Fall is a great time to honor old traditions. From harvest festivals to Halloween, for centuries people have been coming together to celebrate the changing of the seasons and get ready for winter.
One such tradition is carving pumpkins. A common sight in the fall is pumpkins carved in the shape of jack-o’-lanterns lit with a candle inside. According to Britannica, this tradition harkens back to an Irish myth about Stingy Jack, who tricked the Devil for his own monetary gain and was cursed to roam the earth for eternity. In Ireland, people would carve scary faces out of turnips to frighten away Jack’s wandering soul. When Irish immigrants moved to the U.S., they began carving jack-o’-lanterns from pumpkins, as these were more prevalent and native to the region.
Today, many people go beyond the superstitions of the past and go well beyond the spooky faces to carve great works of art to adorn their front porches and windows. These can range from pop culture icons to superheroes and everything in between.
Here are some tips to turn your garden gourd into a fall masterpiece.
1. Pick the pumpkin
You’ll want something big enough to make a statement. A pumpkin that is at least one foot tall should do the trick.
2. Clean the pumpkin inside and out
Use soap and water to clean off the pumpkin so you can work on your masterpiece unhindered by dirt and grime. Then clean the inside. This step involves cutting a hole in the top or back big enough for you to put your hand in and scoop out the “guts” with an ice-cream scooper or large spoon.
3. Print the pattern
You could go simple by drawing a face onto the pumpkin, but who wants that? Take it to the next level by printing out a pattern. The simplest way to do this is to download the Mopria Print Service app in Google Play to your Android device, search for some fall patterns that you want to glorify in pumpkin form. They can be as simple or complex as you want. Here are some samples and you can also download the fall face and leaves patterns:
4. Transfer the pattern to the pumpkin
There are a few ways to transfer the pattern. Here are three easy ways.
Option 1: To make the transfer very simple, you can order special paper called Stick n’ Carve Transfer Sheets that come 8.5″ x 11″ sheets. They are made of thin, flexible, translucent material that sticks onto your pumpkin. The design will stay in place while you carve right through it. When you’re done, peel off the pattern or dissolve the water-soluble material with water.
Option 2: The second option doesn’t require anything extra beyond what you probably have on hand. Print your design to regular printer paper then tape the corners so it stays in place where you want your pattern to be. Next, take a pin or needle and poke holes to outline the shapes in your pattern. When you remove the paper, the tiny holes will be your guide.
Option 3: Like option 2, simply print your design but instead of transferring the pattern, use the paper itself as the pattern. This works best with big blocky patterns that are easy to follow. Simply tape all around the edge of the paper so it stays firmly in place, then use the design to know where to carve.
5. Carve away
Be sure to use a very sharp knife that will easily cut through the paper and pumpkin flesh. This will make your design crisp and clean.
6. Light it up
For the ultimate festive feel, don’t forget to make your pumpkin’s light shine bright. You can use a tea candle or go the fire-free approach with a battery-powered LED light.
Whatever your fall traditions are, if they include pumpkin carving, make this activity shine brighter by using beautiful and interesting patterns and images as an expression of your creativity!