Introduction: Cross-Stitched & Embroidered Pumpkins

About: I'm a professional writer and an amateur sewist, builder, hot gluer, dremel user, crocheter, painter, paper crafter, and baker.

I love pumpkins. I love everything about 'em. I love carving pumpkins, drinking pumpkin spice lattes, eating pumpkin seeds, making pumpkiny desserts... And I'm sad I only get to fully enjoy all of these things a couple of months out of the year.

So every year I try to make my pumpkin carving a little special. This year, I decided to embroider/cross-stitch my pumpkins. The cross-stitched ones are more for daylight/indoor decoration, while the spooky embroidered jack-o-lantern can be lit up. Let's get started!


  • Pumpkins
  • Carving tools (scooper, spoon, serrated knife, etc.)
  • Paper/printer
  • Small scissors/sewing pin (something small and pointy)
  • Small Allen wrench/hex key
  • Embroidery needle
  • Embroidery thread
  • Small jewelry pliers
  • Brown yarn

Step 1: Pumpkins and Patterns

I found all my pumpkins at a local pumpkin patch, but you can also most likely get pumpkins from your grocery store. I knew I wanted my cross-stitched pumpkins to be on the smaller/medium side and my jack-o-lantern to be a great, big pumpkin.

As for the patterns, you are welcome to use the bat and spider patterns I made. But it's also very easy to make your own. Just open the blank grid in Paint and use the paint bucket tool to fill in the squares in a light color (so you can still see the black grid lines) in any pattern you want. You could do short words (like "boo!" or "eek!") or a crescent moon shape, or a skull. Use your imagination!

Step 2: Clean Out the Pumpkin

You knew this part was coming. Cut off the top part of the pumpkin so you can clean out the insides. (Pro tip: save the pumpkin seeds to season and bake in the oven for a delicious snack!)

Step 3: Use the Pattern

You'll definitely want to print out your pattern, but I do not have a printer. And I don't even have blank paper. So I used what I had and traced the pattern onto lined paper. Cut it out in an oval shape and tape it to your pumpkin. Use a small sewing pin or small sharp scissors (really anything that has a small point and is sharp) and poke through the paper and the pumpkin on each corner of each box that's colored in. Don't worry about going all the way through the pumpkin just yet -- we'll get to that in the next step. This is just so you have a template on your pumpkin.

Step 4: Poke Holes

The best tool I found for this job was a tiny hex key/Allen wrench that was in my toolbox. Poke through the small punctures you made in the last step all the way through the pumpkin.

Step 5: Cross-stitch!

Thread a large embroidery needle with embroidery thread and tie a knot at the end. Using your hex key/Allen wrench as a guide, poke the needle through from the inside to the outside. The knot you made should ensure that the thread stays put. Then poke the needle through a diagonal hole, following the pattern. Repeat the steps until you finish the pattern.

A few times, I needed to use my little jewelry pliers to pull the needle through from the inside.

As you can tell, I made a little oopsie and poked two additional unnecessary holes towards the top of the bat. But it doesn't really matter -- you can't tell from a distance.

Step 6: Try Another Pattern

I used the same cross-stitch technique with a little spider pattern I made. When I finished the spider, I decided to make it look like it was hanging from a web string. So I just poked a hole near the top of the pumpkin and used one long strand of embroidery thread.

Step 7: Now for the Embroidered Pumpkin...

Now for the spooky one.

Start with the same steps: cut off the top and clean out the pumpkin.

Then you're going to want to draw on a simple jack-o-lantern face -- triangular eyes and a simple mouth. Then you just carve it out with a small, serrated knife.

Step 8: Poke Some Holes

Using the same Allen wrench/hex key, poke some holes around the outside of the eyes and the mouth. You'll want there to be an equal number of holes on the top and the bottom of each eye, as well as an even number of holes on top of the mouth and beneath it. For example, I had five holes above each eye, five below each eye, and two on the "sides" of each eye. But ultimately, you might make too many holes and that's okay. It doesn't really matter.

Step 9: Embroider.. or Not?

So I tricked you. This jack-o-lantern only looks like it's been embroidered. It's not!

Grab a long length of brown yarn (like 30 inches or so), thread it on your embroidery needle, and tie a knot at one end. And starting with the left eye at the corner, sew it through from the inside of the pumpkin.

Then take the needle off the yarn because, as I said, this isn't actually embroidery.

Hold the yarn over a hole and push it through with the Allen wrench/hex key.

Since it's a zig-zag pattern that crisscrosses, you'll need to skip over a hole each time. Think of it like lacing a pair of shoes.

Step 10: Embroider.. or Not? (continued)

When you reach the end of the eye, traverse back in the holes you skipped. (As you can tell, I made too many holes, but that's okay.)

Once you get back to where you started, cut the yarn and stuff the end into the beginning hole. Do the same for the other eye.

Step 11: Now for the Mouth

Use the same exact technique for the mouth. Start at one end and go to the other side, then traverse back and end up where you started.

Step 12: Light It Up

If you're interested in preserving the pumpkin, you have a couple of options.

You can fill a spray bottle with a solution of one tablespoon bleach per quart of water. Spray interior and cut surfaces liberally, allowing it to penetrate and dry. This formula is said to kill off surface bacteria and mold that can lead to rot.

Alternatively, you can coat the inside and the cut surfaces with a layer of petroleum jelly or olive oil to prevent dehydration over time.

Put a light source (I prefer fake candles or LED fairy/string lights) inside of the jack-o-lantern and put the top back on. Now stand back and admire your hard work!

Pumpkin Challenge

Second Prize in the
Pumpkin Challenge