A fun family activity for the fall holidays, a papier mache pumpkin is excellent for Halloween or Thanksgiving decoration.
The finished pumpkin can be used as a reusable jack o' lantern, candy bowl, pumpkin-top hat, door decoration, scarecrow head, etc.
Step 1: Supplies
Dollar store bungee balloons
Stick (approximately pupkin stem width)
Round piece of cardboard
Washer/smashed bottle cap (optional)
Cutting device (Dremel, scissors, sharp serrated knife)
Hot Glue Gun + spare glue sticks
note: not all supplies are pictured
Step 2: Prep Balloon
1. First figure out how big you want your pumpkin by blowing the balloon up to the desired size. Without tying it, take a piece of string and measure the circumference of the balloon. Cut the string so that both ends meet when stretched around the balloon, then cut three more the same length.
2. To tie the strings together hold all of the loose ends together and pull them through a loop, trying to keep the ends close to the knot as pictured below. Now take the balloon and blow it up again with the strings draped around it. Holding the knot at the top, blow the balloon up enough that the strings don't move around too much on their own, but enough so you can adjust them to make strait loops alternating around the balloon.
3. Once you get the strings straight enough (I followed the lines on my bungee balloon), carefully continue to blow your balloon up until you get a nice shape with ridges. It may take you a few tries, patience!
Step 3: Apply Newspaper
To make the papier mache mix I just took water and flour and mixed them together until I got a nice consistency. The general rule of thumb is two parts water to one part flour. I also added a little bit of salt to the mixture to deter mold from growing.
Once you have your mixture you can take newspaper strips and dip them in. Here are a few tips on papier mache I figured out in the process:
1. The strips should be about an inch wide depending on how big the balloon is. Anything two wide and it gets all wrinkly.
2. Make sure to get the newspaper thoroughly wet, but then also make sure to get rid of any excess paste by pulling the wetted strip through your fingers before applying it to the balloon. If you get too much paste on to the balloon it can turn into a goopy mess fast and take forever to dry.
3. Don't get hasty and apply a bunch of layers at once; I tried and failed. It works best just one layer at a time with time to dry in-between. Depending on the humidity where you live it could take hours to a day.
4. Apply 3-4 layers for a nice, sturdy pumpkin!
Step 4: Paint
1. Once your pumpkin is thoroghly dry you can sand and paint it. I had a few clumps of paste on my dried pumpkin, so I just took some light sandpaper to it and knocked them off.
2. If you are using spray paint follow the instructions on the can and make sure to do so in a well-ventilated area. Because the newspaper I used had dark and light pieces it would have been a good idea to paint a couple layers of black on the whole thing before painting it orange so that it would take less orange and wouldn't be as see-through.
Your papier mache creation should start looking like a true pumpkin now!
Step 5: Cut
1. To lay out where I wanted to cut, I found a bowl that was the size I wanted and used a highlighter to trace around its edge while placed on top of the pumpkin. Make it easier on yourself than I did and put a little notch in the circle so that you can line the top and body up easily after it has been cut.
2. For the actual cut I used the drywall cutting bit on a Dremel with the multipurpose cutting attachment to help keep it straight. If you don't own a Dremel you can use a sharp knife to start the cut and then finish it with a pair of sturdy scissors.
3. If you line the edges of your pumpkin top and body with hot glue the layers are less likely to separate and it will be easier to place the top on the pumpkin without it falling in.
4. At this stage you could also decide if you want to give your pumpkin a face. Use the same method to draw and cut the face of your pumpkin.
note: Highlighter works well on gloss spray paint because you can see it, but you can also wipe it away easily.
Step 6: Add Stem
1. For the stem you will want a nice-looking stick, about 1/2 inch in diameter by about 1-2 inches long. Trimmings from around the yard should work just fine.
2. First you will need to cut a circular piece of cardboard or other sturdy paper material so that it will fit on the underside of your top. Then glue the cardboard to the underside of the top. I used hot-glue because it is sturdy, but everyone has their glue preferences!
3. Next, I stuck a small nail through cardboard from the top side of the top where there was already a hole to mark where the stem should be placed. Pull the nail back out, flip the top over and center and glue the washer in the middle before sticking the nail back through from the underside. Line up your stem so the nail is going through the middle. You may be able to push the stem on to the nail by hand or you may have to give it a slight tap with a hammer; either way you should add some hot glue underneath the stem before you push it down to fortify it.
note: The washer is probably overkill, but I am rough on things and hate it when they fall apart, so the washer will provide added protection that your stem won't fall off. You could use a smashed bottle cap as well (I didn't think of that until after I bought the washers).
Step 7: Extras
Your pumpkin is now a true imitation of nature! You could also flip your pumpkin with the open end resting on a surface and turn the bottom into the top by giving it a stem as well. This will free the cut top up for some more halloween costume fun.
In order to make the pumpkin-top hat all you need to do is find a piece of elastic string, measure it to fit around your head, tie it and glue it to the underside of the top. Makes for nice and simple Halloween attire for the occasions you don't have time to dress up for.
Another Halloween costume application for your pumpkin is the head of a creepy headless horseman! See my other instructable for details: (link will appear when completed)