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Pumpkin Carving 101

feature pumpkin

We've gathered the

essential tips to make this year's pumpkin the best ever

. Maybe you were inspired by our Brandon (our design guru) and his post last week about

high-fashion pumpkin

s? If not and you plan to go old-school and get messy, we've got the tips for you.

Did you know? Pumpkin carving most likely started in Ireland. The Irish worked with different materials: turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes and beets. The tradition of carving vegetables into jack-o'-lanterns was meant to welcome friendly spirits and keep the evil spirits at bay.Fast forward a few centuries and now we've got a tradition that's a lot less about warding off evil spirits and more about being a evening of crafty fun.

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Picking the Perfect Specimen:

Make sure to find a bruise-free pumpkin. Look for smooth and evenly colored skin to make drawing and designing easier. For display purposes, you'??ll want to find a pumpkin with flat stable base so sits upright and doesn'??t roll down your stoop. Beware: Avoid pumpkins with mold around the stem. This may indicate potential rot.

Finding Inspiration: If you'??ve ever experienced carver'??s block don'??t worry. There are plenty of ways you can unleash your inner artist before you grab the steak knife. Check out comic books, online craft sites and favorite children'??s books for inspiration. For some craft pumpkin carving templates and grand visions of Halloween visit

What You'??ll Need: Organize your tools into buckets. Keep the sharpest tools out of the children'??s reach. Have a spot for the seeds to be collected and cleaned for roasting, a spot for carving tools, a spot for drawing tools, and a bucket for accessories such as glitter, attachable ears and fake blood. Make sure your carving instruments are sharp. Though this might be counter-intuitive, a dull knife will just cause you to exert more force and might lead to a hand or finger slipping into the blade. If you are planning detailed work, do yourself a favor and invest in carving saw available at a craft store.

work in progress

Once you've got the lid or base carved out it'??s time to dig in and get messy. You'??ll want to clean out the seeds and strings with a scoop or spoon (we find an ice cream scoop works splendidly). Keep scraping the inner pulp away from the area you plan to carve until the pumpkin wall is approximately 1" thick. Grab your knife or saw and set to work. Try to hold the pumpkin on a low stable surface and keep the knife or saw steady at a 90° angle to the pumpkin. Use the tool like a pencil and saw steadily with a continuous up-and-down motion. Use gentle pressure and keep at it until your creation is done.

Showing off your creations: We spoke to the pros at about tips for effectively illuminating your pumpkin. Here are a few tips for lighting up your jack-o'-lantern this Halloween.
'?¢ When using a candle, cut a hole on the upper, back part of the pumpkin. The hole will work like a chimney by allowing the candle's heat to escape.
'?¢ If you create an opening from the bottom of the pumpkin, attach the light source to the bottom lid and place the pumpkin over it. Try drilling a hole to secure the candle. This provides a little more stability, safety and balances the flickering effect.
'?¢ A flashing light is ideal for spooky pumpkin carvings.
'?¢ Sprinkle a little cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin spice on the bottom of the pumpkin lid. Once the pumpkin is lit, it will create a wonderful seasonal scent.

Care and Feeding: Nothing is more disappointing than having your painstakingly carved pumpkin ooze and decay a week before the big day. Rather than getting spooked out, study these tips to avoid '??pumpkin rot." Dehydration begins the moment the pumpkin is carved. Try to schedule carving as close to the time you plan to display the pumpkin as possible. To avoid rot, sterilize the pumpkin's carved surfaces (to kill fungi, mold, bacteria, bugs). Here'??s how: start by wiping down the exterior of the pumpkin with a clean, damp cloth. Next, make a bleach solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach per quart of water and put it in a spray bottle. Spray the pumpkin inside and all cut areas of the pumpkin with the solution. This will kill much of the surface bacteria and mold that cause rotting. After the pumpkin is dry, rub all of the pumpkins outer shell with petroleum jelly. This will keep out new bacteria and molds as well as dramatically reduce the dehydration! Another key is keeping your spooky creation cool. Some folks store the carved beauties in the fridge when they are not on display. Happy Carving.

Momtrends was not paid for this post. All photographs by Kevin Ryan Photography.

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