Using Natural Dye for Easter Eggs
The worldwide pandemic is changing so much about our everyday lives. One way that our family has dealt with all of these changes is by keeping things as much the same as we can. With Easter coming up this Sunday, and not being able to gather at church with friends or at home with our extended family like we normally would, dying Easter eggs is one tradition that we can continue. And since we have a lot of time on our hands and are in full homeschool mode, I thought we could make this into a science experiment as well. I read several blog posts on the subject, and then just went for it!
I knew going into this that I wanted to try a few different things. First of all, I wanted to try both a hot and a cold dye bath to see what difference, if any, it would make. Second, I wanted to use leaves from the garden/yard to make prints on the dyed eggs. Here is what ended up working for us.
The materials we used are:
2 large yellow onions
2 cups grape juice
2 tablespoons turmeric
1 head red cabbage
1 large beet
To start, I gave the kids each a job. Someone tore off the onion skins, someone chopped up the giant beet, and the others cut the red cabbage up into smaller pieces. I put each of these ingredients into individual pots, and filled the pots with enough water to cover its contents. I added the turmeric to another pot with water, let the kids choose which pot they wanted to put their eggs in, and then put each pot on the stove to boil. I let them each boil for about 15 minutes, and added a dash of vinegar to each pot. (The vinegar helps the dye stick to the shells.) There wasn't any measurement happening at all, I just did what looked right. I made sure that there was always enough water to cover the eggs at all times, but other than that it was a very unprecise activity. For the grape juice, I really just poured the juice in a bowl and let the already boiled egg sit in it overnight. That one turned out to be the darkest, almost black, egg.
The leaf print eggs didn't quite turn out (you can kind of see the leaf print in this egg) but it was because of one mistake. I thought I had an old pair of knee-high nylons in my sock drawer, but turns out it was only one and not a pair. I should have ordered a few cheap pairs of pantyhose from Amazon last week for this, but I totally forgot. So I made do with what I had, and cut up the one knee-high into three different pieces. I placed the leaf on the egg, then covered it with the nylon, and instead of tying it like I had read some people did, I thought it would be easier to use small rubber bands- those tiny elastic ones that I use at the end of my daughter's braids. Well, that turned out to be a bad idea. When the elastics got hot in the boiling water they broke, and the leaves floated to the top of the water. Live and learn, right? I highly recommend leaving enough extra nylon on both ends of the egg to tie, and pull it tight to keep the leaf in place. Also, if you are putting the leaves on before you boil the egg be sure to tie the nylon carefully. I cracked one of the eggs during the tying process, oops! The one we did tie turned out ok, not as much of a contrast as I would have liked. It was a brown egg dyed by yellow onion skins so maybe it would have been different in the red cabbage? I'll try that next year!
We left the eggs in the dye overnight, and it was so exciting to see the colors in the morning! Red cabbage will give you that dark blue, beets will give you a purple-ish color, and ours are splotched with green because we left the beets in the dye. I think the splotches are where the pieces of beet were touching the egg. I like that look, but if you want the color to be more uniform I suggest removing the beet pieces after boiling. The turmeric will give you a nice deep yellow, and the onion skins a more brownish yellow- especially where the egg was in contact with the skin.
On some of the eggs I used the cold dye method, where I boiled the eggs first and put them in the dye after it had cooled. This gives similar results, but in our experience the color is less vibrant. It was fun to try both methods and to start with different colored eggs and see the results. (Our chickens lay brown eggs, and we had some white ones from the store.) You can leave the eggs in the dye for a short time if you want them to be more of a pastel color, or leave them in overnight for a more saturated color. Longer dying time typically equals deeper colors.
I hope this gives you something fun to do with your time at home this Easter season. It can be a several day process, just be prepared to have a little less available counter space! Enjoy experimenting with different colored eggs, varied time in the dye, or even sticking the eggs in one color for a few hours and in a different color afterwards and see what happens. There are so many possibilities! Most importantly, have fun with this. Let this simple experiment take your mind off of the chaos happening around us and enjoy the beauty that you can make in your own home.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and have a glorious Easter!