OUT OF YOUR GOURD
In October, the pumpkin gets an upgrade from humble gourd to holiday icon. Unusual jack-o'-lanterns often require extra work, but the reward is a personalized Halloween decoration worth showing off.
Related: 13 Things to Do with Leftover Pumpkin Guts
A clever pumpkin design featured by Good Housekeeping requires just a few household items. Start by applying a coat of white paint to the pumpkin. Once it's dry, carve out several rows of curved squares to create a spiderweb. Finally, form a tangle of black pipe cleaners into a giant spider.
SQUASH THE SNAIL
Two kinds of gourd -- a pumpkin and a butternut squash -- combine for an adorable spin on the standard jack-o'-lantern. Following instructions on Alpha Mom, create the head of a snail by chopping off the bottom of the squash and attaching table-tennis-ball eyes using wooden skewers. With a swirl carved into the top, the pumpkin becomes the snail's shell.
Lots of jack-o'-lanterns are scary or cute, but very few are as clever as Country Living's lantern designs. The stencils (available for free) create lantern shapes when carved out and filled in with black acrylic paint. Place a battery-operated candle inside the pumpkin to complete the illusion.
Most jack-o'-lantern designs use only the exterior of the pumpkin, but another option is to create a diorama. After cutting a large hole in the front of the pumpkin and cleaning out the inside, create a spooky scene using hot glue, moss, wire, toothpicks, and cut-out designs available from The Paper Mama blog. Using a foam pumpkin from a craft store allows this project to be displayed next year, too.
Raccoons, owls, mice, and more can be created by experienced carvers using free jack-o'-lantern stencils from Better Homes and Gardens. These distinctive and detailed designs incorporate "surface carving," or scraping off the skin of the pumpkin instead of cutting all the way through.
Use two pumpkins to create a memorable and somewhat disturbing pumpkin-eating jack-o'-lantern. On the larger pumpkin, carve fierce eyes and an oblong mouth the height of the smaller pumpkin. Carve a frightened face on the smaller one, arranging them to make it look like the larger pumpkin is about to chow down on one of its own kind.
The stem of the pumpkin is the centerpiece of this design. Start by hollowing out the pumpkin from the bottom or back instead of the top. Carve eyes, teeth, and angry eyebrows around the stem, which becomes the witch's pointy nose. With the addition of a hat and perhaps some "hair," the witch is complete.
A CINDERELLA STORY
Prefer fairy tales to horror stories? Try a Cinderella carriage design from Hallmark. There's very little carving involved, but it does require glue, wire, and wooden dowels to connect the carriage's gourd wheels, as well as drawer pulls, fancy belt buckles, and a lamp finial (start poking around thrift stores now).
About.com provides a pattern for carving a pumpkin into an intimidating dragon. Putting dry ice inside makes it look like the dragon is breathing smoke. Take the illusion one step further by adding a glow stick to give the smoke a red hue, or a flare to make the dragon (briefly) breathe fire.
A blog devoted to pumpkin carving ideas features a "pumpkinpede" made from many pumpkins of about the same size. Only one is carved with a face, to serve as the head of the centipede. Attach it to other pumpkins using metal or wooden skewers. Pin carrots on either side of each pumpkin to serve as legs, and voilà.