Fall-weathered friends

You can carve them. You can paint them. You could always stencil them. But why not try something new with your pumpkins this year? Use your creativity and ingenuity to make pumpkin people or pumpkin critters for your Halloween decorations.

Whether you use natural (and therefore perishable) materials or work with supplies from a craft store, you and your Halloween helpers will have lots of fun working together on this project.

The natural approach

Before you make your shopping list, decide what type of pumpkin critter or person you want to make. You could create a scary cat, a jolly face or even a family of four. Anything goes for this project and the list of potential supplies is nearly limitless. Make a trip to the farmer’s market or your grocery store to gather the necessary supplies for your creation. Choose a pumpkin that has a good shape to work with. Short, round pumpkins might be preferable for stacking to create a body, while a long, narrow pumpkin is better suited for a face. Keep in mind that an oddly-shaped pumpkin can also be the inspiration for a spooky critter.

Here are a few ideas for decorations to get your list started: Consider using small gourds or squashes for ears and noses. Experiment with gourds and pumpkins of different colors to create some visual interest. Carrots make ideal noses. Mini-pumpkins (either whole or cut in half) can be used to create eyes. Use gourds or twigs to fashion limbs for your pumpkins. Leaves can be used as hair or bow ties. Whole peanut or walnut shells make good eyes or shirt buttons. Dried corn husks can be made into hair or clothing. An adult can cut materials into specific shapes if needed (pumpkin triangles for cat ears, for example).

Once you have selected your embellishments, the next step is to actually attach them. Tooth picks or wooden skewers work well for larger items such as gourds or mini-pumpkins. Paddle wire or twine work better for more fragile or awkwardly shaped items.

The craft store pumpkin

Start with a twig pumpkin frame or a plastic pumpkin. A twig pumpkin frame is easy for kids to work with because you can simply wrap the nearly invisible wire around the branches.

Use large gourds for the ears and smaller gourds to create eyebrows and a nose. Smaller pumpkins make nice eyes or mouths. To make a tuft of hair, layer craft leaves or artificial corn husks together, punch a hole through them and attach them to the stem. Don’t limit yourself to the seasonal aisle, browse the art supplies section.

Come Halloween, your pumpkin people and critters will stand out. Visit www.marthastewart.com for more clever ideas.

Craft store pumpkin:

• A twig pumpkin frame or a plastic pumpkin (be sure that you are able to puncture the plastic without too much effort in order to attach decorations)

• A selection of the following: plastic gourds, pumpkins and artificial leaves in various shapes and sizes

• Tools: paddle wire or twine, hole punch, scissors, knife

Natural pumpkin

• Pumpkins in the size and shape of your choice

• A selection of the following: gourds, mini-pumpkins, leaves, nuts, greens such as kale, fresh fruits or vegetables, twigs, dried corn husks, dried pumpkin seeds

• Tools: toothpicks, wooden skewers, paddle wire or twine, a knife, scissors

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