Choose a pumpkin with smooth skin, rather than deep ridges, and without nicks, scratches, or soft spots.
Create the lid by carving a wide circle around the stem. It needs to be big enough to get your hand inside.
Pull out as much of the insides as you can by hand, and then use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to scrape the inside clean.
Choose the flattest side of your pumpkin to apply the pattern and carve. If you have a pattern, pin or tape it onto your pumpkin (if you are using tape, make sure the outside of the pumpkin is dry). Before you tape or pin your pattern to the pumpkin, make several tears about three inches apart all around the outside edge of the pattern. This will allow it to conform to the shape of the pumpkin.
Use a nail to poke holes through the paper, not poking too deeply into the pumpkin, but following the lines of the pattern. It is best if you poke the holes about 1/4" apart, even closer together on more intricate patterns. The holes should just pierce the pumpkin skin – about 1/8" deep. Once you have all your lines marked, remove the pattern and save it for later reference.
Never use a knife to carve the pumpkin. Pumpkin saws are much easier to use and MUCH, MUCH safer. Insert your carving saw into a poked line. Hold the saw, firmly, like a pencil, and insert it at a 90-degree angle to the surface. Saw the curved areas carefully, gently turning the saw in the direction you wish to go while sawing. To create different effects, angle the blade. Begin by carving the smallest and finest details and areas first. Then the areas in the center of the pattern, and finally the other sections working towards the outer edge.
Battery lights are the best and SAFEST for illuminating your pumpkin. They can usually be purchased at most department stores during the Halloween holiday. While candles are traditional, they do present a fire hazard and if you insist on using them, they should never be left unattended.
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