Natural Easter Egg Dyes
This Easter, team up with your garden to create beautiful egg art in Athens, Ga.
Whether you’re a Christian or not, Easter is a time to celebrate new life, creation, rebirth and the regenerative forces of nature. It’s the gardener’s New Year!
In fact, Easter was named for the Saxon goddess known as, depending on the region, Eastre, Oestre or Ostara. She was the goddess of fertility, dawn and spring. I bet she had a killer garden! And guess what this fertility goddess’ sacred animal was? Yep, the rabbit.
The decorated egg--bless its little yolk--is synonymous with springtime and Easter in most cultures throughout history. Ancient Egyptians, Persians and Hindus believed all the world thrust forth from an enormous egg, and celebrated the season by gifting decorative eggs.
For Christians, the egg, its hard shell breaking open to reveal the new life-force within, has come to symbolize the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And in the Middle Ages, Europeans adorned eggs in celebration of the season; the wealthy, with gold. The peasants? Flowers and herbs.
Well, I’m fresh out of gold, but have the whole-wide-world outside my door, as do you. Hippity hop! Let’s get crackin’--er, dying!
What you’ll need:
- White eggs. (Brown eggs don’t absorb dye as readily.)
- An array of leaves and flowers. (Thin materials, like many flower petals, won’t leave a distinct outline, but the result is lovely anyway.)
- Old stalkings, cheesecloth or coffee filters.
- Rubber bands or string.
- An array of natural materials for dying, like papery onion skins (raid your grocery store's onion bin, or inquire with its produce manager), blueberries (fresh or frozen), red cabbage, beets and their tops, coffee, hibiscus tea, spices (turmeric, saffron, chili powder, etc.), pomegranate juice, citrus peels and the like. An inquiry into your favorite search engine will yield more possibilities than you can imagine.
- Lots of pots, bowls and towels.
Tips and Guidelines:
Pre-cutting your squares of cheesecloth, or what have you, will streamline the stenciling process. Once you’ve chosen your garden goodies, dip them in a bit of water (this helps them stick while you fiddle with wrapping it in cloth), and arrange them on the white egg however your creative heart desires. Once satisfied, wrap the cloth around the egg, gather it in the back and secure with a band or string. (See the picture in the gallery for a pre-dye picture.)
In addition to stenciling, wrapping an egg in onion skins and then in cloth, yields a gorgeous marbling effect. In this case, you would boil the onion-wrapped egg in plain water.
Many hues are possible and their depth of color depend on both the amount of dying material in your bath and the length of dying time you allow. There aren’t any recipes, per se, but rather suggestions. (Visit the photo gallery above for tips on how I achieved certain effects.) Besides, creativity with rules won’t yield as much excitement.
However, for what it’s worth, I used about two cups of veggie material or 1-2 tablespoons of spice, per quart of water and had the best results with onion skins (dark orange, sepia tones), blueberries (dark purple hues), grated beets (lavender-brownish tones), and turmeric (yellow-goldish hues).
There are many ways in which you can carry out the dying process:
- Place your dying materials of choice, your stenciled (or not) eggs and vinegar (2 Tbls. per quart of water) and enough cold water to cover the loot. Continue on with your favorite hard boiled egg method and boiling time.
- Boil your dying materials (veggies, fruits or spices) and vinegar for a good bit (15-20 minutes or so), then add your eggs to the boiling dye and continue boiling for fifteen minutes or so. This method will likely not lead to a perfectly hard boiled egg, but will lead to more vivid coloring.
- Boiling your eggs and the mess of dying materials in the same pot, yields interesting spotting. If you’d rather have a overall smooth outcome, boil your dying materials first, strain your concoction and then carry on with your egg boiling.
Once you’re satisfied with the hue (some may need to stay in the dye hours more or even overnight), pull the eggs from the dye and let them dry a bit, untouched. Then, remove the cloth and let them dry all the way. Once dry to the touch, carefully remove your stencil. Leave the matte finish or opt to polish it up with touch of kichen oil on your fingers.
Tah Dah! Faberge's got nothing on you.
Create. Hide. Eat. Repeat.