Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Spooky Hallowe'en movies to carve by: Part V

Happy Hallowe'en!
Hope you're having a spooktacular night, filled with treats, tricks, and some spooky atmosphere.  Here are the last three movies for the season... You should be able to get somewhere to download and watch these shows, it'll set the mood just right for some awesome pumpkin carving!

Trick R Treat (2009)

My absolute favourite Hallowe'en movie at the moment... This movie unfortunately went directly to video, not sure why, but it is an amazing movie with a few concurrent story lines.  Perfect to have on while busy handing out candy or carving your pumpkins.  Sam's the man - better keep up the Hallowe'en spirit or he'll be after you!

Roseanne Hallowe'en episodes (1980s-1990s)

Okay, so Roseanne Barr loves Hallowe'en and made sure that each season of the hit show she starred in had a great Hallowe'en episode.  I remember making sure to see the new episodes each year when they came out - and I guess other people had great memories of those episodes too since the powers that be released a Hallowe'en Special dvd features just those episodes...

Beetlejuice (1988)

And last but certainly not least is Beetlejuice.  Happy haunting!

Pumpkin carving 109: finishing touches

Happy Hallowe'en everyone! 

Last things for your jack 'o lanterns:
  • The lids of your pumpkins are excellent carriers for delicious smells.  My favourite thing to do with my jacks is to cut the lids up a bit so that I can rub cinnamon and nutmeg on them.  Once you have a few of these going with candles, your place will smell delicious.
  • When lighting your jack, use a votive-sized candle rather than a tea light.  The light is much stronger from a votive and they'll last longer through the night.
  • Remember that the more delicate the carving, the shorter the lifespan of your jack.  A basic triangle-eyed carving will last much longer than delicate lacing - depending where you live, they will either rot or dry out.  My general rule is to never carve earlier than 48 hours before Hallowe'en.
  • However, you can make them last longer depending on why they've gone bad:
    • If you live in a wet area and your pumpkins tend to rot: there are some great recipes out there for bleach solutions that you spray into your pumpkin and into the carving that kill the bacteria that make this happen. Google is your friend, for recipes. I don't do this for various reasons.  
    • If your pumpkin is more likely to dry out: you can try using either a really thick aerosol hairspray or vaseline to coat the interior edges of all your carvings to slow down the evaporation of the moisture from the jack.  Obviously wait until the hairspray dries before lighting up those candles ;)
  • Big groupings of similarly-themed jacks look great... 
  • To photograph your jack well, turn your camera flash off.  And get a tripod.
  • After the event, don't just trash those jacks! Depending on where you live, you might be able to take them to an after party.  For example, the Sorauren Park pumpkin parade wants your pumpkins!
And remember: never blow your jack o' lantern out before midnight, it's bad luck!

Pumpkin lid with some cuts for better cinnamon penetration...

The perfect incense burner...

Happy Hallowe'en!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pumpkin carving 108: carving technique

Sorry for the delay, I was down in Key West trying to make it home and had a little trouble and delay due to Sandy.  Back to regularly scheduled programming!

Now that I've done a good transfer of this stencil, I need to start carving!

With my trusty saw, a carve following the following principles:

  • I never use a driving force across the face of the pumpkin.  Only ever up and down perpendicular to the pumpkin flesh.  If you try to drive the saw forward, a couple things happen: you will wreck your blade pretty quickly (the blade will break off the handle) and you will inadvertently cut through something you were not intending to cut through.  This is probably the most important thing I can tell you, so to put it in another way: only ever use force up and down into the pumpkin, never pushing the blade across the face of it.
  • I start with the most delicate pieces.  The surrounding flesh will hold everything together that way.
  • Then, when all remaining pieces are equal, I start at the top left and make my way down to the bottom right.  (My sister, who is left handed, would start at the top left and make her way down to the bottom right.)  You do this to keep everything that you've carved in sight and also to prevent you from inadvertently putting your wrist down on the pumpkin face where you've carved and damaging anything.
  • The biggest pieces should usually be taken out last.  While that pumpkin flesh is in place, it helps to support the smaller areas you're taking out - if you take it out first, you're sort of undermining the integrity of those smaller areas when you carve them.
  • For the best lighting of the pumpkin, it is important to undercut the image.  This got me into serious trouble when I carved my first signature stamp...  Basically, you need to carve out as much as the pumpkin flesh as possible from under the pumpkin skin around the actual hole you're making in the pumpkin.  That way, more light can actually get through the pumpkin.  Otherwise you're making a tunnel for which the light cannot escape.
So the candle is inside the pumpkin - more light can escape when you make the hole/window as big as possible to let light out.

