3.25.2013

DIY Natural Dye Easter Eggs


I decided this was the year I was going to take the plunge into all-natural dyes for Easter eggs. I admit--I haven't decorated for Easter since I lived with my mother nearly 20 years ago (Hi, Mom) but this year I felt inspired. Blame this spring decorating urge on my 17-month-old who marvels at every new decoration I create.

Or blame it on the light bulb that went off when I realized I don't have to have green plastic grass in baskets to welcome spring. (Why didn't I realize this years ago? I'll never know.) I'm determined to create a crafty, eco-friendly, welcome Spring Equinox, type of Easter celebration in my own home. So I started by making these plant-based dyes. 



I spent many a college afternoon dyeing various castoff clothing with tea and coffee but this was my first attempt at using plants. I chose beets, carrot tops, onion skins, and red cabbage as my firsts. Dare I say, I'm smitten? Okay, I'm smitten.

Actually, I see a whole line of natural dyed craft projects in my future so long as I can convince my husband to offer up the stainless steel pots. It's addictive! And, somehow, it's much easier than I had imagined. (And my apologies to any college roommate who "suddenly" had her old white t-shirts turn to hues of soft beige and coffee brown. Oops.)



To summarize: Wash the veggies, cut into small pieces, bring water to a boil, add each vegetable to its own pot (beets in one pot, onion skins in another, etc.), simmer for 20-30 minutes, strain, pour into heat-safe bowls, and immerse eggs in warm dye until you reach the desired color. Of course, I tossed a few other materials into my experimental dye vats such as a handful of wooden eggs, cotton/ wool yarn, and even a few scraps of heavy paper. (Experiments still in-progress, FYI.)

My biggest advice is to prepare all your eggs before you start your dyes! I overlooked this part and so my newly-hard boiled eggs ended up in cool dye water instead of warm dye water. It worked anyway, but I left some of the eggs soaking for a long time--nearly 6 hours.




I'm going to keep samples and notes of the colors so I'll have a growing textbook to reference as I go. In the photos above you can see the finished egg color and the original plant source. The yarns are still drying but they are really satisfying hues of green-yellow (carrot tops), burnt orange (onion skins), purple (red cabbage with vinegar), blue-gray (cabbage with salt), blue-purple (cabbage), and brownish pink (beets). I'm going to try my hand at cotton, wool, and silk fabrics next to see how the dyes react to the different materials. And I am, OH, so happy with these pretty natural dyed eggs. The colors are really complex and show undertones and overtones at every turn. Yes, yes.


I looked to my friend, Sasha Duerr's, beautiful book, The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes, and it was amazingly helpful at navigating some of the contradictory information I found online. It was a pretty straight-forward process as the eggs didn't need to be colorfast, but I followed Sasha's advice and made three bowls of the red cabbage dye to leave one unaltered, to add salt to a second, and vinegar to a third.

Wow! Such dramatic results. The vinegar changed the dye from a purple-blue to a bright pink and the salt made the purple-blue a pretty gray-blue instead. It's like a crafty girl's dream chemistry class experiment but, you know, for Easter and spring.



I've had a hard time seeing myself reflected in most of the Easter egg decorations out there so I'm starting small this year: wooden eggs, felt eggs, daffodils, chocolates, and hoping to make an Easter egg tree before Sunday (fingers crossed). To say I'm happy with the colors from the vegetable dyes would be an understatement. I'm enthralled! I keep running to the refrigerator to get a look at the colors and brainstorm what I can dye next. So, dear friends, go cook up some plant parts and make dyes for those pretty eggs of yours.

And welcome spring. 

xoxo,
k.

12 comments:

  1. Katrina, your eggs are gorgeous! Okay, by any chance did you see my post from last week about my attempt with natural dyes? Well, let's just say they didn't turn out even a fraction as pretty as yours, but I will say it was a blast... but next year I think I should probably try some actual recipes! :-) I'm saving your post for next Easter. ;-)

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    1. that's too funny! i just read your post but hadn't seen it before i posted here. i think your eggs are wonderful and your house looks gorgeous, gorgeous as always. you make us urban dwellers green with farmhouse envy! (in a good way.) i was happy to have sasha's book on hand to help with some of the dye details. happy spring to you.

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  2. Love. Easter has always been my favorite holiday as it brings Spring with it. Not to mention the Easter egg hunt. These eggs are beautiful! So inspiring as always.

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    1. your easter excitement is contagious--i think this is the first year i truly embraced the holiday for all it's bunny-loving, egg-dyeing, chocolate candy goodness. xoxo

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  3. Looks like fun, Katrina. I'm surprised by the cabbage blue (I'd expected more of a purple) and how subtle the beet eggs look. My hands are always such a mess when I roast and peel beets, yet your eggs are delicate. Enjoy your experimentation. I hope you show us your yarn too.

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    1. the colors were totally surprising. the cabbage, the carrot greens, and even the pretty onion skins. it's addictive. be warned! my yarn samples are already tucked into my design binder but i'll try to shoot some photos for you soon.

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  4. How utterly charming. How beautiful. And soft. I'm inspired to take to the kitchen. To Easter up my day.

    To experimentation and the Easter hols,
    G xo

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    1. hooray! i hope you had fun dyeing.

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  5. WOW...I just love the eggs. The best part of the dying process is for me they have a soft vintage look. Cannot wait to try.

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    1. yes, i agree. they do look somewhat vintage. i think it's that earthy hue. hope you had fun.

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Thank you for your comments, friends. I like to think we are creating a dialogue in this space--building a virtual community.