Pumpkin Carving Tips: How to Carve a Pumpkin

At west elm, we love the holidays as much as you do. Get the whole family in on the holiday spirit with our pumpkin carving tips for stunning jack-o’-lanterns.


No Halloween decor is complete without a few grinning jack-o’-lanterns to brighten up the space. The first step in carving a pumpkin is choosing the right tools. You can carve any type of pumpkin, gourd or squash, but a good one should be firm and healthy. The heavier a pumpkin is, the thicker its walls, making these harder to cut and also harder to see your designs when using candles. Tall, oblong-shaped varieties tend to be stringier inside, making it difficult to make precise cuts. These varieties are great for making funny, stretched out characters if you have a bit more patience and skill.


White pumpkins give a spooky look to your jack-o’-lantern and can also be painted more easily than orange pumpkins. Small pumpkins are terrific for children as they can grip them easier when cutting and decorating. You’ll also need to pick up a set of carving tools for funky shapes or use kitchen knives with serrated edges. Clear off your tabletop and get down to the fun part of carving.


You can carve your pumpkins indoors or outdoors, just make sure to set down newspaper or plastic to keep your tabletop and surfaces clean. Now is the time for you to decide if you will illuminate your pumpkin using candles or string lights. For pumpkins with candles, you should start by removing the top where the stem is located. Make sure to use candles with high-sided glass and keep a vigilant eye on them when lit to avoid danger. If you are using electric lights for illumination, it’s better to cut off the bottom so you can hide cables and cords out of sight.


Kick off the harvest celebrations by scooping out flesh, pulp, and seeds with a plastic scraper or fleshing tool. You can save the seeds and toast them in the oven for a crispy yet healthy snack. Usually, the flesh from carving pumpkins is too grainy and stringy for use in pies, but pumpkin flesh can go in your compost pile to avoid excess waste. From here, you can choose to freehand draw designs or use templates for elaborate or precise images. Affix templates to the pumpkin using tape and trace the design by poking holes with a sharp awl, needle tool or T-pin.


Remove the template and carve along the template pattern with a kitchen knife or linoleum carving tool. If you want to make holes in the pumpkin for eyes, you can use a drill or hammer and nails. When it comes to decorating with pumpkins, you can be as creative as you like. Choose templates featuring princesses or opt for spooky ghouls and bats. Once you finish carving your creation. You can set pumpkins on the front porch or dining room as a centerpiece. The sky’s the limit.


If you plan on illuminating your pumpkin with string lights, it’s useful to secure lights around a mason jar or equivalent to keep the lighting in the right place. If you use candles for illumination, you may want to cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin or leave the top off to allow enough ventilation for the flame to stay lit. Pumpkins and jack-o’-lanterns are terrific additions to spooky cocktail parties. Keep your pumpkin fresh by carving it a day or two before Halloween or a big party. Keep the pumpkin in a cool spot and out of direct sunlight.

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