Dyeing Eggs

South Texas Unit

of

The Herb Society of America

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Naturally Dyed Eggs

One of the treats of spring is dyeing eggs. Most of us probably remember hunkering over the stovetop, preparing a pot of boiling eggs for their dunk in the bowls of rainbow-colored vinegar water. The results were gorgeous, gaudy Easter eggs in neon green, fluorescent pink and sky blue.

Dyeing eggs with natural dyes is equally as memorable as dyeing with chemical dyes, however natural dyes give eggs a much more subtle, but nonetheless gorgeous, coloring. Dyeing with natural dyes may be even more memorable for children because the warm colors come from materials they're familiar with in their day-to-day lives; red and yellow onion skins, beets, turmeric, red cabbage, and coffee to name a few.

There are two approaches: the cold method and the boiled method. Both yield beautiful results, though the eggs prepared with the cold method are colored pale and subtle pastels, and the boiled method, more intense pastels.

Cold Method (two eggs per bath)

You will need:

Two raw eggs (brown or white)

Two quarts water

Four tablespoons white vinegar

Natural dyestuff*

What to do:

  1. Add two tablespoon of the white vinegar to one quart of water.
  2. Place room temperature eggs in water and boil for 20 minutes. Boiling the eggs in the vinegar "etches" the shell to encourage the dye to adhere.
  3. Allow the eggs to cool in the vinegar water, then remove. Eggs can be stored in the refrigerator until ready to dye, but they should be at room temperature before dyeing.
  4. Add two tablespoons of vinegar to the second quart of water.
  5. Add the dyestuff to the water, and bring to a boil. In the case of powders such as turmeric, logwood, brazilwood, and cochineal, you may want to put the dye stuff in a heat-sealed tea bag to make it easier to remove.
  6. After boiling 20 minutes, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  7. Strain out the dyestuff. Leaving the dyestuff in the bath will likely mean an uneven application of the color. If you like this effect, leave the dyestuff in.
  8. Place your boiled eggs in the dye bath for a minimum of 10 minutes. The longer the eggs rest in the bath, the more intense the colors become.
  9. Remove the eggs from the bath, and allow to air dry. Try not to handle the eggs until they've dried. The outer layer of the shell with the dye on it will tend to slough off because the vinegar has softened it.

Boiled Method (two eggs per bath)

You will need:

Two raw eggs (brown or white)

One quart water

Two tablespoon white vinegar

Natural dyestuff*

What to do:

  1. Place the dyestuff in the water and bring to a boil.
  2. Add the white vinegar and the room temperature eggs and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Allow the eggs to cool in the dye bath, then remove.
  4. Rinse the eggs with lukewarm water. Try to handle the eggs as little as possible until they've dried.

 

*Natural dyestuff suggestions -

Use your imagination!

head red cabbage (blue)

1 tablespoon turmeric (yellow)

1 cup yellow or red onion skins (warm brown)

1 quart strong coffee (brown)

1 cup chopped beets (pale pink)

Pinch cochineal (fuschia) **

1 teaspoon brazilwood (deep pink) **

1 teaspoon logwood (purple) **

1 cup dried marigold flowers (yellow)

1 cup dried goldenrod (yellow)

1 teaspoon madder (pink) **

You can get more colors by over-dyeing. For example, try dyeing first with turmeric, then over-dyeing with red cabbage to get green. Or, first with beets and then with red cabbage. Again, use your imagination.

Decorative variations:

bulletWrap your egg in kitchen twine or rubber bands before placing in the dye bath to get a batik-like effect.
bulletPlace a sprig of an herb against the egg and secure with a nylon stocking. Again, you'll get a batik-like effect.
bulletDye your egg first in one color, then over-dye using one of the methods above for a two-tone effect.

** Available mail order from:

The Mannings

P.O. Box 687

East Berlin, PA 17316