Tuesday, April 10, 2007

naturally dyed eggs

(if you like, click on each photo to get further description of the eggs picutred.)

while julie was here, i dyed eggs using natural dyes, something i'd never done before. a reasonable thing to do would be to try three or four colors, so i decided on ten.

along with the several cups of vegetables or a few tablespoons of spices, i added 1-2 T vinegar along with 1/4 tsp alum per cup of water. i'm sure the vinegar helped, and while the alum didn't always make a difference, in the cases where it helped, it was key. for example, red cabbage dyed the eggs a barely-preceptible faint pink, but after adding the alum, the water instantly turned deep bluish-purple, and the eggs took a lot of color very quickly. basically, i brought to a boil then simmered each pot for 15 minutes, then dyed and hard-boiled the eggs at the same time by simmering for 15+ minutes. if i thought the egg could use more color, i switched to the "cold" method, and let it soak in strained dye in a glass for a good long while. (i have no intention of eating the eggs, so i didn't worry that they became overcooked, took on weird flavors, or sat out of the fridge in dyes for a long time.)

yellow onion eggs

the best dye of all was onion skins -- i used yellow and red onions, and to get a good number of skins, i rifled through the bins of onions at HEB collecting skins -- while eva patiently looked on -- to go with my modest onion purchase. (this didn't phase the cashier at all, causing me to wonder what sorts of things stranger than bags of onion skins they see in a day?) yellow onion skins resulted in beautiful eggs a bright golden yellow color (almost indistinguishible from the tumeric eggs, actually). an egg directly wrapped in yellow onion skins came out yellow with rust colored patches. red onion skins created some deep olive green eggs, one left in too long was nearly black (with a white flower). one egg wrapped tightly with red onion skins came out pink and a paler shade of olive green. nice.

red cabbage eggs

onions and red cabbage were the best, but i also had success with beets (brick red, but only after soaking for several hours -- before that, a displeasing brown, alum or not), tumeric (very similar to yellow onions but less dappled and more likely to stain everything), and hibiscus tea. i expected the tea to result in purple or blue eggs, but instead got a sage green, both with and without alum, but darker with). very unexpected. i also had a few disappointments -- spinach barely colored the eggs at all -- even after i tossed in some fennel fronds for good measure, and cumin created not an orange-brown, but just plain brown -- even after i added some cinnamon just in case. coffee also did little but lightly stain the egg. however, imagine the confusing smell at this point: tumeric, cumin, cinnamon, fennel, onions, coffee, and cabbage... yum! (??)

assorted natural dyes

cloveri also tried some special techniques, with varying degrees of success. i tried layering the colors, but one tended to overwhelm the other regardless of the ordering. i put oil in some of the cold dye, resulting in some interesting brown-and-red spotted beet eggs, which seem to come from some seussian bird creature. i rubber-banded onion skins directly to eggs as mentioned above, yeilding a sort of tie-dyed effect. but by far the best technique was the resist method -- i placed leaves, flowers, etc on the eggs and held that in place with a square of sheer fabric pulled taut and rubber-banded linesat the back of the egg (hosery was suggested, but i apparently finally threw out every last pair of my 90s nylons at some point, so in a pinch i used scrap organza, which may actually be the remnant from my wedding veil but i'm not positive about that). i achieved some nice, crisp outlines of azalea blooms, clover leaves, and various tree leaves. the most unexpected result, however, came from a yellow flower i picked along the sidewalk when julie and i took eva for a walk in the wagon. the flower transfered its yellow petal color and red center color onto the blue (red cabbage dyed) egg. it looks almost like a watercolor painting of a flower... what a lovely surprise.

natural watercolor eggnext time, i'll stick to the more successful yellow and red onions, red cabbage (with alum), and maybe beet or hibiscus. i'll also try out a few items that didn't make the cut this year, like blueberries, cranberries, and maybe some spices. i'm trying to think of how to make this a more kid-friendly project -- the dyes work best when on the stove, and even at that, the results are not of the instant-gratification variety. we'll work it out, though, because i find the results far more pleasing than the super-bright PAAS dyes. i considered combining this with my ukranian egg skills (a wax resist batik method), but the natural dyes tend to rub off, so i don't think it would work. in fact, these eggs aren't so great for hiding indoors (tumeric-stained upholstry, anyone?), so eva didn't get to hunt them this year since she was sick and it was 37 degrees outside. all in all, a fun project.

flower egg

14 comments:

adam brown said...
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Carmen said...

These are absolutely beautiful! I've been looking at dyeing eggs for a while and I love the natural dyes you used. Gorgeous.

jodi said...

These are beautiful.

The grocery clerks have definitely seen weirder, I bet there's always some crafty weirdo trying to buy what most shoppers think is garbage. I used to go through the checkouts with big bags of the discarded corn husks that other people left behind in the bins (from opening up all the corn in the store to check it, I guess).

Wendi said...

These eggs are incredible. You did a great job...even Martha Stewart would be jealous!

noricum said...

Your eggs (and photographs of them) are very beautiful!

the bookworm said...

I've never seen such beautiful Easter eggs! I love the designs, your method and, of course, the wonderful photographs!

Helena said...

Just beautiful!

au said...

In all my years on the planet, these are the most beautiful Easter eggs I've ever seen. I wish you/I knew what kind of yellow flower you picked to create that egg--it's stunning.

Kristy said...

au, thank you so much. all i can tell you is that it's yellow with a red center, and grows (wild along sidewalks) in texas in march. i'll see if i can find one this year, and try to take a photo. :)

C said...

The yellow flower is probably marigold or calendula - they do make yellow dyes anyway.

How exactly did you do the blue cabbage? The first year I used blue cabbage, it was beautiful like yours, but unfortunately I didn't take notes and haven't been able to get the dye to stick since.

Frozen berries also make a lovely color- stick a hard boiled egg in a bowl with thawed berries and their juice overnight and you'll get lovely pastel mottling in pink and purple. (depending on the berry)

Mudhooks said...

Beautiful eggs!

Using onions is my favorite way to dye eggs. Even when they "don't turn out" you can always eat them!

Aside from the look from clerks that clearly say "Suuuurrrre... You are dying EGGS with them... Riiight! You've just escaped from somewhere, haven't you?!" They don't have any problem with me taking them.

These days, however, the clerks always remove the loose skins from the bins and I have to ask a produce clerk to get some from the back. They'll come back with a couple of onions' worth and I have to say... "No. I need a LOT of them! I'll take all you have!".

It is easier to get them from the small markets rather than the big chain stores. We also have a local farm stall during the summer and fall and I can often get them to collect them for me.

It was all so much easier when my brother-in-law worked as Produce Manager for the local supermarket. He would just bring them home for me.

I wrap the eggs in the skins and then drop them one by one into an old pair of pantyhose or knee-highs (My Mom always has tons of latter with runs in them) and put a knot in between each one. You can always use the net bag that they sell some produce in, too. Sometimes I tie them with thread which makes lines on the eggs, as well.

Mudhooks said...

This is an egg I did a few years ago. The colour turned out rather too uniform for my taste so I scratched a design into it.


My photos of it

Nikki said...

Thanks for your feedback. I am still figuring out all the little tricks to blogging. I love your site. Keep up the good work!

MaGreen said...

I know this is a year old, or 2, but just wanted to say yours is the best natural egg dying advice out there. I used the alum (it seems to make a gigantic difference...) and vinegar and got results similar to yours. Pickled beet juice made lovely reddish pink.