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Halloween Jack-o'-lantern

halloween mixed media

This is the perfect pumpkin project for Halloween, and is ideal for young children to make too. This design, from Decorating Pumpkins & Gourds, is a slightly more unique take on the traditional scary face you're bound to see outside your neighbours' houses this All Hallows' Eve. Shaving and engraving parts of your pumpkin, in addition to the cut-outs, will give you an interesting, two-tone effect, bound to make an impression on trick-or-treaters!


Decorating Pumpkins & Gourds


You will need

Large, smooth-skinned field pumpkin

Water-soluble crayon

Craft knife

Kitchen knife

Assorted scooping spoons, including special pumpkin scoop

Large gimlet

Paper and pen

Dressmaker’s pins

Sharp bradawl

Lino-cutting tool

Flat-edged woodcarving tool

Glass jar and large, squat, slow-burning candle


1. Mark a crayon circle at the top of the pumpkin, large enough to insert your hand. Cut out first with the craft knife (to make a neat line), then cut deeper with the kitchen knife to cut away. You can pierce the lid with the gimlet to make air holes if you want to use it when the pumpkin is alight.

 Decorating Pumpkins & Gourds

2. Pull out the seeds and flesh and scoop out the interior using an assortment of spoons (the special pumpkin scoop is ideal for large pumpkins, and an old dessertspoon with the handle bent backwards is also useful). Reduce the shell to about 8mm (3⁄8in) at the front, but don’t worry too much about the back as you will not decorate this part. Tip out all the debris and rinse.

 Decorating Pumpkins & Gourds

3. Draw your face design onto a sheet of paper that fits the front of your pumpkin. Fix in place with dressmakers’ pins and prick out the design through the paper onto the skin using the bradawl. Remove the paper.

 Decorating Pumpkins & Gourds

4. Refer to your paper template as you begin to carve your design. Carefully cut out the whites of the eyes with the craft knife, taking care to leave the pupil intact. In the same way, cut out the spaces between the teeth.

Decorating Pumpkins & Gourds 

5. Use the lino-cutting tool to engrave the lines around the eyes, eyebrows and mouth. Make a circle on each cheek and use the woodcarving tool to remove the outer skin. Do the same on the two nostrils.

 Decorating Pumpkins & Gourds

6. Use the gimlet to carefully drill the hole for the iris in the centre of the eyes. In the same way, make a hole for the nostrils. Insert the glass jar and candle. When lit, you can replace the lid if you wish.

 Decorating Pumpkins & Gourds

7. Place the glowing lantern in a front window of your darkened house and keep evil spirits at bay! Try out some smaller, pumpkin nightlights if you want to go all out!


Tip: To revive the pumpkin, immerse it in water and keep cool (the fridge is ideal) when not lit. It will last for a number of days if looked after in this way.


For more pumpkin & gourd carving projects, check out Decorating Pumpkins & Gourds by Deborah Schneebeli-Morrell.

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