by Ronna Wuttke with David Blackwell;
Photos by David Wuttke

Ronna Wuttke is an accomplished gourd artist. In addition to her work with native pine needles, she does extensive pyrography on gourds. Ronna has a love of turtles and Indians. As she puts it, "working with gourds makes me feel as if I am preserving a very old and beautiful way of life." Although not a gourd artist, husband David Wuttke is an avid photographer, a Master Gardener, and one of Ronna's strongest supporters. He grows many other gourds and assists with many of the more  tedious processes, leaving her to achieve artistically. 


  • Gourd - must set flat. Should have nice uniform shape, both around (circumference) and from top to bottom 
  •  Long leaf pine needles of generally uniform length (2 ounces will do a large basket). 11"-14" is ideal 
  • Wrapping thread - sinew (real or artificial) or 4-ply waxed linen 
  • Needle for wrapping thread 
  • Awl for making holes or drill set with 1/16" or 3/32" bit 
  • Hem marker (by Dritz) or other marking device (for marking lines on gourd) 
  •  Exacto or small jigsaw for cutting 
  •  Compass - with 2 points 
  •  Finish (if desired) 
Wash gourd thoroughly and let dry. Mark and cut top of gourd where desired. Use any method of marking, but I strongly recommend using a chalk hem marker. Almost in the blink of an eye, it marks a perfectly level line around your bowl.  Sand  top gourd as necessary and clean inside of gourd thoroughly. 

Mark a line 3/18"-1/2" below the top rim.  Take a compass set with two points set 3/8"-1/2" part and walk it around your rim,  pricking the location of each hole to be drilled as you go. When nearly 80%-90% around the rim, carefully check with the  compass to ensure that you return to the exact starting hole.  If it does not, make any necessary adjustment to the compass. This slight alteration will not be noticeable in the finished bowl. 

Wipe off remaining chalk residue. Using the awl or drill, make each hole. At any point below the rim, decide where to locate  the lower decorative band of pine needles. Mark the holes and continue as in step Nos. 5-8 above. This sets the top set of  holes.  1/2" below this second line of holes, shoot a third chalk line or other wise mark.. By eye, mark and drill a hole directly  below the hole above it. Continue around until all holes in the second row have been marked and drilled to correspond to the row above.  If a finish is desired, apply it now.

Cut a length of thread as long as you can comfortably manage for stitching (6'-25').  Tie one end over the rim and through a hole. Thread the needle.  Take two pine needles and set them at your starting hole. Whip over the rim and out the next hole. Pull thread through and pull taut. Snug the two pine needles so that only the basal sheath protrudes beyond the hole. 

Set two more pine needles under the next hole and below the first two pine needles. Pull thread through and taut. Snug the two pine needles so that only the basal sheath protrudes behind.  Add two pine needles to each hole. Add below the new hole and below the building bundle of needles.  With each stitch, adjust and snug the two pine needles behind the  working hole. Initially, the needles won't fully cooperate but as the bundle of pine needles builds, two by two, it will become more and more easy to manage.

Continue around until you have added the last two pine needles to the last hole.  Do not add more pine needles but just continue to stitch down the remaining ends.  The first holes, which were too sparse with only two pine needles, etc., will now be built up as the ends of the last needles are stitched over top. 

Continue around until the last pine needle end has been stitched down.  Bury the thread through the bundle of needles and cut off -- it won't go anywhere.  If the original thread was not long enough for the whole job, bury the end a stitch or two behind and simply knot in a new length. 

The lower band of pine needles is worked in the same way as the for the rim. Simply think of the top row of holes as the top rim as
you whip 'through' this row of holes rather than over the rim. The final size of the pine needle bundle (rim or decorative strip) can be
manipulated in several ways 
  • by adding more or less pine needles per hole 
  •  increase or decreasing the space between the holes (both horizontally and vertically) 
  •  allowing more or less material to protrude behind each stitch 
  •  utilizing a material other than pine needles
Ronna's works are available on a commission basis. 
Check out the Turtle Feathers site at