At Staheekum, October is one of our favorite months because it brings so many fun fall things to mind – warm beverages, cozy nights, and watching scary movies together just to name a few. But October also means the sudden arrival of a bunch of orange, goofy-faced vegetables popping up on people’s porches. Yes, we’re talking about jack-o-lanterns. And unless you want to be the only one in your neighborhood without a glowing Halloween pumpkin this year, you can follow our steps and wind up with a great-looking and grinning gourd for your porch in time for Halloween.

1. Picking Out the right pumpkin

If you want a pumpkin that’s going to last all the way until Halloween and maybe even Thanksgiving, picking out the right pumpkin is crucial. TheKitchn gives some great tips on how to choose a long-lasting one and how to preserve it. First, you want to select a pumpkin that’s best for carving instead of baking. Whether you’re going to a pumpkin patch in your favorite pair of outdoor shoes, or just wearing your slippers to grab one from the store, you should be able to find both. The bigger the pumpkin, the bigger your design will be and the easier it will be to carve into. When you pick a sturdy one up and thump it you should hear a hollow sound. Try to keep an eye out for dark spots or scratches and cracks, as those are all signs of a pumpkin that’s already in decline. Also, it’s important to make sure it sits flat on the ground so that people will be able to see your glowing design later.

Once you’ve found the perfect pumpkin, you can take it home and start to set up your workspace.


2. Setting Up Your Workspace

Something you probably know already – pumpkin carving can get really messy. Going outside to carve can help you spare the inside of your home from a lot of cleanup. But if you’re feeling adventurous and want to try it indoors, it’s smart to lay down some newspapers first on your carving surface.
Once your workspace is ready, you can gather some tools to help you scoop out the pumpkin’s insides. Usually a nice vegetable knife or thin sharp blade will be good for detailing your masterpiece. We also recommend a ladle or some sort of scoop to best hollow out the inside of your pumpkin. Also, bring a couple of bowls – one to put the insides of the pumpkin in and another to keep the seeds for later. Bring everything you might need to your workspace so you don’t have to rummage through drawers with pumpkin guts on your hands!

3. Transferring Your Design

The next step here is going to be placing your artwork onto the pumpkin. For those of us who are a little more creative, you could draw your design directly onto the side of the pumpkin. But if you’re feeling a little less sketch-inclined you can always print out a pre-made design to use. For this second method, we recommend taping your design onto the side of the pumpkin and then using a pin or thumbtack to poke through the paper and into the skin of the pumpkin. Make sure your paper is taped on tight otherwise it will rustle around like some leaves in the fall and distort your image. Once your image is on the pumpkin, we recommend tracing it with sharpie anyways so that it’s easier to see when carving. Use your paper as reference for which sections to cut out. 


4. Carving Your Pumpkin

Now we get to the best part after all the careful prep work– actually carving the dang thing! Before you blindly cut into your gourd and start scraping out the inside, draw a circular lid around the top of the pumpkin for your lid. Now, cut inward at a 45 degree angle so the lid can rest on the edges of the top without falling in. Once you’ve removed the top, start scooping out the innards with a spoon or ladle and placing them in one of the bowls you’ve set aside. Make sure to keep the seeds in a separate bowl if you want to try baking them later for a tasty treat. Clean the insides out until no stringy bits are left. You can use the spoon to scrape the inner wall along the inside of the pumpkin too for a thinner surface to cut through. This can also help your pumpkin glow a little more!

Next, wipe off your pumpkin so it won’t slip around while you’re carving. Now, cut out the bigger chunks of your design first, cutting straight into the walls of the pumpkin and putting the pieces into a bowl to discard. Then use a more precise knife to go in and cut out the more detailed sections of the design.


5. Finishing touches

Once your design looks nice and clean and the inside isn’t too wet, insert a tea candle or a small electronic light to illuminate your design. Then replace the top lid of your jack-o-lantern. We recommend doing this at night for the most effective reveal. While you’re tidying up your workspace you can clean and dry the pumpkin seeds for baking later. Here’s a great article on baking pumpkin seeds with just a little oil and salt.  


Thanks for reading our take on how to carve a pumpkin! For more fall activities and comfy footwear for men, women, and kids make sure to check out our blogs and storefront this fall season.