artists, growtips, info & more

It's GOURD FEST at Northern Dipper - july 23 & 24, 2005

and design is the name of the game...

Gourd Vessels by Karen Cheeseman


There are many highlights at Gourd Fest and one of the brightest is the Design Competitions held by the Canadian Gourd Society. (CGS) There are 17  classifications in which to enter your work plus 3 additional classifications for growers. It is varied from a simple birdhouse to intricate carving.  There is a category for everyone! You do not have to be a member of the CGS to submit your work into the competitions.


You will find the work of individuals who have only been working with gourds for 6 months right through to people who earn their living with their art. Are you beginning to feel a little intimidated? Well don’t! The competitions are the heart of Gourd Fest and a wonderful expression and exchange of ideas for gourds as art.


Get involved, show your work and network. Last year new entrants walked away with quite a few ribbons. For complete details on CGS categories and judging criteria click here.


At Northern Dipper we believe it is important to get as many people involved in publicly showing their work.  Many of our customers live far away and are unable to personally attend. To make it easier we will accept your shipments, unpack them and give your registration entry form to the set up people. At the end of the show we will pack up your entries in the same box it was sent in and send it back to you by Canada Post.  Make certain you include: 1.) Filled out entry form filled out with categories from the CGS website listed above. 2.) A return address label with a phone number as well as a Visa, Mastercard or American Express number on which return shipping will be charged There will be no charge for this service other than the postage.  3.) If you want to insure your art pieces you need to give us a value for insurance.  We will purchase the insurance through Canad Post & charge it to your card.


Important - Please note: Entry forms must be postmarked July 11.


Northern Dipper & the Canadian Gourd Society will not be held responsible for any losses or damage.



 Getting ready for the CGS  Design Competition

 Report from the Canadian Embroiderers’ Guild in London by Janice Taylor


Decorated gourd can be found in the most unexpected places!  The Annual Open House of the Canadian Embroiderers’ Guild in London this year offered a table displaying the work of 8 individuals, most of them new to the art of gourd decoration.  This event takes place every April at Saint James Westminster Anglican Church where guild classes and activities are held from September through the end of April.


The group has been around since 1971 offering classes to members and promoting all forms of fibre art.  While the class displays always include examples of both traditional and contemporary embroidery and textile work, this is the first year that gourds have made an appearance!   Since gourds can be cut and pierced, they can provide a base and background for many textile techniques, from twining and coiling to the application of a variety of surface stitches.  The hard surface offers a pleasing contrast to the softer feel of many of the fibres used including waxed linen, flexible wire and a variety of hand-dyed threads and yarns.  


Jan Taylor guided the students in their efforts, encouraging them to use their existing skills

while incorporating this new material.  Participants in this class learned the basic skills of

cleaning, cutting and finishing the gourds before considering the possibilities of integrating a

textile element.  The results were impressive with each individual choosing a different direction.

Various finishes were used as the gourds were transformed into vessels, boxes, masks, a doll, a

birdhouse, a shekare and jewellery. 


Some containers were embellished with beads and meticulously lined with silk while others were adorned with metal foil or coloured wire and shisha mirrors. Some were dyed bright colours and others were finished in ways that emphasized the character of the individual gourds.  Two secret gardens were constructed one of dried botanicals and the other of fabric with tiny wrapped stones stitched in place.  Pressed flowers and leaves were used both on the outside and the inside of gourds along with nuts, twigs, and assorted found objects, both natural and man-made. Such an enthusiastic response to a new material seems likely to lead to further experimentation.        


JANICE TAYLOR’S art is an eclectic mix of materials and techniques.   She enjoys exploring new methods in her efforts to give form to the images that she sees in her mind’s eye.  Hand dyed fabric and threads, felted wool and wire, beads, paper and assorted found objects may be combined to form her sculptural pieces.  Jan has taken a variety of classes through the Canadian Embroiderers’ Guild, Haliburton School of the Arts, Fanshawe College, & the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild.  Topics have included weaving, basketry, fabric dyeing, doll making and bookbinding. Jan exhibits as a member of “The Uncommon Doll Group”, a London-based group of doll makers.


