1. Choose a decently sized, rounded pumpkin. Tiny or wonky ones may look quirky and cute, but they’re going to be more difficult to carve. Make sure it’s fresh and without blemishes too. An older pumpkin won’t last as long.
2. Cut off the top with a sharp knife: a serrated blade tends to work best. Make sure that the crown is wide enough, so you can get you hand inside to scrape out the pulp easily.
3. Now it’s time to hollow your pumpkin out. Use a large spoon or ice cream scoop to get rid of all that pulpy, seedy mess, but also try and scrape away some of the walls flesh as well. Ideally you want to thin the walls so they're just an inch or so thick. This makes carving easier and more light will shine through the surface.
4. Don’t start carving free-style, use a marker, pen or pencil to draw your design onto the pumpkin first. If you want your lantern to look really professional, draw a paper template, then tape it onto the pumpkin. (You can also download templates online). Then use a sharp pointed tool, like an ice pick or nail, to poke holes around the design. Remove paper once you have gone completely around your pattern.
5. Use a sharp, serrated knife to cut out your design. Starting at the center and working outwards. Sawing in short, back and forth movements is more easy to control than slicing.
6. Now rub some Vaseline or a little diluted lemon juice on exposed parts of the pumpkin. This will stop the areas turning brown.
7. Finally, it’s time for lights! If you're using a candle, it’s best to put it in a small glass. Make sure you don’t put your lid on completely, so smoke can escape. Fairy lights and battery operated candles also work well.
TIPS AND TRICKS
- Put down some newspaper or an old cloth before you start - carving is a messy business.
- If you’re a beginner, don’t be over-ambitious — a simple, bold shape is easiest to do and still looks impressive.
- Straight lines are simpler to carve, so think about replacing circles with triangles, etc.
- If your pumpkin’s a little unsteady, you can cut the bottom to level it out.
- If you don't like the smell of your pumpkin, sprinkle some cinnamon on the underside of the lid. It smells wonderful when your candle is lit! Some people claim this makes cut pumpkins last longer too.
- To preserve its life, keep your pumpkin in the fridge when you’re out of the house.
- Did you know the shorter the stem on the pumpkin means a shorter life. Truly.
Don't be fooled into buying one of the 'pumpkin carving' kits you see in the stores — these few tools are all you really need.
- A sharp knife for cutting.
- A large spoon or ice cream scoop for hollowing out the insides.
- Paper and tape, if you're using a stencil.
- A small sharp object like an ice pick or nail, to help you draw on your stencil, or a marker pen if you want to design your own.