The Back Story:
So I’m apparently “famous” for my intricately carved pumpkins that I do every year for the fall season. The only catch? They’re FAKE!!! But the best part is that they will last year after year and no gutsy mess to clean up. Its a win-win after you get over the price shock. I learned my rather clever technique when I was working as the Head Floral Designer for my local Michaels Arts & Crafts store. The two fall seasons I worked there I couldn’t get any floral designs done because everyone wanted my pumpkins! No they outsource the carving (BLAH!) and its sub-par for sure. Darn laser cutters…
They are still one of my most popular items purchased in my Etsy shop: http://www.iwanciodesign.com And you can find them listed there from mid-August until the end of September if you ever end up wanting your own next year. Since today is Halloween I thought this would be an appropriate blog post!
You will need (This project is only recommended to those trustworthy enough to use a knife that is VERY HOT):
- A carve-able pumpkin from Michaels (All other ones are shat, so only get the Michaels ones)
- Walnut Hollow Versa Tool kit (You will need the knife tip for this project. You can purchase them at Michaels or here: http://www.craft-e-corner.com/p-115364-creative-versa-tool-kit-.aspx)
Insider Tip: For the LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY…DO NOT attempt this project with an Exacto-Knife. You will literally die of muscle fatigue, frustration, and all out chaos. That is all.
- Straight pin with a large head or safety pin
- Stencil or printed lettering or photo
Before you start this project you’ll have to gauge the size of your pumpkin. Michaels carries 3 different sizes: small, medium, and large. Obviously you can put more lettering/designs on the bigger sizes. A good shopping guide is depending on what will fit and the fact that you won’t want to slice off your hands from it being too complicated.
Small: About 5 letters tops or a small traditional jack-o-lantern face. Lettering shouldn’t be more than 4 inches tall and should only fit in between the two seams on the pumpkin so that you can easily see the whole word/design.
Medium: This is my go-to size. This can fit up to 10 letters at about 3″ tall or less letters but they can be bigger. At this size I can even carve some business logos into it.
Large: This is a great size for a centerpiece for a wedding to include the last name and date or both bride and groom’s names or address…whatever your heart desires. I recommend this size if you are doing any larger logos.
Now that you know which size pumpkin you want you can go to your Cricut, Silhouette, or trusty computer and print out some lettering to fit. Sometimes it takes some trial and error on size so I recommend using your computer so not to waste expensive materials. Unless you’re a pro like me.
Trim the design down to size but leave about a 1/4″ border around it. Find the middle of the pumpkin on the flattest side between the 2 seams and center the design. Tape that sucker down. Trust me.
Take your pin and start poking holes along the outline of the lettering. Its best to use a BOLD font for this because it makes the carving easier on you. REMEMBER: Be CAREFUL of the letters that have closed off sections like Bs, Ds, Os and so on. You’ll need to make sure that you have a stem to hold that section in place.
Insider Tip: Use a pin with a LARGE head to make it more comfortable for you to use. It makes the process go a lot faster and you not having teeny ouchy imprints on your finger.
Now you play “Connect the Dots”! This is by far the longest and most tedious process. PLEASE take your time cutting. The knife is VERY hot (believe me, its been tested…many times. Ouchy.) and the pumpkins aren’t cheap. I used to take 90 minutes to carve a basic pumpkin back when I started. Now I’m down to about 10-30 minutes based on how intricate the design is. Of course I’ve lost count of how many hundreds I’ve done… You can start and stop but don’t hover in one place too long because the hot knife will melt the pumpkin.
It its CRUCIAL to cut off the top LAST! If you do this part first it compromises the sturdiness of the pumpkin and makes it 100x harder to carve. At this stage if some of your letters haven’t “popped out” yet you can stick your hand in there and help them along. You might have to go over some sections with your hot knife due to the fact that you didn’t penetrate the knife deep enough into the flesh (Had to just get a little scary for Halloween, right?). You can also go back and smooth out any jagged or uneven sections.
Ta-da! An everlasting pumpkin that looks so professionally done. I can’t tell you how many guests and customers I’ve had ask me if the pumpkin was real. Well…it technically is but not the seed-and-guts real, der. I highly recommend that these be placed on a covered porch or sheltered area if you want to keep them outside. To get these to last for a long time (The pumpkin on the right is 4 years old and the one on the left is 3) keep them out of the weather. You can put in a battery-operated tea light, or clip-in light (You have to cut out a hole in the back for the light. These are the kind that clip into those ceramic houses at Christmas.), or a battery candle on a timer (HIGHLY recommend those!!! No need to remember to go out and turn the candle on and off), or use a submersible tea light just in case water might get in the pumpkin (You can get them at Michaels in the wedding section or you can order them here: http://www.craft-e-corner.com/p-37802-submersible-tea-lights-3pkg-.aspx)
Here are just some other photos of completed pumpkins that I’ve done :)