Anyways, here's what it looked light with my thanksgiving pumpkin:

Started at the top left because there was nothing too intricate here that would need me to start in the middle.

That large piece at the top right is the last thing I took out - that way, that flesh helps hold the rest still while carving. But have a look at the edge at the top left: see all that yellow flesh? That's because this cut wasn't undercut properly.  You should see very little yellow if you've undercut everything well - see for example the pumpkin in the centre/left of the image where you can see little to no yellow, which means lots of light gets through.

How to get good at this? Practice.  Practice, practice, practice.  Lots of pumpkins. Sam would be proud.

And that's it, you're done!  Well, just a couple last things to do... My favourite thing to do to pumpkins is in the next post :)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pumpkin carving 107: transferring your stencil

Transferring a pumpkin stencil or pattern to the actual pumpkin is my least favourite part of the job.  If you have even a slightly detailed carve, you're sure to have a horribly cramped up hand after only a short while.

Unfortunately, it's one of the necessary evils of pumpkin carving and it must be done well if you want to be able to get a decent carve.


Here's the pattern on a typical 8.5" by 11" page - too big to even see the pumpkin, so tear off anything that isn't necessary.

Pin that bad boy on.  Interesting fact: pumpkins are round(ish), and paper is not.  Therefore, fold and pin wherever needed in order to get that stencil to lay as close as possible to the pumpkin (see the top right pin).

See the fold going from the middle up to the right?  That helps the pattern stay flat in a portion of the stencil that will be least affected by the fold.  Now, use your awl or other poker to start poking the transfer through.  Err on the side of the carved space when poking: here, you can see that my pokes are mostly in the grey area (the area that will be carved out).  This will make sure that the pieces that are going to be left are thick enough and won't get damaged during the carve.  Also, the smaller and more detailed, the shorter the distance you need between pokes.  So this little detail work here, lots of pokes, but around that top moon shape, they can be much further apart.

Once you are absolutely sure you've poked through everything (cuz there's no going back), remove the stencil.  You can see here, it's a little difficult to actually see those pokes...

So, to make the stencil show up better, cover in baby powder.  Here, you can see the distance between pokes in the more detailed areas is small which makes it easier to figure out when carving - but I saved my wrist on some of the larger cut areas, like the top right arch where there are bigger distances.
Whew.  That was the hard part.  Honestly.  And once you've got a great transfer, the rest is easy peasy... It'll all be told in the next post!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pumpkin carving 106: scooping & shaving

Greetings again!  Hopefully your pumpkin isn't rotting as you're reading these... Don't carve your pumpkin until a day before!

Anyways, scooping out those pumpkins... Secretly, my favourite part.  There's something delightful about sticking your hand into a freshly cut pumpkin and gushing your fingers through the wet, stringy mess inside... And trying to grab as many of the pumpkin seeds as possible as they slip and slide around in your grip...


Well, you know, tis the season.

So once you've taken your messy delights with the pumpkin, you need to start scraping all that mess out. 