To explore the Embroiderers' Association of Canada click here

Gourd growing - new seedlings

I trust that most of you (apart from our Northern neighbors i.e. Sudbury) have planted your seedlings. Seedlings tend to go into shock when first put in the ground. Water & they will revive quite nicely. For the first couple of weeks there will not be much apparent growth. This time is when the plants are settling in & all of the growth is happening at root level.For trellised plants, as the vines grow, use a couple of twist ties to get them started. Once started the strong tendrils will take over.


It will be a few weeks before any blossoms appear. Gourd vine are monoecious - that is, it has both male and female flowers on the same plant. The male flowers are found on the main vine & the females are on the lateral or side vines. You want to make sure there are lots of lateral vines for this is where the gourds will grow. Pruning the main vine at 10’ - 12' will ensure this. The female flowers have a deep yellow center with a little gourd underneath the blossom. The male flowers have a pale yellow center & usually come out about a week before the females.


Pests & problems

The bane of a gourd grower can be the cucumber beetle. This beetle is approx. 1/4" long & can be either striped with a yellow body and black stripes on its wings or spotted - greenish yellow with spots on its wing. Their main occupation is mating. Winters are spent hibernating in long grasses or in debris and come out once the weather warms up. The females lay their eggs in the cracks in the soil near the gourd plants. Once the larvae hatch they crawl up the plant into the stem or roots. The larvae pupate and the beetles will eat the plant & flowers. Once there are gourds, this beetle will chew into the shells. Cucumber beetles will spread disease such as bacterial wilt. June is a problem with this beetle, July is a bigger problem and then in August the population decreases but it never completely goes away!!!


To control this problem you need to use an insecticide. Ask at your local garden centre. NOTE:  Choose a warm day with no wind. Follow the directions from the Manufacturer. 


For a more natural approach Ginger Summit's Gourds In Your Garden  recommends that one can plant radishes, catnip or broccoli around and throughout the gourd patch. Let them go to seed. For information on this book click here

At Northern Dipper…

The field was planted May 21st weekend. The following days were cool with a bit of moisture so it was ideal. The trellising has just been completed. The flower and vegetable gardens are a work in progress. The intention is to have beautiful gardens this year – we’ll see who wins the battles – the weeds or myself.  (Normally it is the weeds!)


We are also busy planning the Gourd Festival July 23 & 24. Time to clean the barn....


To see photos of growing gourds click here.

TOOL INFO - Footswitches  for gourd crafting

Footswitches – Not just a pretty face.


When I was a child I remember watching my mother on her sewing machine. I would watch her hands quickly push the work through the machine. She would stop the machine & make quick adjustments by using a switch at her foot. After she had left I would jump on that switch and hear the machine whirr away. I loved it until I got caught and sent outside.


Many years later I rediscovered the footswitch. It was while cutting out gourds with a Proxxon jig- saw and I found myself needing to shut the saw off while in the middle of the cut. Due to the position of the switch behind my hand I had to let go of the gourd & reach over to shut it off. This created a less than desirable situation.


My next move was to buy a jigsaw that had the switch where my finger could reach it. While the saw was great at intricate cuts it lacked the power and cutting speed that I was used to with the Proxxon jig saw. It was then that I bought my first foot switch. Suddenly I had complete on – off control & could stop anywhere in the cutting process to allow me to inspect my work, while firmly holding this irregularly shaped gourd and most important get my fingers out of the way.


Now I have foot switches on many of my tools including a polisher, hand drills & sanders. No more reaching for switches at an awkward moment. Often as I step on that switch I remember sitting on the floor, dressed in my Roy Rogers cowboy outfit, underneath the sewing machine just pounding that footswitch. Now I know I can do it without being kicked outside.


