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A Spiffy, Fabric-Covered Pumpkin That Might Outdo the Jack-o'-Lantern

October 13, 2016

The kid in me will always love a jack-o'-lantern. Not the belabored, competitive-neighbor versions that require hundreds of tiny, precise slits to reveal a perfect arching spider web—the classics: goofy, toothy grins with stem-hats akimbo. Shocked expressions, scary expressions, any face at all that Jim Carey might have made in The Mask.

Simultaneously, I love when pumpkins are left alone to be pretty, grey-green and in a pile by a door or scattered along a runner with dried hydrangeas throughout. Somewhere in between these two extremes—a little playful, but in a Martha Stewart kind of way—is the fabric pumpkin.

Three little fabric pumpkins, all in a row. Photo by James Ransom

I was inspired to try Mod Podge-ing fabric to pumpkins when I saw a similar DIY run rampant on Pinterest: Kristin Jackson's Dark Floral Pumpkin that she posted recently on Hunted Interior. To make it, she had a photograph professionally printed on a huge piece of paper, cut it into 1-inch strips, and adhered them with Mod Podge to a plastic pumpkin—and the result is a perfectly-lined up version of the photograph on the pumpkin.

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Seeing it, I thought: fabric! But I wanted to use real pumpkins that vary in height and girth, because then all members of a little crowd of three have distinct personalities. You'll cut wider strips and not worry too much about how they line up, which means that kids can help (and they can pick out a fabric they like, too). Plus, no sharp knives or pumpkin guts.

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Top Comment:
“These are beautiful! Several years ago, I saw in Martha Stewart Living magazine that they used wallpaper to cover pumpkins. They were gorgeous, also!”
— Ellise

Here's how to make them.

What you'll need:

  • As many pumpkins as you like
  • A wide, coarsely-bristled paint brush
  • Mod Podge (about a cup per pumpkin; I chose the matte finish but you could go glossy)
  • Sharp fabric scissors
  • Any fabric you like (about a half-yard per pumpkin)
Photo by James Ransom

How to make them:

  • Choose fabrics. I tested this process out with three different fabrics: One had a tiny, all-over floral pattern (the safest bet for any perfectionists or kids out there, it hides quirks better than plain fabric can) and the other two were much larger-scale and more graphic. I worried that the larger-scale patterns wouldn't work out as well, since pumpkins are round and patterns on fabric are not, but I was wrong. So long as you're comfortable with the patterns getting very lightly distorted—a patch-work representation of the original pattern, if you will—I say give them a go. (Just steer clear from any patterns that are larger than your pumpkin.)
  • Cut them up. Cut about a dozen strips of fabric to be three inches wide and about the height of your pumpkin with good, sharp scissors so they don't start fraying immediately.
Mod Podge away! Photo by James Ransom
  • Adhere the fabric. First coat a section of your pumpkin with Mod Podge (I elected a matte-finish tub of it, so the fabric would still look like fabric, but you could go glossy, too); lay a strip of fabric on it; and then paint over that with more Mod Podge. Use the brush to press the fabric so it adheres to the natural ridges in the gourd—you'll want to see their definition when it's dry. Make your way all around the pumpkin, laying the strips top to bottom but not minding if they overlap each other in places, until it's all covered. Set it out on a piece of parchment paper to dry overnight.

That's it! A great use for scraps of fabric you might be saving for an yet-decided purpose, or a reason to go by the fabric store in your hometown. (These three pretty fabrics came from the City Quilter, an excellent source for pattern-loving folk in New York City.)

How do you decorate with pumpkins—or squash!—this time of year? Tell us in the comments.

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Ellise October 21, 2016
These are beautiful! Several years ago, I saw in Martha Stewart Living magazine that they used wallpaper to cover pumpkins. They were gorgeous, also!
Jovan October 14, 2016
These pumpkins are absolutely delightful. And I cannot wait to try this at home. I want to use pumpkins of all sizes!
Amanda S. October 14, 2016
Cannot wait to see pictures!!
Deb L. October 13, 2016
Beautiful! I'm going to definitely try some of these this weekend!
Amanda S. October 14, 2016
Let us know how it goes!
Amanda H. October 13, 2016
When I saw these in the office, I thought they were painted -- they look so great!
Amanda S. October 13, 2016
Only in my dreams will I be able to paint popcorn kernels that charming :) So glad you like them (whew!).