East End autumn crafts for the home

A trio of dried gourds. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

A trio of dried gourds. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

For the artistically inclined, fall is a fantastic time to make something decorative. That’s because the materials traditionally associated with autumnal crafts — think corn, hay bales, pumpkins and mums — are inexpensive and plentiful on the North Fork. Best of all, they don’t require a lot of know-how.

“At this time of year, there’s a lot of natural stuff available,” agreed Vicki Normandin of Riverhead, who’s been a member of Cutchogue’s Old Town Arts and Crafts Guild for the past six years. “The colors are absolutely beautiful. They’re so rich and vibrant.”

Eager to get started? The following ideas from local crafters are sure to help channel your inner Martha Stewart.

Helen Krupski works on her Indian corn bundles at the back of her family's farm stand.

Helen Krupski works on her Indian corn bundles at the back of her family’s farm stand.

INDIAN CORN BUNCHES

“Around here, I’m known as the Indian corn lady,” Helen Krupski of Krupski’s Pumpkin Farm in Peconic said with a laugh in a recent interview.

Indeed. For the past 35 years, Krupski has arranged Indian corn into three-eared bunches, affixing each with a wire hook and a ribbon and then selling them at the family farm stand.

It’s a relatively simple but beautiful way to highlight the vegetable’s multi-hued kernels, which range in color from orange and yellow to even dark blue.

“The corn reflects my thoughts and ideas and what I think is beautiful,” said Krupski, who carefully arranges the ears by color so that they complement one another.

“I love working with it,” she said. “It’s like opening a present because no two ears are alike.”

Indian corn is typically harvested the first week in September. Husks should be dry before starting any crafts, otherwise the corn could rot, Krupski cautioned.

Once it’s dry, however, the ears have great staying power: “I have a few bunches in the house and one is 14 years old,” she said.

Nearly anyone can make a pumpkin and mums floral arrangement like the one shown here. (Credit: Rachel Young)

Nearly anyone can make a pumpkin and mums floral arrangement like the one shown here. (Credit: Rachel Young)

PUMPKIN AND MUMS FLORAL ARRANGEMENT

Even the artistically challenged can pull off this craft. It entails placing a small pot of mums into a carved pumpkin.

“It’s nice and simple and environmentally friendly,” Normandin said.

To make your own pumpkin and mums floral arrangement, purchase a large pumpkin — “it needs to big enough to stick a pot of mums in,” Normandin said — and cut off its lid. Scoop out the seeds and flesh (just as you would for a jack-o’-lantern) and place a six- or eight-inch pot of mums inside.

“This way you can still water it,” said Normandin, who recommends applying some petroleum jelly to the pumpkin’s rim to help keep it fresh longer.

Want to make your arrangement even prettier? Purchase a scarecrow decorationvor, for an enhanced look, use some raffia straw, which is available at many craft stores.

Regina Rouge of the Riverhead Garden Club holds up two dried gourds that were painted to look like jack-o-lanterns. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

Regina Rouge of the Riverhead Garden Club holds up two dried gourds that were painted to look like jack-o’-lanterns. (Credit: Vera Chinese)

DECORATIVE DRIED GOURDS

One easy way to dry gourds is to remove them from the vine and then wash them in warm soapy water. This process removes bacteria and helps prevents rotting. You can then place them in a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water.

To dry the gourds, select a spot that is free of moisture. They may take several months to dry completely dry. Be sure to turn the gourds every few weeks and remove any mold that accumulates. You can also hang them to dry.

If you don’t want to wait that long, many local farm stands sell them already dried.

Once the squash is desiccated, it’s time to decorate.

You can scoop out the inside, cut some openings into the gourd and make a jack-o’-lantern-like luminary. You can also paint them or carve goblins and ghouls into the rind.

Regina Rouge, a member of the Riverhead Garden Club, recommends spraying a sealant on the finished product.

Rouge, who has been making decorative dried gourds for years, said they don’t have to be limited to the fall season.

“You can make a birdhouse — we’ve even made Christmas ones,” she said. “They’re a cute little fall craft.”

ryoung@timesreview.com