For further information on footswitches click here


For Roy Roger's & Dale Evans Trivia click here.

Our next issue of Tool Info will cover the importance of wearing a safety mask while working with gourds.

Tutorial: how to make a gourd purse

Gourd purses are a real conversation piece. They are remarkably durable & the very nature of them makes them very unique. Best of all they are very easy to make. Pretty much any type of gourd can be used for a purse. The most important factor is that the shell is thick. Many people prefer to use Canteens: I personally prefer the Bushel gourd! 

 For more information on dried gourds click here.



-          Thick walled gourd.

-          Dye or Acrylics to decorate outside shell

-          White Glue & Flat Black latex paint

-          Water-based Varathane (Found at Canadian Tire or Home Depot)

-          A strap – Samples: leather, chain, braid, silken cord. We will be using a leather strap & a cord in this tutorial.

-          12 – 1/2” Chicago Screws (for criss-cross back hinge)These are a 2 part screw which fit into each other. They are available in brass or silver & found in shops that sell leather & supplies.

-          Leather strips or hinges to connect the top of purse to bottom. Piano hinge works well with most gourds that have a flat back. ( No indented curve)

-          A closure of some type. Gourd shards work well or buttons, cord, rawhide, leather strips or even an interesting stem will work



1.)     Select a gourd and clean.

2.)     Mark where you want the lid opening to be and cut. Use either a straight cut or a “across the front & up the sides” cut as shown in Photo 1. A good guide is 1/3 of the gourd will be the top and 2/3rds will be the body of the purse. Clean the inside thoroughly using a scraper or large spoon and with a fine sanding sponge lightly sand the inside to take down the grain.

3.)     Pour some white glue into a jar with a lid.  (If lidded this mixture will last indefinitely.) Slowly add black flat latex paint and stir well.  Coat the inside of the gourd and let dry. This will strengthen the gourd shell and will give the purse a beautiful finished look.

4.)     Dye the outside of the gourd. For depth of color use two thin coats rather than 1 heavy coat. Let dry. If you doing decorative painting use a base coat such as Gesso first.

5.)     Wax the outside using a floor paste wax. Buff for a rich natural glow. Or spray using water – based Varathane. Once again do 2 thin coats rather than 1 thick coat to avoid dripping. Let dry between coats.


Adding the back connectors / hinge

1.)     Cut leather strips using scissors. Cut a strip large enough to act as a flexible and strong hinge for your purse or cut 4 small criss-cross strips as shown in photo. Mark your holes & with a leather hole punch put your holes in the strip.

2.)     If you are doing a criss-cross closure punch 8 small holes. If you do not have a leather punch use an awl or a small drill bit. The holes should be large enough to fit the Chicago Screws.

3.)     Line up the leather strip on the gourd and mark where your gourd holes will go. Drill holes into gourd using a small drill bit.

4.)     If you are going to sew the hinge an X pattern works well. Place 4 holes at the top of the strip which will attach to the top of the purse and 4 near the bottom which will attach to the body of the purse. Use wax linen thread if possible as it is very strong and easy to work with.


Adding the strap.

1.)     The leather shoulder strap should have 2 holes punched into both ends ½’ from the end of the strap. Set the holes 1” apart. (See photo) Using these holes as a guide, mark the location on the side of the gourd where you want the strap to lay. Drill the holes in the gourd and attach strap using Chicago Screws.


2.)     If you are going to use a cord for a strap, mark your holes approxiametly ½” – ¾” down from the rim on the sides of the gourd.


3.)     Insert 1 end of the cord through the hole & knot. Place the other end through the other hole, adjust the length of your strap and tie in a knot.


The front closure.

Closures are very individual and varied. Here are a couple of suggestions-

1.)     Into the front/top of the purse approx. 1 – 1 ½” from the your cut line drill 2 small holes. Using elastic similar to a hair elastic thread each end through a hole and tie tightly on the inside of the gourd. If you have a strong & interesting stem you can paint it and use it as the bottom fastener.