A few things to keep in mind:

  • You don't actually have to do a very good job at this.  So long as you scrape the face you'll be carving and the bottom, you're done and good to go.
  • Shave down the face of the pumpkin you're going to carve really thin.  I try to get it down to about a centimetre (half inch) or so.
  • You don't need to shave the bottom of the pumpkin down that far, all you need to do is make it flat so that the candle has a good surface to sit steady on.
  • When shaving the inside of the face down, take a look at your stencil and ball park its size; make sure to shave down everywhere that the stencil is going to end up.
  • Use a spoon or a scraper that comes with carving sets to do the rough work, but when you want to really get things shaved right down, a melon baller is perfect.
  • Before you're done, make sure that the inside of the face side is pretty even. This is even more important with shaved-type pumpkin stencils.

Roughed in - you can see the side is quite thick when compared to the lip at the top.

Shaved down and in. The ridges are from the basic tool - almost done, shave it a little thinner and get it even.

Using the melon baller, hard at work making it even.

The thinner, the better (within reason).  When it is thin, it's easier to do the actual cutting and when you light the pumpkin up, more light gets through because there are shallower light tunnels. Unfortunately, you can't go back in after you carve the pumpkin to thin out these areas without risk of damaging your carving, so get it nice and thin right from the start.

Next post, the transfer.  How I long for a quick transfer method like we have for stamps...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pumpkin carving 105: the chimney cut

Alright.  We've talked about the history of pumpkin carving, we've looked at some stencil sources, we've talked pumpkin picking, it's time to actually carve a pumpkin!

So the first step is cutting the top off, and people have some bad habits here.  So this is just a quick what not to do post.

The problem is that folks usually make a small round lid with the stem in the middle, and cut into the pumpkin perpendicular to the ground.

Don't do this.

Instead, first think about which side the face of the pumpkin is going to be.  On that side, keep the cut as close to the stem as possible.  However, everywhere else, you want to make the lid as big as possible, so cut way down at the back.  The bigger the lid and the further down at the back side, the better able you'll be able to actually get in there and clear out the innards.

Also, don't cut a perfect circle.  If you do, you'll spend half the night trying to make the lid sit on it properly when you light your candles.

And wherever you cut, make sure you're making a 45 degree cut into the pumpkin relative ground - any steeper, and the lid is liable to fall right into the pumpkin...

Remember the last post: pick one that can stand on its own, then find a good face to carve into.  This one looks good... Notice how with this face, the pumpkin actually is higher than the back?

This side, not so much...

Here is the cut - the face of the pumpkin to be used is on the other side of the pumpkin.  The cutout key at the bottom will always let me know how to put the lid back on, as well as give me arm room when shaving down the face I want to carve. All the cuts are 45 degrees or more shallow to prevent the lid from falling into the pumpkin.

See how my arm fits down into it easier?
On small pumpkins (say, pie-pumpkin-size), you may want to actually cut a hole in the back, depending on that pattern you're cutting into the face.  If there's not enough air getting into the pumpkin, your candle will just go out - or not glow very bright.  The more air, the better.

Next up: cleaning out that pumpkin!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Spooky Hallowe'en movies to carve by: part IV

Whew. Right now, I'm in Key West with my band for Fantasy Fest.  It's not really all that Hallowe'eny in Florida, but I should have a great Hallowe'en with a suntan, right? 

So this is the last full set before the Hallowe'en edition of this series of posts... Get your gouges or saws ready, here are this week's flicks:

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Honestly, I think this is the perfect date movie.  With the well-documented British humour, Shaun has to deal with a both the tedium of a mundane life when contrasted with a zombie apocolypse.  Hilarious and perfect for watching while carving.

Vacant, with a hint of sadness. Like a drunk who's lost a bet.

Arachnophobia  (1990)

I had to look twice when I saw that this movie came out in 1990 - it seems to me to be more recent than that, but time is tricking me, I guess.

Anyways, the movie is actually quite predictable: family moves to the country-side where an invasive species of very poisonous spiders are proliferating and spiders are scary.  The last part is key.

While I'm on it, just about every letterboxing adventure I go on seems to be a scene out of this movie.  *shudder*

I love John Goodman in just about everything, and as the exterminator called in to deal with the alleged arachnids, he plays the perfect comic relief for this flick.

