Eeeep! I’ve been so excited for this post. Because Fall is my favorite time of year. And these pumpkins are the perfect DIY decoration to welcome the season (and, bonus, they can be used all the way through November, depending on the fabric you choose!).
[But can we take a small moment for some vulnerability? It’s okay to be vulnerable, right? Well, I’ve got to be honest: there is a whole lot more to this blogging thing than meets the eye. I’m on my third all-nighter in the last week. 1, because I procrastinate. 2, because I’ve been trying to figure out a new camera–it’s going to take some practice. 3, because I set a launch date and, gosh darn it, I’m sticking to it! Otherwise I’d procrastinate forever. Anyway, I’m tired, but so very happy you’re here and actually reading this! I have much to learn, and I’m so excited to improve. Thanks for taking this journey with me. Now, back to pumpkins!]
- fabric of your choice (I used up some scraps in my stash, but you could use old flannel shirts or velvet from thrifted clothes–I really want to try that!)
- for large pumpkin: roughly 8″ x 20″ (these are the dimensions I used for the plaid pumpkin)
- for small pumpkin: roughly 6.5″ x 12.5″ (dimensions used for the gold pumpkin)
- thread and needle
- embroidery floss (or yarn or crochet thread) and tapestry needle
- felt, wooden dowel cut in pieces, or small branches (for stems)
- fiber fill (comes in bags for around $5, but you can always find 40% coupons from the major craft stores!)
- rotary cutter, mat, ruler (optional)
- hot glue gun
- sewing machine preferred, but not necessary as you’ll only sew one seam with the machine and it could easily be done by hand
Step 1: Iron and Cut Your Fabric
I love my rotary cutter and mat! I couldn’t live without it! It is absolutely essential if you want to get into quilting. But I also use it for a ton of other projects: throw pillows, tote bags, hemming pants, etc. For this particular project, you could get by without the perfectly-cut straight edges if you don’t have a rotary cutter. You could trace something with straight lines or just eyeball it (though I highly recommend investing in a rotary cutter at some point in your future).
The measurements for these pumpkins are not really exact, so you have wiggle room if your piece of fabric isn’t the perfect dimensions. Try to aim for a length that is approximately twice the width. To get a taller pumpkin, increase the width. To get a wider pumpkin, increase the length.
Step 2: Sew a seam down one side
Once you have your rectangle of fabric, fold it in half, with right sides together so that you roughly have a square (I’m pretty sure that fold is called hamburger style). Pin the edges together if needed and sew a 1/4″ seam down the one side. In the photos below, you can see that the seam is sewn opposite the fold. (And I’m sorry I used a light-colored thread! I’ll have to make a video of this tutorial later as well.)
Step 3: Hand-sew a gathering stitch around one opening
(This will become the bottom of the pumpkin.) Leave fabric inside-out. Next, thread your needle with about a foot of thread and tie a big knot on one end. Push the needle through the wrong side of the fabric first (so your knot will end up on the inside), 1/4″ from the edge. I make a stitch back through the right side and then go back down where I originally put the knot–just for extra reinforcement in case the knot is small and tries to pull through the fabric later.
Start sewing a gathering stitch all the way around the outside, leaving 1/4″ seam allowance again (I always want to call this a purse string stitch, but that’s a surgical term–ah, the things that’re still stuck in my brain from my surgical tech days). If you don’t know what a gathering stitch is, it’s essentially an in-and-out stitch. So, go down one side and up the other, down one side, up the other…and keep repeating.
Step 4: Cinch opening closed and finish off thread
Once you’ve gone all the way around the edge, pull the thread to cinch the pumpkin closed. As you hold the thread tightly with one hand, stick your needle back through some of the gathers. Do this a few times in different directions, picking up different gathers–this is mostly for more reinforcement. At this point, I make a knot, stick the needle back through the gathers a few times and then trim the thread. (I might be a little paranoid of the thread popping…)
It’s okay if the bottom of your pumpkin looks like the above photo where some of the gathers are poking out. I haven’t figured out a real great way to sew them to the inside, yet (I’ve seen tutorials where you do the gathering stitch through both sides of the fabric, but I don’t like the appearance of it when you do that). When we get to the end, we’ll glue a circle of felt to cover this, and since it’s on the bottom, it shouldn’t matter anyway.
Step 5: Fill with fiber fill and sew another gathering stitch to close the top
You want your pumpkin to be comfortably full of fiber fill, but not jam-packed, or it will be really hard to do the next steps. I like my pumpkins to still have some squish to them. Once it’s filled, sew another gathering stitch to close the top. Repeat the same process as above to reinforce and close.
Step 6: Use embroidery floss and tapestry needle to give pumpkin “grooves”
Thread your tapestry needle (or any large, long needle) with embroidery floss or a similarly-strong thread. I chose a contrasting color which helps give a little extra definition. Tie a strong knot on one end–make it larger than you would normally. Starting from the bottom, push your needle all the way through to the center. My knot started to slip through, so I moved over a centimeter and pushed the needle back down to the bottom. Then, I pulled my knot away from the edge a little and tied the strands together in a knot…if that makes sense…see the first image below.
Once your thread is secure, make your first groove along the seam to hide it. Pull the thread up the seam and push the needle down the center of the top (all the way to the bottom) and pull tight. I just eyeballed the grooves as I went along, but you can measure them out, too. You will need to keep holding the thread tight for each groove (if it slips, just adjust the tightness after you make the next groove). You will keep going down the center, and then up the sides of the pumpkin to make the grooves. Once you’ve made your last groove, make a large knot to secure the thread. Again, here you can reinforce by going through the gathered fabric a few times (optional).
Step 7: Make a stem and adhere with hot glue
You have several different options for stems. I chose to sew my stem by making a small tube from felt, leaving it open on one side, turning it inside out, and then filling with fiber fill. Alternatively, you could use a small branch or wooden dowel. I’ve also seen stems made out of strips of rolled felt–that seems like the easiest method of all and it turns out just as cute. Anyway, once my stem was sewn and filled, I put hot glue around the base (be sure to catch the edges of the felt and not just the fiber fill or it won’t stay) and stuck it to the top of the pumpkin. Super easy.
Step 8: Cut a small circle of felt to cover bottom of pumpkin
Next, cut out a small circle of felt to glue to the bottom of the pumpkin where the gathers and threads show. Be super careful when using the hot glue since it can still burn through the felt (speaking from a lot of experience). I used the end of a pen to push it down.
And, voila! You’re done!
Aw, it’s such a cute lil’ guy! (I’ve discovered in the last few years that I have an affinity for small things.)
I can’t wait to knock out a few more of these and have a whole collection! Let me know if you’re able to try this out! It’s so much easier than it looks, I promise.