Making use of nature’s store. With little effort you can transform gourds into vases, planters, bowls, ladles, scoops, Christmas tree ornaments, or decorative accessories. Let the gourd’s form determine its function. Use store-bought gourds or grow your own by planting the seeds in a well-drained sunny spot and providing a trellis for the vines. Harvest the gourds in late summer when their stems turn dry and brittle.
There are two types of gourds: ornamentals and lagenarias. Ornamentals are soft skinned with colorful patterns of yellow, orange, and green. Lagenarias (also called calabashes or hard shells) dry to a tan or yellow. Ornamentals can be picked, allowed to dry for several days, then waxed and polished. Hard shells must be scraped and cleaned before crafting.
To remove a hard-shell gourd’s outer skin, wrap the gourd in a cloth soaked in a solution of liquid household cleanser. Keep it wrapped for several hours or until the outer layer is soft. Remove the shell by scraping it with a knife. Store the gourd for several days in a warm place to dry.
Draw a cutting line with a pencil. Use a knife tip to slit this line; then cut the gourd open with a hacksaw. Remove the pulp and seeds and scrape the inside clean with a metal spoon. If some fibers refuse to budge, soak the gourd in water, then scrub with steel wool. If the gourd has a narrow neck, fill it with water, let it soak for a few hours, then scrape it out with a hooked wire. You can waterproof the interior with a coating of paraffin.
Embellish the gourd with stains, water- or oil-base paints, or shallow carvings, or leave it in its natural state. As a final step, seal the exterior with a coating of protective lacquer.