Warning: if you watch the following clip from the movie, it is possible you will never be able to shower again.  You are warned.

Zombieland (2009)

If you didn't know, zombies are very fashionable right now.  From zombies in movies and video games to the big zombie walks, I'm a little zombied out.

This fantastic comedy puts the spark back in for me.  I love the entire cast, the comedy is spot on, and the feel of the show is very Hallowe'en to me.

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

The mood in this Tim Burton flick is perfect for the holiday.  I love the expanded story of  the legend of sleepy hollow.  Damp, dark, and foggy, this movie sets the stage nicely for a haunting good time for the holiday.

The Witches of Eastwick (1987)

What would happen if Jack Nickolson was the devil?  And what would happen if Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer happened to be witches?

This movie is fantastic, my favourite character is Felicia, the bible thumper, who has has an unfortunate cherry incident (note: I will not eat cherries because of this movie).  She's over the top and I think she actually gets the best part in the movie.

Wow, this movie is almost 20 years old, and they are still merchandising the hell out of it.  You can't go anywhere without seeing someone with a Jack Skellington purse or phone cover (*cough*cuzit'dbeme*cough*).  This movie is a classic for a reason, the story, the animation, the music, the legacy... You really can't beat this film as a pick for your Hallowe'en night movie...

Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Now here is another classic.  There is a reason that adults still dress up as Magenta or Frank N Furter and go out into the mean streets of the city to go see this on the big screen and sing along...  One of those perfect Hallowe'en movies, Tim Curry is a god.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pumpkin carving 104: picking perfect pumpkins

Last, we talked about the tools - now onto the pumpkins!

Here are my tips for picking pumpkins:

  • Try to avoid your inner kid that screams for the bigger/biggest pumpkin you can find.  It's not a great idea.  Pumpkins need to be in proportion to the stencil that you carve in it - usually 8.5" x 11".  I could probably google jack-o-lantern and come up with a ton of examples to show you how silly a huge pumpkin is with a small uncentered carving near the top somewhere.  They look strange. Make sure your stencil will fill the entire face of your pumpkin.
  • In fact, go small!  Because most people buy their pumpkins at the grocery store where all the pumpkins are supplied by the same farmer who planted them all at the same time, they're all roughly the same size.  But find a little one and do a detailed carving on that one and I think it looks even better than if it were on a "standard" sized pumpkin.
  • Make sure your pumpkin can stand unsupported.  Pumpkins often grow on their side in the fields, which means that the pumpkin might not stand unsupported on what we consider the bottom.  You should check to see that the pumpkin will stand on its own.
  • Find a pumpkin with a great face.  The pumpkin does not need to be perfect, round, or stately - all you need is one side of the pumpkin that is relatively even that you could put a pattern on.
  • Make sure that face is relatively smooth if you are doing detailed carves for the first time.  All pumpkins have this undulating scallop around them so you'll never find one that is perfectly smooth, but stay away from the ones with the deep grooves.
  • Colour: because the pumpkins that are sold are generally of the same variety, they are pretty solidly pumpkin orange, as you'd expect.  However, there are some fantastic white pumpkins that you'll see (note: these are closer to melons than gourds and can be much harder in consistency - like the difference between pink stuff and firm cut), and I really like the orange pumpkins that have patches of green on them. There's actually a really wide variety of size and colours of pumpkins - you just have to search them out. Find a variety, it's the spice of life...
  • Check the pumpkin all over for signs of soft spots or rot.  If the pumpkin already has a spot like that and you carve it, you'll have a liquid pumpkin in short order.  It's cyclical, but some years are great with nice clean pumpkins, other years you can hardly find one in ten without rot.  (This year in southern Ontario, the pumpkins are looking good!) 
  • Look for a nice stem.  Some of the farmers cut the stem right down to the flesh of the pumpkin, which I think is sad.  I like a nice long woody stem, bonus points if there are also curly tendrils still attached.  This has no bearing on the carving of the pumpkin, but I think it looks classy.
Go out and pick some pumpkins - I recommend actually hitting up a farmers' market or a local farm if you want to get the best pumpkins and you'll be supporting local agriculture, too.

