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Me, My Roommates, and Gourdon: A Guide to Carving Pumpkins

Last week, CMU was giving out free pumpkins and one of my roommates got one. She said she picked the smallest one because she thought it would be cute, and I totally agreed. We decided that we were going to put aside a few hours to carve it out.

Our tiny free pumpkin

That weekend, my roommates went to Target to get some carving tools and groceries. To my surprise, they came back with a random large pumpkin that they impulsively bought because “it was only $5!” To be honest, I approve completely of this decision, even though they had to carry it on the bus home. We named it Gourdon.

My roommate and Gourdon

We carved him out Tuesday night, and it was the first time any of us have carved out a pumpkin in years. Here are some tips I have for inexperienced pumpkin carvers like me, through my own experience.


  1. Cut the stem off in a strategic way. This is the first step and it’s very easy to do it without care. We didn’t really think much about this step (because, like, how can you mess up cutting off the top?), but it ended up not really being ideal. We cut the top off, and then because it wouldn’t come out easily (our cuts probably weren’t deep enough), we went over it again, and then pulled it off. I mean, that’s good and all, but we quickly realized that if we tried to put the top back on, it would just fall through the hole and inside the pumpkin. Yikes.


We now keep the stem from falling in by sticking two knives into it. While functional, this slightly ruins the aesthetic.

  1. Be prepared to get messy! You have to clean out the inside of the pumpkin (obviously), and this is only kind of tiring and messy. Lay out some paper towels or a cloth over your table, and get to scooping out the guts! Its honestly pretty fun.

Cleaning out the pumpkin in the middle of our carving session because we didn’t do a good enough job the first time. 

  1. Prepare your pumpkin masterpiece! We used a design that came with our carving tools (after a long debate about which design to pick; my roommates didn’t want a cute spider L), and we basically just taped it to our pumpkin and wet the paper so it laid nicely. We were supposed to put plastic wrap over it, but I don’t really know why that would help. You could also just draw out the cuts you need to make!

We chose this design because it is cute but still spooky.

  1. Start out with the smaller holes/cuts. Maybe this is obvious to everyone but me, but I straight up went in on that pumpkin. I literally started carving out the biggest piece, until my roommate told me to stop. It made a lot of sense in hindsight, because as soon as we got to the end with the bigger pieces, things got really wild. Our paper wouldn’t stay on very well, so we had to eyeball some things, and I also realized that there wouldn’t be enough stability for the little pieces if I didn’t cut them first.

Carving out the smaller parts

5. Try to make sure your cuts are straight! Our cuts were typically slanted inwards so when we tried to pull out the pieces, we pulled out a little cone of pumpkin that didn’t even go all the way through. Of course, it’s pretty easy to remedy this, but just keep in mind to try to keep them straight! This is also important when you get to cuts that are close together, because you could end up with some very thinly connected pieces.

Me, my roommates, and Gourdon. So proud!

Pumpkin carving can be super fun, and hopefully with this guide you won’t make the same mistakes as us! We were super happy with how Gourdon turned out, and we’ve sent the pictures to almost everyone we know so that they could be impressed. Happy carving!


The finished piece. We don’t have candles, so we put a flashlight inside.

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