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Pumpkin carving is creative fun

Carving pumpkins, a tradition that dates back to 700 B.C. has evolved quite a bit over the years. People can choose a simple, traditional design or an elaborate decoration. -- Special photo

Carving pumpkins has been a tradition dating back to 700 B.C., and it still remains a fun activity — other than trick-or-treating — among children and parents. Whether you’re into the traditional jack-o-lantern face or ghost patterns or into the more kid dish, like happy clowns or dragons, pumpkin carving offers something for everyone.

DLTKs, a family-friendly craft website, offers nearly 60 pattern suggestions, with templates ranging from cats to bats to spiders to cartoons. Site owner Leanne Guenther suggests investing in more than your average sharp knives and spoons for your pumpkin carving project this Halloween.

“While you can muddle through some of the simpler designs with serrated knives, tablespoons and a small nail, you’ll be well served investing in some pumpkin carving tools if you plan on attempting some of the more detailed designs,” Guenther said. “Pumpkin carving sets are quite easy to find.”

Selma Ceramic Art Program director Candi Duncan said there are many ways to decorate your pumpkin.

“You can always decorate one by using acrylic (paint), markers and good old fashioned knives,” Duncan said. “You can buy pumpkin kits for less than $10 … there are all kinds of templates, you can find on the internet or magazines.”

The kit, Duncan said, includes serrated plastic knives, templates and spoons and can be purchased from Wal-Mart or any other store. Pumpkin seeds, Duncan said, are also now available at dollar stores.

“Longer stems (pumpkins) seem to last longer than the shorter stemmed,” Duncan said. “Holley’s Farm and garden center, Wal-Mart and most of the dollar stores have seeds … take your pick.”

Duncan said most of the popular carvings have been the “scary,” Jack-o-lantern, witch or “boo” designs.

“The options are endless,” Duncan said. “Here at the Ceramics, carving your ‘name’ is popular.”

Guenther gives instructional tips on how to make your personalized carving pattern.

Prepare your pumpkin by cutting a hole in the top of lid. Make sure you angle the saw inwards so your lid sits on top of pumpkin and doesn’t fall through. Scoop out seeds and strings with a spoon. Scrape some of the flesh from the inside so your pumpkin is about an inch think all the way around.

Print out pattern. Two types of patterns are available. Some require you to cut out patterns and others, like Blue’s Clues, require you to use the leftover pumpkin to represent the pattern, leaving you to cut out the background to make the character look back lit.

Trim off excess paper. Tape or use pins to affix the pattern to the pumpkin. If your pumpkin is quite lumpy, dip the paper in water or vegetable oil. Smooth the pattern onto the pumpkin, affix with pins or masking tape and let the paper dry.

Poke holes through the pattern with a nail, push pin or pumpkin poker. Make the holds about 1/8-inch apart. This step may take a while, so be patient; Remove the paper from the pumpkin.

Push a nail through the pumpkin skin where you want to start carving. Turn and push until it’s all the way into the pumpkin; remove. Repeat anywhere you’re going to need to start carving.

Using your nail hole as a starting point cut the design with your serrated knife or saw. Start in center of design and use light pressure. To remove pieces, push them out from the inside.

Light your pumpkin with a pumpkin light when done. Voila!
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