20 Sep DIY Heirloom Pumpkins
Ok…I’m going to say it and pray that I’m not jinxing anything, but…I think…it’s…finally…FALL. I mean, two days ago it was 89 degrees here in northeast Wisconsin, so this is a bit of a bold statement, but today it is 59 degrees and the forecast for the next week is almost entirely in the 60s. So that’s that, I’m calling it.
Now, I’ve already waxed poetic about fall in my last post, so I’m not going to do that again. Here’s the short version. I freaking love fall. All of it. Well, all of it with one *minor* little exception – orange. I just can’t do it, guys. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE orange in its natural habitat, like the leaves on a changing tree, or a pie in my mouth, but orange just has no place in my home décor. I’m a neutral girl through and through. While the world of neutral fall décor is definitely growing, much of what is available can be pretty costly. For some reason, a decent looking artificial heirloom pumpkin usually costs a good deal more than your standard orange pumpkin. So what’s a girl to do? Well if you’re up for a fun and simple project, you make your own, of course!
Items Needed for this Project
Inexpensive artificial orange pumpkins
Paint in the color(s) of your choice (green, blue, gray, etc) – The kind of paint does not matter. Use what you have on hand, or buy what’s cheapest!
Wax brush or chip brush cut down to firm bristles
For this project I started with these inexpensive orange pumpkins. You can find similar ones at the Dollar Store, Hobby Lobby (wait until the end of the season and grab a bunch on clearance!), the Target dollar spot, etc.
Very bright, very orange, very much not happenin’.
I decided to paint them in a variety of different colors, and just used what I had on hand. Now, I realize not everyone is a furniture painter and has a big selection of paints on hand, but you can honestly use any paint for this. Chalk paint, milk paint, acrylic, craft paint…it’s all good. I ended up using General Finishes in French Vanilla, Annie Sloan in Duck Egg, and Fusion Mineral Paint in Lichen.
Paint your pumpkins! This step is pretty self-explanatory, but there are a few things that will make your pumpkins look better in the end. First things first, throw perfection out the window. You do NOT want picture perfect, smooth, brush stroke free pumpkins. You want pumpkins with texture and interest, so you have my full permission to get a little sloppy with this part! Just make sure your pumpkins are fully covered. With darker paint, you’ll probably get away with doing one coat plus touch ups, and with white paint you’ll likely need two coats plus a few touch ups.
If you only did white pumpkins, ignore this step. For all rest of the colors, the next step is whitewashing. Make sure your pumpkins are dry before you do this step. Whitewashing is a very simple process, but it might take a little bit of trial and error before you get it “right,” and this next photo is proof of that. To whitewash your pumpkins, all you do is water down your white paint a bit, brush it on, and then wipe it back off. The part that can be a tiny bit tricky is getting the paint/water ratio right so your paint isn’t too watery or too thick. You’ll get a feel very quickly for what works best. I like to dip the very tip of my brush in water, tap off the excess, and then dip my brush in the paint. This picture shows my first try, which had a bit too much water, but honestly it still worked out just fine. I promise it’s pretty difficult to actually mess these up!
This is BEFORE the paint was wiped off. You really only want to wait a few seconds before wiping the paint off, because it can start to set pretty quickly. I like to do a combination of wiping and dabbing, as that helps to create more texture.
And here they are after whitewashing. A subtle difference, but it makes a big impact on the final product!
Once your pumpkins are dry, you will need to clear wax them. I do this in part to protect them, but I mostly do this to prepare them for the dark wax. Whether in pumpkin crafts or painted furniture, you should ALWAYS clear wax before you dark wax. This is because dark wax can be difficult to control, and can very quickly end up looking “muddy.” The clear wax makes it easier to wipe the dark wax back so you have greater control. Even though our pumpkins will intentionally end up looking a bit dirty/muddy, you can still go overboard, so clear wax is your friend! For this project I used Old Barn Milk Paint clear wax, and I was lucky enough to have some of the “Woodland” scented wax left over from last year, so my pumpkins smelled like fall! Any soft clear wax will do, though. Minwax makes a reasonably priced wax that’s readily available if you don’t want to invest a lot in some of the more popular furniture waxes. To apply your wax, you can just rub it on with a rag. You don’t want to apply a ton, just enough to cover the surface without extra. This will not make a huge difference in the appearance of pumpkins, but again, it’s crucial for the next step.
(Waxed pumpkin on the left.)
Alright, time for the big finale! You can do this step right after you apply the clear wax, no need to wait for the clear wax to dry or “cure.” Your final step is to apply the dark wax. This is best done with a wax brush or a chip brush cut down so that the bristles are firm. This helps to get the wax down into any grooves or crevices. If you don’t have either or these things you can use a rag, you may just have to play around with the technique a little. I used Annie Sloan dark wax for this, but again, any dark wax will do. I’d just recommend a brown wax as opposed to a black wax, it will look more natural. To apply the dark wax, I dab my brush in the wax, and then blot it all over my pumpkin, making sure to pay special attention to areas where dirt would naturally gather.
Here’s the dark wax process in action. As you can see, I don’t go crazy with it, but I do use a fair amount of wax. Once your pumpkin is covered, go back and wipe the wax off , much like you did with the whitewashing – this is where you should see all the texture we tried to create in the first step. The wax settles nicely into all those little brush strokes and inconsistencies and creates realistic texture.
As you can see, the dark wax is really the star of this show! It makes huge difference, and really gives your pumpkin a realistic appearance. Now all there is left to do is sit back and admire your work. Bu-bye orange and hello heirloom!
What do you think? Is this something you would try? And if you did try it, how did they turn out?