Fall Decorating: Make Luminaries Out of Dried Gourds

Gourds make pretty autumn decorations when dried, painted, and stained. Turn them into luminaries to enhance a holiday mood.

What You Need:

  • Dried gourds with stems attached
  • Crafts knife
  • Straight-sided votive cups
  • Woodburning tool with a 1/4-inch-diameter round tip
  • Raw umber watercolor
  • Paintbrush
  • Brown marker
  • Water-based spray varnish
  • Tea-light candles

How to Make the Gourds:

  1. Make sure the gourds you choose are firm and free of blemishes before purchasing and drying them. Always purchase extra gourds as it's common for 25 percent or more of the gourds to mold during drying.
  2. To dry gourds, place freshly picked ones in a warm, dry place that has good air circulation.
  3. Check and turn the gourds every week. Drying may take anywhere from a few weeks to several months depending on the size and moisture content of the gourd and the humidity and warmth of your drying area.
  4. Once the gourds are dry they will have a paperlike skin that needs to be removed. Soak the gourds in warm water and keep them damp while working at this stage.
  5. Using a paring knife or crafts knife, gently scrape the skin from the gourd.
  6. Let the gourd dry thoroughly before painting, drawing, or cutting.

How to Make the Little Luminaries:

  1. Dry and prepare the gourds as described above.
  2. Tip for cutting gourds: To make cutting the gourds easier and help prevent cracking and breaking, draw the cutting line with a pencil. Using a crafts knife, puncture small slits along the pencil line so it resembles a dotted line. Use the knife to cut between the lines. Smooth out any uneven spots.
  3. Using the crafts knife, cut a 3-inch round hole in the bottom of each gourd. Make sure the gourds sit flat. If necessary, slightly shave the bottoms of the gourds so they sit flat.
  4. Clean out the inside material.
  5. Working in a well-ventilated room or outdoors, use the woodburning tool to burn a circle through the gourd. Burn two more holes to create the three-dot triangular motif.
  6. Repeat the burning process around the entire gourd, placing the motifs about 2 inches apart.
  7. Paint the gourd with a light coat of raw umber watercolor. Use the brown marker to make stripes on the stems. After the paint dries, spray the gourds with varnish.
  8. Place a tea light in a votive cup and slip the gourd over the cup. Make sure the candle's wick is trimmed short so the flame does not touch the gourd. Never leave burning candles unattended or use a candle without the cup.


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