Dye Easter Eggs in Nature's Hues

comments (15) March 21st, 2012

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Bid artificial dyes good-bye. These Easter eggs glow with a variety of natural dyes.
Dyes can be made from vegetables, juices, spices, and tea.
Dyeing eggs wrapped in cheesecloth produces a beautiful marbleized surface; get step-by-step instructions below.
Bid artificial dyes good-bye. These Easter eggs glow with a variety of natural dyes.Click To Enlarge

Bid artificial dyes good-bye. These Easter eggs glow with a variety of natural dyes.

Photo: Janet Jemmot

Artistic touches
Since there are no wax crayons in the natural world, I’ve turned to the intricate patterns of leaf and flower to design my eggs. By affixing tiny bits of greenery before dyeing, you can create delicate natural stencils. Small, soft flowers and leaves with crisp outlines, like ferns, work best. Experiment, as some materials are too thin to block out the dye, while others are too stiff and may need to be blanched for a short time to soften.

Stick greenery to the egg by wetting it with egg white thinned with water. Then wrap the whole egg, greenery attached, in a square of cheesecloth and secure at the top with string. Follow the same dyeing process as before and rinse before unwrapping. The result is a striking silhouette where the leaf or flower was attached.

One of the most artistic effects is made by wrapping layers of yellow onion skins around the egg. Or first encase the egg in rose petals, then onion skins. Secure it all in cheesecloth and simmer in water (don’t use vinegar with onion skins). This produces a beautiful marbleized appearance. After running out of onions, I’ve been caught rummaging through the produce bins of my local market for extra skins—this is guaranteed to draw curious looks from store clerks.

The appeal of dyeing with natural materials is that you’re free to invent your own rules. Soon you’ll be looking with fresh eyes on every weed, flower, and fern for dye potential. You may even find it in a cup of coffee.

Basic recipe for Easter egg dye
• 6 uncooked eggs
• Dyeing material: berries, vegetable peelings, etc.
• White vinegar
• Water to cover eggs
• Baking soda (optional)
• Vegetable oil (optional)

Place uncooked clean eggs in a pot large enough to accommodate all the ingredients. If using fresh material, add 2 cups per quart of water. For dried flowers and herbs, use 2 Tbs. for every cup of water. For ground spices, 2 tsp. per cup.

Add water slightly warmer than the eggs, one cup at a time, to cover all by 1 in. Add 1 tsp. of vinegar for every cup of water. To change the dye color of most fresh materials, add 1⁄4 tsp. baking soda per cup of water.

Bring water to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 min. When the eggs are done, remove them from the dye bath. For a deeper shade, let them cool in the dye bath or refrigerate to steep overnight.

Air-dry so as not to rub off the dye. For a subtle sheen, polish with vegetable oil.

Marbelizing an egg, using an onion skin dye
Lay a square of cheesecloth flat and cover its surface with the onion skins, so that no fabric shows. (Add a layer of fresh rose petals for a peachy hue.) Place the egg in the center and gather the edges tightly around the egg, securing at the top with string.

Place wrapped eggs in a pan with enough water to cover. The water should be slightly warmer than the eggs. Do not use vinegar with this dye. Bring to a slow and gentle boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 min. Remove from heat and let eggs cool in the dye bath for up to 2 hours. Unwrap and gently dry. Try red or white onion skins for a different hue.

Onion-skin dye materials (for a half-dozen eggs)

• 6 white eggs
• Yellow onion skins
• Fresh rose petals (optional)
• Six 7-in. squares of cheesecloth
• Six 4-in. pieces of string
• Water to cover eggs
• Vegetable oil (optional)
  Easter egg dyeing #1   Easter egg dyeing #2

1. To create a marbleized look, start with onion skins, cheesecloth, a bit of string, and an egg.


2. Lay the onion skins over the cheesecloth; and place the egg on top.

Easter egg dyeing #3   Easter egg dyeing #4   Easter egg dyeing #5

3. Encase the egg with skins and gather all together in a bundle


4. Boil in the dye bath and remove the bundle when cool. Peel off the onion skins; rinse lightly and dry gently.

  5. Peel off the onion skins; rinse lightly and dry gently. For a sheen, polish with vegetable oil.

by Kirsten Whatley
April 1998
from issue #14

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Comments (15)

Crocheeraablo writes: Cool!!!
Posted: 5:33 am on May 11th
FranGalvin writes: Interesting!!!!
Posted: 4:13 am on November 3rd
BokCoombs writes: Truly valuable information.
Posted: 5:51 am on November 2nd
silaswren writes: Thanks for great information....
Posted: 12:34 am on October 10th
Johnbros writes: I am loving it . http://www.theeasteregg.com/
Posted: 5:42 am on March 8th
Rorana writes: I paint eggs for more than 10 years and sometimes I get an order dyed eggs naturally. Yes hibiscus blossom is a very good natural color. I use walnut leaves and low-cost fruit teas which also contains hibiscus flowers too.
Posted: 6:10 am on April 7th
hauntedfox writes: I just discovered my avorite to add to the list- hibiscus blossoms, which you can get in bulk at Mexican groceries. They give a lovely graded and splothced blue, like acid-washed denim.
Posted: 8:59 am on March 30th
gardeningforthesoul writes: So happy you included this post! I have used baby fern fronds, panty hose secured around them in an onion skin bath... they are gorgeous. I host a website whose focus is the spirituality and healing qualities of gardening... hope you will check it out:
Posted: 1:26 pm on March 29th
Gisforgunnera writes: Instead of cheesecloth, use pantyhose. With pantyhose, you can directly enclose the leaf without egg white. Faster, pretty and easier for kids (I learned to do this when I was about 10 from a magazine article just like this)!
Posted: 10:31 am on March 28th
sandykarla writes: I did this every year with my school class. The kids coming up looked forward to it. We usually did the marbleized onion skin eggs but we often tried other methods in addition. A nearby grocery store would give me a bag of onion skins every year.
Posted: 9:33 am on April 11th
Ruth writes: kakypants, if I had to guess, I'd say coffee brewed. That would give the deepest color. You could experiment though, and try both ways...
Posted: 9:46 am on April 2nd
kakypants writes: Is the coffee brewed or just a scoop of grounds in the water?
Posted: 5:56 pm on April 1st
HunkieDorie23 writes: Awesome! My four yr. old is going to love this. (ME TOO!)
Posted: 10:06 am on March 30th
dogs4me writes: As a once upon a time Brownie and Girl Scout, I can add that not only does this project fascinate the troops, demonstrates a great "green" project, it does really work well! No 2 eggs are alike.
Posted: 12:12 pm on March 29th
ChrisMcLaughlin writes: Woo Hoo! Thanks for posting this ~ we're doing this in my 4H gardening group!
Posted: 2:23 pm on March 25th
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