Nature transforms an egg…..or how to make green eggs

in Crafts and Projects

How to dye eggs 1This is one of those things that I have been wanting to try for a while. I was invited to join a school’s staff Easter egg decorating competition. So I took the opportunity to dye some eggs using natural materials.

In my mind, I would have time to transform the eggs into an entire forest complete with kids climbing little wooden trunks that i would carve for the eggs (I am working on a Forest school project at the school). In reality I was delivering a training course all week that meant I didn’t even have time to get to the post office let alone carve wooden tree trunks etc etc…

But this does mean I have made an Easter craft, early enough to post a blog about it in time for other people to do the same thing for this Easter. I had so much fun researching and experimenting and I hope you are tempted to have a go too.

I wanted a leafy effect on the eggs, looking around the kitchen for something I could use as a leaf shape (without going into the garden with a torch) I thought coriander leaves would work perfectly. My herbs are a great source of indoor leafage, which is why my bow drill fire lighting set smells vaguely of basil!

The leaves stuck to the eggs best when they were both slightly damp, then some bits of old stocking were bound around the egg with elastic bands to keep the leaves in place.

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My first experiment was with onion skins from white onions. I managed to get enough skins by raiding the onion display at the supermarket and filling a bag full. I chose pale coloured eggs too, (it was a this point that my partner decided he would go and do the rest of the shopping and leave me to raiding onions skins and swapping eggs in the boxes to get all pale coloured ones).

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I boiled the skins until the colour got quite strong. Then I added a splash of white vinegar and the eggs and boiled them for ten minutes. My reasoning was if it didn’t work then we could still eat the eggs.

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They worked beautifully though. They remind me of the patterns you get from sun print paper or cyanotypes. This whetted my appetite for more experimentation. I tried red cabbage next, boiling the cabbage until the water became strongly coloured then adding the eggs and vinegar. I’m not sure if the vinegar is entirely unnecessary. It makes a good acid environment and I know from working with natural dyes on cloth that some natural dyes work well in an acid environment and it seemed to work the first time so I added a splash to this batch too.

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After 10 minutes the eggs didn’t seem to have changed colour so I just left them in there. Fixing the leaves and the tights onto the eggs was quite fiddly so I didn’t mind the time until the next batch. After quite a long time, maybe 35-40 minutes (and regular checks) the blue colour had finally struck! It was worth waiting for as the beautiful blue reminded me of robin or blackbird eggs. The colour didn’t seem quite as ‘robust as the brown and I had to be careful handling these as the colour seemed to rub off, this wasn’t the case when they were fully cooled so it seems almost like the colour has to set.

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But for my idea for the competition I really wanted green. Trees are green, so my eggs should be green. And also I had two lovely pans full of stinky sludge, one that made blue and one that made yellowy brown. I know if I had been doing this with a group of kids that they would have started mixing up concoctions and I can’t fault a good concoction. I added the two pans together, lobbed in a bit of stale tumeric for good measure and boiled the eggs in it for a good half hour. It smelt pretty strong (a bit like cooking up chutney) and seethed in a satisfying way that suggests this is one of those crafts that would appeal to children who like making putrid potions and yet would produce something that would please their mums!

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It did produce a green, but a sort of light sagey slightly sludgey green which was good enough for me. Before I ran out of eggs I tried some in the water that comes with beetroot but that didn’t seem strong enough. But if you want to experiment I found this list of suggested natural things to dye eggs with on http://chemistry.about.com/od/holidayhowtos/a/eastereggdyes.htm

Lavender Small Quantity of Purple Grape Juice
Violet Blossoms plus 2 tsp Lemon Juice
Red Zinger Tea
Violet Blue Violet Blossoms
Small Quantity of Red Onions Skins (boiled)
Hibiscus Tea
Red Wine
Blue Canned Blueberries
Red Cabbage Leaves (boiled)
Purple Grape Juice
Green Spinach Leaves (boiled)
Liquid Chlorophyll
Greenish Yellow Yellow Delicious Apple Peels (boiled)
Yellow Orange or Lemon Peels (boiled)
Carrot Tops (boiled)
Celery Seed (boiled)
Ground Cumin (boiled)
Ground Turmeric (boiled)
Chamomile Tea
Green Tea
Golden Brown Dill Seeds
Brown Strong Coffee
Instant Coffee
Black Walnut Shells (boiled)
Black Tea
Orange Yellow Onion Skins (boiled)
Cooked Carrots
Chili Powder
Paprika
Pink Beetroot
Cranberries or Juice
Raspberries
Red Grape Juice
Juice from Pickled Beets
Red Lots of Red Onions Skins (boiled)
Canned Cherries with Juice
Pomegranate Juice
Raspberries

I could have carried on experimenting for longer but I had run out of eggs. I rubbed a little bit of cooking oil onto the shells to make them shiny and they are looking very festive in a bowl on my table. I never did get them to the competition.

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