To start pumpkin-carving, you'll need some simple tools. They don't have to be particularly elaborate or pricey; just a basic pumpkin-carving kit such as this one from Party City will do (partycity.ca, $7). So long as it has a larger carving tool and a smaller one, you should be good to go!
Using a strong knife, cut a hole around the stem at the top of the pumpkin. Make sure to angle the tip of your knife toward the centre to create a ledge on which the pumpkin top can comfortably rest and not fall in. Make the hole big enough that your arm can easily reach inside. Once the top is cut out, reach in and pull out all the gooey insides. Make sure to scrape down the sides really well so all the wet stuff is removed.
To make the most of your pumpkin, separate the seeds from the gooey insides. Rinse the seeds, and dry them off. Mix in spices, such as salt, pepper, celery seeds and garlic powder. Place them flat on a tray, and bake them in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes. Now you have a tasty treat to nibble on while you admire your pumpkin!
Now this is the fun part! If it's your first time and you just want to have fun with it, feel free to let your creativity take charge, and cut out some eyes, a nose and a mouth as you see fit. But if you want a slightly more polished look, try using a stencil or template. Begin by taping it to the flattest side of the pumpkin. Using a toothpick or other small, pointed object, poke holes along the lines of the image. When you remove the paper, these dots will become the lines you trace on the pumpkin. Make plenty of dots, and keep them close together so you have something to follow. You can also trace the dots with a pen for added clarity before you begin carving. Using the carving knives, cut all the way through the pumpkin along the dotted lines. When working on thinner trims, be particularly careful. Every part of the pumpkin has to be connected for the shapes to stay in place, so cutting something too narrow could cause pieces of the pumpkin to fall off. Start by cutting the larger sections to get warmed up, then work your way toward the thinner portions.
Carving a pumpkin is not a quick job. It takes time and patience to get it right. The carving knives act as saws, so saw your way gently and carefully along each line. Also aim to not saw at too much of an angle, or removing the pieces will be difficult. Keeping the cutting tool perpindicular to the pumpkin and facing the centre is a good rule of thumb. If a piece gets stuck, cut it into smaller sections, and remove each section one at a time. Be patient, and don't get forceful, or part of the pumpkin may break. Carving pumpkins is an inexpensive way to decorate your home for the season, so have fun with it!
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