With Easter coming up right around the corner, we decided it was time to buy the extra carton of eggs and start the yearly dying!
This year we wanted to try our hands at creating and using natural dye after seeing a few recipes being published, passed and pinned around! The sources we took the most inspiration from included these notes from our April issue of bon appetit magazine, this list of recipes on Better Homes and Gardens and this inspirational image we found on Pinterest (anyone know the source?).
The natural agents we used for dying included: blueberries, beets, leftover brewed coffee, a combination of turmeric and Hungarian paprika (we don't keep anything other than Hungarian versions in the house, ha), and a combination of leafy greens, apple peelings and a bag of green tea.
For each of the above natural ingredients, we placed them in small saucepans, covered with enough water to fill the dying cups we'd be using later and added a healthy pour of white distilled vinegar — again, we really didn't want to go the exact measurement route. We then placed the pans on the stove-top, brought to a boil and then down to a simmer for about 15 minutes each, stirring occasionally and even mashing the different ingredients with a potato masher.
Juggling stove-top space for all the pans at once was the toughest part of this project — here's what it looked like for the better part of the dye making process:
You could really apply this same method with any natural ingredient and use it as a way to literally clean out the fridge and pantry — we used mainly leftovers from other recipes we had going on over the weekend, greens headed for the compost anyway and spices we had an excess of.
Once ingredients have simmered and melded well together for 15 - 30 minutes, strain each of the liquids into your choice of dying container. We pulled out the big guns and went fancy with red solo cups:
Now gently slide the eggs into each container as not to cause splashing — we were able to fit two eggs in each cup.
Let sit in containers for at least 15 minutes each before removing — a short time like this will render light pastels and the longer you leave the eggs in the dye, the richer and deeper the tones will become. We took one of each egg out from the cups after about 30 minutes and the remaining eggs we left for about 2 hours to see if we could get some tonal variation.
Tip: Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and place on drying rack over-top of newsprint or paper towels to minimize the mess.
I think the most fun part of this project was in the reveal of each egg — it was so suspenseful guessing what color each dye might render. The biggest surprises for us included the deep blue hues from the blueberries and the richness in the bright yellow from the turmeric and paprika blend.
Outside of how beautiful these natural stains turned out, it was fascinating to see how the dyes really brought out the cracks and variations in each of the shells, making intricate designs completely naturally. They have a bit of a rustic quality about them.
This would be a really fun and educational project to take on with the little ones for so many reasons, including how to get creative with food scraps. Speaking of the kiddos, here's a great big list of (mostly free of charge) Easter Egg hunts in and around the Richmond Area!
Our Color Key:
- Deep Blue: fresh blueberries
- Bright Yellow: Blend of turmeric & paprika
- Rich Brown: Brewed coffee
- Greyish Green: Mixed greens, green apple peel & 1 bag, green tea
- Muted Pink: Sliced beets
If we had this project to do over again — we might have tried going for the jade green using red onion skins and would have also tried leaving some additional eggs in the dye cups overnight to see just how deep the hues might get. This year we just went with what we had on hand, but there's always next year!
Have you tried natural dying techniques with eggs or other mediums like fabric? We'd love to hear what worked for you!