Easter Eggs to Dye For!
Hoppy belated Easter all! We’ve been so busy it’s been difficult to get this blog together but we’re making an effort, though be it a bit late. Last week my son and I explored some different dye methods to colour our Easter eggs and though our video has not been edited as of yet, I thought I would roll with the moment by sharing some of the other content. Here is a list of some of the colouring we tried as well as some that are on our basket list that we haven’t got to at this point:
- Shaving cream method. This is a DIY that is pretty straight forward so you can share it
with even your toddlers (though a smock and gloves may be in order unless you want your child to look like an Easter egg as well:). Just spray some cheap shaving cream in a rectangular cake tin, aluminum tray or something comparable that isn’t your best china. Over one half sprinkle 2 contrasting food colourings that blend together and sprinkle 2 different ones over the other half. I suggest primary colours as your third colour will still look nice. After you have boiled some eggs cool them in the fridge (mostly to make the shells easier to remove if you decide to eat them) before bathing them in vinegar to remove any oils that may impede the dye from fixing on the shell. Make sure you wash your hands well or use latex gloves for the same reason. Roll each egg in the desired combination of colours before placing them to dry on a rack. Using a swirling motion without too much mixing of the colours will give more of a tie dyed effect. Make sure to get the shaving cream more thickly in spots as well to add further contrast. The finished product will be lighter in colour than the initial covered egg so dye a bit darker than you would like it to turn out. After the eggs are fairly dry (about 30 min or so) rinse off the shaving cream and excess dye and voila! You will have some psychedelic Easter eggs!
- Tea method. For those looking for something a little more elite for tea time or
an Easter brunch these eggs will get guests talking and have a unique look and flavour. Partially boil some eggs (a few minutes is enough) so that cracking the eggs won’t result in a mess. Then brew your favourite black, green or herbal tea with good deep colour and hopefully, what you feel would be a complimentary flavour to the eggs (the Chinese have a more specific recipe with soy sauce and various herbs for additional flavouring but we’ve kept it simple). With the back of a spoon crack the shells in random places around the shells before completing the hard boiling process using the brewed tea. Again cool the eggs in the fridge before serving. If you remove the shells prior to your guests being served everyone will be impressed with the magical cracked tea pattern on the eggs and wonder how you did it. It will be up to you if you divulge the secret.
- My Fave – Natural plant dyes. Not only do I love this because of the plants, but because every batch will be unique depending on the type of plant used, what part of the plant used, when it was harvested, what mordant (fixative used to prevent the dye from fading and in some cases, to brighten the colour), how much plant material and mordant used, and the length of time the article (in this case eggs, but other natural materials like sheep wool, cotton, silk etc. can be used) is processed.
Here are a few to try based on the native plants in our area. Feel free to try out others in your location but just make sure you are not harvesting plant material from rare/endangered species and that you get permission from the land owner if not gathering on your own property.
- Goldenrod *Dye colour – Yellow *Premordant – Alkaline (add 1-2 tsp baking soda to dye extraction) *Mordant – Alum
- Yarrow *Dye colour – Yellow *Premordant – Alkaline *Mordant – Alum
- Birch *Dye colour – Leaves/Yellow, Outer Bark/Varying shades of Brown *Mordant – Alum, Inner Bark/Pink!
- Beebalm *Dye colour – Pink (add a bit of vinegar to dye bath to brighten colour)
- Black or Blue Elderberry *Dye colour – Fresh berries/Purple *Mordant – Alum
- Dogwood *Dye colour – Inner Bark/Blue to Purple, Berries/Greenish Blue
- Bedstraw (Gallium triflorum) *Dye colour – Red
- Rosehips *Dye colour – Pink to Red *Mordant – Iron
This is just a partial list and there are so many variations we couldn’t get through everything in our Easter Egg blog so I will be back later to do another bit on natural dyes specifically. Generally speaking you will need equal amounts of dye material to the items (in this case eggs) that you are dyeing, separate pots for each colour, gloves (to prevent colour fixing to your skin, and because some of the plant materials, although natural can still be toxic), ph “manipulators” I like to call things like baking soda and vinegar, and mordants (colour fixative agents that help dye adhere to the item you are dyeing and prevent fading).
You will need 2X the amount of water to the plant material and even the type of water can have a different effect on the dye. If you want a constant, use distilled water. If you seek adventure use your hard or soft tap water to see what effect it has on your colours. Simmer the plant material in the water (chopping it up will quicken the process) for a good hour. In general tougher fibers like roots and bark can be brought to a boil while more tender plant material is better kept just below boiling temperature so as not to ruin the dye constituents. There are a few exceptions but I will try to address them in the next “dyablog”.
Next take the pot off the heat and let stand overnight to further concentrate the dye. Strain the plant material which in many cases can just be composted. At this point add your “manipulator” if required/desired which will change the ph of the liquid to suit the particular dye plant and item you are dyeing (in this case, eggs). This is one way you can get varying shades of the same colour depending on how acidic or alkaline you make the solution. Keep in mind too much may very well eat away your eggshell! In many cases this will be all you will require and you can then dunk your eggs (after cleaning them off with a vinegar solution to make sure there is no oil from fingerprints etc. to prevent the dye from adhering to the eggs). To a point, the longer the eggs sit in the dye solution, the darker the colour will become. With many other items such as wool or silk, they are first soaked in a solution of water containing a mordant. After the item is rinsed it is then dyed. You can dye without mordanting the article first but the colour may not be as vibrant or it may fade quickly. Mordanting enables the colour to fix to the material. Just to see the difference you may try a little iron or alum mordant with some of your eggs.
Anyway, that’s it in an eggshell, but stay tuned for our Dyablog to learn more about natural plant dyes. In the meantime feel free to eggsperiment, but always keep safety in mind, especially with children.