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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mini Gourd Lovin' Crafts

Basket of Mini Gourds Waxed



Autumn is most assuredly my favorite time of the year. Crisp air, changing leaves and mini gourds. Yeah; gourds. I know; right? Other people are thinking over-sized bright orange pumpkins, trick or treaters, mums and putting their flower beds to sleep for the winter and I am dreaming of little mini gourds.

My (over-zealousness) sheer delight of mini gourds happened quite by accident (as most of the wonderful things that happen in life do) when I was but knee high and decided to try to plant THE great pumpkin patch of all time in our family garden and somehow mixed in a packet of gourd seeds with my pumpkin seeds. When the pumpkins began to grow I noticed oddly shaped ~things~ twisting and growing among the vines. My Grams (father's mother) in her typical no nonsense way eyed them and proclaimed "Mini gourds. Completely worthless. Might as well pull them up and give your pumpkins a better chance to grow"

I could not. I would not! I felt so sorry for them. Colors of dull green, dull yellows and off whites, bent and twisted, so small in the shadow of the great pumpkins. Not big enough to make a birdhouse out of. Poor, precious little mini gourds. Thus began my life long love affair (and maybe a touch of over-protection) of the mini gourds.

Today these little mini gourds have completely ~ caught on ~ in Autumn designing and Fall tablescapes. Your imagination is the only limit on the possibilities of what you can do with them. Wreaths, snowmen, even nestled among the great orange pumpkins somehow makes the pumpkins look brighter by making the orange colors look that much oranger (is oranger a word? well; no matter. Today it will be)

I like to imagine that out there in the great wide world; bent over in the garden, are other people tenderly cultivating these simple, tiny, little odd shaped bits of completely fantastic and falling in love as I did so many years ago. If you simply do not have the space or the time to grow these little gourds then head to your nearest produce stand/farmer's market where you can buy them up by the bushel basket for a fraction of the cost that you'd pay at your local grocers. Then let you imagination run wild creating spots of indoor Autumn. Here are a few ideas to get you started.


Fall Tips!

Harvesting:
 

Leave the gourds on the vine until a light frost or the stems turn brown. If you need to pick a gourd before the frost, the gourd should be very firm to the touch. Cut the gourd with an inch or more of stem. Wash the gourds in soapy water. Dilute household bleach may be added to the water if desired, and may help delay mold formation. A light coat of non-glossy floor wax gives the gourds a natural glow.

Drying:
 

Dry the gourd fruits naturally by placing in an area with good air circulation. Bringing the gourds indoors may help them dry faster, but gourds can be dried outdoors even in cold areas. When the seeds rattle, the gourd is dry and ready for crafting. How long it takes a gourd to dry depends on the drying environment  -- the warmer and the better the circulation, the faster the water will evaporate from the gourd. Light may help to retard formation of mold, but the mold on the outside of gourds is a natural part of the drying process; as long as the gourd remain firm to the touch, do not discard it. Turning the gourds and wiping off the mold on a weekly basis may help the gourds dry sooner. If you don’t wash the gourd off with the bleach mixture, you’ll probably see some mold growing on it.  Don’t be alarmed if it does. Some people prefer it that way because mold gives it an unusual rustic look. While the natural method of drying in time-consuming, it is still the best recommendation for drying gourds.

Cleaning:
 

Once the gourd is completely dry it is ready to be cleaned. Rattling of seed is a good indication of dryness; however sometimes the seeds adhere to the inside of the gourd and in this case the gourd will be very light and sound hollow when tapped. Submerge the gourd in a bucket of warm soapy water and scrape off the outer skin with a plastic mesh bath or kitchen scrubby. Again; bleach may be added to the water, but it is not a necessity.

Using sandpaper or steel wool to clean dry gourds is OK if the gourd is going to be painted -- but there will be fine scratches from these abrasive materials which will show up if the gourd is stained with wood stains or a light coat of leather dye.





Mini Gourd and Faux Leaves Wreath.

Wreath Form (either wire, hay or Styrofoam)
Fake Leaves (any deep green or fall color will do)
Mini Gourds
Hot Glue Gun
Glue Sticks
Optional: Florist Wire (comes in green and brown- use the color that matches your leaves)


Tip! If you use a Styrofoam wreath spray painting it in a deep green (if using all green leaves) or dull brown (if using fall colored leaves) will hide any areas not completely covered by your leaves.

Tip! I have found that simply using a hot glue gun will hold your gourds to the wreath frame securely for one season of use BUT if you have created a masterpiece that you want to use year after year then the florist wire will hold each gourd in place when the glue begins to break down.

In this case I used a Styrofoam wreath, spray painted it a dark forest green and set it aside to dry. In the meanwhile I cut off all of the green leaves from a couple of old faux vines that had stashed away (for who knows what) until I had a nice pile. Once my wreath had dried I then began to hot glue my gourds around the center of my wreath BEFORE adding in the leaves. In the past I have glued the leaves first and then added the gourds but found that the gourds didn't hold very well and I ended up using twice the amount of florist wire than was necessary to hold them in place. Not a very visually appealing look.

Once I had the gourds glued to the Styrofoam wreath I then secured each gourd using green florist wire (so I could use this again next year) Simply wrap a piece of florist wire over the handle of each gourd and then loop it around the styrofoam wreath and twist it in a knot on the back side. (the wire sinks into the Styrofoam so you can't even see it) Then it was simply a matter of glue, glue, glue leaves all along the top and in between each gourd. Make a loop with a piece of florist wire or use a piece of ribbon as a hanger and that's it. Ready to hang.

So easy!


Mini Gourds Painted White/Black and Covered in Cheese Cloth



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