October is here, which means Halloween is just around the corner– and perhaps it’s time for a trip to the pumpkin patch. No matter your age or skill level, carving pumpkins is a time-honored way to celebrate the spookiest season of the year.  

In need of a little design inspiration? Read on for some easy yet eye-catching ideas that are sure to impress this Halloween night. It’s impossible to go wrong with a classic jack-o-lantern, but if you’re in the spirit to shake things up, we’re here to offer your porch some alternatives. 

Before getting started, here are a few handy carving tips to bear in mind:

  • Pumpkins have a long shelf life, but they begin to decompose as soon as you cut into them. To ensure your jack-o-lantern stays fresh, wait til right before Halloween to start carving.  
  • You can also prolong the life of a cleaned-out pumpkin by soaking it for an hour in a solution of bleach and water (1 teaspoon bleach to 1 gallon water). Alternatively, give it a quick spritz with diluted peppermint dish soap. 
  • Step away from the kitchen knife! Keep things simpler (and safer) by purchasing a pumpkin carving kit from the store. 
  • Pumpkins also benefit from a skin care regime, and to prevent wrinkles, rub its insides with vegetable oil or petroleum jelly. It’s also advisable to refrigerate your pumpkin when it’s not in use. 
  • Use an ice cream scooper for added ease when cleaning out your pumpkin. 
  • Save, wash, and toast your pumpkin seeds for a delicious seasonal snack.

Practical pumpkins   

Carved jack-o-lanterns traditionally contain candles, but have you ever thought about what else a pumpkin could hold? Think outside the box and your gourd could serve a purpose beyond its usual task of greeting the neighborhood on Halloween night. 

Make it: Carve your jack-o-lantern with an extra-large mouth, fill it with sweets, and voila — you have an alternative candy bowl that’s sure to delight trick-or-treaters. Planning a Halloween party for grown-ups? You can chill wine inside a pumpkin by carving a large oval into its side and pouring in ice. For something even simpler, place a bouquet of flowers into the top of a hollowed-out pumpkin for a seasonal and stylish botanical display. 

Polka dots and power drills 

If traditional carving utensils aren’t quite your style, have you considered swapping them for power tools? It’s a lot less extreme than it sounds, and drills can be used to create a variety of designs ranging from kooky to downright elegant. 

Make it: Hollow out your pumpkin and use a small-diameter drill bit to adorn your pumpkin with twinkles akin to a starry night sky– you can even connect the dots to create constellations. Alternatively, get creative and spell out letters, create patterns, or even make a face for your pumpkin out of polka dots. In accordance with the electric-over-analog theme, place battery-operated LED lights inside your pumpkin for added glow.

Have access to a larger drill bit? For a truly unique design, try cutting out larger circles for a Swiss cheese effect. Add some rubber mice from the Halloween store and you’ve got yourself a one-of-a-kind pumpkin that’s creative and just a little creepy. 

Animal inspired 

My beloved cat kept me sane during the pandemic, so I’m always looking for a reason to celebrate her. Fellow animal lovers can take inspiration from their own furry friends or even more exotic animals to turn a porch into a pumpkin menagerie. 

Make it: The most straightforward approach is to carve an animal face onto your pumpkin using a stencil. Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle offers several animal-inspired stencils on their website; alternatively, you can download them directly from us at bellinghamalive.com. For added pizzazz, look to local craft stores for accessories. Make ears and tails out of felt, whiskers from pipe cleaners, or break out the paint pen to add hassle-free stripes. 

Make the most of seasonal squash 

Here’s a Halloween history lesson: Jack-o-lanterns originated in Ireland, but they were very different from the gourds we display today. Why is that? The very first jack-o-lanterns were turnips, not pumpkins, and they were used to ward away unwanted visitors. Bearing in mind the holiday’s history, it’s not so unusual to adorn your porch with alternative produce. 

Make it: For an especially expressive jack-o-lantern, cut the top off a butternut squash and scoop it out using a large spoon or serrated knife. Although traditional pumpkins aren’t terribly delicious, these squashes most certainly are, so make sure to save the insides for another recipe. Next, give your squash a face using a pumpkin carving knife and a template of your choosing if desired. You can sub the squash for turnips, watermelons, peppers, or even a pineapple if you’re feeling tropical. 

Pumpkin home 

For a decoration that’s more cozy than creepy, turn your pumpkin into a pint-sized cottage. The customization options are unlimited, and you can even incorporate miniature figurines (human or animal) for added cuteness. 

Make it: To begin, cut out windows and a door using a carving knife. You can even glue crosses made of toothpicks on the inside for a window pane effect. If your pumpkin is large enough, draw a face on a miniature pumpkin and place it just inside to give your house a resident. Use a paint pen to draw in details and, for the finishing touch, try gluing fluff from a cotton ball to the pumpkin’s stem for a smoking chimney effect. 

Keep it local 

With a little creativity, you can even use your pumpkin as a canvas to honor what you love most about this community. What inspires you about where you live? Use your own experience as a starting point to make a pumpkin that’s truly unique to you and your town. 

Make it: You can pay homage to some of the area’s most distinctive geographical features — think mountain ranges — or even outdoor activities. Stencils for sports such as skiing and mountain biking are easily located with a quick search on Google or Etsy. For something even moreocal, check out our website for stencils inspired by the Bellingham flag, Mount Baker, Western Washington University, and more.