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alternatives to pumpkin carving

There’s nothing to get you in the Halloween spirit like stabbing a knife into a nice juicy pumpkin and sinking your hands into those stringy, gooey innards. Pumpkin carving was a strong tradition at our house growing up, and my brother and I would sometimes spend an hour sketching out the best possible jack-o-lantern design before committing it to the pumpkin.

However, sometimes carving isn’t quite the thing. I found these two adorable little gourds at a local produce stand, but seeing as I wanted to use them for eating, I didn’t want to carve them all to pieces. So I tried a couple of alternative methods. One involves peeling, the other simply involves paint.

Let’s look at the paint option first.

What you’ll need:

  • a pumpkin, squash or other autumnal growth
  • a paper doily (or some old lace)
  • acrylic paint
  • paint brush
  • scotch tape

Putting it all together:

1) Take your doily and cut out the round middle section that doesn’t have any holes. If you’re using lace you won’t need to worry about this, of course.

2) Place the doily over your pumpkin. Cut it smaller if necessary, then tape it into place without covering any of the doily’s holes with the tape. (If using lace, do the same thing.) This will take a bit of finagling, and you may have to scrunch the doily up in a couple of places.

3) Take your paint and paint over the entire doily (or strip of lace), paying particular attention to getting the paint in the doily’s holes, where you can see the pumpkin. (Black paint shows up very nicely against the orange, but you could also use white or any colour.)

4) Let the paint dry.

5) Carefully peel off the tape and the doily. Ta-da, you have a lovely lacy design. This takes some practice to get really clean, I think, and it’s better the lacier and more intricate your doily, but you can always just turn any smudged or imperfect bits towards the back.


Now for the peeling method.

What you’ll need:

  • a pumpkin, squash or other autumnal growth
  • a paring knife
  • a pencil

1) Draw your desired design on the surface of your gourd with the pencil.

2) Using the tip of your knife, outline the features you just drew.

3) Using the edge of the knife, dig under the skin of the gourd and peel up just the top layer. You’re basically carving the gourd without carving all the way through, thus leaving the insides intact. As long as you only do this a day or two before Halloween, the squash should be fine to cook and eat after the holiday. Yum!

This squash even came with instructions on how to cook it, which is great for meat, cheese and carb lovers like me who are a little daunted at the prospect of dealing with such a hulking beast of a vegetable.

[Note: It would probably work better to reverse the two methods I’ve described here, using the paint method on the pale-skinned squash and the peeling method on the pumpkin. The pumpkin has a darker skin on the outside and a lighter inside, so the peeled design would show up much better than on the squash. Live and learn.]


In other Halloween and crafting related news, all 30 of the Creepy Dolls I have made/am making for LoadingReadyRun have sold! This was an exciting project (cuz it’s crafting I get paid for) that involved making a plush doll design from Kathleen De Vere’s creepy-as-hell webcomic character. The dolls appeared in this LRR video, as well as an episode of the Daily Drop.

Really though, I just wanted to share these cute and creepy photos with all of you. In the spirit of Halloween.

Leave a comment


  1. I’ve been meaning to ask whether you have tried doing the face for one of the creepy dolls by needle-felting with black yarn, instead of doing the embroidery. I’d be curious to see how the change in technique would effect the look of the face. Oh, and I’ve got my pumpkin ready to carve tomorrow afternoon, but it won’t be the same all by myself. :-(

  2. admin

     /  October 30, 2010

    I haven’t, but that might be interesting to try on another doll. I imagine it would change the look quite a bit, but I don’t know that it would work well for the empty spaces needed in the eyes and mouth of this particular design.

    I’m actually machine stitching all the faces for the Creepy Dolls. Hand embroidery would look a little nicer, but it would increase the time it takes to make each doll such that it would make the doll’s cost unreasonable.

    You really have to move closer so we can do more crafting together. :(

  3. Whoo hoo! Its pickling seosan! Definitely grab some pickling cucumbers while you can, home made pickles are amazing. Below is a refrigerator pickle that anyone can make provided you have a place to keep them chilled until you eat them up and a water bath process to make shelf-stable Bread and Butter Pickles for longer keeping. The spices can be found in the bulk section of your local Fred Meyer, PCC Natural Markets, or Whole Foods (many other grocers may sell them as well). Be careful with anything that contains turmeric its a rather bright yellow and can stain your towels and counter tops.Bread and Butter PicklesFrom American County Living, Canning and Preserving by Linda Ferrari (1991)4 quarts pickling cucumbers (about 6 lbs)4 large onions1/2 cup Kosher or pickling salt4 cups vinegar (I use apple cider, make sure you get a 5% acidity level)4 cups sugar1 Tbs celery seed2 tsp. turmeric2 Tbs. yellow mustard seed1 tsp. mixed pickling spicesSlice cucumbers and onions and alternately layer in a strainer, covering each layer with salt. Cover with ice and let drain for 3 hours. Add additional ice as needed. Drain and rinse thoroughly.Combine the vinegar, sugar, and spices in a large non-reactive pot and bring to a boil. Add the cucumbers and onions and boil again.Fill hot jars with cucumbers, onions, and brine, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace. Release air bubbles, wipe the rims of the jars, and seal. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Makes 7 to 8 pints.Refrigerator PicklesFrom The Gardeners’ Community Cookbook, compiled and edited by Victoria Wise (1999)2 cups distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)1 cup sugar1/4 cup Kosher or pickling salt10 to 12 medium cucumbers, scrubbed and sliced 1/8 inch thick (about 2 lbs)1/2 medium green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into 1/8 inch wide strips1 large white onion, thinly sliced2 to 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced1 Tbs pickling spices2 Tbs dill seedWash and sterilize 2 quart jars and plastic screw top lids. In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, and salt until dissolved, set aside.Layer the cucumbers, peppers, onions, garlic, spices, and dill in the jars. Pour the vinegar mixture into the jars it will not cover the vegetables at first, but they will release liquid as they cure.Cap the jars tightly and put in the refrigerator for one week, turning the jar upside down and shaking a bit once a day to keep the ingredients mixed. Serve after one week or continue to store in the refrigerator for up to six months.Note: If you’re just starting out, beware that refrigerator pickles are a gateway drug. I started making these, and they were so easy and good! It gave me the courage to ask my grandmother how to make her famous pickled beets. It’s a treasured memory and family taste now that my grandmother has passed on. I now have a water bath canner and make pickles, jam, fruit, tomatoes, pasta sauce, etc. just like grandma did.

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