Next up: making the perfect first cut!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pumpkin carving 103: carving tools

Why hello there.

When last we spoke of pumpkin carving, I showed you some great places to get stencils and pumpkin patterns.  Please don't forget that with imagination and free online photo software you can make your own stencils...

Today, the tools.  Just like carving stamps, if you don't have the right tool for the job you're not going to have a well carved jack.

I've already posted about my love for the Pumpkin Masters saws for carving fake plastic pumpkins.  They're the best I have found, though not perfect.  I actually dislike the hexagonal handle because it's small and makes my hand cramp up after a lot of carving, and I think the blade could be stronger - and smaller - still.  But they're the current best in my saw arsenal, so you should definitely check them out.

Above, you'll see the things I used to carve a thanksgiving pumpkin a couple weeks ago.  Clockwise from the top left, you'll see a nice cornucopia stencil I got from the good folks over at Jammin Pumpkins , a pumpkin (important!), tacks, the plastic pumpkin saw from Pumpkin Masters I told you about above, a metal awl - about 1.5 mm diameter, a melon baller, a pumpkin scoop, and baby powder (note: not a horrible typo).

The lowdown on my tools:

The scoops: I use both the shallow scoops - ones that typically come with carving kits - to do the basic grunt work and then go back in with the melon baller to really shave down the side of the pumpkin that is going to be carved and get a nice smooth surface on the inside.

Tacks: I see some sites recommend taping the stencil down.  Don't do this, it will only cause misery when dust or liquid on the pumpkin makes the pattern come loose mid-transfer.  Use plenty of tacks to tack the stencil down and you'll be much happier with the result.

The saw: I really only use the one saw.  It's really sturdy - the end tapers to a point so that I can use the tip shallowly if I have a really tight curve.

The poker: transfers are the most important think for carving both stamps and pumpkins.  It doesn't matter how nice the stencil is or how good a carver you are if that nice stencil isn't properly transferred for you to apply your skills to.  You always want to use something that your hand will feel comfortable with that tires your hand out the least - because let's face it, unless someone comes up with a great transfer method that doesn't involve a poke through, you are going to have some hand soreness after doing a decent transfer.

Baby powder: basic problem with the poking through technique for pumpkin stencils: pumpkins or orange, pokes in pumpkin are only a slightly different shade of orange.  Solution? Dust transfer with baby powder and rub it in - the white fills all the little holes and instantly your design is highlighted.  As you carve through all the holes, baby powder disappears.  Any remaining residual powder on the surface is easily removed with a cloth.

Here are some of the tools in my box that have been aquired over any number of years that I don't use - and don't recommend you do either.

The three saws you see on the left are pretty typical for the beginner sets, but are pretty much useless for anything other than the basic smiling jack.  I guess a bonus is that a small child would have a pretty hard time hurting themselves or others with them, but otherwise they are useless for doing detailed jacks.

The five pokers you see on the right can do the job, other than the little wheeled one and the circular array which you should just through in the recycling, but rest are all so small (about the length of my thumb) that any sort of detailed transfer is going to have your hand hurting like crazy before you ever get to the carving portion.  Skip them and use a bigger awl or similar tool and avoid the pain.

Next up: picking the perfect pumpkin for your carve!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Spooky Hallowe'en movies to carve by: part III

Sorry, little behind the times here, getting ready for the holiday and all.  Here's the next bunch of spooky flicks, perfect for carving to:

Halloween (1978)

Oh, Jamie Lee Curtis, how I love you.  The huge Halloween franchise, not as big a fan, but I don't think I can really leave this one off of the list. And really, it's the movie from which all future horror movie cliches stem...  I'm sure you've seen it.  Mostly sure. 