2.)     Leather can be used as the top & bottom fasteners. Sew Velcro underneath the top leather strip and on the top of the bottom leather strip. To attach repeat steps for the X hinge on the back-just adjust the size of your leather strip. Add beads for color and interest.

3.)     Gourd shards are interesting. Cut into unusual shapes and sand the edges smooth. Sew onto purse face. Rawhide strips can be tied in under the shard and attached to another shard on the body of the purse.



Dyan Mai Peterson has 2 beautiful samples of gourd purses in her book “ The Decorated Gourd  Included is a template for an upbeat design plus ideas for other more natural designs such as dragonflies


A special thanks to Catherine Devine for sharing the photos of her fabulous painted purses & to Singing Dog Studios for their very unique design.


NEXT ISSUE:  We are very excited about the next issue. It is all about Gourd Fest! You will meet some of the people involved and will get a sampling of some of the art presented at the 2004 Gourd Fest. You will also be introduced to our Saturday entertainment:  Firstly the Hula Dancers; who will be dancing up a storm.  Sat night we are pleased to present the Brazilian band Som De Caracao (Songs of the Heart ) To complete the evening join Jack Barnes in an impromptu drumming circle ... a perfect way to complete the evening!  Also a Gourd Grow Report and more!

See you then… Pam Grossi & Peter Bell


Coming Soon: We are in the process of adding back issues of our newsletter Gourd Fever to our Website. If you have missed any issues there are some interesting tutorials and grow information.


PS If you have any stories or ideas that you would like to contribute to this newsletter please send to


Volume 1, Number 3 


In this issue

Gourd Festival’s Design Competition


A Report From The Canadian Embroiderer’s Guild In London, Ont.


Gourd Sightings & Trivia


Growing Gourds – New Seedlings


Tool Info


Tutorial – How To Make A Gourd Purse 

Canadian Winners At The Kentucky Gourd Festival

 "Peonies"  -   Best Of Show
Artist Gary Devine
 "Dragonfly"  -  Best Crafted Gourd
Artist Catherine Devine
Cath & Gary Devine will be teaching Basic Gourd Crafting at Northern Dipper Farm this summer.  To see dates & details click here.

 Jan Taylor - London Artist

Work of Diane Robinson 2005 

 Works of Elaine Ball (Foreground) & Diane Robinson (Background)


 Work of Grace Sweeney (Foreground) & Merle Thurlow (Background) 2005


 Above Guild photos by Libby Thomson

(With Permission)


New Seedlings Planted In Plastic Mulch


 Planting Out In Field  MAY 21st

Inch by Inch, Row by Row 


 Royal & Homer -  Best Friends

On Squirrel Patrol

at Northern Dipper Farm

   Gourd sightings and trivia


We are long-term fans of Seinfeld & laughed at the rerun where Elaine was dancing at the office party. Jerry recalls the first time he saw her dance. It was on the street with a 4 piece band playing in a doorway. The gourd sighting was a large beaded Shekere.


 Free Up Your Hands & Increase Safety with a Proxxon Footswitch


 Photo 1 - Side View Attached Strap with Chicago Screws  Notice opening is " Across the front & up the sides"



 Criss-Cross Back Fasteners


 Half Moon Design - Purse by Catherine Devine



Painted Pansies - Purse by Catherine Devine



 Basket Weave & Flowers - Purse

by Catherine Devine



 Designed & Created by Ed &  Darienne McAuley

of Singing Dog Studios


 Chip Carved Purse



Carved Purse Possibly From Africa


Reverse Side of Carved Purse 

(On loan from our friend Gloria B.)


Extraordinary Projects & Fabulous Designs in this book by Dyan Mai Peterson

Published by Northern Dipper Enterprises
Northern Dipper Farm
1666 Villa Nova Road
RR1 Wilsonville, Ontario
N0E 1Z0 Canada
(519) 443-5638