When someone says “dyeing Easter eggs,” I believe one naturally thinks of either boxed Paas kits with those entertaining fizzy pellets or, if you were from a more frugal household, McCormick food coloring with which you could play mad scientist and mix colors. Certainly, before searching for ideas for this Easter Craft Corner, I never thought of doing anything differently.
The fact that I had never once considered natural dyes for eggs may not seem odd at all – until I tell you that I’ve been studying natural dye for years, though they were for yarn and fabric, not eggs. Apparently I’m sort of closed-minded. The principle is exactly the same: boil some plant, spice, tea or vegetable, add vinegar and let yarn/fabric/egg soak for a while until desired color richness is achieved.
I first came across natural egg dyeing on Pinterest, leading to an informative post on the blog Two Men and a Little Farm where a chart listing natural products to use for different dye colors became my jumping-off point. Some of the items you may find surprising; others probably not.
Pomegranate juice makes red, orange peel makes yellow, fresh parsley makes green – the fairly obvious colors one could get from boiling those items for dye. Some are more obscure. For example, did you know that, according to the article, red cabbage leaves, when boiled, make blue dye? Or that yellow onion skins make orange dye?
The formula is fairly simple: about 2 cups water (it will reduce while boiling) and a good handful of whatever you want to use as dye; you can mix items in the same color family to get the right dye color. Boil together for about 30 minutes or until desired darkness of color achieved. Cool slightly, strain into mason jars or egg dyeing containers, add 1/4 cup white vinegar, place egg gently in container and let sit for a good 15 minutes or more until desired darkness is achieved.
To test the project, I made three dyes using recommended ingredients from TMLF – a green made from cilantro, spinach and parsley, a yellow made from orange peel and carrots, and a purple made from blueberries – not on the list, but I thought it would work. The results were mixed.
First off, the green dyed smelled horrendous while boiling. The spinach reeked, though when I added the parsley, the scent was better. I would recommend using just parsley. The egg, even after soaking 30 minutes, was weakly tan colored.
The orange peel and carrot had a significantly better scent, though I had to boil it so long the water level got too low and I had to add water and turmeric spice to get a deeper color. This dye was much better, turning out a lovely golden colored egg with light white speckles.
The real winner was the dye that wasn’t even listed on the TMLF chart: the fresh blueberries. The egg was a rich, deep navy-periwinkle color, a shock coming out of the deep red/purple dye. A shade I’ve never achieved from artificial color, blueberries make beautiful dye. As with the other dyes, the small amounts of pulp left after straining cling to the egg and make an appealing speckled surface.
My advice venturing forth in natural dyes would be to stick to blueberries & blackberries, spices such as turmeric and paprika, and teas. Celestial Seasoning Red Zinger Tea is supposed to make a lovely lavender, while chamomile makes light yellow. Greens might still work, though you may want to have a bottle of green McCormick’s nearby just in case.
The colors aren’t nearly as vibrant or bright as artificial dye, but as an experiment, natural dyes are worth a shot. If you experience allergies/irritation to artificial dye, or just want to keep your life as natural-based and clean as possible, this could re-open the door to the kid-at-heart practice of dyeing eggs.
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