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October 31, 2013

I've had an idea for a fully carved spider-web pumpkin lantern in my head for ages, but wasn't confident enough in my abilities to attempt it without someone else's instructions.

I never found those instructions, but when my husband brought home a free little pumpkin from work, it seemed to be just right for a full out lantern, so I attempted it on my own.  It turned out so well I'm going to share my how-to with you!

So, here you go, my process for creating a spider-web jack o'lantern.

What You'll Need:
  • A small pumpkin, not too lumpy or creased - ideally symmetrical all the way around, about 8-15" in diameter
  • pumpkin carving tools like PumpkinMasters, or a serrated knife that can cut small pieces
  • a pen or marker
  • tape, about 1/2" wide, scissors to cut width if necessary
  • a light (I recommend the small cheap LED tea lights - much safer and can last you several years!)
  • Several hours to devote to carving

I can't give a pattern for this, since pumpkins are all kinds of different shapes and sizes. You'll need to figure out the best layout for your pumpkin.  Get a little pumpkin, not a big one.  Your hands will thank you.  (You should be glad you can't see the size of my blister!)  

Firstly, do not draw all over a pumpkin with a pen.  It won't wipe off as easily as you think.  I was trying to get a feel for what I was attempting to do and had all sorts of craziness drawn on there that was still on there when I put it out for display.  

Step 1.  Prep Your Pumpkin

Cut out the BOTTOM of the pumpkin and clean out the guts from there.  (it's just like cutting out the top, except awkward because of the stem.  I worked on mine with it balanced on my lap.)  Then begin thinning out the shell.  You'll want to get it nice and thin, but not TOO thin.  I usually scrape until I can feel the vibrations of the scraper with my other hand directly on the outside of the pumpkin.  You'll understand what I'm talking about once you feel it.  

Step 2.  Vertical Webbing

I took some painter's tape for this step and cut it in half, making it about 1/2" wide.  I used these strips to mark out the vertical webbing.  I wanted the holes between the web to be somewhat square, so I tried not to get the lines more than 2" apart.  This took a surprising amount of time to arrange so all the lines were evenly spaced around the pumpkin, but it was well worth the effort.  
Step 3 - Horizontal Webbing

Once I got those lines worked out, I began drawing out my horizontal lines with, OK, a pen.  I know what I just said, but here it's OK.  I did simple arches, but you can choose to do whatever interests you.  Maybe alternating diagonals per column?  I kept the arches a tiny bit narrower than the vertical webs.  I drew two lines for each arch, then scribbled on the pumpkin underneath that arch, to indicate that this was the piece I was cutting out. 

I started out spacing the arches pretty narrow at the top, and changed my mind and made them farther apart as I went along, but the effect was quite pretty.  My hand with the saw kind of decided just how accurate each arch was, but I figure spiders get tired and achy too.   I realize this is rambly, but just look closely at some of the photos in this post and you can kind of go with a pattern there.  Remember you're cutting out and removing the space between the webs, not the web itself.

The bottom row I did a reverse arch, and ended it about an inch and a half above the bottom of the pumpkin as it sat on a level space.  You could probably still go lower, but I figured no one would be able to see that section anyway.

Step 4:  Cutting Out

IMPORTANT: When you cut out each hole, DO NOT PUNCH OUT THE PIECES YET!  You'll need these pieces still in place to support the rest of the pumpkin while you're sawing.  I worked my way around the pumpkin in horizontal rows, doing all the top ones first, then the row below, etc.  I needed to rest my hand on the pumpkin to saw and didn't want to rest it on a piece already cut out.  

Step 5:  Punching Out

When you've got everything cut out, you'll have the fun of poking all the pieces out.  It's really very satisfying.  Keep the saw handy for those bits that resist. Don't try to force a piece out, or you could break the web. 

Extra Comments

I used PumpkinMasters tools, but I opened a new pack this year thinking 'new blades will be sharper' and they were flimsy and uncomfortable.  Don't know what to tell you to use, but I'll be looking for better tools for next year!

You don't really NEED the bottom piece anymore, but it can help raise the candle up if you want more light.  

The pumpkin should be fairly sturdy still, but treat it gently.  I actually carved it the night before Halloween and stuck it in the fridge to help it last through the day.  I left it out overnight the next night and by morning it was starting to cave in due to spoilage.  There are tricks to keep it from rotting, like spraying with bleach or smearing cut edges with petroleum jelly, but this pumpkin is mostly cut edges so I'm not sure how well it would help.

Add some extra decor - I think spider rings would have been awesome on this lantern, but frankly, they creep me out, so I didn't have any.  

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below, and I will gladly answer them.  This pumpkin looked fantastic in my yard, and I got a lot of compliments.  They'd be really pretty as a set!