How to Craft with Gourds

comments (22) October 1st, 2016     

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Sister_Diane Diane Gilleland, contributor
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Gourds make great bowls and vases—and are especially appropriate for fall!
Ordinary gourds are so pretty with a little embellishment. Here, dried flowers are decoupaged to a gourd box.
A crook-neck gourd makes an adorable house. The front steps are pieces cut from other gourds.
Gourds make great bowls and vases—and are especially appropriate for fall!

Gourds make great bowls and vases—and are especially appropriate for fall!

Photo: Pam and Kirby Harris
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Gourds for crafting are called "hard-shell gourds." They're green in the field, but after harvest, they slowly dry out, leaving a woody shell and lots of crafting possibilities. You can often find them at farmer's markets in early fall or online from retailers such as Welburn Gourd Farm or Amish Gourds.

coaster Find more fall-inspired craft projects:

• How to Make a Quick Table Runner
• How to Crochet Autumn Leaves
How to Make Leaf-Print Napkins

How to Knit Everlasting Autumn Leaves

Here's a rundown on gourd crafting, courtesy of my mom, Pam Harris.

What you'll need:

  • Hard-shell gourd
  • Large bucket of water
  • Scrub sponge
  • Towel
  • Pencil with eraser
  • Pumpkin-carving saw
  • Small paring knife with a sharp point
  • Garden gloves
  • Dust or surgical mask
  • Embellishment materials (discussed below)

Choosing a Gourd
Select your gourd based on a shape that is pleasing to you or that will work well for the project you have planned. For instance, a very round gourd with a flat bottom will be more stable as a flower vase than a tall, thin gourd would be.

Look for cracks in the gourd's surface. Although a cracked gourd could be used for a project where you will be cutting out the cracked portion, it's usually better to start with a gourd that is free of cracks, as the area around the crack is very delicate.

Sometimes a gourd will have a "mouse hole" in it. If I like the shape of the gourd and the hole is in a "convenient" place, I will go ahead and use it for a project.

Don't let the surface mold and grime affect your decision in selecting a gourd. The mud, grime, and mold that accumulated during the drying process can usually be easily removed.

  Scrub dirt and mold from the gourd's surface.

Cleaning a Gourd
This is a simple process. Just soak the gourd in water for about 10 minutes, then scrub it with a heavy-duty scrub sponge (I use Scotch Brite, which has a nice, rough surface).

Most gourds can be cleaned in less than 10 minutes. Some areas of mold and dirt will come right off with light rubbing; others will take a little more effort. After cleaning, allow the gourd to dry for about 30 minutes.

Some gourds will have natural discoloration that appears in a random, uneven pattern. This can't be removed-it's best to consider it part of the natural beauty of the gourd.

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posted in: houseware, seasonal, keepsake

Comments (22)

lyunmoss writes: I love Gourds.
Posted: 5:23 am on July 26th
DaveHaynes writes: I love gourds! I was so obsessed nearly made a chandelier of them.
Posted: 8:28 am on March 22nd
eloiseb writes: I have made one of these and it`s lovely! Thanks for sharing your experience with us, you are very creative!
Posted: 7:02 am on February 16th
IsabellaCohen88 writes: Amazing!
Posted: 8:42 am on January 25th
EdwardThirlwall1 writes: I actually like the idea of using a gourd as a birdhouse! It's something a bit different from the normal ideas out there and something that can really be functional and pretty for the house. Not to mention assisting the birds and wildlife in the vicinity while we're at it too!
Posted: 1:13 am on December 8th
CathCarter writes: Wonderful tutorial! Well done!
Best regards,
Posted: 7:38 am on November 4th
CaitlinBarker12 writes: I have seen craft like this at my grandmother's country village, they remind me so much of her! :)
Posted: 10:03 am on July 30th
MitchBurton writes: Will try that thanks a lot and good luck:)
Posted: 9:12 am on May 5th
roselynbette writes: A beautiful way to use this otherwise ugly(in my opinion) object. Very creative!
Posted: 3:02 pm on April 5th
mamilyn56 writes: I love to paint on gourds, they make a wonderful surface to paint on. It does take a little extra work to prepare the surface but it's always worth it since the art on a gourd lasts for years.
Posted: 5:30 pm on November 1st
wishcrafter writes: Hey ladies I love the gourds too but the mineral oil idea would probably be kindest to new baby birds some of my gourds still smell strong they look good seem to hold well and when your cleaning them outside remember to watch out for ticks they eat this type of product so dispose of the "stuff" so you are not inviting those types of pests to your compost pile I made a big one into a chicken and cinderella's coach

Posted: 8:34 am on September 6th
blkraven writes: gourd produce a lot of dust that can really mess up your nasal membranes ALWAYS wear a bandana or dust mask till you have sealed the inside of the gourd and while doing any me its not fun dealing with the way you will feel if you dont wear something
Also note think about what kind of bird you want to use the gourd and cut the correct size hole for them You can check on line for a list of cavity dwelling birds and find out what size they need
if you want to see real works of gourd art check out the American Gourd Societies website lots of cool stuff on the site
Posted: 8:49 pm on August 12th
PetrinaCase writes: Really nice tutorial and photos. Thank you for sharing.

Happy thoughts,
Posted: 5:34 pm on November 15th
Handyman_2008 writes: Hello Diane, it's so sweet to see such a lovely birdhouse, I hope I could get a chance to make one birdhouse, but I am not sure if bird would accept it or no. I can try it in Temple of Heaven, big park forest in Beijing, near to my house. I would show you the picture after I finished.

My husband and I love gourd very much, he painting the gourd by searing iron, it's beautiful, you could check my page.
Posted: 7:50 am on August 2nd
safeone writes: These gourds are beautiful. I also recommend using a mask or other safety gear as I'm highly allergic. In addition, I would use surface protection to keep your counter top or floors from becoming covered in gourd pulp from getting all over. Also, be sure the wear the safety mask when applying the surface protection coating of polyurethane or shellac to keep you safe!
Posted: 10:43 am on March 21st
eyesaflame writes: Hey, DG! Trying to catch up on my blogs on the way back from Oaxaca, and saw this! Can't wait to show you the gourd bowls I got here - they carve a design into the exterior surface while the gourd is still wet, then preserve it as it dries - very cool!
Posted: 12:32 pm on November 11th
susanstars writes: so cool, Diane and Pam! I love gourd crafts... I have to send you some photos I took at the North Carolina Gourd Festival last month. Awesome ideas!
Posted: 12:33 am on October 27th
Lorelei7 writes: Oooooh I MUST give this a try!! Thank-you!
Posted: 12:21 am on October 26th
Jen1964 writes: This idea is definitely a keeper. We've blown and painted goose eggs, and that was a blast. This looks like twice as much fun. With canvas & paper having gone up so much in price, I'm always looking for more paintable surfaces. Love the marker work as well. As long as it's sealed or shellacked afterwards, it ought to be able to withstand time and perhaps weather.
Posted: 4:36 pm on October 25th
LindaPermann writes: duh, i totally missed those links! i secretly dream of making a gourd birdhouse...
Posted: 1:14 am on October 25th
Sister_Diane writes: Linda - if your local farmer's markets don't have any, both Welburn Gourd Farm and Amish Gourds (links above) are lovely to deal with - they ship very fast. Mom and I just bought some amazing "jewelry gourds" from Welburn - they're tiny, like Christmas-ornament size! I can't wait to play with them!
Posted: 3:05 pm on October 24th
LindaPermann writes: it's gourdgeous! sorry, couldn't help myself. i may not get around to this till next year, but where does one purchase the dried out gourds?
Posted: 12:05 pm on October 24th
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