top of the pumpkin and a metal spoon or plastic pumpkin scraper to clean the sides. With a scuplted pumpkin design like this one, you will need to thin the wall of the pumpkin on the side you are carving, however you can do that at the end of the carving process.
Step 3: Apply your template.
The easiest way to transfer your template onto a pumpkin is to hold up the paper it is printed on and poke holes through it to create a connect-the-dots outline. They actually make pumpkin tools specifically for this, however a toothpick or a skewer — or your knitting needles or crochet hook… — will work just as well. If you have a steady hand and a good eye, you can also use the template as a reference and simply sketch the design into the pumpkin. I recommend using pencil or a red marker if you try this, as you won’t be able to see leftover marks on your finished carving.
Step 4: Cut out the outline.
Next, use a small, sharp knife to outline your pumpkin. Cut along the dotted lines to connect the dots, but do not cut all the way through the wall of the pumpkin. The cuts should be very shallow. Once your design is outlined, go back over those lines with the same knife at a slight angle so you make the lines slightly thicker and more visible.
Step 5: Sculpt out the ball of yarn and add detail.
Once you have your basic outline in place, it is time to sculpt! Sculpting pumpkins is a lot easier than it looks, since it only involves taking off the outside layer of the pumpkin. The flesh of the pumpkin is soft and simply needs to be thinned so that light can pass through the wall when you’re ready to light it up.
Remove the pumpkin skin from the “blank” areas of the template by scraping it off. You can scrape it off with a dull knife (a small, sturdy butter knife actually works quite well), a small spoon, a melon baller or a zester with a large opening. I use a small, round-tipped pumpkin-carving knife.
Once the larger areas are cleared, trace over the lines you previously cut to make them a bit thicker and a bit more defined. The design actually only has a few lines, so you want to really be able to see them! I try to have all the details about 1/4-inch deep, but the depth will vary depending on the thickness of your pumpkin’s wall.
Step 6: Clean up the pumpkin and light it up!
Once your design is finished, it is time to thin the wall of the pumpkin from the inside. Use your spoon or pumpkin scraper to scrape away some of the flesh from the wall of the pumpkin just behind the design. You should be able to see light through the areas you carved, however you should not be so aggressive that you punch through your design!
Finally, put a light source of some kind into your pumpkin and check to make sure that you can see the light clearly through your carving. If you can’t see all the details, go back and scrape away some more of the wall, or trace over your carving to make the lines deeper. When the light shines through, you simply have to wait until the sun sets and you can put your work of art on display!