The week leading up to the 31st October is the time I start to think about the next ‘Designer Pumpkin’, I dig out my tools, a ‘legal’ surgical knife, a large carving knife, a very large spoon, a poultry lacer (skewer) and a pencil.
Then I begin the hunt for the biggest pumpkin in Sheffield.
2016’s pumpkin growth was a little dismal but with a little perseverance, a few supermarket searches and my good ol’ mum, Chesterfield’s outside market ‘saved my bacon’ – thanks mum for nearly breaking your back carrying it… Well c’mon I was at work and she offered 😉
How unimaginative is a pumpkin with two eyes and a smiling face? Let me tell you… VERY boring!
I want a challenge, something that won’t take 5 minutes to draw and 10 minutes to carve – I like unusual, creative and fun – something to make people go “Wow – I could never do that!”
My stencils are not always Halloween related or scary but there’s always something different about them. My ideas are often related to favourite films, pets although I do occasionally go down the traditional route just to please ‘the fans’ 😉
Once I have decided on a design, my hand-drawn outline is placed on a document, digitally resized and then printed.
Previous years have seen different levels of skill and difficulty; I have carved my favourite Halloween film character ‘Beetlejuice’, my boxer dog Roxy, Sally from ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ and a traditional Halloween Cat (remember I like to keep those ‘traditional’ fans happy!).
First things first… I have to Boxer proof my work area because she WILL eat the pumpkin, the seeds, the skin and even lick the knife if left unattended. I then have to protect the kitchen work surface and have a rubbish bag and glass bowl at the ready – “a glass bowl?” I hear you ask… all will be revealed!
My hand drawn stencil is taped to the pumpkin and with the poultry lacer I follow the outline of the stencil and poke holes through the paper making sure it touches the pumpkin surface… eventually making myself a ‘dot-to-dot’. When I’ve poked my last hole the stencil is taken off the pumpkin revealing a pattern of dots showing my design.
Now you can’t carve a pumpkin without cutting the stalk off and digging out the middle, it’s just not possible the inside has to be hollow! For easy access I cut the top off to create a ‘lid’ – achieving an even and neat lid can sometimes be a challenge itself so be careful! 🙂
Next step involves getting my hands messy, so if you do have manicured hands like me, I advise using rubber gloves otherwise you’ll be picking pumpkin out of your finger nails for days! (my first attempt mistake).
With the large spoon I then start to dig away at the inside of the pumpkin – the stringy slimy orange gunk and the pumpkin walls go straight into the rubbish bag but the pumpkin seeds go into my glass bowl and await being oven roasted (that’s what the glass bowl was for).
If nothing else goes right whilst carving a pumpkin make sure you at least save the seeds because roasted pumpkin seeds are delicious… they’ll also make up for your poor attempt at pumpkin carving and things won’t seem so bad and such a waste of time. Haha 😉
Once the inside of my pumpkin is clear of excess stringy gunk and seeds, is washed thoroughly and the walls are thin enough to cut through, I take my surgical knife and very carefully begin joining the dots I made earlier. I always make the inside surface (particularly where the design is) a lot thinner than the rest because as you can imagine cutting through an inch-thick pumpkin wall is very difficult, so the thinner the better, but don’t go overboard otherwise your pumpkin design will collapse (my mum knows that – Haha!).
Be sure to cut carefully and slowly and no sudden movements – the carving process shouldn’t take you longer than 5 hours (unless the design is out of this world with detail) then voila… One perfectly carved pumpkin!
Once I’ve made the last cut I then check all the edges (in detail). Rough edges means uneven lighting/pattern effects and looks awful when the lights go out and the candles are lit. So I just neaten up and smooth out the edges and if needed scrape away some more pumpkin wall – being very careful!
When I’m happy with the design I wash the pumpkin and spray it with a small amount of surface cleaner bleach – this preserves the pumpkin for a very long time and stops mold attacking it! Once the bleach has soaked in or dried I place three tealight candles inside the pumpkin and light them – why three? Well… three candles seems to achieve the desired lighting effect… simple really!
Turn the lights out and watch your pumpkin come to life! 😀