How to Make a Great Pumpkin

October 30, 2012(updated on October 3, 2018)

How to Make a Great Pumpkin

My grandma Bunny was a writer, artist, and editor. She was a stickler for proper grammer, loved to do craft projects with kids (there were many potato-printing sessions in my early years), and believed that it was important to taste new things whenever possible. She was also devoted to the celebration of Halloween.

Pumpkin booklet

Bunny raised my dad and his brothers to take seriously the art of costume construction (training that benefited my sister and me greatly during our own childhood years) and to put much thought and planning into the carving of Jack-O-Lanterns.

Pumpkin booklet

In 1971, she self-published a little book that pulled all her knowledge of pumpkin carving in one place. She drew all the illustrations, typed out the text on her electric typewriter (she loved that machine and used it for so much. Just seeing its typeface in these pictures brings her back. Strange, I know) and had hundreds of copies printed.

Pumpkin booklet

This little book comes from the days long before Martha Stewart or Pinterest. No one had specially designed sets of carving tools and there were no templates that you could tape to your gourd and follow for guidance. Pumpkin carving was a basic endeavor and Bunny tried to elevate its level of artistry. I admire that kind of effort and wonder if she had lived during these blogging times, if she would have embraced the medium.

Pumpkin booklet

Throughout my entire life, every time I’ve carved a pumpkin, I’ve pulled out a copy of this little book and consulted it for ideas. I’ve used her tips for false teeth and making the most out of the pumpkin’s natural character. I also always remember to cut the lid off at an angle so that it has an easy resting spot thanks to the teapot analogy she included.

Pumpkin booklet

I know that Halloween is just a couple of days away and that chances are very good that most of you have already carved up your pumpkins for this year. But in the slim chance that you haven’t, I thought it would be fun to share a few pages from “How to Make a Great Pumpkin.”

Pumpkin booklet

I’d love to hear about your own Halloween traditions! Do you carve pumpkins and toast the seeds? Do you deck the halls with fake cobwebs and spiders? Please do share your stories!

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22 thoughts on "How to Make a Great Pumpkin"

  • this little book is too cute. in truth, i haven’t really done anything for halloween this year, but my plans usually consists of picking up a pumpkin from patch with my husband, roasting the seeds, and eating about half the candy i plan on giving away…candy ain’t cheap these days though

  • Wow! That is so awesome. I take Halloween pretty seriously but my Halloween heritage does not run this deep! My traditions are: carving many pumpkins every year (up to 20+) with words, not faces; eating chili and watching Shaun of the Dead; and taking the day off from work.

  • Well, as the kids are eagerly anticipating spending their second day off from school (thanks Sandy!), my sneaky plan to drag them away from the electronic screens involves carving the pumpkin! Thank you for sharing the cute book–I’m pleased to see that we do manage to incorporate some of Bunny’s ideas (including “getting to know your pumpkin “) in our process. Of course, we’ll be toasting the seeds afterwards. Thank goodness we still have power after Sandy ripped through!! Happy carving!

  • That book is fabulous!

    I don’t celebrate Halloween, but my brother does, and my favorite thing is watching to see what his daughter will be each year. So far we’ve had Stonehenge, Princess Godzilla, and SuperNieceName. Good times.

  • Is there anyway you could possibly have this reprinted? I love it. It sums up all of the advice my parents gave me on pumpkin carving.

  • What a cute book! Every year we host the annual BYOP (Bring Your Own Pumpkin) Party, so we always have a gaggle of fun pumpkins running around by the end of the evening (this year’s favorite is an Alfred Hitchcock profile with a bird swooping down!).

  • The book is adorable, but I have to poke a bit of fun…. if your grandmother was such a stickler for spelling and grammar, she probably would have given you a red mark for your first paragraph! 🙂

    My son is the pumpkin artist in our family – granted, he’s the artist in the family, full stop. I haven’t tried to carve a pumpkin since I was a kid. My dad didn’t think it was good enough, so he “fixed” it. Now, I boot him out of the room and let the kids do it on their own (he does get to help my daughter with the knife though, because she’s clumsy. But he knows he’s not allowed to “fix” anything unless asked).

  • Managed to pick up a couple of pumpkins before Sandy shut us inside. The plan is to carve them today and roast the seeds with Penzy’s taco seasoning. Yum!

  • oh that little book! It’s so cute!

    We never did anything for Halloween when I was growing up, but now we do carve a few pumpkins and the kids dress up. We go a minor round of trick-or-treating and that’s about it.

  • adorable! how sweet. we carve pumpkins old school here paring knives and scary scary chefs knives. we toast the seeds after. my husband is a fan of cayenne and paprika. i prefer plain sea salt. i think i will try cinnamon sugar next year though. we make it a week of celebrations. making different types of candies watching our old favorite halloween movies and decorating the yard for the treaters!

  • What a cute book and what lovely memories it provides you with!

    This is my first year doing Halloween as an adult (now that I live in a house, instead of an apartment). I hadn’t thought about the tea pot concept for the lid. Brilliant!

  • My grandmother was a writer too and I cherich her children’s books. This one is great! I’m the only pumpkin carver in our extended family so all the little ones love to visit Aunt Nina in the autumn!

  • Yor grandmother’s book is so precious! We love to carve pumpkins here and my Cuban husband is an expert carver. He never had a jackolantern growing up in Cuba, but loves to carve. We have a funny witch pumpkin this year. My grown children had very carefully made costumes every year and one even won a costume contest in her fluffy bunny suit. I am so glad to know about your grandmother and wish I could have known her!
    Thank you for sharing!

  • Charming is right! I adore your grandmother’s book. You really should consider reprinting it, or creating a digital copy that others can download and print. I’ll be first in line. 🙂

  • That is the cutest book! Wow, your grandma sounds like an amazing woman. Seems that her DIY spirit was certainly passed down to you.

    Now we just need to see pictures of those pumpkins you carved…