Thursday, November 18, 2010

Creating a Velvet Pumpkin

I was smitten with the gorgeous velvet pumpkins I saw last year at Olive Juice.  But did I act swiftly enough to buy one of her kits?  Sadly she was sold out by the time I had made up my mind.  (When am I ever gonna learn not to procrastinate?)  So I was stuck with creating my own version.

  • I not only had Olive Juice as inspiration, but also Plump Pumpkins and Hot Skwash.
  • Ahh, the colors! Could I have one of each, please? (Too bad they're not in our budget.)

  • Find the velvet.  I had hoped to find a high-quality velvet (not velveteen) in one of our many fabric stores to hand dye.  Alas, not a white velvet to be found.  Happily I found a squash-colored crushed velvet that I love.  Two-thirds of a yard was enough to create three pumpkins. (I also have a warm brown velvet tucked away that I haven't found the time to "pumpkinize"--I can hardly wait to see how it looks.)
Finding a quality velvet in a great color is the hardest part of this project. Here is a link to an etsy store with lots of luscious silk velvets in case you can't find what you want locally.  Silk velvet is amazing!

I did find the time to start my brown pumpkin since I first posted this tute--he won't acquire his stem until I'm done with my holiday pumpkins--but I think he looks pretty cute as he is.
Now I'm yearning for a soft green pumpkin and a juicy purple one too!

  • Now the hard part--cutting into your lovely fabric!  How big do you want your pumpkin to be?  Oddly enough, I'm enjoying my smaller pumpkins more than the larger.  Want a six -inch pumpkin--cut an eighteen-inch diameter circle.  Want an eight inch pumpkin--multiply by three to find out what the diameter of your circle should be (twenty-four inches).  Now go in search of something around your home that is approximately that diameter--a pot lid, a mixing bowl, a lampshade, whatever.
  • My summer hat wasn't quite big enough, but I centered it on my fabric, used a Sharpie to dot around the brim with an extra two finger allowance and cut away.
  • With regular sewing thread in a color to match or blend with your velvet (my thread is dark to show up on this tutorial), turn the velvet under about a quarter inch or so, and take large half-inch stitches all around the circumference of your circle.
    (Isn't it nice to know that learning all those horrid math terms like diameter and circumference is finally useful?) 

  • Gather your fabric slightly, leaving a hole large enough to easily stuff your pumpkin.  
  • Keep your needle on the thread!
  • You could use fancy bean-bag pellets, or play sand stolen from your child's sandbox, or you could raid your kitchen cupboard for some inexpensive white rice like I did. 
  • How much to use?  This comes under the "it's not brain surgery" category--the amount isn't crucial.  Use enough to weight your pumpkin so it sits contentedly, probably more than less.
  • Now grab some fiberfil.
  • Stuff your creation so it has a pleasingly plump silhouette.  
  • Add, smoosh or remove fiberfil as needed.
  • Now tighten your gathers but leave a big enough opening for a stem. 
  • I happened to have saved the stems from our jack-o-lanterns, but a tree branch works nicely also.  If your heart is set on a genuine pumpkin stem with all its idiosyncrasies but you don't have one, use a branch as a temporary substitute until you can get your hands on a real pumpkin stem.
  • Insert the stem at an angle, pull your gathers tightly around it and take a few stitches to hold in place.
  • Knot the thread, leaving a long tail.  Pull the needle down into the pumpkin, then out, and clip.
  • For a tendril, curl some green wire around a chopstick/knitting needle/pencil and slide off.  Poke the end into the pumpkin next to the stem.
  • I wanted my pumpkin to have a leaf. Naturally I grabbed my fabric samples from this summer's bonanza and found the perfect soft khaki green, went outside and brought in a small fallen maple leaf for a pattern and was totally unimpressed with my creation! Tweaking ensued with only minimal improvement, so I went with Plan B. I borrowed a silk leaf from our cornucopia display--right size and shape, wrong color but, hey, that's what paint is for!
  • I put my leaf on a plastic grocery bag, used some plain old grassy-green acrylic paint straight from the bottle and loved the result.
Half done--quite an improvement, yes?  I like the way the veins resisted the acrylic paint.

The finished product was exactly what I was looking for: a late-autumn pumpkin leaf!
  • Glue a bit of green wire to the underside of your leaf, attach to your pumpkin, and wander around your home setting your new creation here and there, looking for the perfect place to display it.  On the dining table?  Entryway?  Mantle?

I "sew" hope you enjoy your velvet pumpkin(s) as much as I'm enjoying mine!

More goodness: Show and Tell @ My Romantic Home and The Tablescaper's Thanksgiving Cornucopia and BeColorful's Motivated Monday.

Plumply, squashily yours,


  1. These just took my breath away! Being a fall baby I love all things fall and these velvet pumpkins are amazing! I would leave them out all year they are so sweet.

  2. This is a brilliant tutorial. Thank you so very much for sharing.

  3. You did that very well I think I can follow those great tutorial instructions.
    Now when can I get it done?

    It is so nice to find a less expensive idea after wanting something so bad we see at shows


  4. Nice pumpkin tutorial! Thanks for visiting my blog.
    ~ Julie

  5. What fun! like the way you explain how you made those, thanks for sharing

  6. VEry cool. I love how thorough your directions are. I think I'll have to find something with which to try this.. even a velvet weight chenille would be awesome!

  7. Those are soooo beautiful. And to look at the prices of those on line, wow! You did such an awesome job.

    It's great having you be a part of Seasonal Sundays.

    - The Tablescaper

  8. Very well done tutorial. Thank you for guiding us through the process so well. I am inspired. You did a great job! The pumpkins are fabulous!

  9. Super cute... just reading all the posts I missed. Finally decided to come out from under my rock:)

  10. I love this! I saw some in an antique mall at the register and she had used all kinds of wonderful, whimsical, glittery fabrics...they were awesome! I was glad I couldn't bear to part with some stems from pumpkins I had harvested for pies and dog food! Just wondering though...would using rice or beans be bug-free? I remember my Dad one year made shadow boxes for Christmas presents using all kinds of pasta, beans and rice, and they eventually attracted was a shame, because they were so pretty on the kitchen wall.

    1. This year's pumpkins don't have weights in the bottom, just stuffing. I think the weights give them something extra that makes them easier to arrange, but I probably won't even notice which are weighted and which aren't afterwards, lol. We are in a bug-free area, but sand or pea gravel or the acrylic craft weights for stuffed animals would be choices if bugs are a concern. Truth to tell, each year I tinker and improve on the previous tries. Different fabrics, different colors, different ways of attaching stems. My pumpkin-loving dogs and hens completely approve!