Saturday, January 16, 2010

How to make luffa gourd sponges


Although luffa gourd is grown to harvest young and eat, it is also widely known as the "dishcloth" gourd. Luffa.info has excellent step by step growing and harvesting directions along with photos that document the big reveal at the end of the 140-180 day growing season: luxurious scrubby sponges guaranteed to soften and smooth your skin!


To grow, you'll need a strong trellis. You'll see below two luffa gourd plants. You'll find they are great climbers and get quite heavy by the end of the summer. This photo was taken early in the season. You can see the young tomato plant in the larger container next to it and understand why I dubbed the luffa "the beast" by the end of the summer.



Growing is simple. If you have a long enough season (zone 7 and up) start your seed outside. I thought Maryland (zone 6/7) might be iffy, so I started my seeds indoors around March. Water the plant during periods of drought, then be patient. They'll grow prolifically during the long, hot, summer days and slow during cool periods. Their bright yellow flowers will catch your attention for sure. The gourds, once they start appearing, will grow extremely fast. Let them continue to grow until they dry on the vine as shown on luffa.info, or harvest them just before your first frost. Now you'll watch the magic unfold. You'll bang the gourds around to loosen the seeds, peel the skin off, squeeze and rinse the gourd until all that remains is a clean sponge as shown below. Most of the larger sponges I gave as gifts, as is. You would not believe the exuberance of the men in my life who were the happy recipients of these "back scrubbers". You can see that I cut some of the smaller sponges into little pieces. My gardener friend keeps one by the sink and loves how it gets all the dirt off after a day in the garden. You will also notice that I cut some down the middle, snipped and hollowed the inside so that I could open it up and wind up with a flat piece to be made into the little sponges in the last two photos...


Super simple to make the sponge below: First I cut the luffa sponge to the size and shape I wanted. Then, I found a new, thick, totally luxe bath towel and cut a piece to size. Next, I used a strip of the pom pom decoration that I bought by the yard in the notions department of my favorite fabric store. I sandwiched the pom pom strip between the luffa and towel. I did use some clamps (paper clips actually!) to hold the pieces together, but because the inside of the luffa is so textured, it readily gripped the back of the towel as well. I also inserted the little D-ring (also from the fabric store) and a wide piece of bias tape. This is for hanging the sponge in the shower. I used a sewing machine to sew the pieces together about 1/4" from the edge. You may see an impression, but because both luffa and towel are so thick and textured, the actual thread nearly disappears. This is a project that beginning sewers can accomplish with ease, as lines do not need to be perfect. It's VERY forgiving!

Though I hadn't touched my sewing machine in years, I was still able to relearn how to use it again and also make multiple sponges in just a couple hours or so from start to finish. I think my friends and family were delighted to receive these sponges as gifts along with one of my favorite products - Bee and Flower rose-scented soap. This soap has a wonderful true rose fragrance and can be found (cheaply!) in an Asian supermarket or online. I love it for the packaging just as much as the scent.

18 comments:

  1. Excellent idea! Thanks for sharing Wendy! I have not seen that soap before here. And yes, the packaging is beautiful.

    Happy growing luffa gourd!

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  2. Wendy, they are super cute. Who wouldn't be happy to get a gift like that. Especially as you made them yourself.

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  3. Hi Wendy, what an interesting post. I never knew loofahs were grown. I don't know why, I thought loofahs were harvested from the sea. I am sure your friends and family were touched by your creativity and thoughtfulness towards them and towards the environment.
    Cheers, catmint

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  4. Wendy,
    I lova that loofa. You are so creative! I have heard that a loofah can help with cellulite, I think I will be needing a pillow sized loofah after the holidays , Ha.
    Rosey

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  5. I'm impressed! I had no idea how those were made. They make great gifts...very cute!

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  6. I'm impressed, too! What a fun project!

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  7. This is awesome! So totally up my alley, I think I'm gonna hafta give it a try. :o) Thanks for such a unique and interesting post.

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  8. Yes, fun and easy. These gourds grow so fast during the summer - Julie, you could get the kids out there to measure - and with the female/male parts, could provide quite the botany lesson!

    I think people get these confused with natural sea sponges, but yeah, luffa or loofah grow on vines!

    Rosey - I hear ya!

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  9. wow..
    I heard about luffa but really never knew about them.
    Thanks for sharing it - now I know they come from gourds.
    Do you have a picture of the gourd?

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  10. Hi Wendy, Hats off to you, friend. I love your luffa project. Cute and practical. I've got a room freshener that smells of roses. It reminds me of a dear friend who died a few years ago. Your soap wrapper is indeed pretty. I'd have trouble opening it but for that wonderful fragrance, I'd make an exception. :)

    Your gift recipients are lucky to have you in their lives.

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  11. Glad to discover your blog through My Little Vegetable Garden.

    I find that DIY sponge you made from luffa is very creative. Only see those sold in Body Shop! Didn't know one can DIY it. My brother sells luffa in our grocery shop and it's well-received by the locals who mainly use it for washing dishes. We use it for scrubbing our bodies, instead!

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  12. What a great post! I had no idea where luffa sponges came from. I thought they were some kind of sea creature. I am serious. I am going to look for these to plant, I am so excited about this. Thanks for the info and the link t the information page. The sponges you made are so awesome. Thanks again!

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  13. AND she sews! Fun project there, Wendy! I always wanted to grow these gourds but thought I'd have too many sponges to know what to do with! Loved your past sprouts post...adorable photos! :)

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  14. James, I did have some photos of the gourds but I can't find them. They basically look like gigantic cukes - pretty light in weight though towards the end of the season.

    Grace, there's something about the fragrance of roses that just reminds us of special people. I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your friend.

    JC, a great product to sell! You could easily make a scrub brush too with some bamboo and about 1/3 of the sponge (I recently saw this in a catalog)

    Teresa - this is what I originally thought too - but I guess this is the natural sea sponge we're thinking of, not the more scrubby, exfoliating sponge that the luffa is. Yeah, that luffa.com site is great!

    Lynn, it's a beast and no doubt you'd grow a gazillion sponges!

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  15. Hi Wendy,
    We have a lot of loofah sponge for sale in the local markets.I just bought one for Rm2.00.Cut into two pieces,one for wet kitchen and the other one for toilet sink.

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  16. I would like to know if loffah gourd gives products all the year or only seasonally?
    Thank you

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  17. in my zone, the vine is killed by frost. At that point, any remaining fruits on the vine are already mostly dried out.

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