November 2, 2012

How To: Snake Gourd Rainstick

After our big sweet potato harvest reveal (ahem, failure), we thought we'd share another long term project we've had in the works that we had a little more success with!

Anybody remember the snake gourd we got along with our Halloween pumpkins this time last year? Well, we talked about the idea of trying to dry it out over the course of the year and turning it into a rainstick if we had success.

We'd been letting the gourd just hang out and dry in our garage over the course of the past year, waiting for it to dry, which it did amazingly well. It was pretty incredible how the gourd dried out over the year — we would wipe it down every so often with a vinegar/water solution just to keep it clean and cut down on mildew and that was it.

Right around a year after we got it, we tested it by shaking it as hard as we could to loosen up the dried seeds within and like magic, the gourd sounded just like a rainstick when turned upside down and back again.

Since we had an entire year to plan out how we'd transform this baby into a rainstick, when the time was finally right, we got to it! I liked the idea of painting the gourd in a solid gray color and embellishing it with metallic bird shapes to give it a little bit of a modern feel.

To get things prepped for painting, Tim rigged up a spray painting station using unwound metal coat hangers he gets his dry-cleaning back on — just like the one he made for our stool makeover:

After a final wiping down and drying with a vinegar/water solution, we hung the gourd from the coat hanger hook and applied a thin layer of spray primer all over it:


After the primer dried, we sprayed thin layers of a glossy solid gray spray paint to completely coat the gourd. Thin an even layers, allowing to dry between coats, always does the trick!

Basil supervised, I mean sunbathed, the entire time Tim was spraying the gourd:

Once dry, we finished off the spraying process with a thin and even coat of the same low odor clear finish we used in the stool makeover project and stump table project — we're growing quite fond of this stuff!

After all the spraying was done (over the course of a weekend), we actually let the gourd hang out and cure up out in the garage for about 2 weeks. OK, I admit it really only needed one week (if that), but we got busy and didn't get around to the next phase of the project for 2 weeks.

When it came time for phase 2 of the gourd-to-rainstick transformation, I really got to break out my craft basket! Tell me I'm not the only one who has a giant craft basket filled with years of collected supplies and whatnot.

Cutting Edge Stencils had sent us a particular patterned stencil to try out in an upcoming project (look for it next week) and when it arrived we realized they included a few extra shapes with the shipment, like this cute little bird stencil:

In true Portlandia fashion, I got overexcited at all the different ways we could "put a bird on it" around our house using this stencil before landing on the idea to completely cover our gray gourd with metallic versions of it.

Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

I wanted to create metallic fabric stickers to place all over the gourd, so I just painted over some scrap fabric I had on hand with a Martha Stewart metallic multi-surface paint in "champagne" metallic color:

Once two layers of that dried, I flipped over the fabric and started stenciling as many of the bird shapes as I could get within the painted area and cut them out one by one while we watched a movie that weekend:

I cut a lot of them out:

I just love how uniform the birds look from using the stencil.

To make the stickers, I just flipped the birds over onto a piece of paper towel and sprayed them generously with a spray adhesive. Why didn't they make spray adhesive when I was growing up? Seriously. I love this stuff. I've certainly been overcompensating for only just discovering it in my adult life:

The spray adhesive creates an immediate tacky surface on the back of the fabric, making it easy to arrange, position and press the birds exactly how I wanted them up and around the gourd:

They smoothed out and adhered to the surface right away. I just kept placing them wherever I wanted all the way up the gourd.

It was that easy! 

Here's our gourd rainstick all complete and hanging out around the house:

The fabric stickers are cool in that they make for a textured "gripping" surface throughout the rainstick while giving off a faint sheen at the same time:

It was hard to get a full shot of it at once so I asked Tim to hold it for me — can you see how excited he and Basil were to have this task?

Then I reminded them of the fun they had horsing around with this same gourd last year:

Which instantly spurred a reenactment on the front porch of our new house:

I'll never get sick of these boys.

The best part though was watching our niece, Virginia, try to play with the rainstick, given she'd never encountered one before:

We were in the parking lot of the Children's Museum of Richmond in case anyone is wondering why it looks like we are out in the street. After she got the hang of flipping it up and back down to hear the "rain" fall with each turn, she was a happy camper:

I didn't think to grab a video of her playing with it so you could hear how much this dried gourd sounds like a rainstick, so I again forced my boys to pose for the camera and they obliged:

So that's how we made a rainstick from the snake gourd we got last year. It couldn't have been easier — it just took a year's worth of patience to let it dry out. Now we've got another fun toy hanging out at our house when the kids drop by and get to talk about how we made it ourselves.

What autumn crafts or projects have you been taking on this year? Do you remember playing with rainsticks when you were younger or also wish spray adhesive had been around back then? Maybe it's better for all of us that it wasn't (or that I just didn't know about it if it was).

P.S. Keep a lookout on Tuesday for another project we did using Cutting Edge Stencils coupled with a new giveaway!


  1. That is the coolest rainstick I have ever seen. I'm thinking this would be a fun home schooling lesson. I better find a gourd to use soon!

    1. A great lesson in patience and evolution! Also fun to decorate however you like!

      We had a lot of fun with this one!

  2. I'm learning how to knit, very relaxing. I'm about to have shoulder surgery so I'm doing it while I can. Love the rainstick, we used to play with those as kids too:)


    1. Awesome Berni! Here's wishing you many many more years of knitting — we know and love the feeling of finding projects and crafts that turn into a relaxing ritual.

  3. Im buying a gourd at farmers market this weekend.
    Rainstick is next on my project list!!


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