What’s a Harry Potter party without the lovely floating candles in the great hall of Hogwarts? (Answer: probably still a pretty good party, but I’m going all out so floating candles are happening at my house.)
There are a bunch of tutorials online about how to make the night sky with floating candles. I decided to use those tutorials to make candles, which I will post about in a separate post at some point. But I’m doing a Halloween version… which means it needs to look more like this:
That means I need pumpkins. Pumpkins that can easily hang from the ceiling. Or magically float… Somehow…
It turns out that Michael’s and Joann’s have these “funkins” or “craft pumpkins” because they read my mind and want all my money. Luckily they took pity on me and also had them on sale. (Related note: did you know that Joann’s honors competitors’ coupons such as Hobby Lobby and Michaels? Yup.) So I bought 3 for my small hallway to float along with the candles in what will soon be the Great Hall. They’re perfect for this.
And now for my incredibly long tutorial on how to carve these awesome craft/foam pumpkins and have them “float” in mid air. It isn’t that different than carving regular pumpkins, but here’s the full explanation.
pin vice or very sharp tooth pick/skewer
clear string/fishing line
blunt sewing needle (or sharp one if you’re feeling invincible)
small flashlight (I used the one on my phone)
pliers – small to medium sized
thumb tack that match your ceiling color (or just get some paint to match – which means you might need paint)
battery powered tea light (flickering ones are best but not necessary – I found a large pack at Target in the candle section)
LOTS of time and patience.
First: Lightly draw (in pencil) the outline of your face onto the pumpkin. If you want, you could even get stencils and trace onto there. The “skin” of these foam pumpkins indents pretty easily. That’s the main reason why I say lightly draw – you want to be able to erase it easily if you end up deviating a bit and also, if that happens you don’t want a giant pencil mark indention.
Please note: these dudes will break. So treat them much like a regular pumpkin. Patience is a virtue.
Next: Get your handy dandy x-acto knife – preferably a sharp one – and start to carve the pumpkin. NORMALLY with regular pumpkins, you would cut open the top, and scoop out the gunk inside (and save the seeds for baking). These guys are already hollow AND you’re going to be hanging them, so they need to stay whole – hence why you start right away with the carving with an exacto knife. (NOTE: I bought 3 pumpkins. One of them had a real funk – a chemical/plastic-y smell when I cut into it. If you’re sensitive to smells, cut part of an eye out and just set it aside and let it air out a bit. Just heads up…)
Some important tips about this:
1. I suggest starting with the eyes. Cut the full circles (or triangles) out first. I found that it’s easier to center things once you have the eyes in place and also gives you something extra to hold on to to help you pop out bits as you go. Also this is the easiest and least detailed part. Teeth suck.
2. Think small. Cut out small pieces at a time. Don’t try and cut out the entire mouth and expect it to just pop out all easy-like. That’s how you break teeth (and lots of crying. No crying in Halloween.)
3. Make sure at least one of your eyes is big enough or mouth is wide enough to get a battery powered tea light inside. Since the whole pumpkin is intact, you need to have a way to get the tea light inside.
4. Take breaks. I have a callus on my finger from using the x-acto knife for 2 solid hours. These guys aren’t easy to carve. I’ll post later about regular pumpkin carving because it’s actually easier and you can do a lot more with it (at least that’s how I feel anyway… it’s also messier and I get snacks out of it. Win/win.)
5. Use small motions. It’s really difficult to try and make big sweeping lines with the x-acto knife and also the foam isn’t kind to that sort of thing.
6. For some reason, different brands look different. And sometimes same brand pumpkins look different (like mine). Just go with it if this happens to you. In the end, when the lights are dimmed and they’re hanging and lit up, they all look pretty much the same.
7. A sharp x-facto knife is REALLY helpful. It’ll save you time on the cleanup — the next step.
Next: Once you’ve gotten your basic shapes – mouth, eyes, nose – cut out, you can go back and clean it up again. For me, there’s always some rigid areas, around the teeth especially. If you use the x-acto knife to make those a little straighter, it’ll make the whole pumpkin look a lot more polished and real. Or if you happen to have a Dremel, this would be SUPER handy. But those things are expensive. Now is also the time to very lightly erase any remaining pencil marks. Be sure to use a good eraser and not to erase too hard or you’ll erase some of the paint/color.
NEXT! Get out that pin vise or your sharp toothpick. I didn’t own a pin vise. My boyfriend did. Because he’s amazing. And also because he builds Gundams. We’re crafty (and nerdy) folks. Anyway, if you don’t have one, check it out. You can get reasonably priced ones on Amazon or at a hardware store. It’s basically a hand drill. You press this screwdriver-looking thing down onto the thing you want to put a hole in, and then while pressing down with your palm you twist the vise and it drills into that thing. It’s AWESOME. Also, if you’re going to do the candles along with these pumpkins, it’s totally worth the $12ish investment. TRUST ME. Anyway! Back to instructions…. You’ll want to make two small holes at the top of the pumpkin – directly across from each other, with the stem in the middle.
Next: Cut about 3 to 6 feet of string – depending on how low you want your pumpkin to hang. It’s going to be about half that length from the ceiling. Then you can thread your needle (or not, depending on how stiff/cooperative your thread/fishing line is) and drop it through one hole and make sure there is enough string through the hole to where you can pull it through the mouth to the outside. Then grab the other end of the string and thread your needle with that side and drop it down through the other hole and pull the end outside the mouth as well. Then you can tie a knot with the two ends outside the mouth – NOT through the eyes, because it’ll end up wrapping around the nose area. Basically this is the easiest way to create a loop inside your pumpkin so it hangs evenly and doesn’t spin around in circles from a single string. You’re just tying the ends together and that way you just have a loop going over the top of the pumpkin. [If this is confusing, leave a comment and I’ll do a video or send more pictures.]
Finally: Turn on a small battery-powered tea light and stick it through an eye or through the mouth. I had a small mouth on mine, so I had to bounce the pumpkin around a bit to get the tea light end to end up where I wanted it, but it’s not that big of a deal. Then get your thumb tack and tack the line to the ceiling! (Tip: I sometimes make a loop around the pointy/pin part of the thumb tack just to make sure there’s no chance of the wire sliding out from under it.)
Also, these totally work during any general Halloween party as well, so while they’re pretty time intensive, they’re something you can continue to use over the years (especially if you do Halloween as grandiose as I do). Good luck!
Until later: Mischief Managed.