I should note that I do blame this movie for the loss of the apostrophe in the word "Hallowe'en" in modern English.  Perhaps this movie isn't among my absolute favourites for that reason ;)

Slither (2006)

Now, this is an instant classic movie that I can really get behind.  You may not have seen it, which is tragic and you should get your butt into a chair and watch.  This one is great; cheesy, campy, and full of Nathan Fillion in all his glory.  Really, why don't they give that man more movie roles?

Anyways, if you haven't seen it: a meteor hits in middle town USA, and slug like things come out and start taking over - particularly one man who ends up hosting one of these parasites and starts eating pets, then people.    The movie is actually more of a comedy than a horror - unless you're easily scared, the slugs aren't really all that scarifying.  Great movie, think I'm going to watch it tonight...

Cabin in the Woods (2012)

The newest addition to my Hallowe'en movie shelf is this year's movie by the god known as Joss Whedon.  (I would bear him children if he asked.)  And this movie is also an instant classic - very meta, a horror within a horror - actually scary.  The only flaw in this otherwise perfect movie is the hand at the end.  If you've seen it, you know what I mean. 

If you haven't seen it, whatever you think it's about - it's not.  And I can't really describe it without spoiling it for you, so you should just go see it.  Love this one.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

And speaking of Joss, the first movie that he had anything to do with was the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Super cheesy - and actually the reason I didn't start watching the Buffy television series until the end of the second season (mistake).

From what I understand, Joss didn't have all that much to do with this one other than coming up with the concept - and really, other than the premise, the movie and television show couldn't be any more different.  But as much as I hold dear the Buffy series, I love the movie for its camp-factor, and I pull it out every now and again just to hear the valley-girl accents...

They had this look in their eyes, totally cold, animal. I think they were young Republicans. 

Creepshow (1982) and Tales from the Crypt  (1989 - 1996)

If you've seen these, you'll understand why I've lumped them together.  If you can find any of these on video, give them a watch - lots of spooky short flicks. None really worth a deeper watching, more for just ambiance.  But I love the cryptkeepter - how can you not? Lots of the episodes are available for watching on YouTube if you look carefully...

Ginger Snaps (2000)

This is a great coming of age movie about girls, bullying, getting your period, and being a werewolf.  We all know how that is.  And it's Canadian, shot here in the greater Toronto area.  The movie is about two sisters who are outcasts at school and are being bullied.  One night, while trying to seek revenge on one of the bullies, Ginger gets attacked by... something... and then slowly starts turning into a werewolf.  Great movie, definitely worth the watch.

Army of Darkness (1992)

Shop smart.  Shop S Mart.

Are there people who haven't seen this?  Yes.  And that is sad. Truly sad.  Unfortunately, this movie only retains cult movie status.  This movie gets major props for the right kind of cheese. This is well aged, high end cheese.  There is no higher class of cheese.

S Mart employee ends up going back in time to 1300AD where the dead have come back to life and are waging war.  And somehow 20th century guy saves the day... with science!

Don't touch that please, your primitive intellect wouldn't understand alloys and compositions and things with... molecular structures.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mad Science: the Colorbox/Stazon rematch!

The pirate (ARRR!) stamp
This post could be a little spoilery, but this stamp is headed for the Caribbean.  Anyways, I finished up this great pirate stamp (ARRR!) to take with me for planting later this month, was disappointed with the impression I made in my own logbook - but not with the paper I was test stamping with.  What's up with that.

And so, I decided it was time for another Colorbox/Stazon battle!  ARRRR!

 FYI: you can see the full size image of any of the pictures on this page will by clicking on them.

Okay, first up: ColorBox on sketchpad papARRRR, the same kind of paper that is in my logbook.  Not great - not every good at all actually...

Next, StazON on the same sketch paper - bettARRR than ColorBox, but not that great either.

Okay, so next, I wanted to tARRRy some glossy paper.  Here I stamped on kids' fingerpainting paper with ColorBox.  Meh.

