Jack-O-Lantern

Have you noticed yet that it’s October? I sure hope you have, cause it’s halfway done already! And you know what? Halloween is at the end of October, yay! I’ve always liked Halloween. When I was a kid it was for the candy (of course) but now it’s more for the decorations. I’m not some huge fan of horror movies (in fact I hate horror movies) and I’m not really into the monsters or zombies but I just love the chance to decorate. I think Halloween always marks the beginning of the decoration season to me. There’s not much decorating to do over the summer but after Halloween there’s Thanksgiving, and then Christmas (the best decorating holiday ever) and new year’s then Valentine’s day and St. Patrick’s day and Easter. All great holidays for decorating.

I’ve always liked carving pumpkins but they’re so messy to carve and they rot way too soon for me, not to mention teenagers (teenage boys really) like to go along and smash them and I hate taking the chance mine might get smashed. So this year I decided to make a lasting jack-o-lantern by needle felting it. And I decided I wanted to light it from the inside too! My wonderful BF suggested those battery powered tea-lights you can get, great idea, he’s a pretty smart guy. Here’s the process  in pictures!

The battery operated tea-light. Surprisingly nice for 3/$1 at the dollar store.

Making the pumpkin hollow was a new challenge for me, I have never made a hollow felted piece before. So I decided to start with a ring around the candle, since it would give me some structure to start on, and then build up the sides slowly. Basically to think of it like a three dimensional round piece rather than a hollow ball.

I knew I wanted a face at the front of the pumpkin, so I figured I would do about 2/3 of the pumpkin and get that reasonably structural and then add the face. I discovered that didn’t work. This is about halfway through the process and I was discovering that it was quite difficult to try and make a round piece with a chunk missing, it simply wouldn’t go round.

So I decided to just fill in the whole thing and get it a little felted then felt holes into it for the face. Here it is almost completely rounded out. This was the point where I discovered it was nearly impossible to try and felt a hollow piece of that size through the single hole in the bottom. The hole being where the candle goes.

After a bit of frustration, and discovering that it worked quite well to basically stuff the thing with small chunks of foam, I got the basic face shape. At this point the whole pumpkin was still only loosely felted and was quite squishy, so I spent quite a while just felting it all over to firm it up. It never did get as rigid as I thought it would, but it definitely holds its shape, and that is the important thing.

I added the stem on top and the teeth in the mouth and its done! I originally planned to make the ridges like you get in a pumpkin but that just would not work with the squishiness of the whole piece.

There is a nice little hole in the bottom where the candle can slot into. It turned out small enough that the candle doesn’t just fall out, but big enough that it’s easy to change, which is what I was hoping for.

And here’s the finished piece all lit up. Isn’t he cute? I mean scary, they’re sposed to be scary aren’t they? Whoops!

If I make another one, which I’m thinking about doing, I think I would make the face first and build around that. It was rally quite difficult to do the detailed work for the face when I couldn’t really get much leverage to felt with on the round piece, and I couldn’t get to the back of the face very well because it was on the inside and the hole on the bottom was so small. So now I know, if the piece is going to be hollow, make sure there are big holes or any really precise work is done before it’s put together!

I did learn something quite good on this piece as well. Usually I work exclusively with a single needle rather than the multi-needle felting tools you can get. I like the precision you can get with the single needle and the multi-needle tools just feel bulky and rather like using a sledgehammer to pound a nail in. But for this piece I needed to do a lot of just basic felting that didn’t need to be precise but couldn’t be done with the big 6 or 8 needle felting tools, cause those only work on flat surfaces. Luckily my mother, crafting genius that she is, had gotten me one of these little tools. I had tried it a little bit on a felted chocolate and other little pieces like that and didn’t like the clumsiness and figure I wouldn’t ever use it. I felt kinda bad that my mom had bought it for me and was so excited to have found it and I was so disinterested in it so I tried it on this piece when I did the overall felting and it worked perfectly! It was just what I needed and I’m not giving it up now. I can already see how it could be useful on other projects I’m thinking about, including needle felted pictures, which I will be posting about later. So I guess I learned that tools aren’t very impressive when you don’t use them for what they were made for!

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