This month we thought we would feature a fun craft to celebrate Spring this Easter. Many people find the earthy tones of herb and food colored eggs to be far more attractive than the Easter Bunny’s candy colors (and of course healthier too!). Many herbal dye plants, used traditionally to color wool and other natural fibers, can be used for Easter eggs in place of commercial dyes. Natural ingredients like herbs and spices offer an endless variety of hues for dyeing eggs — from the soft purple shades of hibiscus to the rich gold tones of turmeric. Dyeing with nature takes a bit more patience, and a bit more openness to whatever nature decides to deliver. But that’s what makes this activity such creative fun — and the results so stunning.

What you will need to get started:

Mordant — Alum, cream of tartar, or white vinegar will help the colors penetrate the eggshell. (Mordants aren’t necessary, but you’ll get better results if you use one.)

Pots — Enamel or glass pots (not aluminum) are best.

Water — Use distilled water or water that is chlorine-filtered.

Eggs — White eggs will display the subtle, natural colors better than brown or green eggs.

Dyestuff The more eggs you’re dyeing, the more dyestuff you’ll need. Have fun experimenting with herbs and spices to see what colors they impart, but here are some suggestions to get you started.

 

Ingredients for Color:

Gold: yellow onion skins

Yellow: turmeric, dried calendula or marigolds, goldenrod, cosmos, or a handful of carrot tops

Green: coltsfoot, nettles or sweet woodruff, spinach leaves*

Blue:  woad, wild indigo root, chopped red cabbage*

Pink: chopped beets, cranberries, raspberries

Purple: frozen blueberries, elderberries

Brown: coffee grounds or black tea bags

Reddish brown: Chili powder

Orange: Paprika

Reddish blue/lavender: Hibiscus flowers

Violet Blue: Violet Blossoms, Small Quantity of Red Onions Skins*

Red: Lots of Red Onions Skins*, Canned Cherries with Juice, Pomegranate Juice

* For best results with this color, add botanicals to the water while cooking eggs.

 

The Process:

Once you get the hang of dyeing naturally, you’ll work in panfuls and handfuls, but here are some guidelines to get you started:

»  4 cups water

»  dyestuff (about 2-4 tbsp. ground herbs and spices or 1 cup whole or cut and sifted)

»  1 tablespoon mordant (see above for list)

»  4 to 6 eggs, washed to remove any coating (Use raw for hot bath, hard-boiled for cold.)

There are two easy ways to dye eggs with natural dyestuffs. One is a hot method, which delivers the deepest colors; the other is cold. You might try each, or use them in combination.

Hot Bath Directions

Bring water, dyestuff, and mordant to a boil. Add eggs and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, remove from heat, cover and let sit another 15 minutes or more, until desired color. (The longer you leave the eggs in the dye, the deeper the color.) Remove eggs, gently rinse in lukewarm water, and let air dry.

Cold Bath Directions

Make a dye bath by bringing water, dyestuff, and mordant to a boil. Simmer the dyestuff until the water is deeply colored, anywhere from half an hour to a couple of hours. (Put a lid on the pot to prevent evaporation.) Strain the liquid and cool. Add hard-boiled eggs to the dye, and let soak until desired color is reached (overnight, in the refrigerator, if you like).

  

Tips and Tricks

» Add sheen to your eggs by gently wiping the dry, dyed shell with vegetable oil.

» Consider dyeing an egg in more than one color. (Let dry between dyeing.)

» Experiment with fun techniques: Wrap an egg in rubber bands, stickers or apply masking tape in patterns before dyeing, for a batik effect. Or wrap an egg in leaves (hold them in place with a nylon stocking) before dyeing. For a stippled effect, pat an egg with a sponge while still wet. And to marbleize your egg, add a drop of oil to the dye liquid.

» For a smoother look, dye eggs in strained liquid. For more texture, leave in the dyestuff.

» Don’t over stir the eggs while simmering, or overhandle them once you remove them from the dye. The outer shell, softened from the mordant, can rub off.

So this Easter celebrate with the colours of nature!