And now, with StazOn - much better...

But what about regulARRR ol' copy paper?

Worst in show: ColorBox on copy paper... Yuck.

Best in show: StazOn on copy paper... Hooray!

But I was told that the colARRRs worked differently than the black and that I might get different results... So, colour time!

ARRR you ready?  The colours here are all on the copy paper - and all generally came out really well.  In defence of the ColorBox red, I actually had a really dry pad, so that's probably why it's so light, rather than the ink.  Also, despite cleaning the stamp really well between inkings, the StazOn red managed to dissolve the black right off the stamp which you can sort of see in the transfer.

Conclusion?  Well, since black is usually my go-to colour on the trail, I'll only really be lugging around my StazOn.  Also: I really think I need to rethink the sketchbook logbook - maybe I'm losing out on some great stampings due to the paper in it... Hmmm...

Off to Boneyard Boxing today.... ARRRRRRRR!!!

Happy trails!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Letterboxing in London, Ontario

Mental note to self: must get out more next October for some serious letterboxing.  I'm kicking myself that I don't have more time this year to letterbox: the colours are beautiful, the temperatures are perfect, it's generally dry, the bugs are long gone, the underbrush has mostly died away, everyone is at work.  These are perfect letterboxing conditions, people!

But I digress.  This post is supposed to be able an impromptu letterboxing adventure I had last Thursday in the beautiful land of London, Ontario.

I ended up with some free daytime hours on my hands while out in London and couldn't pass up the opportunity to go searching for some boxes.  And I'm glad I did.

I actually went searching for a few boxes with no luck.  But beautiful strolls along treed paths made up for it. I mean, just look at some of these pictures:

I was marginally successful with one box in a Fiddleheads series, Harry Potter's Staunch Supporters. Didn't find two, but the box I did find was certainly work the walk...  Gorgeous walk in the woods in the middle of a business day.  What more can you ask for?

Not much, is my answer.

Happy trails!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pumpkin carving 102: stencils & patterns

A few days ago, I posted about the (mostly modern) history of pumpkin carving... Today, the stencils!  Hallowe'en is only 20 days away, but remember to not carve your pumpkins until a day before at the earliest.  They dry out or rot pretty quickly...

Anyways. So, it is a perfectly valid choice to carve your standard face pumpkin, with triangle eyes and toothy grin and I'd encourage you to do that... but I really like the intricate carvings, which is why you're probably here.  My favourite part of the pumpkin process is hunting down new patterns, hard patterns, or finding old unused ones.

Here's a quick round up of some great places to get stencils:

  • Google Images: Okay, let's be honest here: for the beginning pumpkin carver, there are plenty of stencils that can be found through Google Images.  Throw in a search term like "pumpkin stencil" and you're going to find lots of free stencils.
  • Pumpkin Masters: This is probably the company that started it all - at least for me - and some of my favourite vintage patterns are by this company. I can remember the excitement of the Pumpkin Masters books being put out for the new season with their new patterns and wondering what kinds of great new patterns I was going to find... Great for beginners, but becoming disappointing for me because they've lost a bit of that spark in their patterns (as in: same old, same old).
  • Zombie Pumpkins: One of my current favourite places to get stencils. It's all online, you can check out the patterns and print the ones you like. The stencils on this site are actually really clean  for lack of a better term.  If you want to do more challenging patterns, generally these ones can look really complicated without actually being too difficult.  Low risk, high reward ;)
  • Jammin' Pumpkins: This site has some great stencils and I particularly like the stencils in the bonus section, Ride of the Reaper (last jack here) and Hitchcock the Birds.  Great patterns, new ones all the time, and worth the membership.
  • Stoneykins: My current go-to place for stencils, this place has both the carve through patterns as well as the shaving/shaded patterns.  Two of my all time favourite stencils were from this site, Poe (second last jack here) and American Gothic (top jack here).

The next carving post will be about stencil choices and considerations and picking the perfect pumpkin...

Happy trails!