This is one of the projects that my husband will roll his eyes about. Truth be told, I roll my eyes at myself, too, because it was just such a useless project in the end (and I spent way too much on supplies). Here’s how it went:
Every fall, the artsy boutiques start putting up displays including these velvet pumpkins. They look amazing all piled up, with all the different colors and sizes, and they’re oh-so-touchable and soft. And so easy to make! It was a classic “I want these! I could make these! Let’s buy ALL THE SUPPLIES!” thing for me.
While these really were genuinely easy to make, a few problems arose. The first, of course, is that you need to make a big circle of velvet to gather up into a pumpkin, so you can’t just buy a regular quarter-yard of velvet– it’s too narrow (a fat quarter would work, though). You need to buy at least a half-yard. And the dinky brick-and-mortar fabric stores near me didn’t stock stretch velvet (regular velvet was too expensive and only came in three colors there), so I had to buy online, which basically meant that any orders under $20 weren’t worth paying shipping for, so I bought more. And it’s kind of weird to just make one pumpkin, you have to have at least three or four to make a nice display, and they can’t all be the same color, and the colors have to go together but not be too matchy-matchy… and before I knew it I had 16 different colors of stretch velvet in my fabric stash.
Then of course there was the issue of getting pumpkin stems. This was actually easier than expected, since there was a farmer’s market nearby and all I had to do was go ask one of the farmstand guys selling pumpkins if he had any stems that had fallen off during the harvesting process. The following week netted me a big bag of stems, which I cleaned, scrubbed, then dried in a low oven for hours. Then I Mod-Podged them, painted them with a wash of gold paint, and Mod-Podged them again. The stem on the left is untreated, the rest have been painted.
So, I had all the supplies (including a bag of dried beans and one of poly-fill), and started to cut out circles of velvet. This is perhaps where I went wrong. I had so much velvet that I kind of got on a roll cutting out circles, without considering how much filling I’d need or what I would DO with all of those pumpkins. I ended up with lots of pre-cut circles and not much to do with them, whereas if I’d waited I’d have had much more useful velvet yardage.
In any case, I diligently sewed around the edges of the circles, gathered them up, stuffed them with dried beans in the bottom (for weight) and polyfill in the top (for height), then pulled the stitching tight, sewing back and forth across the gap to make sure everything was firmly attached. Then I stuck my big needle (I used a dollmaker’s needle) straight down to the bottom of the pumpkin and sewed a button to it, pulling the thread tight (just as if I was tufting a pillow), to get that nice pumpkin shape.
Copious amounts of glue secured the pumpkin stems to the top, and they did turn out very nice. I gave them away to everyone I could find (hampered by the fact that it was now November and no one wanted pumpkin decor, no matter how velvety).
Which is why I now have a box full of velvet pumpkins (some of which have no stems because they’re easier to store that way). And a bag of leftover stems. But hey, at least I used all of the beans. 😉
1. Definitely go with stretch velvet (not panne, it just looks cheap, and not velveteen, it’s not as soft) instead of real velvet. It’s less expensive, it comes in tons of colors, and it doesn’t crush if you look at it funny.
2. It can be hard to find pumpkin stems if there isn’t a pumpkin patch nearby that actually grows pumpkins. The ones in the stores almost always have their stems cut short for easier transport, and they snap off easily. Small decorative pumpkins are more likely to have their stems still attached. If you’re lucky enough to be near a farm or pumpkin patch, most people won’t object if you collect dried stems from the ground.
3. If you find a stem that’s too big, there’s nothing stopping you from cutting it shorter (I used a steak knife), or even making it into two short pumpkin stems. What you’re looking for is the slight “spread” at the bottom of the stem to keep it from just looking like any old stick.
4. Your pumpkin stems must be completely dry before you paint them, or they’ll rot on you. I left mine in a low oven for at least four hours, and that was after they’d already dried for quite some time in the field.
5. I used clear plastic thread (like fishing line) to sew my pumpkins, figuring it would work better for gathering up my fabric and wouldn’t show in case the stem didn’t completely cover the stitching. Also, less likelihood of breakage.
6. I used E6000 to attach my stems, but in retrospect hot glue would probably have worked just as well, if not better.
7. The tighter you stuff the pumpkin, the more height it’ll have. I used a handful or two of beans, just for weight, and put polyfill in the rest. Remember, empty pumpkins are flat like donuts, whereas really full ones will maintain a nice rounded shape even when you do the tufting with the button.