I remember as a child at Easter getting to dye my eggs with onion skins & loving the unusual tie-dye-eske swirling patterns that could be created. Since then I have learnt much more about natural dyes but I still love onion skin dye best for eggs. In this session we use both onion skins & other foods for more colours. This is an easy, fun & interesting resource to do with all members of the family in the days running up to Easter. Best outcomes for colours are always achieved on pale or white eggs as there is less colour interference. However being as most bought eggs have a yellow base at the least, you have to do a bit of colour maths factoring in a degree of yellow to work out what final colour you will have. This is a wonderful nature based exploration into colour theory for children. Remember to try this resource with an experimental approach - "let's see what happens if..." and be prepared for some things to work and others to work less well. These are natural dyes so it may dye fingers and hand skin too but it won't last too long & I recommend the use of an apron or old clothes! Whilst using this resource to inspire learning, know you are helping you and your family's wellbeing by:
1) Get Active - Go out walking to hunt for leaves, petals & grasses on a walk.
2) Keep Learning - Working with natural dyes is always experimental. I have recipes that still come out slightly different each time so bear that in mind. However this isn't a bad thing - it just keeps the activity fresh each time to the excitement of "what will the colours come out like this time?".
3) Be Mindful- Usually our materials for making the natural dyes are from plants - take a moment to thank the earth for the many varieties of fruit and vegetable and root and leaf that it provides us with. It takes many months for those blueberries and spinach and nettles to grow so that we can consume then in the blink of an eye!
4) Practice Kindness- making things with family and children usually requires patience and kindness - this oe especially as you have to wait for the dyes to develop. Be kind enough to give yourselves plenty of time to do it all - even spread the excitement out over a few days. Younger family members love doing these but will require help to complete them.
5) Think Community - Share your creations with your online community, pass the coloured eggs to friends & neighbours or add them to your Easter window displays. If you make them entirely edible they can also be a colourful alternative breakfast or tea!
Eggs - to be hard boiled before dying with. It's best to have plenty as some crack in the boiling process and sometimes little ones drop them accidentally and they tend to roll off surfaces!
Measuring items: a measuring jug, a Cup measure (this is 250ml if using the jug), a tablespoon measure (equiv. to 3 teaspoons) & teaspoons for mixing vinegar into the dye
Large mixing bowl (or large pan if you don't have a bowl). I ended up using 2 large bowls but use what you have to hand.
Sieve - it needs to fit the large bowl or pan
Cutting knife & Cutting board/surface - if your children are cutting be sure to use a knife that is a suitable size for them. Otherwise you can prepare any chopped materials yourself.
Stainless Steel Pan -(to prevent dying your pans, stainless steel is best). I used 4 pans in 2 rounds on the cooker to make my dyes & boil my eggs, but you can of course create less dyes (I recommend the onion skins) & clean pans in-between.
Large Metal Spoons- to remove the eggs from the pan and the push dye materials under the water, we suggest metal so that they don't dye your wooden ones!
Jam jars - one for each dye that you want to make. If they hold 250ml they may also be useful to use as measures.
Vegetable Oil - (optional for rubbing onto the final eggs once they are fully dry to make them shine a little more)
Old Nylon tights & Scissors (optional - only needed for those wanting patterns on their eggs - patterns are by no means a must!)
Foods for making your Experimental Natural Dyes - you will need to fill a cups's worth for each dye material & 2-3tbsp of any dried dye material
For kitchen based dyes I can recommend these:
Red Onion Skins (Create a deep maroon on yellow eggs)
Yellow Onion Skins (create a lovely orangey yellow on yellow eggs)
Tumeric Powder - we also used cayenne pepper but this is optional (creates a yellow on the yellow eggs)
Blueberries (frozen or fresh) (creates a deep sea green on the yellow eggs)
Chopped purple cabbage (creates a dark green-brown on the yellow eggs)
Nettles (created a light brown on the yellow eggs)
Spinach (created a light grey overtone to the yellow eggs)
You can also grate raw beetroot into water to create a dye but we didn't have any to hand (creates a browny-red on the yellow eggs)
For a fuller range of colours you can also dye them twice to make another colour too.
The longer you soak the eggs in the dye the darker and richer the colours will become. I hope you create some beautiful colourful eggs!
Instructions: Hard boil your eggs the night before. Bring eggs to the boil and then simmer on low for 10-12mins. Once cool, remove from the pan to cool at room temperature. Check for broken ones to remove.
If you want patterns on your eggs - collect some fresh interesting leaves, grasses & petals on a walk OR if you want to eat your eggs afterwards then make sure that you use herbs or edible plants only to create your patterns with.
Grate/chop 1 cup of each dye material (equiv of 250ml's worth -this was the same for us as a jam jar filled to the brim. If using dried dye materials (herbs, spices & teas etc) to create with, then use 2-3tbsp's per 250ml of water used.
Place the dye materials in pans with 250ml of water. Bring to the boil. Simmer on low with the lids on the pans so they don't boil dry for roughly 10-51mins, leave to fully cool.
For patterns only:
1.Prepare the old nylon tights into roughly 10cm pieces all the way up the legs. Pre-tie a knot in one end of the ones without the toes in. 2.Dampen either the egg surface or the plants/herbs being used to create the patterns with and then stick them onto the egg. 3.Surround the egg in the nylon-tights 'bag' carefully -they often move your plant/leaf/petal around be aware of this! Then tie the other end off too. Once the dyes have cooled fully, place a large bowl/pan in a sink, put a measuring jug inside and then sieve the dyes one by one through the sieve into the jug. Then carefully pour from the jug into a clean jam jar. You only need to fill the jam jar two-thirds of the way (as the level will rise when you place your egg into the jar). Keep any excess dye if you want to in other jam jars. Remember to rinse clean everything in-between so as not to cross contaminate your colours.
Next place just under 1tbsp of white vinegar into the jam jar with the dye and stir each with a clean teaspoon.
Now place your eggs into the dyes! From this point it becomes an experiment. I'd recommend leaving your eggs in the dye for approx 2hrs but for darker richer colours then they can be left overnight in the fridge. For those eggs without patterns it is easier to lift them out of the dye and check the colour and you can always put them back in for longer if you want. For those in nylon - it's a little more difficult to tell - so you just have to experiment!
Once you've decided it's time - remove the eggs. If in tights, remove the tights with scissors and peel them away with the decorations. Pat dry on an old cloth & leave to air dry on a stain proof surface.