These Eggs Are to Dye For!

Those Pysanky Easter Eggs that we talked about earlier this month were gorgeous, no question! But the idea of actually making one was (at least for me)…well…more than a little intimidating. Natural dyes, on the other hand looked like something I might be able to handle. So I gave it a shot and we were all thrilled with the results. Plus, it was a lot of fun.

There are a couple of ways you can go about this–I went for what  seemed the most efficient, which was to boil the eggs and dye them at the same time. The basic format is the same in most cases. Put roughly equal amounts of dye stuff and water in a pan, together with the eggs and a teaspoon or two of vinegar. (This ratio is a little different if you’re using spices or juice. I’ll mention those in more detail when we get to the part about how to get specific colors). Obviously, you are going to need separate pans for each color.  (That’s the only part about doing it this way that’s a little cumbersome.) Anyway, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Check the eggs at this point. If you want deeper colors, strain the dye bath (unless you want speckled eggs), put the eggs in a bowl and cover them with the dye bath. Refrigerate for several hours to overnight until you get the color you want.

Here’s how to obtain the following colors (I’m going to give you both things that are reported to work as well as the ones I personally tried and can vouch for. I’ll let you know which is which!)

Red/Pink:

Beets or juice from pickled beets, cranberries or juice, raspberries, red grape juice, red onion skins, pomegranate juice.

I used cranberry juice at nearly full strength and got a very deep red color. I expect you could dilute it quite a bit and get a nice pink.

Yellow/Gold:

Orange or lemon peels, carrot tops, chamomile tea, ground turmeric

I used 2 teaspoons of ground turmeric in about 2 cups of water and got a beautiful gold color right away. Be careful with this one, though, as turmeric stains in a major way–counter tops, clothing, etc.

Blue/Teal:

That's right. That fuchsia colored dye bath ultimately produced beautiful teal eggs. Whodda thought?

Canned blueberries, purple grape juice, red cabbage

This one was amazing! I used red cabbage. I boiled it as with all the others and it seemed as though there was no way it would work. The water turned a bright fuchsia and the eggs appeared to be as white as ever.  But, I’d boiled a lot of eggs (teal is my favorite color) so I put them in a bowl with the dye bath and let them sit. After a few hours, the eggs had a slight blueish cast. I refrigerated them overnight and by morning the water had turned a deep violet color and the eggs were as you saw in the first photo–gorgeous. I highly recommend this one if only for the unbelievable nature of it!

Green:

Spinach (fresh or frozen), liquid chlorophyll

I tried frozen spinach and thought it wasn’t working so tossed it. In hindsight (and given the experience with the red cabbage), maybe I was too hasty. I did ultimately get a pretty nice green by combining turmeric and red cabbage.

Violet/Lavender:

Small amount of purple grape juice, violet blossoms, red wine, hibiscus tea

This was the only one that was a true disappointment. I had some dried jamaica from Mexico (which I always thought was basically hibiscus tea) so that’s what I used. The eggs came out a deep gray color. They looked all right mixed in with the others, but nothing to write home about (we left them out of the above photo).

Orange:

Yellow onion skins, cooked carrots, chili powder, paprika

I went with the yellow onion skins as I had several sitting around. It worked like a charm–I had a deep orange color immediately after boiling.

A couple of additional notes:

  • Naturally dyed eggs will have a very matte finish. If you want to gloss them up a bit, just rub with a small amount of cooking oil.
  • You can get a fun striped effect (like the egg in the foreground of the photo) by putting rubber bands around the egg in a random pattern when you dye it in the first color. Then take it out and re-position the rubber bands and then soak in a different color dye bath.
  • When we were in Oaxaca with our Days of the Dead trip last year, we had a demonstration in which a weaver showed us how, by simply adjusting the PH, he could obtain radically different colors. I didn’t try it here, but if you have time a fun experiment might be to add a little lemon or lime juice to one of the dye baths and see what happens to the color. Or alternatively, you could throw in a bit of baking soda.
  • I liked the way these came out so much that I was wishing I’d hollowed out the eggs beforehand so I could save them. More work, for sure, but it’s a thought…

If you try this, we’d love to hear about your experiences (especially about the dye stuffs we didn’t try!) And send photos, please!

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Comments

  1. stevie mack says:

    Kitty,
    I love these eggs. They are so gorgeous! The rich, earthy color, the mat finish, and the implied texture all add to the natural beauty of the eggs. I can’t wait to try it at home. No more commercial dyes for me. It was so easy to take the photo of these beauties…and I am happy to say, I now have four to jump start my egg decorating this week. (One of the benefits of taking the photos around here.) Your detailed directions will guarantee success. Thanks for doing the research and testing the process for us.

    Kitty Williams Reply:

    Thanks Stevie. I have to say, though, that this kind of research feels a lot like play!