11 Fun Pumpkin Ideas

Turn a plain pumpkin into a masterpiece with these easy-to-create critters and creative carving designs.


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In the Spirit

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Our best and brightest little goblins give any table a festive glow.

Here's how: Cut holes in the bottoms of gourds or mini pumpkins and carefully scoop out insides with a small spoon. Draw two triangles for eyes, a small triangle for the nose, and a mouth with two or three teeth as shown. Cut out shapes using a craft or X-Acto knife. Place two cake stands on a tray and arrange pumpkins on top.


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Letter Perfect

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Give a pumpkin or squash an elegant facelift by carving it with initials or a name.

Here's how: Choose a letter in a font and size of your choice on your computer and print it. Cut out the letter, place on a carved-out pumpkin or gourd, and trace around it with a grease pencil. Remove template and cut out the shape with a serrated carving knife.


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Branching Out

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Fall leaves and pumpkins go together naturally—try a simple band in a contrasting color.

Here's how: Flatten leaves and allow them to dry. To press, place them between two sheets of paper and lay in the pages of a large book. Stack heavy books on top. Let sit for at least 24 hours. It's also possible to dry leaves in a microwave oven by heating them at a medium setting for 30 seconds. With a small paintbrush dab all-purpose craft glue onto the back of each leaf. Apply leaves to a pumpkin in desired design.


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What a Hoot

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Craft an adorable owl or two using sunflower seeds for eyes and ears—no, you're not out of your gourd.


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Funny Face

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No need to use a template—these goofy jack-o'-lanterns are all about the charm of imperfection.

Here's how: For indented (debossed) designs, as on the dark green gourds, draw a face with a grease pencil. Using a lino cutter, scrape off pumpkin skin inside the marks about 1/8 inch deep to expose the flesh underneath. For white squash, cut hole in the bottom and scoop out pulp. Then draw a face and cut out shapes with a serrated carving knife.


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Starry Night

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Turn a pumpkin into a brilliant Halloween statement for a porch or pedestal with an all-over star pattern.

Here's how: Use masking tape to make straight horizontal rings around the pumpkin. Indicate with a grease pencil the placement of each star. Allow at least an inch between stars, and vary the pattern (stars don't have to be aligned). For each star, position a star-shape cookie cutter and gently tap it with a rubber mallet to pierce the surface. Remove the cutter and cut out the shape with a craft saw.


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Good to Glow

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Set a bewitching table with one or more scalloped pumpkin votives in a variety of sizes and designs.

Here's how: Use a grease pencil to draw a scalloped edge around the top of small to medium-size pumpkins. Vary the width of the scallops as shown. With the saw, cut along the lines, remove the top, and smooth the edges. Hollow out the pumpkin. Mark holes with a grease pencil, varying the pattern. Drill holes using different-size bits (1/8 inch for small, up to 1 inch for larger).


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In a Twinkling

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Carve out autumnal motifs like leaves for a pumpkin that glimmers with sophistication.

Here's how: For each leaf, mark the desired position on the pumpkin with a grease pencil. (We drew our patterns on the front of the pumpkins only.) Allow at least an inch of space between the tips of the leaves. Place a leaf cookie cutter on the mark and gently tap it with a rubber mallet to penetrate the surface. Remove the cutter and cut out the shape with the saw, smoothing any jagged edges.


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Going Batty

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Lend a ghoulish glow to your celebration by carving bat designs into your jack-o'-lanterns. Look for spooky spots to display your creations, such as in the crook of a tree.

Here's how: Find bat clip art online. Search the patterns at spookmaster.com (hundreds of options; some for a fee). Enlarge or reduce the design to fit your pumpkin, trace two or three bats on it, and carve.


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Illuminating Idea

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Light the way for trick-or-treating by placing a row of pumpkin lanterns down the stairs.

Here's how: Using a grease pencil, draw abstract leaflike shapes (wider in the middle and narrower at the top and bottom) along the grooves in the pumpkin. Space them about an inch apart and cut out each with a craft saw.


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Cat's Meow

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What's fright night without a frisky feline crossing your path? It's simple to do with a template and a few tools.

Here's how: Download one of the free templates from clipartguide.com. Enlarge (or reduce) the template to fit pumpkin as desired, cut it out, and tape it in place. Trace the shape onto the pumpkin with a grease pencil. Using the saw, carve out the design, smoothing any jagged edges.


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Carving Workshop

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Look beyond the standard knife for carving—try a few of these tools.

Power drill bits: Create different-size holes for patterns. Use according to manufacturer's instructions.

Serrated craft saw: Use to carve a hole in the bottom or top and for irregular shapes such as the cat and bat.

Sculpting tool: Great for scraping pulp from a pumpkin's interior and for thinning walls. Use a large spoon or your hands to remove flesh and seeds.

Templates: Tape templates to shell and trace outline. Try spookmaster.com or clipartguide.com.

Mallet: Tap a cookie cutter with a rubber mallet to cut through pumpkin shell.

Cookie cutters: Cooking tools such as tin-plated-steel cookie cutters can make unique designs easily (cookiecuttershop.com; from $2).

Grease pencil: Mark your designs and trace templates with a grease pencil.

Vellum: To give your lantern a professional look and to keep the candle from blowing out, attach a square of vellum to the inside of the cutout with straight pins.


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The Perfect Pumpkin

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Find more inspiration with face clip art online. Search the patterns at pumpkinlady.com (more than 20 free patterns, including the one shown here), enlarge or reduce the design to fit your pumpkin, cut the design out, trace it onto the pumpkin, and carve.

Originally published in the October 1, 2007, and October 1, 2009, issues of Family Circle magazine.