(This is a repost of what I wrote for Handmade Philly this week)
It’s official- spring has sprung, and egg dying season is upon us. Growing up, we always purchased food coloring kits, but if you’d like to try something a little more traditional, then please read on. Natural dyes do take a little longer than their chemical counterparts, but I think the results are worth it.
I like the idea that dying eggs can be safe for the environment, both by using natural elements as well as less packaging, while also paying homage to how I imagine our ancestors must have done it. For this tutorial, I have also included a stencil technique if you’d like to add an additional layer of interest to your eggs.
Let’s start with the beets, which will turn your eggs anywhere from pale pink to deep red-violet, depending on how long you leave them in the dye bath. I boiled two cups of chopped beets with two cups of water, 1-2 tablespoons of white vinegar, and 1 T of salt . I am told the eggs come out better when the dye mixture is hot, and since you have to hard boil them anyway, you can just put them all into the pot together & boil for 15 minutes. After that, remove from heat, and leave the eggs in the mixture until desired shade is achieved. I left mine in for several hours, and this is what I got:
Since the natural dyes leave the eggs somewhat dull, you can polish them when they’re dry with a little bit of oil. As you can see from the photo, the oil polish (I used canola) also deepens the color quite a bit. For the egg on the left, I tried tying rubber bands around it to give it more texture. For the one on the right, I used wild strawberry leaves as a stencil.
To achieve the stencilling effect, gather whatever materials you think would make an interesting pattern on your egg. I went out in my backyard and picked the following:
Next, you will need some old nylon stockings. Cut off the feet so you have a little bag big enough for the egg with room to tie it off. Place the egg inside, with whatever material you are using for a stencil. I tried to flatten the leaves out against the egg surface as best as possible, but it is a little tricky, and I liked the randomness of it anyway. Then, tie off the open end of your stockings as tightly as possible with either a rubber band or a knot, and you should have something that looks like this:
From there, you just put it in your dye bath until you’re ready to remove it. Here are how some of my other eggs turned out:
Boil one head of chopped cabbage for about 30 minutes. Strain the liquid, and add ¼ cup white vinegar and ¼ cup of salt and your eggs so they are covered. Not only will the eggs turn a beautiful shade of blue, but you can see the difference between leaving them in the dye bath for several hours vs. about an hour (bottom eggs).
For the turmeric eggs, I boiled one cup of water with 1 T. turmeric, 1 T. white vinegar, and 1 T. salt. I transferred the mixture to dye cups & immersed my eggs for only about an hour.
2 cups yellow onion skins boiled with 2 cups water, 1T. vinegar, & 1 T. salt. I wrapped the one on the right in onion skins with nylon over top, and it came out with a really cool marbled texture.
I haven’t personally tried these, but here are some other natural elements that you can experiment with. Just remember to add the vinegar so the dye sticks to the eggs: