Each year, just before Easter, my family dyes eggs together. It's a long tradition for me, going back to childhood when my siblings and I would dye eggs on Good Friday. Then, as now, we used a basic Paas brand egg-dyeing kit, with fizzy little tablets that bloom into brightly-colored dyes when mixed with water and vinegar in a bowl. I've written about our egg-dyeing before; it's one of my favorite holiday traditions. It's fun, sitting around the kitchen table coloring our eggs. We use large, white eggs from the supermarket, the better to achieve the garish tones of the Paas dyes. It's a time of creativity and anticipation - there's a lovely holiday just around the corner and everyone is excited.
This year, for the first time, I tried coloring eggs with homemade dyes. I love those Paas dyes and look forward to dyeing eggs with my family this weekend, but I've always been intrigued by the idea that you can also dye eggs with natural ingredients. I knew the colors would be different from eggs colored with Paas dyes, but wasn't sure exactly what to expect. I came across a page in the March 2016 issue of Sunset magazine with instructions for easy natural egg dyes and decided this would be the year I gave it a shot. (There are lots of resources for natural egg-dyeing, but theirs is a handy little guide). Sunset's dyes were easy to make and the instructions were simple. I spent a very pleasant afternoon dyeing eggs with various foods from my fridge and pantry.
The magazine offered numerous suggestions for foods to use, such as vegetables, spices and teas. From their suggestions, I chose to try red onion, beet, turmeric, grape juice and tea (they suggested raspberry or blueberry tea, but I didn't have either of those so I used a red hibiscus-based tea instead). I also used paprika, thinking it might work similarly to turmeric, and green tea. There was some cooking involved (for the onion and beet), and the spices and teas required boiling water. The grape juice was used straight. Each of the natural dyes required a mordant ingredient, according to Sunset's instructions, to help the dye work better: onion and tea had 1/8 teaspoon of alum; paprika, turmeric and grape juice had 1/4 teaspoon baking powder; beet had a teaspoon of white vinegar.
I have to admit that I was a bit dubious about what I'd end up with. I knew, from my limited experience with fabric- and yarn-dyeing, that some dyes look very different by the end of the process, and that a lot depends on the item being dyed too. I used white supermarket eggs for these natural dyes, as I would with the Paas dyes, because I really wanted to see the colors in a purer way for my first try.
The eggs sat in their respective dye baths for several hours. I mostly left them alone, just letting them soak in the dyes, then I removed them to a rack to dry, with paper towels underneath to catch drips. When I use Paas dyes, I tend to dip the eggs up and down a lot, or spoon the dye over the egg repeatedly, in order to achieve deeper colors. I like a uniform coloration. I knew that the natural dyes might work differently, though, so I decided to let them work without all the extra help. It was surprisingly difficult for me to stay away from them. The children did better than me.
I was honestly amazed at the results. I expected lots of color from the beets and only got a faint, mottled purple-brown color. Interesting, but disappointing after the mess of working with beets. The paprika was faint too, and I wondered whether I should have tried chili powder instead. The tea-dyed eggs were by far my favorite ones! Can you believe the color I got from the red tea? It was totally unexpected. I thought for sure I'd get a red, or maybe brown, not a green-gray. The green tea was surprising too; I really thought the color would be more faint. Turmeric is generally what I imagined, but the ends took on a very pretty rusty-gold, darker and richer than the yellow middle section. The boldest eggs were the ones dyed with red onion and grape juice. Look at the red onion eggs! Dark, splotchy greenish-black, they look reptilian. The grape juice eggs are the most intense, I think. Their white-streaked midnight-blue reminds me of lapis lazuli; I can almost picture a scarab beetle carved into one of them.
This is not the eye-popping Easter rainbow that I'm accustomed to, but it's a very interesting one and I'm really glad I tried dyeing with natural ingredients. Like their vernal holiday counterparts, foil-wrapped chocolate eggs and jellybeans, dyed Easter eggs can run the entire spectrum.
Don't forget to visit the other Color Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts. Just click on the links below:
Annie at Annie Cholewa
Gillian at Tales from a happy house.
CJ at Above the River
Sarah at mitenska
What is The Color Collaborative?
All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a color related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about color in new ways.